Anyone Else Insisting on Natural Stone?

March 2, 2018
My husband and I are resurfacing our 15-year-old pool that came along with the house we bought last summer. It must have been built before the surge of simulated stone because it has beautiful, albeit dated, flagstone coping as well as a flagstone wall along one side, retaining walls and trim in other parts of the space in the same material.

We have been presented with basically one option for resurfacing and that is the Pebble Tec products. At this point, I think we are going to go with the color “ocean blue“ in the Pebble Sheen line although if anyone else with little kids wants to talk me out of that – I could probably be convinced. I do have some concerns about having a dark pool with three children under six. But now I digress.

The real reason for my post is that the pool company/contractor guy tells me that all of the coping has to be replaced and is pushing me towards stamped concrete. I’m opposed that for two reasons:
1. I am a sucker for natural materials and
2. I don’t care how “stone like” it looks. It’s not going to look like existing flagstone.

Admittedly, the flagstone is a bit dated at this point. However, I do think that natural materials really never go out of style and I’m certainly not prepared to replace all of the flagstone in the space with a different natural stone that I like better. So I think the solution is to absolutely insist on either new flagstone coping or using the existing flagstone which he told me would be “just as expensive“ because they will have to clean the existing stone before reinstalling it. But I don’t really care about that, do I? It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be more expensive than using the stamped concrete but even if it were more expensive— I just don’t see how I can mix stamped concrete with a lot of really high-quality flagstone.

I appreciate anyone else’s feedback on convincing their pool contractors to use natural materials. I did not think that I would have the struggle with the most expensive pool contractor in town but I am.

The pool is currently closed for the winter and covered so I cannot attach a recent picture and the only picture I have from last summer (when we moved in) is this one which is a bit hilarious but does give the viewer an idea of what the existing material looks like. In case anyone is wondering – yes, that is me and I am fully clothed and soaking wet after rescuing a twin distress. And no, the other twin is not actually urinating in the yard – it just looks like he is.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and feedback.

Comments (8)

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    If you have the money & very skilled masons, you can not beat natural stone for the look it provides.

  • PRO
    Mystic Pools, LLC

    We go around in circles and always come to natural materials. Ii is not for the budget minded but it will last a lot longer than manmade materials. Hell, it's been in the ground since the beginning of time and is still here!

    I personally don't like any of the stamped concrete. It fades quickly and it is concrete which WILL crack in it's lifetime. It always looks artificial to me-fine for the zoos and Disney.

  • PRO
    Omega Brick & Landscaping
    Mystic Pools is right about stamped concrete to some extent. Like all poured concrete, it is bound to crack eventually and need to be replaced. (Most contractors fail to prepare the base and reinforce the concrete sufficiently). That means the long-term cost is likely to exceed the cost of the natural stone which can be repaired as needed rather than en mass. And when it comes time to replace the concrete again, it will be very difficult to match color-wise. The majority of stamped concrete I have seen looks too artificial to live up to the hype. And those who are truly able to create the appearance of natural stone or Brick charge just as much or more per square foot as those installing the natural materials.

    Your pool contractor is right about the cost comparison. It will cost at least as much to clean and reset the existing materials as it would be to install stamped concrete. Rather than hire someone to install the existing stone, I would consider finding a stone that either matches or contrasts nicely with the other stone around the pool. The walls appear to be in fine condition. If you choose a contrasting stone, like a cut bluestone (which can be purchased with a bullnose if you are so inclined) you may also consider using it as a capstone for the walls to tie the features together.

    There are also plenty of manufactured pavers that have a bullnose (thus eliminating the sharp edges of the flagstone on which the twins may injure themselves).

    Contrasting materials of either man-made or natural stone would really enhance the area.

    One last thought: is it possible the pool contractor is simply unqualified to install the natural stone materials and is therefore pushing the stamped concrete in order to keep the project in-house?
  • ljbwilk
    Wow thanks Omega for the feedback. The contractor is qualified— he’s the one who installed the flagstone 15 years ago right before the former owners foreclosed on this house and it fell into disrepair for about a decade. This particular contractor is well known in the area for being highly reputable and also for being expensive but I do believe that you get what you pay for in life. I just visited one of the contractor’s other pools to look at the Pebble Sheen color and the pool owner told me that he spent $125,000 on the natural stone in the pool deck alone. So this contractor certainly knows how to use natural stone and I am betting he fields many more requests than he lets on.

    I am used to this – I got the same song and dance when we were installing our foyer floor— and master bathroom shower in our old house. It is easier for contractors to use simulated materials and they get the added benefit of the upcharge for obtaining the simulated materials that consumers cannot obtain on their own. I will admit that I am not a contractor but I strongly suspect that this is the case— it’s easier for them to install and they get some financial benefit from it. Why else would they push it so hard?

    With home renovation, there are enough alternatives for labor that I could find someone to install real marble at a reasonable cost. With a pool, there are so few options. There is really only one other contractor in town with a comparable reputation and I can’t even get him to call me back. With a bid of nearly $30,000, one might think another contractor would be interested in the job. I know it’s not a whole new pool installation but, come on, $30,000? I am reminded of runway model Linda Evangelista who once said “I don’t even get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.”

    I appreciate your suggestions about finding a contrasting stone. I am definitely going to look into that. Because the contractor has shown me very few natural stone options, I think I’m going to go ahead and start ordering samples from websites myself. Would you discourage me from doing that? Are there any particular website that you recommend? I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to ask that on this forum...
  • cpartist

    I like the idea of the bluestone as a contrast. Ask your pool guy about bluestone and see what he comes up with.

  • PRO
    Mystic Pools, LLC

    Bluestone is a beautiful material, but please be aware it gets very hot in the sun. For patios and coping it can be very hot underfoot. Most dark materials-pavers and other natural stones, can also be hot but the bluestone holds the heat.

  • PRO
    Eco Outdoor AUS

    Hi, I just came across your query regarding natural stone. We believe that natural stone is timeless and it's not that we accept that natural stone has imperfects, it's the imperfects that are the point! If you're still deliberating about where to find the perfect natural stone product for your pool area, we have just opened a showroom in Beverley Hills, but can deliver Nation wide- feel free to give one of our friendly staff a call to chat about your project and have a look at our natural stone flooring and walling options here Eco Outdoor. [855] 413 1413

  • PRO
    Mystic Pools, LLC

    Exactly Eco. Natural stone is timeless and it's imperfections is what gives it it's beauty.