Thursday, January 6, 2011

An attempt to settle some Pebble Tec confusion

Having worked in the pool industry for the past 7 years, I have heard of the "controversy" regarding plaster vs Pebble Tec thousands of times.  Pebble Tec is a far superior product to plaster.  The perceived roughness of Pebble Tec, is usually just a bad install.  The prescribed method for installing, is to shoot the pebble onto the gunite, trowel, and walk away for about 24 hours.  This allows the pebble to cure and harden overnight.  The next step in prepping pebble, is then to have a crew come back out to the customers home, and do a very light acid wash on the surface.  This exposes the pebbles to the proper depth, and insures maximum adhesion. A pebble pool should be no rougher on the feet, than walking on beach sand. 

Lower cost installers, typically will shoot the pebble in the morning, take lunch, and do the acid wash in the afternoon.  They save a few ways by doing this.  First, they don't have to come back the second day, second, they don't have to pay a second crew piece work like most pool companies do.  The end result of this, is that a large number of the pebbles will get knocked out of the grout.  This creates a rough or sharp surface.  In a sense, the installer, has started the customer toward disliking their pool, from day one. 

Pebble Tec comes in a variety of colors, with the myth being that darker colors are more expensive than lighter.  The color has almost no effect on the cost.  The cost comes from where the stones are mined from.  Pebble Tec uses specifically colored stones picked for their color and shade from around the world.  Stones are mined from Chile, New Zealand, Asia and other locations.  Lower cost brands of pebble products will use colored stones, similar to those used in fish tank rock.  Eventually, the dye will wear off, and change color.  Pebble Tec is viewed as the industry standard, and does come with a slight premium attached to it.  The company stands behind their warranties 100% and it seems rare that the product fails.  Be cautious of a contractor who talks non stop about Pebble Tec, but then puts "pebble product: on a contract.  They are probably using a cheaper knockoff version.  The knock offs typically use the exact same color names for thier stone combinations.  They can get away with this, because a color, cannot be patented.  It's allowable for companies to use the same name and have them resemble each other. 

In other blogs, I have seen comparisions between Pebble Tec and Pebble Sheen and have seen wide price differences between the two.  In one instance, I saw an upgrade to Pebble Sheen pushed onto the customer as a 3800.00 upgrade.  There is no earthly reason for this to happen.  The material costs the same, and the labor to install Sheen is slightly more expensive, but not nearly that high.  There are a few diamond heads used to buff the stones, but that is all.  A normal install may run 500.00 dollars more in an average size pool.  If your pool has a spa attached, use 1000.00 as your figure.  Again, the type of pebble will factor in, but if choosing a lower cost pebble, these numbers should be accurate.  The average pool in Tucson runs somewhere in the 800-900 SQ FT range, and these numbers hold true here.  Remember, there is no magical pixie dust that anyone can put into the mix, to make it last longer, stain less, or clean itself.  Medium Grey colors seem to hold up better to staining, dark colors mottle, and light colors can stain slightly over time with neglect.  All pebble colors will have a different water effect, and only the homeowner can choose which they prefer the most.  As a salesperson, we all have our favorites, and that can sometimes be pushed onto the customer. 

If you choose to pebble your pool, either during a renovation, or in a new build, use some of these facts as a guide.  The best thing any consumer can do to keep their pool looking nice for years, is to spend time maintaining it.  Simple brushing will add years to the longevity of whichever surface you choose.  Hopefully this helps to clear up a few issues.  Thank You.

Brian McGee
Patio Pools Tucson Arizona