May 27, 2024
How to Paint a Swimming Pool

Come summer, a swimming pool is such an enviable home feature. Whether it’s above ground or in ground, concrete or fiberglass, a backyard swimming pool can boost your home’s value and provide family fun for years. However, pools do require upkeep. When they’re open, pool maintenance usually consists of balancing the chemicals, cleaning, and replacing filters; when the season ends, it’s time to winterize your pool. But every so often, when your pool’s interior starts to look a little worse for the wear, it’s time for a fresh coat of paint. Unless it has a liner or is tiled, you should plan to paint your pool every five to 10 years.

In addition to being fun, a pool is a great way to sneak some personality into your exterior landscaping. The paint color your choose can be part of what makes it unique, and painting it doesn’t have to be boring or labor intensive. You could take a note from iconic British painter David Hockney’s mural for the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool and opt for a pattern rather than a solid wash of color. Designer Alex Proba has also been painting colorful swimming pools (and their corresponding concrete slab decks) for years as a form of expression. Just be aware that you should use pool-specific paint for the job, even though the commercially available color options are somewhat limited.

los angeles january 15 hollywood roosevelt swimming pool in los angeles, california on january 15, 2017 photo by jim steinfeldtmichael ochs archivesgetty images

Jim Steinfeldt

The swimming pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel painted by David Hockney.

Because it’s important to paint a swimming pool the right way the first time, we’ve asked a few experts on the topic—Rafi Friedman, president of Coastal Luxury Outdoors; Shlomo Cherniak, owner of Cherniak Home Services; and interior designer Chenise Hinds—to offer their expert guidance on how to paint a pool. Read on for a complete guide, including step-by-step instructions, advice on how to choose the right paint, and estimates for how much painting your pool will cost.

How to Paint a Swimming Pool Yourself

Painting a pool is actually a very reasonable project for an experienced DIYer. It’s time consuming, but it’s not overly complicated. Follow the below steps if you plan on painting your swimming pool by yourself.

Step One: Drain the Pool

Friedman, whose Jacksonville, Florida, company builds and remodels swimming pools, recommends that homeowners make sure they are draining the pool (with a pump or hose) into a sewer rather than directly into the yard to avoid flooding, soil erosion, and potential damage to their home’s or pool’s foundation. Once the majority of the water is out, use a wet-dry vacuum (available to rent at most hardware stores) to suck up the last drops.

Hiring a professional to drain a pool costs between $175 and $225, according to Angi data, plus another $250 for cleaning.

Step Two: Clean Your Pool

“As your pool drains, scrub the sides to get any remaining dirt or debris off while the surface is still damp,” Friedman suggests. “Once the pool is completely drained, scrape off as much of the old paint as you can, especially in areas where it’s already flaking or peeling.” Pressure washing or manually scrubbing with a bristled cleaning brush can help speed up this process. We also recommend emptying, cleaning, or replacing your pool filters as needed at this point.

Step Three: Prep and Prime the Surface

The correct preparation steps include an acid wash, according to Cherniak. “This step is crucial for removing any previous paint and ensuring the new paint adheres properly,” he explains. “A 1:1 ratio of water to muriatic acid is most effective.”

Interior designer Chenise Hinds also recommends giving the pool’s surface a light sanding, especially if the previous paint job had a glossy finish. “For glossy pool surfaces, I lightly sand to create texture for the paint to grip,” she says. “I also use a primer before painting to ensure the paint lasts.” Sanding will also smooth out any rough or uneven surfaces and help limit paint peeling down the line. When you buy pool paint, pick up a pool-specific primer as well.

Step Four: Apply the Paint

Just as you would when painting any other surface, use a roller or paint brush to apply the pool paint in smooth, even coats. Usually two coats of paint are sufficient, but you may need three if the paint color you’ve chosen is light or the coats are particularly thin. If you’re creating a design, apply two coats of the base color before adding accents.

Step Five: Seal and Let Cure

If you use rubberized pool paint, it’ll take care of the sealing process on its own. “All you have to do is let it cure,” Friedman says. For acrylic or epoxy paint types, Cherniak says homeowners will need to seal the paint with a clear concrete sealer to protect it from the elements and pool chemicals. “Applying two coats of sealer can extend the life of your paint job by up to five years,” he adds.

Swimming pool paint will need at least two to three days to cure, but it could take upward of five days to set completely—and you should wait until then to refill your pool. We recommend following the specific guidelines on your chosen paint and sealant to be sure.

Step Six: Refill Your Pool

Now that the hard work is complete, it’s time to refill your pool. That should cost around $55 per 5,000 gallons, according to Angi.

The Best Pool Paint

While there are a myriad of brands to consider, there are only a few acceptable types or formulas of paint to use on your pool’s interior: acrylic or epoxy paint formulas. The primary difference is the base ingredients. While acrylic paints are water based, epoxy has a resin base. Avoid traditional interior and exterior paint as they are not suitable for underwater use. And—this should go without saying—but no matter what dreamy design you think up, don’t paint your pool with any kind of craft paint.

It’s important for a pool paint to be rubberized, Friedman adds. “There are a few advantages to this stuff, beyond just being water resistant,” he explains. “A rubberized paint coheres much more easily underwater, leading to less flaking. It’s also stretchy and resilient, expanding and contracting as needed, which is great to prevent cracks.”

The colors of pool paints are often limited to a range of blues, greens, whites, and black. However, you may be able to find more colors depending on your local hardware store’s selection.

Acrylic-Based Pool Paints

Acrylic paint is great for applying on damp surfaces or over an existing coat of paint. It’s more affordable than epoxy, but it’s not as good on rough surfaces or at covering stains or pool surface discoloration. Acrylic is most often used on concrete or plaster pool interiors. For those in a rush, Cherniak recommends using this kind of formula. “Acrylic paint is a good choice if you’re looking for something easier to apply and faster to dry—two to three days compared with epoxy’s five to seven days.”

Epoxy-Based Pool Paints

Epoxy pool paints last longer on average than acrylic, and are better at filling in hairline cracks and going over rough surfaces. However, epoxy paints are more expensive and are best when used on fiberglass pool interiors. Epoxy paints are great at smoothing uneven pool surfaces. Because epoxy paints are thicker, they will take longer to dry and cure, leaving your pool out of commission for longer.

How Much Pool Paint to Use

To determine how much pool paint you’ll need to buy, you need to calculate the total square footage of your pool. Olympic Pool Paint has handy pool paint calculators that make the math easy. For a small pool (12 feet by 24 feet), four gallons of paint is a good baseline. However, for a pool that is 30 feet by 60 feet, 20 gallons of paint will be needed. Because epoxy paints are thicker, they cover less surface area than thinner acrylic paints.

Recommended Conditions to Paint a Swimming Pool

Late spring to early summer is the ideal time to paint your pool to get it in peak shape ahead of the summer season. However, if it’s too hot, the paint can potentially bubble, leading to an uneven and splotchy finish. Plan to paint your pool when the weather forecast is pleasant and no inclement weather is expected. The paint may be waterproof, but until it cures even a spring shower can ruin all of your hard work.

How Much Does Painting a Pool Cost?

If you choose to hire a professional, you can expect to spend around $1,500 per 1,000 square feet, including labor, according to Angi. For a DIY approach, 1 gallon of pool paint purchased on Amazon costs around $90 for acrylic, $125 for epoxy, and $100 for rubber-based formulas.

FAQs

Can I Paint My Pool Myself?

Painting or repainting a pool is a pretty reasonable DIY project. It takes time, especially if you have a large swimming pool, but it isn’t especially difficult. The scale of the project and applying the acid wash are what make it different from a typical interior paint job.

How Often Do I Need to Paint My Pool?

Pool paint has a relatively short life span of five to seven years, according to Angi. If your pool takes a lot of chlorine or chemicals, this can shorten the paint’s life span even more.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on a Swimming Pool?

It’s best to use a rubberized acrylic paint or epoxy that’s specifically designed to be used on pool interiors. Depending on the formula you choose, you may also need to apply a sealant.

Do I Need to Sand My Pool Before Painting It?

The experts we consulted recommend sanding your swimming pool’s interior before painting it. The paint will go on more evenly and adhere better, which will give you longer lasting results. It takes more time, but it’s worth it.


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Kate McGregor is House Beautiful’s SEO Editor, writing in-depth , design inspiration stories while overseeing gardening content through routine . With over five years in the shelter industry creating content for brands like Domino, Real Simple, and Architectural Digest’s Clever, Kate has developed a passion for uncovering the personal stories that often lie behind the inspiration for people’s spaces. She previously worked as the assistant market editor at ELLE Decor, where she identified top products and brands in the industry as well as interviewed emerging designers about their thoughts on the latest . Kate holds a bachelor’s degree from Belmont University. When not researching the specificities of begonia plant care, you can find Kate scouring vintage markets for the ideal wrought-iron chair, knitting yet another cardigan, or reading historical nonfiction.