How Long After Gunite Can You Tile

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Improper timing for tiling after gunite can lead to costly repairs down the line. That’s right, a small delay in this critical phase can save you a significant headache and a substantial dent in your wallet.

In the world of pool construction, timing is everything. A well-timed tile installation can mean the difference between a flawless aquatic oasis and a potential headache. So, it’s essential to understand precisely when you can take that next step in the process.

In this article, we’ll delve into the crucial timeline for tiling after gunite application. We’ll help you understand the significance of this waiting game and why getting it right the first time can make all the difference in your pool construction journey.

Factors That Determine When You Can Tile a Gunite Pool

One of the finishing touches that can elevate the aesthetic appeal of a gunite pool is tiling. However, when it comes to tiling a gunite pool, several factors must be considered. Timing plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of your pool tiling project. Below, we will explore the key factors that determine when you can tile a gunite pool.

Curing Time

The curing time of the gunite shell is one of the most critical factors in determining when you can start tiling your pool. Gunite is a mixture of cement, sand, and water that is pneumatically applied to create the pool’s shell. After this application, the gunite needs time to cure and harden. Typically, it takes about 28 days for gunite to reach its maximum strength. Tiling the pool before the gunite has fully cured can lead to cracking, shifting, or bonding issues.

Moisture Content

The gunite needs to adequately dry out before tiles are installed. Tiling onto a wet surface can lead to moisture being trapped under the tile, creating a weak bond and potential for loosening or cracking tiles in the future. Testing moisture content and pH levels periodically helps identify when conditions are right for tiling. The target moisture content is below 3% before tile application.

Weather Conditions

Weather conditions play a significant role in the timing of your pool tiling project. Ideally, tiles should be laid when temperatures are steadily above 50°F. Colder conditions can impact the curing of the thinset mortar used to bond tiles. Hot, dry weather is best to allow thinset to cure evenly without moisture issues. Wind and rain can hinder application or curing. It’s best to schedule your pool tiling when the weather is consistent and favorable for the materials to set properly.

Surface Preparation

Proper surface preparation is crucial for the success of your pool tiling project. The gunite shell should be thoroughly cleaned, free of any debris, and any imperfections in the surface should be addressed before tiling. If there are cracks or uneven areas, they should be repaired to create a smooth and even surface for the tiles.

Tile Selection

Choosing the right tiles for your gunite pool is another factor that can impact when you can start tiling. Different types of pool tiles have varying requirements for installation, and some may require specific conditions or adhesives. Consult with your pool builder or tiling professional to ensure you select tiles that are suitable for your pool and can be installed within your desired timeframe.

Pool Design Complexity

The complexity of your pool’s design can also affect the timing of the tiling project. If your pool has intricate shapes, curves, or unique features, it may take longer to tile compared to a more straightforward design. Be prepared for additional time if your pool design is complex.

Pool Contractor Recommendation

There are a lot of factors and timing considerations when tiling a pool, so it is always best to rely on your experienced pool contractor’s judgment about when your new gunite pool is ready for tiles. They can perform any necessary moisture, pH and surface tests and ensure conditions are right for long-lasting tile results.

How Long After Gunite Can You Tile

Gunite is a mixture of cement, sand, and water sprayed on at high velocity to form a structural surface. The cement goes through a chemical hydration process to harden and cure. This provides the strength needed to support tile.

Complete hydration takes 21-28 days typically. The cement hydrates gradually, forming calcium-silicate-hydrate gels that crystallize and harden over time. Early hydration just provides surface hardness. The full 21-28 days allows thorough, deep hydration and strength gain.

Once the curing process has been completed, you can then begin to tile your gunite pool. Since tiling involves adhering tiles directly onto the surface of your pool, it is important that you wait until the curing process has been fully completed before you start. If you attempt to tile your pool too soon, there is a chance that the tiles will not adhere properly, which can lead to water seepage and other issues down the line.

Is there Any Way to Speed Up the Process

There are a few techniques that can potentially speed up the tiling process for a new gunite pool, but they come with risks:

  • Use a pool plaster accelerator chemical: These chemicals claim to accelerate the curing and hardening of fresh gunite to allow tile application in 7-14 days instead of 28 days. However, some contractors advise against using these as they can cause cracking or weaken the gunite over time.

  • Use a moisture barrier epoxy: Applying a waterproof epoxy coat prior to tiling can act as a moisture barrier and allow tiling in 14-21 days. But epoxy can be prone to peeling or delamination over time which takes the tile with it.

  • Start tiling in sections: Tiling can potentially begin after 14 days on some sections of the pool, while other areas continue curing for the full 28 days. This risks cracking between cured and uncured areas.

  • Use rapid-setting tile mortar: While traditional thinset cure times can be extended by cool/wet weather, rapid-setting mortars set and cure much quicker, allowing tiling to proceed. However, rapid mortar costs significantly more.

  • Perform aggressive surface prep: Grinding the surface aggressively can remove weak surface areas and allow earlier tiling. But this can cause excessive dust and crack underlying fresh concrete.

The risks of these acceleration methods often outweigh the benefits. The month-long standard curing time is recommended by most pool contractors to ensure the structural integrity and longevity of the pool and tile. Unless there is an urgent need, it’s best to just wait the full 28 days rather than jeopardize tile adhesion issues down the road. Patience leads to the most durable results long-term.

Tips to Identify When a New Gunite Pool is Ready for Tiling

You’ve invested time, money, and dreams into your brand-new gunite pool. Now, the anticipation builds as you await the perfect moment to transform its structure into a stunning aquatic masterpiece. In this brief guide, we’ll reveal the telltale signs that your pool is primed and ready for the transformative touch of tiling. Let’s dive in.

Check Moisture Levels

Use a concrete or masonry moisture meter to test moisture content. Moisture meters have a probing pin or pins that get inserted into the concrete to take readings. The depth the pins need to penetrate varies by model but it is usually at least 1/4″ to 3/4″.

Take moisture readings every few feet across the entire pool surface and deck area. Take more readings in suspect damp areas. To get a reading, fully insert the meter pins into a pre-drilled hole in the gunite. Hold steady until the meter displays the moisture percentage. Readings should be below 3% moisture content before tiling. Mark areas that exceed this level.

Allow gunite areas that fail the test to further cure and dry out before retesting. Wait a minimum of 1-2 weeks before retesting the same areas. It may take several rounds of testing over weeks for the entire surface to drop below the target 3% moisture content. Be patient and persistent.

Once all areas consistently test below 3%, the pool is considered ready for tiling from a moisture standpoint.

Visual Inspection

Once the new gunite pool has cured for at least 28 days, conduct a thorough visual inspection of the entire pool surface and deck area. Examine the area in good lighting, looking for a consistent coloration and appearance across the entire surface. Pay attention for any damp areas or signs of efflorescence (white powdery deposits), which indicate excess moisture still in the concrete. Also check for any cracks, pits, roughness, or other imperfections that would need to be repaired prior to tiling.

Run your hand across the surface to feel for bumps or irregularities that need to be smoothed out. Watch for any indicators that the concrete is still curing, like color changes in certain areas. Focus on corners, joints, vertical surfaces, and areas around drains where moisture can collect. The surface should have a uniform look when fully cured and ready for tiles. Compare the deck area and pool shell separately, since they may cure at different rates. Have your pool contractor assist with the visual inspection to provide an experienced eye.

Mark any suspect areas that need more curing time, moisture mitigation, repairs, or surface smoothing before proceeding with tiling. With a comprehensive visual inspection, you can identify any remaining issues to address to ensure your gunite pool will provide a sound, durable surface for tiles to adhere to long-term.

Surface Hardness

Once the pool has cured for at least 28 days, perform surface hardness testing across the entire area using a nail or pointed metal tool. Randomly insert the nail straight down into the gunite in multiple spots across the pool and deck, applying light pressure.

In properly cured concrete that is ready for tiling, the nail should have minimal penetration of less than 1/4 inch. Mark any areas that allow deeper penetration and retest them weekly until the surface hardness improves.

Pay special attention to the waterline area, vertical walls, corners, and deck edges which often cure unevenly. The nail should make just a surface indentation in concrete that is fully hardened and ready for tile application.

Retesting suspect areas ensures a uniformly hardened surface is achieved across the entire gunite shell and deck. In combination with moisture testing, this helps identify any sections that require more curing time before tiles can be applied successfully. With uniform surface hardness, you can have confidence in a durable bonding surface.

Check Surface pH

The concrete surface pH is another important factor to check before tiling a gunite pool. Use a pool water pH test kit according to the manufacturer’s instructions to measure the pH in several areas across the pool surface and deck.

Results should fall between 5-9 on the pH scale. Levels below 5 are too acidic and can cause issues with tile bonding and thinning of the cement. Alkaline measurements over 9 can lead to adhesion problems as well.

If the surface pH falls outside the acceptable range, adjust as needed using mild acid or alkaline solutions until proper levels are achieved. This may require several applications and retesting. The tile thinset mortar also requires a neutral pH in order to cure properly.

Ensuring the concrete surface pH is corrected before starting tiles avoids issues. Have the pool contractor validate the appropriate pH levels have been reached. Adjusting surface pH before tile installation will help ensure a long-lasting bond.

Sounding Test

Once the gunite has cured for 28+ days, perform a sounding test across the entire pool and deck area. Use a rubber mallet or hammer to tap the concrete surface in multiple locations. Properly cured, moisture-free concrete will produce a clear, ringing sound when struck as opposed to a dull thud.

Hollow or flat sounds can indicate delaminated areas or uncured concrete under the surface. Focus on tapping near corners, edges, and vertical surfaces which often cure unevenly. Any areas that do not have a consistent ringing tone likely require more curing time or moisture mitigation before they are ready for tiles.

The concrete should have a uniform solid resonance across the whole surface when fully set and dried out. Discuss the tap test results with your pool contractor to identify any remaining suspect areas. The sounding test helps identify hollow or uncured spots for correction before tile application.

Combined with the other recommended tests, it provides a thorough analysis to give gunite surfaces the green light for successful tiling.

Bond Testing

Performing a bond test is a definitive way to determine if the gunite is ready for tiles to adhere properly. First, prepare a 12×12 inch concrete area following standard surface preparation methods. Apply a tile to the section using the intended tile thinset, following all manufacturer installation instructions.

Allow the thinset to fully cure per specifications, typically 24-48 hours. Rapid-set thinsets can shorten this test. Attach a hook or lifter tool to the tile and pull straight upward with steady, strong force using a scale to measure resistance. Use a scale that exceeds the minimum tensile strength advised by the tile manufacturer, often 200-300 lbs for pool tiles.

If the tile separates from the concrete before reaching the minimum strength threshold, the surface has failed the bond test and requires additional curing time or moisture mitigation. Repeat this process until the glued tile exceeds the tensile strength specifications.

Passing the bond testing indicates strong adhesion and readiness for tiling across the entire pool and deck. Always defer to your pool contractor’s expertise for next steps when evaluating bond test results.

Get Contractor Approval

While you can perform readiness tests like moisture content, visual inspection, pH, and hardness measurements yourself, it is imperative to have your experienced pool contractor do a professional assessment before tiling. Discuss all your test findings and have them evaluate results to identify any areas that need more time or preparation.

Have the contractor do additional moisture testing using professional equipment. They should perform a thorough visual inspection and tap test to listen for proper concrete resonance. Request they do a standardized bond test by applying test tiles themselves using the specified materials. The contractor’s expertise on these tests is key to identifying unseen issues.

Any suspect areas or borderline results should be reviewed. Obtain your contractor’s final approval that all tests indicate proper concrete curing and readiness before starting the tile job. Their experienced judgment provides an extra layer of assurance that your gunite pool is truly ready for tiles to be applied successfully according to manufacturer specifications. This avoids unnecessary risks of bonding failure.

Also Read:

How To Make A Gunite Pool Smooth: Discover the secrets to achieving a flawlessly smooth Gunite pool surface in this informative article. Dive into the step-by-step process and expert tips that will transform your pool into a luxurious oasis. Whether you’re a seasoned pool owner or a first-time builder, this guide will ensure your Gunite pool is a masterpiece of smoothness and elegance.


The timing of tiling after gunite plays a pivotal role in the overall success of your swimming pool construction project. Remember that patience is key when it comes to allowing the gunite to properly cure.

Rushing into the tiling process can lead to costly repairs and compromises in the structural integrity of your pool. By understanding the recommended waiting period, reviewing the key factors mentioned in this article, and consulting with a professional if needed, you can ensure a smooth and durable tiling process.

Ultimately, the investment of time and care in the early stages of your pool construction will pay off in the form of a beautiful, long-lasting aquatic oasis for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the risks of tiling too soon before the gunite is fully cured?

Tiling too soon (less than 14 days) risks cracking or loosening of tiles over time as uncured concrete continues to hydrate and harden. This can create voids under tiles that lead to cracks or bonding failure. Trapped moisture can cause issues with tile adhesion as the concrete finishes curing. Hollow sounding tiles or loosening can occur. The tile mortar may not cure properly on concrete that is still green, leading to weakened bonding strength.

2. What are the downsides of waiting too long after 28 days to tile the pool?

The main downside is simply project delays. As long as the surface remains properly prepared, there are no risks to tiling significantly past the 28 day mark as long as moisture levels are appropriate.

3. What are the benefits of hiring a professional tile installation contractor?

Professionals have specialized knowledge on ideal concrete curing and moisture levels for proper tile bonding. They have the right equipment for testing moisture content, pH, and bond strength. Experienced contractors can also identify potential issues with surface preparation that a layperson might miss. Therefore, hiring a qualified pro who regularly tiles pools helps ensure a quality, long-lasting tile finish.

4. What if it rains after gunite?

If rain occurs shortly after the gunite application, it’s important to take precautions. Rainwater can potentially damage the freshly applied gunite. To mitigate this risk, cover the gunite surface with protective materials like plastic sheets or tarps to shield it from the rain. After the rain has passed, inspect the gunite for any signs of erosion or damage. If necessary, consult with your contractor to assess whether any repairs or adjustments are needed to maintain the structural integrity of the gunite.

5. How long does it take from gunite to plaster?

The duration between the gunite application and the plaster phase can vary depending on several factors, including weather conditions, pool size, and the contractor’s schedule. Typically, it may take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks for the gunite to cure sufficiently before the plastering process can begin. The curing time ensures that the gunite has hardened and stabilized, providing a solid base for the plaster. Be sure to consult with your pool construction professional for a more accurate timeline tailored to your specific project.

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Written By Scott Keller

Scott Keller is an experienced pool industry professional with over 20 years of expertise in gunite pool design, construction, and maintenance.

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