A guide to natural stone tiles and swimming pool installation

How do you install natural stone swimming pool lining?

Natural stone tiles are the perfect way to add elegance and enhanced function to your swimming pool. With a huge range of textures, colours and materials, you can easily use natural stone to achieve a personalised and stylish design.

As with any product, however, it's vital you instal pool tiling according to code to minimise the possibility of complications down the line. To help you get the most out of natural stone tiles in your swimming pool, here's our installation guide.

1. Select the best stone

The stone you choose for your pool should account for the function of the material as well as personal taste.

We recommend using green sukabumi natural stone for your swimming pool, due to its incredible functional qualities as well as its attractive, unique appearance. For more information about choosing the right tiles, take a look at our tile selection guide.

2. Buy the right adhesive

A post shared by MAPEI (@mapeihome) on

Depending on the type of tile you've chosen, you'll have specific adhesive requirements to ensure minimal tenting or delaminating from the substrate. For natural stone products like green sukabumi, it's wise to avoid water-based adhesives – especially in pool applications. This is because these adhesives are unable to hinder natural dimensional variations that occur when in contact with the stone.

We recommend the use of non-aqueous adhesives, such as two-component polyurethane or epoxy. When you buy natural stone tiles from BauMart, we can provide you with MAPEI Keralastic and Kerapoxy adhesives.

3. Store your stone appropriately

Natural stone should not be exposed to full sun during storage or the installation process. Ensure there is adequate shade over the tiles before and during installation.

When natural stone is exposed to direct sunlight, the surface will heat rapidly, much faster than the body of the tile. Excessive heat causes the surface of the tile to expand relative to the body/back. This differential movement can create strain within the tile and could cause the adhesive to shear if it has not reached full strength (i .e. before installation is complete).

As tiles move according to the temperature, it's important to work with them in their innate state – not expanded by heat.

4. Prepare your pool

A post shared by Brett Bishop (@cheviot_pools) on

Before tiling can begin, you need to ensure your substrate is appropriately prepared. This means checking the body of the pool is waterproofed, and there is no leakage. Take accurate measurements of the pool and compare these with your tiles to determine where best to start tiling from.

You should always instal tiles before the coping of the pool, as coping may get in the way and cause multiple readjustments to your tiling.

A tiling system requires skill and careful planning; installations should be carried out by a licensed tiler. It is the responsibility of the architect, builder, tiler or the owner to ensure that the tiles selected are suitable for the intended application and that they have all the information they require for the installation process, preparation and accompanying products.

5. Level and measure

Nail a piece of plywood below where the first layer of tiles will sit. With a spirit level, ensure the plywood is level and then use it as a guide to lay your tiles. 

Adhesive should be mixed and applied according to the product instructions. Once adhesive is applied to the substrate with a thickness of roughly 10 to 15 mm, tiles can be pushed into it with a rubber mallet. Make sure each tile is level for best surface results.

A post shared by Benjamin Burgoyne (@zimbobenny) on

You can also use tile clips for consistent spacing between each tile. Spacing – or joints – is vital for the proper functioning of the tiles. This is because all structures move – even swimming pools, which can experience movement as a result of:

  • Thermal loads/changes.
  • Moisture content changes.
  • Drying shrinkage.
  • Deflection.

Much the same, natural stone may move as a result of thermal activity (e .g. expansion and contraction) and moisture. Where factors are present, differential movement between the tiling system and structure may occur which can be damaging if not accommodated (i .e. the substrate may shrink while the tile expands). Movement can be triggered years after installation, so even if the tiles seem fine now, complications may occur down the line if you don't follow proper procedure.

Tiles should be laid in accordance with the Australian Building Code and Australian Standards. Movement Joints should be incorporated in the pool linings, states AS3958.1-2007, Appendix E – Wet Conditions (Continuously Immersed) Section E2.10. This section of the code also provides specific advice about the installation of expansion joints in swimming pools, and covers movement joints around the pool structure and coping.

Failure to include movement joints can lead to tenting or debonding. If a tile comes completely loose, it is said to have debonded. Tenting occurs when the tile detaches from the substrate but is held at the edge by grout, and the tile may move up or down slightly when stepped on. Tenting especially is a sign that expansion has not been accommodated.

6. Grout and clean tiles

Adhesive should be left to dry according to the product instructions.

A post shared by c (@karimovdeniss) on

After this point, carefully apply grouting. Most pool grouting should work, but some tiles – such as green sukabumi – will require non-aqueous grouting (epoxy) as described above. 

Once the joints have been grouted, clean off surface grout using a sponge and a bucket of water. Clean the tiles with one side of the sponge and wipe away residue using the other, cleaner side. Be sure to change the water when it turns white, or you'll likely just be smearing grout across the tiles.

7. Wait for grout and adhesive to fully set

You can usually walk on your tiles after 24 hours, but swimming pools should not be filled until at least three days have passed. Ask your stone supplier if sealant is necessary for your chosen material. BauMart green sukabumi, for example, requires sealant only along the waterline of the pool. 

For more information about how to acquire, instal and maintain natural stone tiles for your swimming pool, get in touch with BauMart Natural Stone today.