Cool Pool Decking

Q: The house we just moved to has a rectangular swimming pool surrounded by bluestone paving. The bluestone looks beautiful, and fits with the rest of the landscaping, but it gets so hot in the sun that it’s painful to walk on with bare feet. Is there anything we can do? If we have to replace it, what would be a better choice? — E.J. and J.A., Peekskill

A: I called Jan Johnsen of Johnsen Landscaping & Pools in Mount Kisco to read her your question, and she joined in with me as I got to the words “so hot.”

“Bluestone is brutally hot,” she says, which prompts the question of why anybody would install it around a pool in the first place. “Well, it looks great,” Johnsen replies. “But my rule is never use bluestone as decking around a pool.”

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If you hose it down regularly to keep it wet, the bluestone will stay cooler. Otherwise, unless you want to practice firewalking (remember that crazy “empowerment” fad?), it would be best to replace the bluestone. There are several options, Johnsen says. “The coolest is something called Kool Deck, which is air-entrained concrete — the air within the concrete keeps it cool to the touch. It’s not as charming as a stone surface, but the beauty is that you can pour it and mold it to any shape. And you can color it.”

Stamped concrete, she says, is not as cool underfoot, “but you can give it any kind of finish to make it look like stone, or brick.” (Or tile, flagstones, or even wood, websites reveal, although I’m dubious about the wood look.) Stamped concrete and Kool Deck are “roughly the same price,” Johnsen says. “More expensive, but wonderful, is stone paving, like granite or quartzite, which is a much denser stone than bluestone. That’ll cost you a bundle.”

If you don’t have a bundle, she suggests adding an attractive coping (the edge of the pool) and replacing most of the bluestone with grass. “It’s inexpensive and it looks great,” says Johnsen. “A lot of people these days have decking on just one side, allowing three sides of the pool to be lawn. You could do the decking on the short side, too.”

You might want to keep the bluestone coping, which doesn’t get quite as hot because it sits on the top of the pool wall, and choose something harmonious for the decking. “Use a totally different color and play up that the bluestone is a border around the pool. Don’t try to match it,” she warns. “That’s always tricky.”

Grass isn’t damaged by chlorine or salt pool water, although to keep it looking good, “it’s probably wise to install a sprinkler system,” Johnsen suggests.

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