Pool Info: Painted Swimming Pools
Underwater coatings or pool paints come in many different colors, and is an inexpensive coating compared to other surfaces. Paint applies directly to concrete pools, plaster pools and fiberglass pools, as well as fountains or water features. It is not recommended for fish ponds. Pool paints create a shiny, ceramic like finish that can last for years.
Pool paints are also the easiest way to create underwater murals, logos, tiled patterns, or multi-hued pool colors, at a fraction of what designs of mosaic tiles cost.
There are three types of pool paint, the best pool paint for you may depend on your needs. Epoxy pool paint, for new construction, and pools painted previously with epoxy paint. Epoxy is the longest lasting, most durable pool paint, that stands up to UV rays, automatic pool cleaners and chemical treatments. Epoxy pool paint can last up to 7 years on a swimming pool.
Another type of concrete pool paint is rubber base pool paint. Rubber base paint is not as durable or expensive as epoxy pool paint, but is an easy to use, one-part pool paint. We have chlorinated rubber pool paint which lasts 1-3 seasons, and synthetic rubber pool paint that lasts 2-4 years. To convert from rubber-based to epoxy used to involve sandblasting, but a conversion pool paint is now available for use as a primer for converting rubber based painted pools to epoxy pool paints.
Last but not least, is water based Acrylic pool paint. This inground pool paint can be used on any type of surface, even damp surfaces, is easy to apply, and cleans up with water. Acrylic pool paint is ideal for commercial applications that are repainted on a regular basis. It can be painted over any previous type of pool paint (epoxy, rubber or acrylic) and should last about 2 - 3 years.
Whichever pool paint type you use, it is important to follow manufacturer’s instructions, and recommended safety guidelines and make sure you prepare the pool properly. Preparation is the most important step in pool painting. Without the proper preparation, even the best pool paint will not bond with the wall or existing surface.
How to Paint Your Swimming Pool
The following is a step by step guide to a successful pool paint job using epoxy pool paint. Acrylic pool paints can be used on a damp surface, but a dry surface is best. Always consult the label of the paint can for specific application directions.
- Determine the type of pool paint that is on the pool. You cannot paint a pool that has epoxy paint with rubber base paint or vice versa. You can use acrylic paint on any surface, or any pool paint type.
- Drain any water from the swimming pool and remove all debris. Be sure to open any hydrostatic relief plugs in the floor or main drain.
- Scrape all old, loose pool paint from pool surface. A high pressure power washer is helpful.
- If there are any cracks in the swimming pool shell, they must be cut out with a diamond blade saw or grinder. Cut the cracks 1/4” deep, in a dovetail fashion.
- Chip out any divots or loose cement. Caulk the cracks, and patch any large chips or divots with hydraulic cement or pool plaster mix.
- it is time to clean the swimming pool with TSP (trisodium-phosphate). TSP is a detergent available at all paint stores and hardware stores. Mix 1 lb with 2 gallons of water in a flower watering can. Pour the mixture over the walls and floor, while scrubbing with a brush. Rinse clean with fresh water.
- Acid Wash the swimming pool with a 50% water, 50% muriatic acid solution. Be sure to use the proper safety equipment and procedures. Scrub the walls and floor with a stiff brush or broom.
- Rinse the entire swimming pool, skimmers, fittings, lights, and stairs completely. Pump out pool.
- Wash the pool again with TSP; this step will neutralize any remaining traces of acid, and remove the glaze from existing paint. Another TSP wash ensures no grease or oil is on the surface.
- Pump out all of the water and remove any debris. Remove any water from skimmer, and sponge any standing water from low spots around steps and fittings. Allow the swimming pool to dry for 3 - 5 days. (Acrylic pool paint can be applied on damp or recently wet surfaces)
- Time to paint your swimming pool! Tape off the tile band, light and fittings with masking tape to prevent getting any paint on the threads, tile or fittings.
- Just before painting the pool, sweep the pool out and blow any leaves or dirt from the pool deck. Check the weather for rain or high winds in the forecast. If there is any chance of rain, wait. Open the swimming pool paint and mix it well. Epoxy paints are two part, but other types are in one can. To mix well, use an electric drill with a paddle mixer, and mix for several minutes.
- Paint the pool with a 3/8” nap roller; a roller with too much nap will shed. Start in the deep end of the swimming pool, work your way to the shallow end. Use an extension pole on your roller for the deep end walls. A bucket & screen is easier to use than a shallow paint pan. Mid morning is the best time to paint, after the dew has lifted. Do not apply paint if the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees. Extremely humid weather can cause the paint to not adhere. If you are applying a second coat of paint, wait 2 - 4 hours before re-painting, until it’s dry to the touch.
- The last step is very important. You must wait 4-5 days after painting a pool before filling, so your new paint job can cure completely. (3 days with Acrylic paint) If there is rain during that time, remove any standing water after the rain has stopped. Use a sponge and leaf blower to dry the pool. If the rain lasts more than an hour or two, add a day to the cure time. After the cure time, fill the pool without stopping until the pool is full.
- When the pool is full, restart the swimming pool filter system and adjust the total alkalinity, pH and calcium hardness levels. Resume your normal chemical maintenance.
Supplies needed for Pool Painting
- 2 gallon flower watering can, for acid washing, TSP washing
- 3-5 gallons of muriatic acid, 3-5 lbs of TSP
- Long handled pole with scrub brush, or small push broom
- Masking tape or painter’s tape
- Roller frame and pole, low nap paint rollers
- Small paint brushes to cut-in corners
- 5 gallon bucket and paint screen
- Drill and paddle for mixing paint
- Garden hose with spray nozzle
- Small electric pump
- Wet/Dry vac
Problems with Painted Pools
My Pool Paint is Fading or Stained
Painted pools will begin to fade over time. Nothing will stop this, but you can “brighten-up” the paint with a light acid wash. Acid will remove any dirt and chalking that can dull a paint job. Stains can also be eliminated from a painted pool with a very light acid washing; 1:10 acid:water. Waterline rings from winterization can often be removed with pool enzyme treatment and light brushing. Or lower the water below the mark and scrub with TSP, and then a light acid wash and quick rinsing, if needed.
My Pool Paint is Chalking
Some painted pool surfaces will begin to break down over time. The results can be dull, hazy water, as well as a white powdery residue that can rub off on hands, feet and bathing suits. To avoid this, water chemistry and maintenance are the key.
Specifically, the total alkalinity should be higher than normal. For painted pools, the Alkalinity level best in the range of 100 PPM to 150 PPM. If the alkalinity is too low, coupled with a low pH level, and the pool paint may begin to rub off, on hands and feet. In a painted pool, be careful that your pH levels are consistently held in the 7.4-7.6 range, and not be allowed to drift lower, which could cause chalking or faster paint deterioration.
Harsh shock treatments will also cause the pool paint to chalk. Use a non-chlorine shock for maintenance. Repeated shock treatments with strong oxidizers like calcium hypochlorite, added directly to the pool, will deterioration of the pool paint finish over time. If using chlorine pool shock, be sure to pre-dissolve the granular chlorine by pouring it into a large bucket, pre-filled with water, and stirring to dissolve for 1-2 minutes.
My Pool Paint has Blisters and Bubbles
Pool paint blisters are almost always caused by improper preparation. The pool paint must be applied to a clean and dry surface. If the paint is applied too thick, or if the surface is too hot or warm, or if the pool is not cleaned properly, and especially if moisture is in the substrate, pool paint will blister. Application temperature will also affect the final result. The only thing to do is re-prep and repaint the pool or the spots that have blistered. Clean the pool with degreaser (TSP), and with all over scrubbing to remove oils and minerals, and make sure your surface is fully dry (except for acrylic paints), and apply the paint during dry, cool weather, and you should have no problems with blistering pool paint.
My Pool Paint is Slippery
Painted pools are very slippery. There are two ways to deal with this. You can either mix Very Fine Sand into the paint used for the steps, and part of the shallow end, or you can broadcast Very Fine Sand on top of the steps after the paint has been applied. Either method works well, just don’t more than a few tablespoons, or the steps become like sandpaper, and you have an opposite problem. The walls and most of the floor are best left smooth, but using [Very Fine] sand on the steps and swimouts is a good idea. Look for it at your paint retailer.
Pool Painting FAQ
Q: How do I Know What Paint Type my pool is painted with?
A: If you are unsure of whether it’s acrylic, epoxy or rubber on the pool, you can use epoxy solvent and rubber paint solvent, to see if they will dissolve a chip of paint, or begin to dissolve when rubbing a soaked cloth over the painted surface. Denatured alcohol is a solvent for, or will dissolve water based acrylic pool paints. Ramuc and other large paint manufacturers will often test paint chip samples, if you send them.
Q: To Plaster a Painted Pool, do I need to Sandblast?
A: If you decide to go back to plaster, after painting the pool a few times, the surface should be sand blasted or bead blasted. In some cases, a very powerful pressure washer can remove the old paint. To obtain a proper bond between new plaster and concrete, or new plaster and old plaster, all paint needs to be removed.
Q: What Paints are used to create Underwater Murals?
A: The same paints – but they are tinted with dyes or pigments, colorants that are added to the base white, blue and black epoxy pool paints. Look for these at your local paint retailer, add the colorant to create any color of the rainbow. We recommend Epoxy pool paint for underwater murals, and two or three coats, to ensure long life before touch-ups are needed.
Q: What Prep Work is Needed to Paint or Repaint a Pool?
A: After draining the pool and removing the deep end drain cover and hydrostatic relief plugs, the 3-step process is: TSP Wash – Acid Wash – TSP Wash. The TSP removes grease and oils, and the Acid removes scale and helps roughen the surface. Acid Magic is a low-fume replacement acid that is safer to use than Muriatic acid. After the 3-step cleaning, the next part of pool prep is to allow the pool to dry fully, so you are not painting over any moisture in the surface.
Q: My Steps have Trim Tile, How are they Painted?
A: There are a few methods for dealing with trim tile, one is to paint over them, a thin coat, and once the pool is full, use a textured sponge to gently scrape the paint off the tile, and suck it up in a vac hose or skim net. Second method is to carefully paint the grout and areas around the tiles, with small art brushes. A third way is to tape over the tiles, and not paint the tiles, or the grout in between, at all.
Q: What Do I need to Tape Off before Painting?
A: Use painter’s tape or wide masking tape and run it along the lower edge of the pool tile, and cover any wall fittings or other non-removable items. The pool light, drain covers and ladders are normally removed before painting.