An inground pool has to be at least as nice to look at as it is to swim in. Nobody wants to get into a pool that looks stained, faded, or dirty.
Unfortunately, all pool paint eventually starts to show wear, and needs to be updated periodically. But painting a pool is a big job, and it can be hard to tell when it needs to be done, or how to do it right.
The good news is that painting your pool is a great way to refresh it, and, while it’s a time-consuming job, it’s not too hard to DIY. Today I’ll be breaking down the ins and outs of pool paint, so you know when, if, and how to repaint a pool.
What is Pool Paint?
Inground swimming pools need a finish on the surface to make them smoother on the skin, and more appealing to look at. Pools can be finished with plaster, aggregates, mosaic tiles, or they can be painted.
Pool paint is paint that is especially made to stand up to constant exposure to water, chlorine, and UV light, and be durable enough to take minor impacts, scratches, and abrasions.
Paint is also the most affordable way to finish a pool, and in many cases it’s a simple, DIY way to refresh the look of an outdated pool, stained surface, or other pool problems.
What Does Pool Paint do?
Pool paint adheres to all kinds of pool surfaces, and can be used on cement, plaster, fiberglass, or over other paint (but remember that not all pool surfaces are suitable for all paints, so read on to find out more about your paint options).
It makes the pool appealing to look at, including the ability to create bright colors, patterns, or murals. It also helps to prevent or cover stains, corrosion, and other damage to the pool shell over time.
In the past, painted pools needed to be redone every year, and it’s a slow, difficult process. Today’s pool paints take advantage of technical advances in plastics and epoxies, so they can last anywhere from 2-8 years, which makes pool paint a much more appealing option.
Different Types of Pool Paint
Epoxy pool paint
Epoxy pool paint works like other epoxies; it comes in two containers that need to be mixed together before use. It is the most durable pool paint, withstanding UV rays, pool treatment chemicals, and automatic pool cleaners.
Epoxy pool paint at-a-glance:
- Lasts for 6-8 years
- Thickest pool paint, able to smooth old, rough surfaces
- Fills in hairline cracks in the pool shell
- Gives a smooth, tile-like finish
- Covers about 500 square feet per gallon
- Is the only paint recommended for fiberglass pool shells
- More expensive than other pool paints
- More difficult to use than other pool paints
- Longer curing time than other pool paints
- Finished surface can be quite slippery when wet
Chlorinated or synthetic rubber pool paint
Chlorinated rubber was once the preferred pool paint, because it adheres well to all kinds of surfaces, is fast drying, and leaves a tough but flexible coating. It is less expensive and easier to use than epoxy.
However, rubber paints are no longer widely used, because they emit PCBs. These dangerous chemicals have known health effects, and are no longer available in the US. However, not all pool paints are made, purchased, or used in the US, so you will still see widespread references to rubber pool paint.
Because they contain PCBs and are also a source of VOCs, it’s best to avoid these paints, no matter where you live.
Acrylic pool paint
Acrylic pool paint has stepped in where rubber paints were once popular. Acrylic is easy to use, affordable, quick-drying, and adheres to a wide range of surfaces.
Acrylic pool paint at-a-glance:
- Lasts for 1-4 years
- 1 part paint with no mixing
- Can have eggshell or high-gloss finish
- Can be applied to damp surfaces
- Can be applied to concrete or plaster pools, or over other paints
- Easy to apply
- More affordable than epoxy
- Can dry and cure in as little as 3 days
- Doesn’t fill in rough surfaces
- Doesn’t cover stains and discolorations very well
Remember that pool paint is designed for use underwater, so you can’t use conventional epoxy or acrylic paints in a pool.
Do You Need a New Lick of Paint?
If you aren’t sure whether your pool needs to be repainted or not, here are some of the most common pool paint problems and their solutions:
You are updating the look of your pool or landscaping
If you are looking to refresh your design and outdoor decor, pool paint is an incredibly versatile way to introduce new colors, designs, or even murals in a pool. It’s a great way to update your pool and create a custom look.
Your pool paint is faded, stained, or damaged
All paint fades over time, particularly in the harsh environment of a pool. Before repainting, you could try an acid wash, which will clean a pool and remove dirt and stains. It may improve the look of your pool, and save you from painting for a while.
Your pool paint has a white, powdery, chalky look
Chalky paint is a sign that your pool’s chemistry has damaged the pool paint. It’s typically associated with excess chlorine, or low pH and acidic water. Repeated shocking of the pool can turn the paint white and cause a powdery residue to appear. When this happens, the only solution is to re-paint the pool.
Your pool paint is too slippery
Pool paints are waterproof, and therefore tend to be slippery. Epoxy paints are very slippery. There are ways to add texture during painting, but if your paint is already dried and cured, your best bet is to add an anti-slip treatment. Different surface sprays and solutions can be used to add texture and improve traction.
Your pool paint has blistered or bubbled
This is almost always a sign of poor preparation prior to painting the pool. The underlying surface was wet or dirty, or the surface was too hot or too moist to take paint well.
You can try stripping and re-painting just the affected area, but, particularly if you are using acrylic paint, once you have the pool drained and properly prepared for painting, many people choose to re-paint the whole thing.
If you have these pool paint problems, it’s probably time to consider re-painting your pool.
How to Paint a Pool
Part 1: Before You Begin
First you need to determine the surface you will be painting on, or, if your pool is already painted, what kind of paint you have.
Epoxy paint can be painted on:
- Unpainted concrete
- Previous layers of epoxy paint
Acrylic paint can be painted on any pool surface and type of paint except fiberglass, including painting over epoxy.
If you already have rubberized or acrylic pool paint, you can’t apply epoxy over it. In the worst case, rubberized pool paint needs to be sandblasted off before applying epoxy, although you can try using a conversion product.
Rubberized pool paint conversion kits are specialized paints that you paint over the rubberized surface so it will accept an epoxy. While these products basically require you to paint a pool twice, doubling the time and effort, it may be more affordable than hiring a professional to remove rubberized pool paint.
As you can tell, it’s critical to figure out what kind of paint you have before you decide how to proceed. If you don’t know what kind of paint you have in your pool, here’s how to find out:
- Apply a small amount of denatured alcohol to a clean cloth. Rub it on your pool paint. If the paint softens, it is probably acrylic paint.
- Apply a small amount of xylene to a clean cloth. Rub it on your pool paint. If the paint softens and becomes stringy, it is probably chlorinated rubber. If the paint softens but doesn’t become stringy, it is probably synthetic rubber. If nothing happens, it is probably epoxy.
- If you still can’t tell what kind of paint you have, you can send a paint chip to a company named Ramuc for analysis.
Depending on your budget, preferences, and what kind of surface you already have in your pool, you will need to choose whether you are painting with epoxy or acrylic. The type of paint you are using will determine exactly what kind of surface preparation and supplies you need to go ahead and paint your pool.
As for supplies, If you are using epoxy paint, you will need the right protective gear, including protective eyewear, a respirator, and chemical-resistant rubber gloves. You will also need these while acid-etching the pool.
You will also need all the supplies necessary to clean your pool, and a power-washer will be invaluable. You may also need a patch kit to repair cracks, defects, or holes in the pool shell.
The patch or filler you use needs to be compatible with your pool material and with your paint; use the right kind for your paint and pool surface. Significant damage to the pool shell may need to be ground out with a grinder before being filled and sealed.
Finally, you will need standard painting supplies like painter’s tape, rollers, sponges, etc.
To figure out how much paint you need for your pool size, here’s a convenient calculator.
Part 2: Preparing Your Pool
As with virtually all paint jobs, having an attractive, durable result depends on the amount of time and detail taken with preparation. The more time you spend making sure that the interior of your pool is completely smooth, clean, and dry, the more successful and long-lasting your paint job will be.
- Drain the pool and remove any debris. Use a garden hose to remove any dirt stuck to the surface of the pool.
- Repair any cracks and damage to the pool shell. In most cases, cracks can be filled with a hydraulic cement and allowed to cure for 48 hours. If there is significant damage, you may need to repair it with cement, allow it to cure for 10 days, and then grind or sand it smooth.
- Clean with soap. After repairs are complete and the filling compound is cured, clean the entire pool surface with a soapy solution. This will remove any oils that may be in the pool due to suntan lotion, creams, etc.
- Rinse with clean water. Rinse the pool completely free of any soap residue.
- Acid etch the pool. Using a muriatic acid solution or other product designed for pools, and wearing proper protective gear, scrub the entire pool surface.
- Neutralize the acid. Rinse away the acid solution, then follow with a baking soda solution to neutralize the acid. Then rinse again.
- Dry the pool. Pump out any remaining water or debris, leaving the pool completely clean, and allow it to completely dry. It is best to leave it overnight.
- Note: The pool must be completely dry in order to accept epoxy paint. Acrylic paint can be applied to slightly damp (but not wet) surfaces, and is a better choice in very humid environments where it’s difficult to completely dry a pool.
Part 3: Painting Your Pool
- Check the weather. If there is no rain forecast, and the temperature is between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the surface of your pool is between 50-90 degrees, you can paint your pool. If the surface is too hot or cold, or if there is rain in the forecast, wait until the weather is correct.
- Paint your first coat. If you are using epoxy paint, mix and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you want to add a texture to your paint to prevent slipperiness, add a small amount of Very Fine Sand or texturizing product to your paint. Paint the entire pool in a day, and leave it to cure for 24 hours.
- Paint the second coat. If you are using epoxy paint and are unable to apply the second coat after 24 hours, you will need to use sandpaper to abrade and dull the surface before applying a second coat. If you are using acrylic, this isn’t necessary.
- Allow the pool to dry and cure. If you are using acrylic paint, wait at least 3 days before filling the pool. If you are using epoxy paint, wait at least 7 days in warm weather, and 14 days in cool weather.
- Refill the pool. Wait another 5 days before adding any pool chemicals.
Painting a pool is a long and difficult job. While it’s easier and more affordable with acrylic paint, it’s still time-consuming and exhausting. Because the processes are so similar, many people decide to use epoxy just so they don’t have to do it as often.
Paint is a great way to make a pool unique and attractive, at a fraction of the cost of tile or plaster. While it is time-consuming, it’s not too difficult to DIY, and keep your pool fresh and inviting year after year.