What are the pros and cons of Kool Deck vs Acrylic Pool Deck vs Pavers?

Previously, all backyard pools looked pretty much the same. Everyone relied on the same product to keep pool decks comfortable under bare feet: Keystone Kool Deck.

Today we have many material and design options to choose from. Before choosing a pool deck product, consider these things:

• First and foremost, is it safe and non-slip when wet?
• Is the material coarse, bumpy or uneven?
• Does it reflect heat? Will it stay cool on hot days?
• Will it blend well with other paved or landscaped areas of your yard?
• Is it resistant to algae, chemicals, acids, mold and freezing?
• Is it compatible with chlorine and/or salt water systems?

Let’s break them down.

Kool Deck

Kool Deck is a premium, trademarked product, not to be confused with cool deck, which is a common term used to refer to textured or stamped overlays for pool decks. Keystone Kool Deck was invented in 1962 by Mortex in Tucson as a surface coating on concrete pool decks, walkways and patios.

Applied to freshly poured concrete, Kool Deck creates a colorful, textured concrete surface that the manufacturer claims is as strong as base concrete.

If your pool deck was built before the mid-1990s, it’s likely covered in that familiar heather beige concrete.

“We don’t see as many Kool Decks these days,” says Manny Sanchez, former president of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, Southern Arizona Chapter.

“We are seeing more and more customers choosing acrylic overlays because they offer multiple types of applications, from spray texture to stamp patterns such as slab, tile or slate.”

Advantages of Kool Deck:
• Lowers the surface temperature of concrete approximately 20 degrees, more than any other decking material.
• Resists thermal expansion and contraction better than concrete.
• Is fairly easy to clean.

Cons of Kool Deck:

• Because it is more complicated to install than acrylic, it requires someone specifically trained in the use of this mattress topper. If you opt for Kool Deck, make sure your installer is trained and experienced in applying that specific material.
• It fades in the Arizona sun and its color is hard to match if you need to fix it during a repair.
• Must be applied to freshly poured concrete before concrete hardens to bond properly.

Acrylic pool deck

An alternative to Kool Deck is a thin layer of acrylic or polymer concrete, usually a mixture of modified acrylic resin, Portland cement and sand, applied over regular concrete to give it texture.

Advantages of acrylic:
• Can be shaped to look like slab, Saltillo tile, brick and even Kool decking.
• Can be acid stained or custom textured for a unique look around the pool.
• Can be applied to new or old concrete.
• Is usually finished with a solvent-based sealer which makes it stain resistant and easy to clean.

Disadvantages of acrylic:
• When textured, it is cooler than regular concrete, but not as cool as Kool Deck.
• Can cost up to twice as much as Kool Deck.


Pavers have grown in popularity for pool decks and, according to Sanchez, are the most popular choice. Stone, brick and concrete are the three main materials used to make pool pavers.

“Travertine and artistic cobblestones are kings now,” says Sanchez. “It takes longer to install but provides a much more custom finish without the cracking or delamination like the ‘old’ stuff.”

For a slightly different look, consider Oceanside pavers from Belgard. They combine coquina and oyster shells for extra durability and natural beauty.

Advantages of pavers:
• A good alternative to regular concrete as they can be designed to look like cobblestones, granite, tiles or traditional bricks.
• Can be arranged to complement many types of design schemes due to wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes.
• Can be custom made.
• Easy to find and easy to replace if a paver is damaged.
• If installed correctly, many manufacturers claim that interlocking pavers are frost resistant.
• Endures high wear resistance and durable non-slip surface.

Disadvantages of paving:

• When installing, a permanent curb or frame is required to prevent shifting.
• May appear industrial or commercial.
• If they are concrete, it is important to seal them well to avoid discoloration caused by excessive water damage and exposure to the sun.
• They can get very hot!

Whichever system you choose, if you’re remodeling your deck and the weather isn’t an issue, do it during the colder months to avoid cracking.

To maintain the deck, keep it free of dirt, debris and leaves, which can end up in the pool. Keep them away from the pool. Be careful of pressure washing. The cobblestones may move or the coating may be damaged.

Usually, a simple wash with the garden hose and a few passes of a soft scrub brush is all you need to keep your deck spotless while maintaining its safety features.

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday morning from 8-11am on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you would like to send us questions or comments, send an email to: [email protected] Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more DIY tips, head to rosieonthehouse.com. An expert in the Arizona home construction and renovation industry since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the Saturday morning syndicated radio show Rosie on the House. Call 888-767-4348 with questions and comments.

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