A Much Prettier Pool

By Kate Riley March 10, 2015

It feels a little braggy to talk about a pool makeover because not everyone can relate. Bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, those kinds of spaces we all have so it feels completely natural to blog about them with all of you. But we happened to purchase a house last year in a desert climate and in Las Vegas, a house with a pool is not only common, but desirable for many. As you know we’ve been fixing up the house since July of last year, and the pool was yet another thing to add to the list of major makeovers. 

When we started our search for a fixer upper we weren’t looking for one with a pool in the yard, just a house with "space to put one in if we wanted" – at the time we didn’t know enough about the major cost of installing a new pool. We were under contract on another house without one, but then we did the research. Modern fiberglass pools are nice but basic models start at $40K. And installing an in ground pool? Yikes, we were looking at prices between $50-70K or more. Pool sticker shock set in and it didn’t pencil out to invest in a home without one. We realized it was smarter to narrow our search to a house with a pool than one without.

So we bought this house that has a pool but it was in awful condition. We ended up getting a bigger reduction on the original contract price because of the condition of the pool after the inspection. We knew it would be costly to redo it but the reduction in purchase price justified the added expense of a pool remodel.

When we bought the house, this 20+ year old pool and spa had been neglected for many years, so much so it was unsafe to even swim in it. Imagine that burgundy tile all the way around, dingy, cloudy, and chipped in various places.

pool repair

But I’m happy to share that just this week the crew we hired put the finishing touches on the tile and plaster and we couldn’t be more pleased with the gorgeous tile and fresh new look.

new pool tile


waterfall from the spa

Choosing pool tile is tricky, there is so much to consider: color, style, price, etc. And it’s SO permanent it’s one of those things you want to get right. I was going for a more contemporary look like what’s happening on the interior, and something that was not plain or boring. I loved the idea of a geometric pattern and in teal blue. I was introduced to NPT Pool by our contractor since he could get us a discount and found a pattern in their line that appealed to me, one that looked really nice on the tiered levels of this pool’s design. The geometric you see is the Moonbeam pattern in "Ocean Green" which is truly a teal blue.

pool and spa remodel

I continued the same geometric tile on the raised palm tree planters on either side of the yard, and chose a simpler 3×3" field tile for the steps and inside the spa to complement the bolder geometric.

pool steps and spa

The process was so interesting, this is our first house with a pool we’ve ever invested in so we were curious about all the remodel steps involved. Obviously hiring a reliable contractor is the first step.

Short story: I took pictures of the pool after it was emptied on our last visit, and those pictures showed more detail of the crumbling old plaster, you could pick it off the steps and pool bottom with just your fingers, it was so bad. There was just ½" of water in the very bottom of the pool and I was leaning over to pick up something when my old phone fell out of my pocket down the steps in the deep end (shockingly didn’t break) but then slid in slow motion into the ½" of water and DIED from water damage. I had not backed up those pictures but trust me when I say the old plaster was like crumbling dried cake, it would fall apart with the tiniest bit of pressure.

Over the course of two weeks I’d get pictures of the progress, here is one where they’ve chipped out the old plaster down to the gunite and have installed but not grouted the new tile.

empty pool new tile

Here’s another with the guys adding the new layers of plaster to the pool after the tile was grouted: 

new plaster in pool

Before it was filled up again I walked around inside, the steps reminded me of Santorini, smooth white with flecks of blue.

diamond tiles on steps

The plaster takes a full month to cure but we got clearance to swim in it in a few weeks when we’re back for spring break working on the kitchen remodel. Here is Dale our contractor, very proud of his handiwork. Email me if you want his contact info, he also services the pool weekly (chlorine and cleaning).

dale pool remodel

The total cost for the project was $11,500 (*gasp, I know*) but far less than a new pool install would cost and necessary if and when we sell the home. It included the labor for the old tile removal and installation of the new; the labor for chipping out the old plaster to the original gunite and filling in with new plaster; 110 square feet of 6×6" geometric, 3×3" and 1×1" field tile, grout and thinset; a new whisper quiet filter, pump, and heater; and pool deck repair that was crumbling in a few places. The block wall repair between the spa and pool was a separate expense we paid for last year.

The rear yard is not huge, the pool eats up most of the backyard but the side yard has a really nice wide area where there is a covering and lawn (not shown), we will add some furniture back here later in the season to create an outdoor seating/entertaining zone.

covered outdoor area

Look for that later this summer. :)


  1. Gorgeous!! We are planning on redoing our pool in a couple of years. Seeing yours makes me want to do ours now!

  2. I don’t think it’s braggy at all! I love that you can enjoy a pool much more then us northerners can hhehe!!! I also love how simple you kept the design & the color is just enough of paradise without being really busy looking! The backyard looks great as well with the simple blue table! LOVE EVERYTHING!




  3. WOW!!! That transformation is stunning! We’ve had a pool for 10 years, and repairs are no joke! But so worth the price considering the alternative (summer in Texas!). Our new house has the worst, faded tiles around the perimeter…so seeing yours makes me excited about the upgrade, but also quest about the sticker shock! ;) xo

  4. I looooooooooooooove it!!! I am SO jealous! It is gorgeous – a pool like that would have been a bargain at twice the cost of the repairs – you guys are lucky ducks, good for you!

  5. That looks wonderful! What a great transformation! I don’t have a pool or have any interest in owning a pool, but I don’t think your post is braggy at all. Your choice of tile really made a huge impact. Can’t wait to see the “entertaining zone”!

  6. It really looks fantastic. Nice choices on color and style. And that wasn’t braggy at all ;)

  7. I love a good makeover, and this one is stunning! Love your choice of tile — it has such a fresh, modern look and completely changes the look of the pool. Congrats on another fantastic project!

  8. Beautiful! We desperately need to do our pool here in south florida. I love the tile choice! It is tough trying to pick pool tile so thank you for providing details…..cost, what it covers, exactly which tile, etc. What is the pool deck called?….is it cool deck, just concrete? We keep having people tell us to do pavers but I like the unity of yours. Thanks!

    • That’s ‘cool deck’ Katharine, stays cool in the summer and has some grip to it so it’s less slippery.

  9. Looks great! So much better and I love the color choices, it almost gives it a spa/beach look

    Great work :)

    Lauren | LB Designs

  10. As a pool owner I enjoyed this. You are so right that adding one is expensive. We put in more than the basic and including the fence and landscaping to shield it from the street, spent close to $100,000. We know we will never get that back but in a tough market for large homes we hope it will help sell our house. We will be listing it in the summer, of course!

  11. Pools are very common where I live too so I can relate! We built our own pool a few years ago and it was such a huge undertaking, and very expensive. Your pool is beautiful and I love the turquoise furniture with it. It’s such a refreshing change from where I live with the rocks, waterfall and darker colors that fit in with our local landscape. Enjoy your new pool! It’s one of the best decisions we ever made!

  12. Looks amazing! That actually sounds really reasonable for all the work they did. Here in Orange County they’re everywhere and most look just like this. But not with such pretty tile! :)

  13. That looks so awesome! We are contemplating a pool in a few years. Do to building code, the only way we can have an attached screened in patio is if it is covering a pool. Good reason to invest in a pool right? We live in Florida so it would get used a lot. I’m going to pin yours to remember in the future. :-)

  14. Beautiful! I love the tile you selected. This seems like a very worthwhile investment and will make your visits to the Las Vegas home that much more enjoyable. I think some wall planters or some kind of trellis would look great behind the pool :)

  15. I thought that would have been a more expensive renovation! Maybe because I’m from San Diego and mostly because I don’t know pool reno costs, but $11.5k seems like a steal for how beautiful it turned out!

  16. I don’t have a pool Kate, but your blog was still very interesting and informative. As usual, you did a fantastic remodel. Enjoy! I’m sure your kids will love it.

  17. I love the tile that you chose and that teal color is gorgeous! I currently work at a pool store as a sales associate and I think you’re contractors did an amazing job. You are going to love it this spring and summer!

  18. As a pool owner, I loved this post and so glad your included the cost as I’m contemplating something similar, but without the tile as I have the original slate surround on my 1915 pool! I want to round the edges and extend the decking. I’ll have to research the “cool deck” as I’ve never heard of it before.
    While you consider your tile contemporary, I consider it to have a classic Moorish look. It is just stunning. I think this is my favourite post ever. Thanks you!

  19. Looking sooo pretty!

    We live in So Cal. My husband wants to refi and build a pool. I’m scared of maintaining it and upkeeping it. But seeing yours, wow! It’d be such eye candy to stare at it daily. :)

  20. This pool is so very beautiful! Pools are heavenly in the hot states. I used to just sit on the edge and soak my legs and feet, so rejuvenating after work. My in-laws started using salt in their pump instead of clorine. I’d have to look it up, I know very little about it.
    Even if you don’t repair them, they are costly to get rid of. My uncle’s house came with a pool that he really didn’t want and needed a lot of repairs. It was shocking how many thousands of dollars it cost to tear it down and fill it with dirt.

  21. My husband and I have been trying to settle on a tile for our pool re-do for months! He had pointed the exact tile out to me at the beginning of our search. I didn’t like it, but when I saw how fabulous it looks, I had to eat my words! We are now doing the same tile! Thank you for the wonderful pictures.

  22. Love it! It looks so good I’m jealous :( btw it’s no bragging at all.Thanks for giving me some ideas ;)
    All the love,

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