By Steve Graham, Networx
A flat gray concrete pool deck is no longer your only option, though it is still a solid choice. There are plenty of other materials with a range of benefits and drawbacks -- and a wide range of prices.
When choosing a material, consider the harsh impacts of water, chlorine, chemicals, salt and sun on any deck surface, not to mention spilled margaritas, popsicles and ketchup. Stick to light colors and textured surfaces to keep those bare feet from burning or slipping. Also, the pool deck should be large and comfortable enough for lounging. You will spend at least as much time next to the pool as you will in the pool.
Prices below are an estimate. Actual costs may vary widely, and installation costs also vary depending on the deck size, soils, slope, design and other factors.
Cost: Starts at $4 to $6 per square foot, including labor, for basic solid concrete decks. Colors, coatings and finishes cost extra.
Poured concrete is perhaps the most popular pool deck material, particularly in warm areas. It is less common in colder climates, where frozen concrete decks are liable to crack. The materials and labor for basic concrete work are fairly cheap. Concrete also can be customized in a nearly infinite range of colors and finishes. It can be painted or stained, and finished with a rough broom finish or an exposed aggregate for a more interesting texture and better slip resistance.
Alternately, stamped concrete can mimic natural stone or brick, but be sure to check references for any stamped concrete work. The popularity of stamped concrete has most every contractor believing they can stamp concrete, but it takes some practice to look right.
Damaged concrete decks can be resurfaced relatively cheaply without needing to replace them, but the entire deck must be redone.
Concrete or brick pavers
Cost: $2 and up per square foot, plus labor.
Rather than stamping the deck to look like brick, you can use actual brick or concrete pavers around the pool. They come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. The materials are typically more expensive than poured concrete, but you might be able to save on installation because it can be an easier DIY job. Just be sure to use polymeric sand if you set the pavers in sand. Polymeric sand is more weed-resistant, and it won’t blow into the pool.
Pavers also may be cost-effective in the long run because individual pavers are easy to replace, and it’s easy to expand the deck.
Cost: $7 and up per square foot, plus labor.
Perhaps the most expensive pool deck material is stone. If you can afford it, stone pavers or natural stones are very durable and look great, particularly in natural-looking pool area. Stone is heavier, but it is otherwise as easy to install as concrete pavers.
Like concrete and brick pavers, stone decking materials come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. As long as you use a commonly available option, it should be simple to replace individual stones in the unlikely event of a damaged stone.
Cost: $2 an up per square foot, plus labor.
Wood is also relatively easy to install, and basic pressure-treated lumber starts at a lower price point than stone. Of course, exotic hardwoods can get far more expensive. Also, wood requires more regular maintenance than most other options. Expect to power-wash, then paint or stain the wood regularly. Wood may be less popular than concrete for surface-level decks, but wood and composite “fake wood” are just about the only choices for raised decks.
Cost: $5 and up per square foot, plus labor.
Composites, best known as brand-name Trex decking, are typically a mix of wood fibers and recycled plastic. They are designed to look like wood, though they can’t quite match the look and feel of real wood. They can also be very hot, so take care to buy the right product in the right shade.
They should be as durable as the most expensive real wood decks, but they don’t require any maintenance. They resist rotting, warping and bugs.