The ARDEX Guide to Tiling in Swimming Pools

9th May 2016

Fixing tiles in swimming pools can present many challenges, but the choice of tiles combined with the correct preparation products, tile adhesives and grouts, allows you to not only create an aesthetically pleasing design, but one which is also durable and will withstand the most demanding conditions for years to come.

ARDEX products have been successfully specified in hundreds of swimming pools, from domestic projects to the London Aquatics Centre. In this article, we’ll take you through our top tips for tiling in swimming pools, and how you can get a long-lasting, durable finish.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

As with any project, preparation is key. The first step in any pool tiling installation is to evaluate the substrate and ensure it is flat enough to receive the tiles. According to British Standards, any deviations should not exceed 3mm when measured under a 2m straight edge. To be confident you’re starting with a flat, smooth surface, you should render the walls and screed the base.

This stage will also allow you to create ramps and falls if needed, and adjust the inside measurements of the pool to match the exact length and depth required; this is particularly important in commercial pools, which may need to be within a 3mm tolerance.

A problem we sometimes see at this stage is that the screed or render hasn’t been able to create an adequate bond to the substrate, which is usually caused by poor compaction of the product, or barrier materials on the substrate. Make sure you avoid this by shot-blasting to remove any loose, friable materials, and ensuring proper compaction of the screed or render.

Recommended ARDEX products:

  • ARDEX AM 100 Fast Track Tile Render: apply to walls 2-20mm thick and tile after 2 hours.
  • ARDEX A 38 Ultra Rapid Drying Cement for Internal & External Screeds: apply bonded screeds over concrete bases from 15-50mm and begin tiling after just 4 hours.
  • ARDEX S 21 Rapid Hardening Floor Tile Bedding Mortar: make ramps from 3mm to 15mm thick.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is obviously very important in swimming pools; creating a watertight structure is a requirement of British Standards and prevents any leaks. It is essential that the waterproofing product is applied at the correct thickness, and that it covers the entire area, otherwise there could be leaks, which are notoriously hard to find after the full installation is complete.

It is also important to use the correct reinforcement tape beforehand, and this should be applied to all the joints between walls and floors, and any inlets to the pool.

Recommended ARDEX products:

  • ARDEX S 7 Flexible Waterproof Coating for Floors and Walls: apply 2 coats and install tiles 4 hours after the application of the second coat

Tile fixing

You’re now ready to fix the tiles, and in the first instance you must select an adhesive that’s suitable for use in swimming pools. Products such as ARDEX MICROTEC X 77 Flexible Wall and Floor Tile Adhesive, as used in the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics, are not only compatible with these environments, but also provide a number of benefits for the fixer:

  • Fibre reinforced for enhanced adhesion and flexibility.
  • A 3 hour pot life and 60 minute open time allow more adhesive to be mixed and spread in a single batch, providing greater fixing efficiency over larger areas
  • Up to 19m² coverage from a single bag when fixing mosaics

Once you begin tiling, it is essential that solid bed fixing is achieved and that no voids are left beneath the tiles. Similarly, with mosaic tiles, ensure that no more than 25% of the back of the mosaic sheet is covered with glue or mesh; any more may prevent the tile adhesive creatimg an effective bond with the tile itself.

Grouting

The most common problem we see at this stage is where the incorrect type of grout is selected and inevitably degrades and/or falls out of the joints.

It is important to distinguish between the two main types of grout. Firstly, there are cement based grouts, which can be used in fully submerged areas and where the pool water is balanced. For areas of moving water, around the pool edge for example, or in outdoor or salt water pools, you should always look to use an epoxy/reaction resin grout. These grouts offer excellent chemical resistance and high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, but are considered difficult to use; opt for ARDEX EG 8 PLUS for the best of both worlds.

Recommended ARDEX products:

  • ARDEX-FLEX Tile Grouts: water repellent, dirt resistant and available in 32 colours. Select ARDEX-FLEX FS for joint widths up to 4mm wide and ARDEX-FLEX FL for joint widths 3-15mm wide and for a walk on time of just 90 minutes
  • ARDEX EG 8 Plus Epoxide Tile Grout: combines the chemical resistance of epoxy grouts with the ease of application of cement-based grouts. Requires no special tools and can be cleaned off the surface up to 45 minutes after application.

ARDEX are a premium supplier of products for the preparation and installation of tiles in swimming pools. For more information on the full range of ARDEX products suitable for use in and around swimming pools, please download our installation guide.