Paint is one of the most common ways to protect the surface of an in-ground swimming pool. It is inexpensive and comes in a number of attractive colors. However, not all pool paint is the same. Swimming pool epoxy and pool acrylic are two of the most common paint types. Each one has its own benefits, problems and special painting considerations. Learning the difference between the two can help you make the right choice for your situation.
According to Pool Center, epoxy pool paint is the most durable and long lasting variety. A pool painted with epoxy shouldn't need repainting for seven to 10 years. Acrylic is much less durable, and is more appropriate for pools that receive regular repainting. You can expect your acrylic-coated pool to need repainting in two to three years.
Acrylic pool paints are water-based, and do not require a catalyst or hardener. They do not produce dangerous fumes, are generally easy to apply and clean up with water. Epoxy-based paints come in two parts: resin and hardener. You must combine them in the correct amounts and they cure chemically instead of drying. They may emit some fumes, and can be difficult to apply. If painting takes too long, the epoxy may set up before you can apply it to the pool wall.
Pool epoxy is far more expensive than swimming pool acrylic, both by the gallon and by application. Acrylic pool paints offer a lot more coverage per gallon, making them a more economical choice in the short term. Their cost increases over time, once you factor in the price of repainting every few years. Over the course of a decade, the two paints cost about the same.
You can use epoxy paint only on unpainted surfaces or on pools which were previously painted with epoxy. You must completely clean pools previously painted with other types of paint, usually via sandblasting, in order to switch to epoxy. Acrylic pool paint is more versatile. You can use it to paint bare pools, to overcoat epoxy or chlorinated rubber paints, or on top of surfaces already coated with acrylic.
If you don't know what kind of paint is currently on your pool, you can find out using a solvent test. In this test, you wipe solvent alcohol and xylol onto an inconspicuous part of the pool. Water-based coatings, like acrylic, soften under alcohol. Rubber-based coatings soften under xylol, and epoxy-based coatings will not soften at all.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.