Pining for a Pool That Lasts?

For wow factor, fire-and-water pots are just the ticket. Courtesy of Creative Master Pools.

Coordinated project planning, followed by smart choices, will pay off

This installment of The Carefree House examines options for long-term durability and satisfaction in swimming pool materials, equipment, features and accessories. 

RUTH AVETA, Vice President
Creative Master Pools
Lincoln Park, NJ
973-694-7665 |


Design NJ: Will a gunite pool last the longest? (Gunite is a mixture of concrete and sand that is combined with water and sprayed over a rebar framework.)

Ruth Aveta: You can get a long life out of any properly maintained pool, including vinyl-lined and fiberglass pools. But concrete should last the longest.

DNJ: Barring a disaster such as an earthquake, how long will a well-maintained gunite pool last?

AVETA: If the concrete is good-quality—with a rating of 4,000 psi or higher, which is the concrete’s compression strength, meaning its resistance to loads—the shell can last 50 to 70 years. We’ve renovated very old pools with new coping, tile, plaster and plumbing to bring them up to code. They could last even longer.

DNJ: Is there a pool shape that won’t look dated?

AVETA: Symmetry, whether a rectangle or Roman style (rectangular with rounded ends), stands the test of time.

DNJ: What plaster will be the longest-lasting?

AVETA: We prefer using exposed aggregate and pebble finishes because they will last longer than Marcite [plaster].

DNJ: What decking materials will endure and stay attractive?

AVETA: As far as natural stone, bluestone has been around many years, although it tends to be hot on bare feet. If you use it, get a good grade; poor grades will peel or chip. We’ve used sandstones and travertine, which are beautiful but can crack. I tell my customers to buy extra for replacements.

Acrylic finishes for concrete—Kool Deck by Mortex is one example— will be cooler underfoot. And any lighter-colored deck will be cooler than a dark one.

DNJ: What materials excel at the water line?

AVETA: Porcelain tile is probably at the top of the list for longevity. It’s strong, fired at high temperatures and most porcelain is fine for frost environments. There’s so much to choose from, and it’s less expensive than glass or natural stone.

Glass tile that’s rated for frost will last a very long time. If you want natural stone in the Northeast, select a hard option such as granite or bluestone so it stands up to cold weather in winter.

Symmetric pool shapes—as shown here—have perennial appeal, says Ruth Aveta, vice president of Creative Master Pools in Lincoln Park. Courtesy of Creative Master Pools.

DNJ: What pump is best?

AVETA: If a pump and hydraulics are properly sized for the application, the pump should last a long time. There are new energy-efficient pumps and new code requirements on energy. We use a variable-speed pump by Pentair. It’s much quieter and uses far less energy than a standard pump.

DNJ: What type of filter do you recommend?

AVETA: We primarily use cartridge filters for residential pools. These are made of filaments that capture sediment as the water flows through. They’re energy efficient and don’t require back-washing. They keep pools crystal clear and are a more green technology because you’re not dumping water out of the pool into the environment, which causes you to lose chemicals, heat and water that must be replaced.

DNJ: What is better for water purification: traditional chlorine or saltwater systems?

AVETA: We are not proponents of the saltwater systems because the salt is corrosive. When a person gets out and walks on the deck, the saltwater drips and dries, leaving salt on the patio. This can eat into concrete finishes and the metal in outdoor furniture, and it can pit limestone and other materials. Homeowners must be diligent about washing down their furniture and patio if they have a saltwater pool. The salt cells [key parts of saltwater systems] last only about three to five years before they need to be replaced. Also, on the electronic side, the saltwater system has a defined range of salinity for it to work, and if that’s not right, the system isn’t sanitizing. Some people still want saltwater because they say it’s easier on their eyes, so we will install it. A great alternative that augments chlorine is a UV sanitizer or ozone sanitizer or a combination unit. All systems must be well-maintained to function properly.

DNJ: What features and accessories deliver long-term satisfaction?

AVETA: Our pools come standard with steps and at least one method of egress out of the deep end. This can be a ladder or a swim-out—an underwater bench letting the swimmer hoist out of the pool. We choose the swim-out bench because it’s more aesthetically pleasing and provides a bench for sitting. We always have LED lights, which are functional and fun when colors are used. Although a sun shelf is optional, we love to put one in along with additional benches because most customers like to sit and relax in the pool without having to tread water. Sun shelves are just as popular with kids as adults. When we design, we ask how the pool will be used, whether the homeowners want a place for kids to splash or lounge seating.

Jump rocks look great in natural pool environments. They act like an arrow to point out where a person can dive safely.

Fountains, bubblers and waterfalls are nice. There are also water pots and water-and-fire pots, which are round or rectangular vessels with water cascading from them. With the fire pot, you can see water and fire at the same time.

Laminars have been around for about 10 years. These are jets of water, usually outside the pool, that appear to be tubes of light in changing colors that arc into the pool.

We are doing a lot of automatic covers. We typically use a hydraulic system that’s very low maintenance. They’re great because they save water [from evaporating] and power for heating, and they help keep the pool’s chemistry right. One customer’s automatic cover is 20 years old and just needed the motor replaced. We’ll probably replace the tarp next year.

This naturalistic pool has a sun shelf, benches, fountains and waterfalls, options that rank high on homeowner wish lists. Courtesy of Creative Master Pools.

DNJ: What about warranties?

AVETA: Our standard warranty on the pool structure, the gunite shell, is 10 years. The customer can buy a longer warranty. Equipment warranties vary by individual manufacturer, but are often one to three years. Heaters may have longer warranties. Homeowners should ask.

DNJ: Are trees near pools a problem?

AVETA: Yes, trees can be a problem. Certain trees shed leaves and berries into the pool, which make it dirty looking and can affect the chemistry. When a pool is built, any trees with roots that might damage the pool shell are removed. People usually want their pools in full sun without trees nearby to shade the pool or drop things into it. If leaves, twigs or seeds do blow into the pool or on the decking, they should be removed quickly because some will stain.

DNJ: Any other advice?

AVETA: Take time to plan your project right and have all of the professionals there together as you plan. Sometimes homeowners have landscapers do projects after the pool is finished and duplicate efforts. It’s better to plan the project in its entirety, including the cabana, even if you are not building everything at once. That way you can make sure all of the needs of all of the structures are taken into consideration for the best longevity.

Freelancer Mary Vinnedge, founding editor of Design NJ, writes from Galveston, Texas.