salt or chlorine? pebble or plaster?

lostinthewoodlandsJanuary 5, 2012

We have finally decided to build a pool, and have had some great PB'S come out so far. We had one who stood us up (platnuim) but could care less about them now. When talking to the PB'S we realize there are many options and each PB has there own opinion on diffrent aspects.

Should we go with Salt or Chlorine? We live North of Houston, does the climate matter? Will it affect the flagstone or anything else? If I use chlorine, will my kids get the eye and skin irretation? Or is that if I dont keep the levels correct? How often should we check levels.

On the whole pebbel tech pebbel sheer and pebble whatever else, my question is how rough is it, will my kids feet get all beat up or is that myth or a cheap version (knock off) of pebbel tech. How about a "Quartz plaste mix". Does plaster really only last about 3 years? We are at the very beginning stages of this and are learning a lot very fast.

We have had HIPP Pools, Iguana pools, Wise Pools and Lonstar pools come out so far, and have learned something diffrent from each one. We have Atlantis Pools coming out this weekend. Does anyone know if these are good Pool builders for the Woodlands area. I called these and one chain one platnium but got stood up by him, so they are the first off the list. I think im impressedso far with the above builders, but they are talkin to someone who has no clue and googling alot. Thanks for any input you all give

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I'm not in your area or even your state but have been on this forum for a lot of years. I have only read excellent things about Kelly at Atlantis and Mike at HIPP Pools.

We've just started our dig after years of pool envy and like you talked to a lot of PB's and also got stood up. I'm still waiting for one to call me back with a quote - haha.

We decided to go with salt even though there are laws in place around here about dumping in the sewer. Haven't completely decided about plaster. I wanted mini pebble but it may be something else depending on how much the dig is going to cost. DANG ROCK!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 9:34PM
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Salt! (I'm assuming you know that the salt makes chlorine, so it's not a chlorine-free pool, but you don't put chlorine in it...this is the simple version)
My pool is so easy to maintain I just can hardly believe it. I have done nothing for about a month, other than check the water and it's fine, and brush the sides, and make sure the Navigator is going around every day.
I have two neighbors who are just about ready to switch it of frustration. One says it's too hard so she has a service,and this is a gal who does everything. I can't believe she can't figure out a chlorine pool in a cage. My next door neighbor used our pool all summer because they never got theirs clear and blue, despite dumping chemicals in it regularly and shocking it and trying this and then that....I think they're ready to give up when they see me doing nothing.
More importantly, salt pools are kinder on your skin and eyes. I realized this at my gym in California, when I wasn't getting as tired as usual after swimming laps in their salt pool. It was because my eyes weren't as tired, and thusly I wasn't as tired. But I moved to Florida and the gym here had a chlorine pool that had me exhausted again. Now I swim in my own pool and love it.
I have Pebble, which is pretty much what all the PB's do here. The warranty is tough to beat and the maintenance is so easy. My kids don't have trouble with it unless they scrape it hard, but it's the same as if they scraped on the deck or any concrete surface around the pool. My kids don't play in the pool as much as running and and jumping in and squirting guns, and Marco Polo (can't someone PLEASE come up with another group pool game?)
Keep researching and talking to people with pools. I sent out a neighborhood email and many stranger neighbors offered for me to come look at their pools and stand on their pebbles and see the colors and tell me about their PBs.
I didn't know anything when I started, other than I knew I wanted salt, but here is a link to my blog that I did, and if you go to the beginning, you might find a few things that were in my learning curve. I only regret that I didn't start it when I started talking to PBs because I learned a little from each one that helped me form my decisions. One would say, gunite, and I'd ask the next, why shotcrete and not gunite, and I'd ask each one until I formed a good opinion on which was best for me, which would later influence which builder I chose. (went with shotcrete because I'm a canal house with a seawall and the whole property is fill, and Floirda is all limestone anyway)
Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pool Blog

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 8:23AM
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A salt pool is a chlorine pool.

Plaster has a 7 to 10 year life, depending on care and weather.

Diamond Brite goes to about 12 with really good care.

True high aggregates like PT or Wet Edge brands are as close to forever finishes as there is. 25 years or more.

Ever hold a new basketball? That's as close to a large pebble aggregate texture as there is.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 8:25AM
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Is a "salt" pool easier? Maybe/maybe not. I dump acid in my pool 2-3 times a week in the summer. Without the salt cell i would be dumping chlorine in 2-3 times a week...... You can put salt in any pool.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 9:06AM
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You DO NOT want a chlorine pool (man-made chlorine, that is). Salt is an alternative, which converts to natural chlorine in a pool. The problem with salt is that it can and often does eat away at any natural stone you have around your pool. If you are using pool brick or cantilevered concrete for coping and don't have a rock waterfall, then you should be o.k. with salt. You will want to be sure the PB seals any natural stone with a sealant designed for salt pools. Then be prepared to reapply it annually. I like ozone as a sanitizer, because it is like swimming in bottled water without the eye & skin irritations and smell you get from man-made chlorine. You still need a chlorinator as a second source of sanitation, but you don't need much...not enough for it to have a negative effect. My customers all love it. Like poolguynj says, the life of plaster depends a lot on how you care for the pool. If the pH and alkalinity is kept at the right levels and you brush the walls once or twice a week, your plaster will last a long 10 yrs for white plaster. Quartz and pebble plasters have longer warranties, but they are just warranting that the pebbles won't come loose or the quartz doesn't fall off. If you aren't keeping the pool water correctly, they won't last long and your warranty will be meaningless. Pebble Fina or Pebble Sheen is not hard on the feet at all (and mine are sensitive!). Pebble Tec is rough. Quartz pools are easy on the feet. There are multitudes of products available depending on how much you have to spend and the color you are trying to achieve. When comparing pool builders, make sure you are comparing apples to apples in what goes into the structure and equipment. Check if they have onsite supervision. Call references. Don't go for the cheapest price. Be prepared to act and make a decision as soon as you can

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 12:11AM
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We are in The Woodlands as well. We converted our pool to salt about 3-4 years ago and love it. Prior to that, one child would always get red spots/rash around joints during the summer swim season. The pediatrician suggested a salt pool as well as hearing it from many others. We thought nothign to lose so we switched. We've had zero problems and love it.

We have pebbletec as well. The kids never complain.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 10:15PM
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Here is some advice from down under with over 30 years in the industry.
Salt makes Chlorine and it works but the PH has to be watched.
One thing to remember to make the Chlorine you must run the pump that is the disadvantage, another factor is sure the algae does not appear as quick in a salt pool and sometimes the water if the pump is not generating the chlorine children can end up with Ear Infections.
So the old fashioned Chlorine via the Rainbow Feeder is as good as you can get, suggest you look at also an Ionizer they work and reduce the amount of Chlorine you use by up to 80%.
The surface finish the Pebble Finish like any type of finish is only as good as the team who supply it. It is one of the most durable finishes there is, however there is a tendency to expose the Pebbles to early removing the cement that bonds the Pebbles together making it a little bit rough.
Other plasters are available that can contain Glass, Marble,Silica Sands and Colored Quartz here again the smoothness of the finish is in the hands of the applicator.
The samples really are never the same as the finished finished finish. I manufacture Armadillo Pool Quartz which is 100% quartz it will never fade (No Oxides) and hopefully will be available in the USA soon
By the way if the Pebble comes from New Zealand it is good.
Good Luck Norman email

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 1:23AM
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nailz, lower your alk level to about 70 and you find the amount of acid you add is a lot less. Newly plastered pools will raise the pH frequently for as much as a couple years, slowly reducing that amount over that time.

Generally, salt water chlorine generator equipped outdoor pools need the FC to be 5% of the CYA's level. That level is typically 50 to 80 ppm, depending on where you live to keep a pool's water sanitary.

The only time these pools need an additional boost is after a party or after an extended rain.

Using other chlorination methods will need 7.5% of the CYA's value. Generally speaking, you want the CYA at 25 to 50 for these pools.

Ozone, ionizers, and UV for outdoor residential pools can augment but not reduce the levels of chlorine needed. Each has its pluses and minuses though the minuses usually outweigh the potential pluses.

Tablet (trichor) fed pools will generally lower the pH and alkalinity of a pool and so will need increasers to do this. They will also continuously feed stabilizer as it's added as the tablets dissolve.

All pools need the chems watched. Proper testing is key to a trouble free pool.

The use of hard stone that doesn't leave a white line when scratched with a nail resists damage from all weather and nearly all chems, including salt. A gray, black, or no line is fine. Cement and brick coping are also acceptable. Some users have used what was called Oklahoma Flag for coping and had issues. That is only one example of several.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 2:19AM
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Womanowned has given you the right suggestion. Salt is the best you could use. But you also need to understand that I can damage your stones around the pool and also other fittings which do not go well with salt. So do your research well. Though salt is safest on the skin and eyes

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 6:19AM
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We are looking at travertine coping and travertine decking for our pool. We have been told by several PB that because we want travertine coping and decking, not to go with a salt water pool but instead go the old school chlorine route because the salt will do more damage and require more upkeep on our decking/coping. Are they wrong?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 6:19PM
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They are wrong. Travertine and salt are a fine match. The use of modern construction practices such as laying a copper grid attached to the bonding system will prevent any problems.

Chlorine is chlorine, whether it comes from a salt cell system or tablet fed system. In fact, salt systems typically need a little less free chlorine residual in the pool than tablet fed systems.

The biggest issues with softer stones is weathering. Travertine seems to be the exception to this general rule. It doesn't hold heat as well as other stone materials and is generally cooler on the feet as a decking choice. It doesn't fracture like a slate might. Different rocks behave differently to the effects of weather and temperature changes.

Salt, in and of itself, is not corrosive. Ever seen a metal salt shaker top rust? Me neither. Electricity and chlorine are more corrosive by far. More is not better with either of these. Properly used, that "risk" is so marginalized it barely exists.

Over the years, the effects of an improperly bonded pool and deck might be seen. It is more frequent that older existing pools that aren't properly bonded electrically will show this. This is sometimes the fault of the cell but more often caused by a bad ground or a naturally occurring low voltage battery existing in the earth's soil makeup.

Micro-currents can occur with a salt cell. These can be abated by not just bonding the equipment and shell but by also bonding the water with a bonded and replaceable zinc anode in the water. These absorb any micro-currents in the water. Just so you know, pure water does NOT conduct electricity. When we add the various chemicals, minerals are also added. This makes the water a weak conductor.

It doesn't matter what these minerals are. Some minerals are more likely to make water a better conductor. Salt is one but because chlorine in a pool is a halide, it forms salt too.

It is a lack of education that the PBs maintain that causes them to Poo Poo salt cells, IMHO. Salt is not corrosive. Electricity and chlorine are. Keeping things in check helps prevent the damage these two can cause.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 5:17AM
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do you have any good sites or recommended reads on your above post? Not questioning it, just wanted to read further.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 11:24AM
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Years of various classes and having a boss who also is an electrcian have helped me there. Trouble Free Pools has all the chem info you could ever want. I can't link it a GW won't allow them (they think its competitive while I look at it as a complimentary site that doesn't do advertising).


    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 1:09PM
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You picked 5 of the top 7 pool builders in The Woodlands
Texas pools and Marquise pools are awesome builders too.
I've been friends with all these competitors for decades and would have any build for me and know I was going to be treated fairly and get a great pool.
I hope my designer got with you before she left the state on a family matter Friday. I've got several designs she drew prior to her departure that I priced for her over the weekend.
Salt generated chlorine is a great sanitzer, if you use softer rocks like Arizona Buckskin, Rosa, Sedona Red you'll need to have the rocks sealed.
Harder rocks do better but your best served sealing them with a penetrating sealer too.
Congrats on moving forward on a new pool for your family!!!Trust me on this, nothing beats a backyard swimming pool in SE Texas during our summers.

See ya,

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 1:55PM
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Scott, with all due respect to your intent to keep things simple, I have to take exception with some of the absolutes you have stated.

We have many plaster (limestone/calcium carbonate) pools that have lasted in excess of 20 years and started installing Diamond Brite when it first came out in 1992 without any failures I know of to date. At that time it was about 3% quartz, 3% ceramic coated silica and the rest was limestone. The main difference was it came in premixed bags which kept the plaster crew from weakening the cement/aggregate ratio. When exposed aggregate finishes(pebbletech)became available in our area (1999), we tried it on a pool and it has also held up fine with exception to some pebbles coming up. When our plasterer became the authorized Pebbletech installer 4 years ago we started offering it as a finish and have been satisfied. Keep in mind that it, like plaster or quartz are all bonded together with portland cement which is primarily made with finely ground, dehydrated calcium carbonate or limestone.

Travertine is very pourous limestone which allows it to absorb a higher % of water and air making it susceptable to expansion of drying salt crystals and freeze damage. That feature also allows it to be the coolest surface availble and very similar to kool-deck which is limestone or the same material used when plastering a pool with a richer cement/aggregate ratio and an application process that promotes porosity. All limestone is not the same density and travertine could mean minimal channelling or it could be extremely pourous. Limestone can also be as dense as 8000 psi. The denser limestone is the prefered choice for what is commonly referred to as marble.

Although I haven't seen many tops of salt shakers rust because they are probably made of very noble metals, I have seen many cars, boat trailers and their wiring, boats and fishing reels rust beyond repair if the salt is not rinsed off immediately with fresh water. Boats have sacrificial anodes which minimize corrosion when they are immersed in an electrolyte (salty or polluted water)but have no impact on the post corrosion after the boat is removed from the water.

In our area it takes 7+ years for a pool with a strong southern exposure to build up enough CYA before it needs to be drained from using trichlor as the primary sanitizer. Some pools never reach that level. We get about 4 feet of annual rainfall per year which might dilute them more than average and we often supplement the spas with ozonators.

In summary there are lots of applications that work for different conditions and applying the same set of rules to all conditions isn't always the best method.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:01PM
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Plaster made back then, if I am not mistaken contained asbestos to improve longevity and is no longer an ingredient. It helped its physical hardness and improved its resistance to pH fluctuations.

The limestone and Portland have large content percentages of calcium, as does Diamond Brite. That makes them more susceptible to pH changes. The scaling and pitting we've seen in the last decade and a half added to the actual use by bathers wore at the plaster faster.

Diamond Brite had more some aggregate in it and thus reduced the exposure of the binder agent (Portland) and marble dust. That left it harder which reduced wear and extended its life some. It is still a premixed bagged product to maintain consistency among lot numbers.

PT hast no marble dust. The rocks are mixed with Portland. The final product has the extra Portland on the surface washed off, leaving the stones exposed. The stones are harder and far less effected by pH swings because the Portland is not exposed.

The rocks can have any scale that forms more easily removed by using Muriatic acid without it effecting the stones like it would with Plaster, Diamond Brite, or other similarly made products.

For every 10 ppm of chlorine added when using trichlor pucks, 6 ppm of CYA is added. While the chlorine goes away, the CYA doesn't. Dichlor adds somewhat more CYA.

The only ways I know to reduce it's level is via dilution, or in the San Diego region, a Reverse Osmosis service can come by for a number of hours to remove it and any other minerals. It also removes calcium and salt, so those need to be re-added if and when needed.

With filter systems that get back washed (sand and DE) along with precipitation, there is frequently enough dilution to slow the CYA accumulation. In areas where water is more precious, the use of cartridge filters inhibits this.

The metal in a salt shake is generally stamped steel and magnetic. Try it out.

While salt can get into the nooks and crannies of travertine, it is very soluble in water and if there is a build up, it's crystals will fracture far more easily than most travertine. It's like Jello in that respect and there's always room for Jello.:-)


    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 6:17AM
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Me and my husband are in the very early stages of planning a pool and have had lots of conflicting opinions about salt versus chlorine. I was particularly interested in what c9pilot had to say about being tired after swimming in a chlorinated pool, I'd never made that connection before (also, great blog, just had a look).
The only thing I'd say is that salt is very corrosive, a friend of mine lived in Sweden for a while and said that the salt they use on the roads in winter is very damaging to cars.
Another question I had was about swim jets etc. In my googling everything to do with pools phase I saw this site: and although we couldn't afford anything fancy I'd like to have the option of one day (when we've built our pool) having one of these machines fitted, particularly when the kids are older. My question is though, would one of these be compatible with a salt pool? Would a salt pool mean it wouldn't last as long?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 9:05AM
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A salt pool is a chlorine pool.

The sodium chloride for the pool is quite different than the calcium chloride used on roads. They do, however share an important characteristic in that it does make the water conduct electricity.

The concentrations found on the roads is much higher. Even higher that the ocean. The salt in a pool is at a significantly lower concentration. Most can't even taste it.

The cars going over salted roads are not grounded. They build up a charge and because melt is present, that charge is what causes the corrosion.

A pool is not going anywhere. Part of the construction code is that it have a way to remove any stray currents and voltages.

Soft stone types will have problems with any pool. I have yet to see a pool have problems because it is a pool with a salt water chlorine generator.

Swimming will get you tired, period. Chlorine has nothing to do with that. Chlorine makes sure your pool is a safe environment so that you don't get sick.

Properly installed, a swim current generator will not have problems due to the water being salted.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 12:17PM
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Our pool is in the process of being renovated here in Florida. We are converting into salt water system. Got the whole pool system replaced with pentair products. Going with pebble sheen blue granite. We are also installing ricorock work around the pool area. I'll be posting some before and after pictures. I am hoping that the outcome of all the new products I picked out will be well spent after months of research. Only time will tell. Wish me luck.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:02PM
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Most Salt Cells operate with a Salt Level of between 2800-3600 ppm which is below the Threshold of about 4100+ where most humans start tasting salt. It also is far below the Threshold where it does damage to stone etc. most damage to equipment and stone is actually done by high Chlorine levels NOT by the Salt in a well maintained Pool !
Furthermore, the pump must be running to maintain chlorine levels but the same is true for inline Chlorine feeders, so no difference there...
Salt is definitely the way to go if you want a Pool that is simple to maintain when it comes to Chlorine but the PH must be watched at least twice a week and most likely Muriadic Acid needs to be added...


    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:50PM
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We are in the process of making decisions for our pool and spa remodel. I have read the comments about salt water and I am leaning that way. My question is that each contractor who comes out to bid our project has a different "must do" idea for the resurfacing. Which do you think will hold up best for salt water? We are considering Quartzscape and mini pebble. Those of you who have mini pebble, is it pretty smooth on your feet or still rough? I wasn't really interested in pebble, I like the idea of quartz because it's smooth and the sparkle it adds, but I want to be completely happy. So, that being said, I don't want any blotchiness or discoloring. How long should each surface last with salt water assuming we keep it closely monitored? Thanks for any input!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2015 at 4:20PM
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