Pebble vs Plaster Pool Finishes: Which Is Best?

pebble vs plaster pool

There are various types of pool finishes, but in this article I am focusing on concrete pools; more specifically pebble vs plaster pools.

If you’ve ever swam in a concrete pool, then perhaps you’ve experienced the painful sensation of its rough surface scraping your feet. Plaster pools may look refined, but the scrapes on your skin don’t.

Children are often forced to wear water shoes in a concrete pool to save their poor, sensitive feet from callusing. So, to save everyone some grief, you may wish to upgrade the interior finish.

A pebble finish can solve this problem somewhat, while introducing some problems of its own. Regular sized pebble finishes may hurt to stand on for long periods, but smaller pebbles are softer and much smoother to the touch.

That was just a sneak peek at some of the differences between these two pool types. There is much more to be said about pebble vs plaster pools, such as differences in durability, maintenance, and cost. Keep reading on to learn more.

Plaster finish

Plaster is a combination of white cement, white sand or marble aggregate, and water. Most pools are made with plaster, and so plaster gives pools the “iconic pool look” that many pools have. It’s simple and elegant looking.

Pool builders will apply the plaster to the pool structure with a flat, round-edged trowel. Although most plaster is white, you can dye it to be in different colors to help your pool stand out.


The main advantages of plaster is that it’s affordable and looks classy. If you are on a budget, this is likely the option you will go with, as have many others.

Pebble finishes can easily cost twice as much or even more compared to plaster finishes, so if budget was the limiting factor, then you can only go with plaster.


Like many concrete pool finishes, plaster is somewhat abrasive to touch.

Furthermore, plaster is more prone to algae growth and requires surface maintenance every week, and a thorough acid washing every 3-5 years.

Trowel marks show up more easily on standard plaster than an aggregate finish like pebble. This also depends on the builder’s technique.

Plaster is not as durable as pebble and can crack, etch, stain, and scale if the water chemistry is not balanced correctly or if you are not doing a good job with maintenance. Dyed plaster can lose its color over time for similar reasons.

Finally, plaster does not have as much longevity as a pebble finish. Expect to replace it every 5-10 years.

Pebble finish

When upgrading or constructing your pool, consider using an aggregate finish such as pebbles. Aggregate finishes are mixed with cement rather than sand.

Once all the materials are mixed and applied to the pool structure, the builders will spray or wipe off the top layer of plaster to show the pebble finish underneath.

Aside from pebbles, some other common aggregate materials are glass beads and quartz.

Aggregate finishes can be either polished or exposed.

Exposed aggregate means that the aggregate is left the way it is, rough edges, bumpy texture and all. This can result in a rough, uncomfortable surface that can hurt your skin, but in terms of aesthetics it looks very natural.

Polished aggregate is when the finish is polished flat, providing a smooth texture that will not chafe your skin.


Aggregate pool finishes such as pebbles last significantly longer than standard plaster. Brands like PebbleTec and StoneScapes claim that their pebble finishes can last for 15-25 years, and they offer a minimum 5-year limited warranty to boot.

If you are not a fan of the uneven, rough surface of an exposed surface, then you can opt for a polished surface for a smooth finish.

Pebble finishes are very durable and require very little maintenance as well. Just brush the surface once a week and that’s it. If you have little kids, it can give you peace of mind knowing that it can withstand all kinds of abuse, unlike plaster.

Pebble finishes are available in a variety of colors, and this can change the aesthetic of not just the pool, but the water as well. You can achieve a darker blue water to look like the deep ocean, or a lighter blue to look like shallow water, or even a greenish tint to look like a lake.


Big pebbles can hurt to stand on, but as mentioned, you can opt for a polished surface instead. StoneScapes also has a Mini Pebble line where the pebbles are much smaller and less likely to hurt your feet.

Due to how durable and beautiful pebble finishes are, do not be surprised to learn that they are easily at least twice as expensive as a plaster finish. That said, pebble finishes can also last significantly longer than plaster. So if you can bear with the higher initial cost, in the long run a pebble finish will be more worth it.

How much does it cost to resurface a concrete pool?

If you are looking to upgrade your pool or renovate it, how much would it set you back? This depends on where you live, the size of the pool, and what material you choose.

Typically, pools in a warmer state such as Florida will be much cheaper to resurface. You’re also likely to have more options available when it comes to brand availability.

The larger your pool is, the more materials and labor is required to resurface your pool, so it will cost more compared to a smaller pool.

Between plaster and pebble, plaster is much cheaper. Expect to pay anywhere from $4-7 per square foot of plaster, and a pebble pool finish costs around $10 or more per square foot.

In other words, pebble costs around twice as much as plaster, so expect a project involving a pebble finish to cost twice as much as a project using plaster as the pool finish.

Since the biggest limiting factor for most people is the cost, then plaster is the only option they can afford. If money is no object, then go for a pebble finish over a plaster finish.