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Why Natural Stone Is Your Best Choice for a Poolside Surface
By Stephanie Vozza
A backyard pool is a personal retreat where you can relax and unwind under the sun. You can enhance the experience and create a natural oasis by using natural stone on your pool deck, surround, and coping.
“People are realizing that they have a goldmine in their backyard if they can develop it,” says Jan Johnsen, owner of Johnsen Landscape & Pools in Westchester County, New York. “Natural stone is one of the best ways to create a wonderful setting.”
Choosing the Right Stone
When it comes to choosing a material, Johnsen says it’s important to visit a stone yard and look at all of the options. “Everybody responds differently to stone ,” she says. “Some like rustic; some prefer something more contemporary. The best thing to do is see the stone in real life.”
Design trends tend to follow colors instead of specific kinds of stone, says Paolo Benedetti, principal of Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, a Morgan Hills, California-based high-end pool design and construction firm. “Black and grey were popular around pools, and now the trend is beige and tan,” he says. “Earth tones are always in style.”
Johnsen, who has been designing pool surrounds for 30 years, likes to use granite or quartzite. “They’re durable and don’t retain heat,” she says.
Benedetti frequently uses Connecticut bluestone. “It’s always been popular, and has never gone out of fashion,” he says. “Arizona flagstone is another popular choice, but it’s a little softer and requires more care.”
While cost is often a driving factor when choosing poolside materials, stone has many advantages that make it worth the investment. First, it’s very dense and more durable than a material like concrete, says Benedetti. “Often when there is an issue with stonework it’s because somebody selected stone inappropriate for application,” he says. “Soft marble from Mexico, for example, is not suitable around a pool; it’s just too soft. When it’s exposed to salt and pool chemicals it degrades rapidly.”
Natural stone also holds up to busy lifestyles. It can be repaired and won’t soak up spills, like wine or barbecue sauce, says Benedetti. “Concrete tends to be porous, absorbing spills,” he says. “Stone is colorfast, and won’t fade over time like concrete.”
Sustainability is an important aspect in landscape design, and natural stone is the ultimate sustainable product, says Johnsen. “It wasn’t manufactured in a factory,” she says. “It can be cleaned with water. It’s long lasting and doesn’t emit harmful vapors.”
Natural stone adds beauty to your poolside. “It’s not like picking a paint chip where you’re getting one monochromatic color,” Benedetti says. “There is variation and grain in stone.”
Natural stone grounds us, adds Johnsen, author of Spirit of Stone. “It gives us that stabilizing quality we all so desperately need because we spend our lives indoors staring at screens,” she says. “It connects us back to the earth in a beautiful way.”
Caring for natural stone is low maintenance, says Chris Papes, owner of Watermark Pros, an Austin, Texas-based pool restoration company. “Depending on the type, stone should be deep cleaned and sealed by a professional,” he says. “Cleaning and resealing every three to four years is recommended to keep the stone in top condition and protected.”
Benedetti recommends having the stone sealed before grout is applied. Sealer should be applied to the stone before you grout so the grout don’t discolor edges. “Sealer will protect the stone from water, and stains. It’s a good idea to test sealers because some change the color and appearance of the stone.”
Caring for your stone is a good investment. “Chemicals and exposures make swimming environments among the harshest known to man,” says Papes. “If the stone used is matched well to its environment, installed and sealed correctly, it can be a lifetime surface.”