Here it is! Your step-by-step how-to guide on preparing and painting a swimming pool. I’m working on the assumption that if you can paint a wall then you can paint a pool, so I won’t be going over how to use a paintbrush! First, a little disclaimer!
This guide is based on our own previous experience and advice from the local hardware shop. My Dad has a lifetime of experience from the construction industry and is the handiest person I know. Although, this is the first pool we have ever repaired, prepared and then painted so I would highly recommend that you take a second opinion on everything you read here before taking on the project yourself (or just spend an afternoon on google). The last thing I want is you to paint a pool solely based on the advice below and then getting your solicitor to send me a letter in the post when it goes bottom up! :)
Our Pool and it’s Condition
Our pool is rectangular with the dimensions of 9 m x 5.5m. At the shallowest depth it is 1.3 m, and 1.73 m at the deep end. The sides and floor are formed with reinforced concrete. This basically means that metal bars were used to reinforce the concrete. We already had a single layer of paint on the pool that acted as a primer. The plan was to put on two coats of pool paint on top of this single layer and to also fit some ladders. As the original coat’s colour was so different from the new colour it was best to put two coats on. That way we had a much neater finish. But it wasn’t that straight forward as the pool itself needed a repair job as it had multiple holes and and the existing coat of pool paint had seen much better days – it was flakey, stained and pretty yukky. We also had a horizontal gap along one side of the walls that needed filling. I’ll go into the repair jobs at a later stage.
Here’s our pool before we got started on anything:
Paint, PVC or epoxy resin?
We spent a lot of time deciding on what finish we wanted in the pool. The options were to simply paint it using pool paint, to use PVC or to use epoxy resin paint. Here is our thought process:
PVC is basically a pool liner that is plastic based. My understanding of PVC is that it’s made to measure and arrives in big sheets that you just stick on (it is probably not as simple as that though!). The PVC acts as a barrier between the naked wall and the water. The benefit of it is that it doesn’t take as many man hours as painting or plastering but it can be very expensive – we got a quote for nearly £4, 000 for our little pool and said no.
Epoxy Pool Paint
Epoxy resin is very cool. My parents only very briefly looked at it but it was also quite expensive and impractical for our pool. Who ever said that painting a pool would be costy? Epoxy paint is extremely durable paint that will last for years. It is water-resistant (duh) and also chemical resistant so it will last much longer than normal pool paint that you pick off the shelf. However, if we were to use epoxy paint we would need to scrape off the existing primer (original paint layer) and go back to concrete, which is time consuming but it pays off when you think that an epoxy coat will last for years to come.
In addition, we struggled to find a local place that actually sourced it and ferrying it back from the UK to Portugal ourselves was not practical at the time. We actually e-mailed a company over in the US that had a shop in Portugal. We just had a couple of questions for them but rather than them e-mailing us back they tried to call us from the US. But they didn’t try and call us once, they called multiple times a day for three weeks straight and we didn’t fancy paying the international incoming call fees when we just wanted an e-mail response. So the epoxy pool paint idea didn’t get very far, unfortunately.
In the end we settled for good old fashioned pool paint. It still wasn’t cheap though, as a 5L drum cost about €60 but compared to the other options we saved a lot of money. We needed four 5L drums of paint, which was enough for two coats and we had a little bit left over. We bought everything we needed to do the job (except the pressure washer) from the list below and it came to about €300. If you have any experience in pool painting then hopefully you’ll think that was a good price! The guide below relies on you using pool paint.
One thing that I should add is that our pool already had a primer on the concrete walls so we could paint straight over it. In the places where we the paint had bubbled we had to scrape it right back down to the concrete and apply a sealer/primer. If you don’t seal your pool then it will just bubble after a few weeks and will eventually leak. You can buy a primer that has sealing qualities (non-porous), let that dry and then pop your pool paint on top. Don’t forget to always read the tin etc. because it’ll be an costy mistake if you fill your pool and then find that the paint is bubbling.
When do you paint your pool?
There’s an easy answer to this: as early in the year as you can. It needs to be coming into the time when you will want to be using your pool and when the weather is amicable, so when it hasn’t been raining for the last couple of days and when it isn’t freezing cold. It isn’t the end of the world if it rains while you are painting but you want to exercise a bit of common sense: if the forecast says rain today then you might want to skip on the painting. We painted our pool late in May and had one rainy day during.
How to prepare the pool
Ideal Equipment List
- Pressure washer (ideally an electric one as they are easy to use)
- Filling knife or a tool that is suitable for scraping
- Enough paint (called Tinta P/Piscinas Azul Piscina)
- Paint brushes x1
- Rollers x2 (one rollers per coat)
- Paint thinner (called ‘Dil P/Borracha Clorada’)
- White spirits
- Electric drill
- Paint mixing drill attachment
A note on equipment: When it comes to paint brushes and rollers it depends entirely on how many people are helping out. We reused our paint brushes by putting them into white spirits at the end of the day, but we threw away the rollers.
- First, we thoroughly pressure washed the pool. This not only cleaned the pool but it also chipped away a lot of the flakey paint.
2. When the pool had dried we used the filler knife to chip away the remaining flakey paint. Try to be thorough with this but don’t go over the top. The idea behind it is that when you paint over it air won’t build up behind it and return it back to being flakey. Don’t forget that the pool floor also needs chipping away.
3. What we have effectively done is scrape off some of the original primer and exposed the bare concrete underneath. You’ll need to clear up all the chippings you’ve dropped on the floor. We actually got a hoover into the pool and hoovered them up, which was very effective.
How to paint the pool
- Now you need to get started on putting that layer of paint on the exposed areas, so get your drill and your mixing attachment and open your first tin of pool paint. If you haven’t got any exposed areas then skip to the first coat.
- Before you get started on stirring, you need to add some paint thinner. We added a 0.25L to each tin of paint before we used it. So we chucked .25L into a 5L drum. Just put it into a little cup and drop it in. Pool paint is extremely thick and it feels almost like a resin so it’s important to use a paint thinner to get the most out of your paint.
- Carefully stir the paint with the stirring attachment for about 5 mins. We put a big bit of cardboard under the paint drum just incase we went overboard on mixing.
- You are now ready to get started on doing the patch works. I would only advise using a paint brush at this stage as using a roller would be going overboard.
- When you have finished using your paint brush for the day you need to pop it into some white spirits to clean it. Tap water won’t do the trick. We left the paint brushes in white spirits overnight and just wiped them down with some kitchen roll when we were ready to get started again.
- After doing your patchwork I’d recommend that you break out the rollers. I’m not going to teach you how to suck eggs but you want to pretend that you’re painting a wall in your house or wherever. So a nice paint brush for the corners, top and bottom of the wall and a roller to do the rest.
- The weather was so hot (about 30c) during the day so we planned to start the very first coat at 7pm in the evening. It was even hotter down in the pool as the sun reflected off the paint and the paint fumes sent us all doolalee. Dad cracked on with the paint floor at around 8am the next day and then we left the pool to dry uncovered for a whole day. You can do whatever you like, provided you allow the first coat to dry for the recommended time.
- After 24 hrs had passed, off we went again. We started on the walls very early in the morning this time and finished the pool floor late in the evening when it was cooler. We allowed it another 24 hrs to dry uncovered and then thought about filling it with water!
- You can fill it however you like. Our water supply can be alternated between well water and mains supply, so we did half and half. This saved money as well water is free (you only pay the electric bill for pumping it) but it lead to other problems down the line, such as the high iron content in the well water. It probably took us about 3 or 4 days to fill it but we did keep turning it on and off again – we weren’t in any rush. Dad enjoyed calculating how many hours it would take to be full, which worked out to between 35 and 40 hours.
- And we’re done! From start to finish it took about a week and a half (and we were going at a very relaxed pace) and by the end it looked fantastic. If you would like me to go into more specific detail then please contact me and I’ll see what I can do for you :)