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Is it possible to keep plaster perfect?

Panelists share their tips to keeping plaster in tip-top shape

Jarred Morgan

That is a tricky question that will have a wide range of responses. Being proactive is going to yield the best outcome and avoid problems and potential conflicts with your customer. If you’re the service company, be on the job before the water hose goes into the pool. If there are glaring issues with the surface before throwing a water hose in the pool, then there will be issues down the road. 

Take pictures and document potential issues so that there is something to bring to the builder or plaster company’s attention — such as puddle marks, streaks from pressure washing, uneven exposure on aggregate surfaces, etc. These things will be tough to fix after the fact. 

Success starts with the tap water. Proper planning for the start-up process is going to determine the outcome. You don’t want to fill a pool with aggressive (low LSI) tap water that will end up robbing the plaster surface of calcium hydroxide. If you know your tap water chemistry is problematic before filling the pool, then why would you wait to address it after the fact? The reduction of plaster dust and minimizing wild swings in water chemistry is the ultimate goal. Get the system running as soon as possible — don’t let it sit idle for multiple days — and brush as much as possible during the start-up process. Keep the water LSI balanced. Make sure your gallonage for the pool is correct, measure and dilute all chemicals that are being added.

 Adding too much acid is probably the No. 1 offense. Column pouring undiluted acid that drops to the bottom etches the surface. Purposely adding too much acid to “burn off” plaster dust will make the water too aggressive and will cause the loss of more calcium hydroxide. These things will result in mottling issues that give the appearance of scale or a haze on the surface down the road. If there are cosmetic blemishes that need to be addressed, we recommend waiting roughly 60 days so that the surface has had time to harden.

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Jarred Morgan
Orenda Technologies/The Pool Surgeon

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Collin Parrish

Proper chemistry and care are crucial for the curing process of a newly plastered pool. To ensure the new plaster cures correctly and looks its best, the pool needs to be properly serviced. We follow the National Plasterers Council start-up procedures.

New plaster requires a lot of attention. The new interior takes an entire month to cure. Unfortunately, the first month is when the most staining, scaling or discoloration can occur, due to improper maintenance. NPC’s procedure is readily available online and is a great resource for pool professionals and homeowners. Typically, the start-up tasks are shared between the pool company and the homeowner, as the pool needs attention daily.

To summarize the month-long process, chemistry and brushing are key. Failure to keep chemistry balanced and plaster dust brushed/vacuumed will ruin the plaster.

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We recently saw a newly plastered pool ruined. A local property management company remodeled the home and pool for resale. They contacted us to maintain the pool until it was sold. When we arrived, a week had passed since it was filled. It had not received a proper start up and it already had staining and discoloration. No chemicals were added, and nobody had brushed the plaster, which should be done twice per day. Unfortunately, the property management company had not been informed of the start-up procedures. However, they have been educated and will approach the next remodel with care. They will have us on-site immediately and ensure the pool is properly taken care of.

Plaster pools offer a smooth interior and can last a long time with the proper care and attention. We highly recommend downloading NPC’s free PDF for start-up procedures, which can be found at npconline.org. Share these steps with your entire team and your clients to ensure the best results.

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Collin Parrish
Blue Desert Pools
Gilbert, Arizona

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David Van Brunt

I try to prep each customer so that they have realistic expectations. Many are under the false impression that their plaster will be one solid color and strikingly beautiful like in the movies. The first thing I tell them is that the plaster will have natural discoloration, which is referred to as mottling in the industry. I tell them to look at their driveway and walk around the block and look at the sidewalk. Notice that the cement is not one pure color but has different shades and patterns. This is how your pool plaster will look after six months. Some will have more discoloration than others, but it will not be a uniform color. With color plaster, the color differences will be even more noticeable. When filled with water — depending on the time of day — you may notice the mottling more. These patches of discoloration can range from swirls to star bursts, to modern art type patterns. If this is going to bother the perfectionist side of them, I suggest going with PebbleTec, since it is river rock, and the color will be uniform throughout. 

There are defects in plaster when the pool is constructed, but those are rare and totally different than the normal color variations of the plaster. Often the pool tech is blamed for this normal plaster discoloration, or a rare defect of the plaster job itself, but if you educate the customer beforehand, you can prevent many misunderstandings and misconceptions the client may have about the look of their plaster pool. Relax, you don’t sit out front staring at your driveway looking for imperfections, do you? And of course, tell them to never look at the plaster with goggles on at night with their white LED pool light on. For mercy‘s sake no.

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David Van Brunt
YouTube creator, podcaster, coach
Los Angeles

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