Custom Concrete Pools: Pros and Cons of Gunite VS Shotcrete

A custom pool with travertine pool deck, large tanning shelf, and waterfall feature behind a brick and stucco Tudor-style home with Palmetto trees and a wood fence.

Custom concrete pool with tanning shelf and natural stone pavers.

There is nothing more refreshing than a dip in a crystal clear pool on a hot summer day in South Carolina. With your own private pool, it’s always there for you. Day or night. Even in the spring and fall, if you want to heat it. You can build your own spa beside the pool to use on chilly days. And you have your own paradise all year long.

Perhaps you are familiar with the various types of in-ground swimming pools like vinyl liner, fiberglass, and concrete. 

If you want to build a custom pool, concrete is essentially the only route to go.

But did you know there are two types of concrete pools? Gunite and shotcrete. We’re going to discuss those below in just a bit. First, let’s talk about concrete pools and why they are the top-of-the-line option.

Covered Patio With Outdoor Kitchen And Custom Pool

Gunite and shotcrete pool, with tanning deck and spa, with travertine pool coping and silver travertine pavers for the pool decking.

What Is a Concrete Pool?

Concrete is a slurry of powdered cement, water, sand, and an aggregate like stone or gravel. This composite is poured wet and then cures and hardens over time. This is an exceptionally strong construction material and can be combined with rebar to reinforce it to make it even stronger.

An in-ground concrete pool is generally sprayed, instead of poured, like other concrete structures. Then the concrete shell receives a finishing coat like plaster, tile, stone, or aggregate.

What Are the Advantages of a Concrete Pool?

Concrete pools are the most luxurious types of pools. They are the high-end level that is the most desirable. Why is that?

You have a lot more flexibility with your design. Create freeform curves, rectangles, flowing shapes, or even lagoons. Add built-in concrete steps and make sharp angles or corners. There are no limits on the size or shape of your pool with concrete.

With a concrete pool, you can also add all kinds of custom features like tanning ledges, fountains, slopes, spas, or even a grotto.

And custom lighting can easily be added during construction — from lights embedded in the walls of the pool shell to LED rope lighting to illuminate the edge of the pool for different colored effects.

With concrete pools, you have maximum freedom in your pool deck and coping design. So you have complete control over customization and aesthetics. Create an island, a river, or anything your heart desires.

Another important thing? Durability. You want your pool to last as long as possible. Concrete is very strong and stable, holding up to weather and frequent use. Nothing can compare to the strength of concrete or its scratch and stain resistance. And you don’t have to worry about a liner separating.

We also like the fact that concrete pools give you options and room for a variety of finishes to create a unique effect that will wow everyone who sees your pool.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Concrete Pool?

Concrete has many advantages that, in our view, outweigh any disadvantages. However, there are some downsides to consider.

Concrete pools take longer to build (especially considering the time required for the concrete to cure) than other types of pools.

The building cost is higher than that of a fiberglass or vinyl liner pool. 

The surface can be rough but you can cover it with tile or other finishing material so it becomes a non-issue.

And, keep in mind that, with any pool, there are maintenance requirements to consider.

Custom in-ground pool and patio area behind custom Craftsman home in Lexington, SC

Concrete pool with large waterfall feature along the side, natural stone coping, and a concrete patio.

Concrete Pool Surface Finishes

There are three primary options for your concrete pool finish: plaster, aggregate, and tile.

Plaster is generally the least expensive finishing material for your pool, as well as the most popular. It is a combination of cement, sand/marble aggregate, and water. It can feel a bit rough on your skin. So some people like to wear water shoes in a pool that is finished in plaster. 

Aggregate involves mixing rounded pebbles, glass beads, or other larger materials with cement to create either a smooth or bumpy surface, depending on your preference. This finish lasts longer than plaster. If you choose the more bumpy surface, you may want to try out an example to see if you like walking on that texture.

Tile is the most expensive and luxurious finish. Some people only use tile along the top edge of the pool. Others tile the entire surface and walls of the pool. You can choose from glass, stone, ceramic, or porcelain tile for a stunning look.

How Long Does a Concrete Pool Last

Concrete pools should last for over 50 years if they are well-maintained. Every type of pool has specific requirements for proper care. Talk with your pool builder about what kinds of maintenance and cleaning to expect with your particular pool design and finishing material.

A nozzleman spraying concrete to build a custom pool.

Building a Concrete Pool

Both gunite and shotcrete start in the same way. The ground is excavated. Plumbing is installed in the proper places. The builder puts steel rebar in place to make the concrete pool stronger. Then they spray concrete through a nozzle and cover the rebar with wet concrete.

Once the concrete dries, tile or other finishing materials can be installed.

What Is a Gunite Pool?

Gunite starts as a dry concrete mix and then mixes with water as it is sprayed from the nozzle of the hose. It comes out of the hose at a very high velocity and sticks to whatever it is sprayed on like glue. The water and dry ingredients mix at the last moment before the cement hits the wall of the pool.

What Is Shotcrete?

Shotcrete is concrete that is premixed ahead of time. It’s already wet before it leaves the hose. The wet mixture is sprayed onto the sides and the floor of the pool walls. Then compressed air makes it stick.

Rear Exterior View Of Custom Luxury Home With Large Pool And Two Story Porch On Lake Murray  1

A custom concrete pool with a tanning shelf and concrete patio.

Gunite VS Shotcrete

Both gunite and shotcrete are types of concrete pools. So which is better? Does it even matter?

Advantages of gunite

  • The process can be stopped and started without weakening the pool.
  • The cost is generally less than shotcrete.
  • It is extremely strong.
  • Clean-up is easier.
  • It’s often seen as more luxurious.
  • It’s the top choice for warmer climates and for commercial pools.

Disadvantages of gunite

  • It can take a few months to build a gunite pool.
  • If the surface is plaster, the texture can be rough on the feet. But using an aggregate or tile as the finish can eliminate this issue.
  • You need a very highly skilled nozzleman to get a high-quality pool.

Advantages of Shotcrete

  • The nozzleman doesn’t need as much training as one would need to use gunite. After all, there is no ratio of water to dry mix needed because the concrete is already wet.
  • The construction process is often shorter with shotcrete than with gunite.

Disadvantages of shotcrete

  • Construction has to be applied in a single day so that everything is wet at the same time.
  • Generally, shotcrete is more expensive than gunite because it has to be applied in such a short time frame.

Whether you should have a gunite or shotcrete pool really depends on the preferences and skill set of the operator. Some prefer gunite and some shotcrete. Both types of materials/processes result in beautiful custom pools.

Freeform Pool Patio Backyard Home Builder Sc

A custom freeform concrete pool with rounded edges and a tanning shelf.

Interested in Custom Homes in Lexington, SC and Custom Pools?

At Blythe Building Company, we build luxury custom homes around the Greater Columbia, SC area. We are also building several luxury spec homes right now on a Lexington golf course (Golden Hills). 

We specialize in bringing people’s dream homes to life, focusing on high-quality craftsmanship and great customer service.

Ready to build your new home and pool with us?

Please contact us today.


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For more information on maintenance and pool chemistry with concrete pools, check out this article.