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The secrets of natural stone pool paving: Essential tips for building or renovating your pool

This blog originally appeared as a KLAY Tiles interview with General Manager, David Marks. https://klay.com.au/secrets-of-natural-stone-poolside-paving/

MUCH LIKE POOL TILES, YOUR CHOICE OF POOLSIDE PAVERS PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE IN SHAPING YOUR POOL AREA’S OVERALL LOOK AND FUNCTIONALITY. WHETHER YOU’RE IN THE PROCESS OF CONSTRUCTING A NEW POOL OR GIVING AN EXISTING ONE A MAKEOVER, SELECTING THE PERFECT PAVER REQUIRES CAREFUL CONSIDERATION. WHILE WE’RE WELL-VERSED IN THE WORLD OF CERAMICS, WHEN IT COMES TO NATURAL STONE WE NEED TO CALL-IN THE EXPERT. FORTUNATELY, WE KNOW JUST WHO TO SPEAK WITH.


Meet Brad Sayers, Sales Manager of Pavers Plus stone importers and retailers. Brad has been in the stone game for more than 17 years (most of his working life!). We sat down with Brad to unveil the ‘stone-cold’ facts about paving. Which stone stays coolest under-foot? How to pick the difference between good and poor quality? Which stone is susceptible to salt and chlorine? What is the difference between a “bullnose”, “drop-face” and a “rebated edge”? These questions are answered, and a whole lot more.

DAVID: Natural materials like limestone, granite, bluestone, marble and quartzite, are a popular choice for outdoor environments like a pool area. What separate them in terms of their suitability and performance over time in this pool setting?

BRAD: Most types of natural stone are great options for outdoor areas and around pools, and all will have their pros and cons that should be weighed up before you choose your product. Bluestone is by-far our most popular product for any type of area. While it can heat up a bit on very hot days, it’s also hard-wearing, has a neutral colour tone that goes hand-in-hand with a number of different home designs and styles, and its imperfections and natural look make it a timeless option that won’t date. Similarly, travertine and limestone share all the same characteristics with their rustic finish and look, and actually tend to stay quite cool under foot even on hot days which make it a great option but can be susceptible to salt which means some extra sealing steps are needed for use around pools. Granite is generally the option we recommend most because it’s very low maintenance and has a wide choice of colour options to choose from, which means you’re almost guaranteed to find an option that will suit your area. In terms of slip-resistance, there are a range of finishes to choose from in each product, and we make sure to point our customers in the direction of slip-resistant finishes such as flamed, sandblasted, sawn and split finishes for peace-of-mind.

DAVID: Is there anything you can recommend improve longevity and reduction of staining of natural stone pavers?

BRAD: Sealing is a very important part of the process as it makes the paving area a lot easier to clean over time. Sealing won’t stop pavers from getting dirty, but it does give you extra time to clean things off the surface of the stone to prevent stains from happening, which leads to a longer-lasting paving area. As I mentioned previously, travertine, limestone and sandstone should also be consolidated if using around a pool. Consolidator is a stone hardener and water repellent that’s main purpose is prevent the stone from salt and chemical attack, and at the same time makes it even easier to clean which is a bonus! Sealing is recommended on all natural stone paving, and depending on the type of sealer being used, can last up to 10 years before needing to re-seal, so it’s a very low-maintenance job.

DAVID: Do you get what you pay for with natural stone, or is it all the same?

BRAD: You certainly get what you pay for. A common misconception is that all natural stone is the same but in reality, there are a number of factors that go into the different qualities of products when you compare them to each other. While pricing is important for staying within a budget, it’s also important that a suitable and realistic budget is allowed for in the paving to get a good quality product. Problems we see with cheaper products in the natural stone and landscape industry are things like inconsistencies in the sizing of products which fall outside of Australian standards, making it harder to lay, and in some cases can lead to higher installation costs, ‘cupping’ where the edges of the stone warp and lift (a common problem with cheap bluestone), excessive pitting in stones such as travertine where holes can be very large and open up the whole way through the stone, and a number of different scenarios that, unfortunately, we are seeing all too often with cheaper products on the market.

DAVID: How do you spot the better-quality stone?

BRAD: Those who have a keen eye for quality will be able to see vast differences on the surface of the stone when comparing high-quality stone to cheaper products. With products like bluestone for example, you can see the differences in the finishing and the overall look, and this can be for a couple of reasons; the quarry that the stone is coming from, and the quality control of the finishing coming out of the quarry as well. Quality differences can also be evident in areas that can’t be seen, such as the MPA rating of the stone which measures the stone’s strength. We make sure that we are only supplying stone products that have the highest density, strength and quality on the market in each stone category, so that our customers have confidence that they are receiving reliable products that will last for years to come.

DAVID: What format pavers do you recommend for pool areas?

BRAD: Paver format is largely up to the preference of the customer. In recent years, our most popular sizes have been 600×300, 600x400mm and 800x400mm, so the rectangular sizes are definitely the more common option at the moment. Certain products, such as travertine and limestone, are also very popular in what’s called ‘French pattern’ which has four different sizes going through the pattern. The term is often used interchangeably with ‘ashlar pattern’, however French pattern has a set way of laying the four sizes, versus an ashlar pattern where the sizes and pattern is entirely up to the imagination of the customer. Another timeless option is crazy paving (aka random), where there are all different shapes and sizes to form a rustic and natural look. This format is particularly nice with stones that have a lot of colour variation, such as slate, quartzite, porphyry, bluestone, and others, as it can add a great deal of character to the area and serve as a real feature.

Pool coping is where you might be dictated a little bit on the sizing. Most pool builders have a set size concrete beam, which is where the coping sits. For example, if you have a 200mm wide concrete beam you need to cover, you will need to lay a 230-250mm wide coping tile (includes 30-50mm overhang on the edge), or order a bigger size and have them cut down on site to the right size. This is because there needs to be an expansion joint where that concrete beam ends, and then a new slab is poured for the rest of the paving to be laid on. If a bigger coper is laid over where that expansion joint is supposed to be, your coping tile will crack over time. Always check the beam size with the pool builder prior to ordering your coping!

DAVID: Where the pool tiles meet the coping is quite important aesthetically, do you have any tips for getting this right? (e.g. bullnoses, drop faces etc)

BRAD: Drop-face coping (aka rebated edge) is a great way to get a nice, neat finish to the waterline edge of your pool. It means that the pool tiles can effectively sit under the coping tile, which also hides any imperfection in the caulking underneath at the same time. Regular square edge and bullnose option are more than fine to use as well, however you’ll be relying on a very neat contractor to finish it all off perfectly which sometimes just can’t be achieved, so a rebated edge will hide all of that.

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