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Sealing around salt water pools

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Dr J's picture
Dr J

On another forum there is quite a discusson going on about sealers used around a salt water pool. The discussion gets a little sidetracked now and then but no clear direction has been achieved yet. So what is the preferred sealer to use, when salt is an issue? I had this discussion with Chris Sullivan years ago, and he descibed how salt can penetrate through a breathable sealer and still do damage. Not that I am working around a salt water pool but I live in an area where salt is used very heavily in winter.

Lindy A.'s picture
Lindy A.
The discussion, which I have

The discussion, which I have been taking part in, is on our Decorative Concrete Forums Facebook page, if those reading this have never "liked" our sister Facebook page please do so.   In any event, 90% of the content of this discussion recognizes the many issues that salt water izonization/treatment of swimming pool water represent (some having seen for themselves, going back decades, the effects this type of water treatment has on sealers/coatings associated with splashed/dripped/etc water on pool decks have on sealers/coatings, there are dozens of posts in this discussion that recognize this to be a fact due to their OWN experiences, some even have posted links to non-biased trade related articles in reference to the effects of this type of pool water on sealers/coatings.  Of course, there is always one "false prophet" that attempts to make erronous/misleading statements as to the longevity/performance under these consitions, an excerpt of this persons' remark was: "A quality solvent based acrylic will withstand salt period" 

FYI ... ALERT ... NEVER believe those that make such bogas statements, especially when there is a an overwelming amount of swimming pool industy and non-biased specialists in our field of expertise that have (and will provide) verifiable information/facts to the contrary.  A low solids solvent or acrylic based sealer does not have the resistance to withstand aggressive izonized/salt water swimming pool water that comes in contact (stands/puddles) on swimming pool deck.  Instead the agressive water will permeate/leach down into these low resistance/vapor permeable types of sealers from the top, etch and eat the sealer (it is IRRELEVANT whether they initally bond for an undeterminable period of time when they are being eaten/etched/broken down by the leaching/wicking in of this aggressive water), reaching through their thin mil build into the cementitous/decorartive concrete surface that is just below the solvent or acrylic sealer (it is common sense that if vapors can rise from the substrate up/out they can also  enter into the sealer from the  top/exposed side of sealer down through them, which is why they also white/fog out if exposed to long periods of rain falling on the top of sealer until conditions improve to the point that the sealer can dry out and release the moisture/vapor ergo clear back out).  Furthermore, whether water or solvent based low solids sealer, by formulation/resin type do NOT have the chemical (organic or inorganic) or resitance to aggressive water associated with izonized salt water treated pools due to the residual salt that was not 100% izonized thereby sill contained in the water) to survive/shield/protect the decorative/cementitous/concrete surfaces beneath them.  I know the company, as many of you may, that this man (who made the statements "a quality solvent based acrylic will withstand salt period" works for/represents; for that matter his statement as to "salt period" could be contstrued to aludes to salt used for deicing purposes on exterior surfaces in the north) ... I DOUBT VERY SERIOUSLY that they (the manufacturer he represents) have in writing in ANY of their literature or material tech/specifications that "their solvent or water based acylic sealer" is recommended for use on ioniezed salt water treatment pool decks and will withstand being subjected to the deteriorating/etching of sealer challenges presented by ionized (salt) water treated pools, reaping a costly toll as to the deteriorating of the decorative concrete or cementitous surface benath the sealer.as it does so." This company has some very good products/sealers/systems; ergo I can't see them putting themselves in a liability situation by attesting to and recommending their vapor permemable solvent based acrylic sealer for use on salt water/izonized treatment swimming pool decks.

Moral to my rambling post is that ALWAYS get in writing a STATEMENT from the MANUFACTURE that they recommend whatever sealer/coating you are considering for use on these types of swimming pool decks in order to CYA ... NEVER take anyone besides the ACTUAL MANUFACTOR/CORPORATE office (never includes: suppliers/distributors, something you read in a discussion group/forum, etc verbal or aluded to/writen word for it.  As a contractor, you have worked hard to establish a professional repuation for value/high quality workmanship/customer satisfaction; ... you have the skills to skillfully resurface concrete, but restoring a tarnished image (your most important assect that deserves the ultimate in protection) is difficult if not impossible.

ALWAYS ... go to the sealer/coating manufacturer you are considering in regards to these types of swimming pool decks, ask them for WRITEN CONFIRMATION that their searler will RESIST and is RECOMMENDED for salt water (izonied treatment) pool decks ...then save it as EVIDENCE so that you will have a legal leg to stand on and point the finger of blame at if/when it all goes to hell and the property owner comes after you (you will then be able to establish EVIDENCE that it was recommended by the manufacturer; ergo, you can remove the blame from you and pass on to them ... if they/manufacturer themself opts to recommend in writing, feeling as if they have the verifiable proof/evidence of longevity performance (such as the man who made "acrylic sealer will hold up to salt, period "), than thats great, test/evaluate for yourself and go for it, at least you will be going into it with open eyes and a supporting lifeline if this proves not to be the case down the road (of course, there are always manufacturer Limitations Exclusions statement in reference to all the products/sealers/etc they offer, so know what these are in relation to sealer being used as well).