When choosing finishing materials for swimming pools, saunas, hammams, or spas, it is important to consider their absorbency, that is, resistance to moisture. Non-absorbent materials are also resistant to mold and stains, and are less likely to change color in humid environments. Swimming pool finishing should be tolerant to cosmetic and cleaning products, and should be easy to clean, with maintenance being convenient and hassle-free. Such swimming pool finishing will still look great after many years. Any type of artificial stone makes a perfect choice for humid rooms, as these materials hardly absorb any moisture. These materials can be used to clad walls and pave floors in saunas, pools, changing rooms, showers.
In pools and spas, acrylic solid surface is particularly suitable. The absorbency of solid surface is almost zero, so walls, paths, walls, benches, and other details fabricated from it do not change appearance even in very damp environments. Bacteria and fungi do not grow on acrylic solid surface, as they usually thrive in microscopic pores, cracks and crevices where dirt and moisture accumulates. These pores and cracks in solid surface products simply don't exist. Solid surface products have the necessary hygiene certificates and meet the requirements even for materials used in restaurants, hospitals, and clinics. From solid surface, you can create walls and connect them without gaps, completely hermetically. You can create any design and shape solid surface tray, bench, and finishing.
Acrylic solid surface can be used to line the swimming pool and shower walls, or to build separate freestanding partitions and splashwalls. The protective walls can be curved, encircling the showers on all sides, without any corners (see photos). Other architectural shapes are also possible. The shower pad, or shower floor and wall finish can be joined very tightly, without microscopic gaps. The joints of the panels are slightly rounded along the edges and at the corners to avoid right angles and for easy cleaning. The solid surface finish looks seamless, like one piece. Splashes from the walls shall not penetrate through the joining seams between the shower components.
Well-known solid surface manufacturers not only sell solid surface slabs but also standard shower trays and factory-made solid surface sinks of various sizes and shapes. They are very convenient when equipping public spaces such as water parks, pools, spas, or other facilities. By ordering ready-made equipment architects and designers can not only get faster results, but also save money (the local stone fabricator's cost for making each individual shower tray is usually higher).
The price difference for a standard, factory-made solid surface shower tray, sink or washbasin and the same design product from the same material ordered from the stone fabricator may be significant. Therefore, before designing, it is advisable to look through the catalogs of companies producing solid surface slabs. The color of the factory-made shower trays is usually white, and the selection of shapes and sizes is limited, but perhaps there will be enough choice to save money.
In swimming pools, spas, saunas, hammams or water parks, solid surface finishing can also be made other artificial stone materials - engineered quartz, sintered stone, ceramics and porcelain. The only drawback is that it is impossible to round off and completely hide the seams between the joining plates. While the solid surface shower tray or wall looks seamless and one-piece, those made from other types of artificial stone will not look the same. It will be visible that they are made up of separate plates (see photos). Moisture and dirt is more likely to accumulate in the corners, but it's not a problem - they can be cleaned with a brush.
The absorbency (porosity) of artificial stone materials is very low or nonexistent, therefore such pool finishes, floors, walls, and benches do not mold and are easy to clean. Ceramics and porcelain, artificial quartz, sintered stone add to fresh and elegant look in spas and pools. They are not sensitive to moisture or cleaning agents. Another significant advantage of artificial stone materials is that the slabs are very thin. Due to this, artificial stone finishing is lighter than natural stone finishing. Thin slabs take up less space on the walls, weigh less, and are more convenient to carry and install. This particularly reduces logistics and installation costs, and saves every square centimeter of interior space.
Sintered stone (ultra-compact surface) is a more expensive alternative to other types of artificial stone. This excellent material is practical and highly suitable for cladding pool and spa walls, floors, and showers. If you don't skimp on cost, it's an ideal, resistant, durable, long-lasting material. It's extremely hard, doesn't mold, chip, or wear down; you can scrub it as much as you want with virtually any detergent. It's not sensitive to stronger acids and chemical agents, doesn't change color, is hygienic, and is not sensitive to extreme cold, extreme heat, or fire. The ultra-compact surface is the hardest man-made stone material, equivalent to granite.
The price difference between an ultra-compact surface product and the same product made from other artificial stone materials can be double (not only the material itself is more expensive but its processing is significantly more expensive too, due to special tools used for cutting, and due to very advanced professional skills of the fabricator). However, to avoid overpaying for shower or swimming pool cladding, it may be more reasonable to choose other materials, for example, ceramic or porcelain with a similar appearance.
Perhaps nobody can argue that natural stone in swimming pools, spas, saunas, hammams looks truly impressive. Natural stone is also used for pool and spa walls, flooring, paths, especially in Eastern countries. Even a solid bath, shower tray, or fountain can be carved from natural stone, but this comes at a higher cost. However, natural stone in public spaces where moisture is constantly present will be less practical than artificial stone. In a humid spa or pool, natural stone will require more maintenance than artificial stone. To maintain the flawless appearance of natural stone, you cannot allow moisture to settle on it, and it needs to be impregnated regularly. Otherwise, natural stone becomes stained, and mold may appear.
All natural rocks are porous. Water absorbs into them like into sponges, but evaporates very slowly. Stone impregnants solve this problem of absorbency by filling and sealing the stone's pores so that other liquids cannot penetrate into them. However, impregnants need to be used regularly; it's not enough to impregnate only once. Over time, the impregnant washes away and evaporates, so it needs to be re-impregnated. Usually, natural stone products need to be impregnated once a year, but in humid rooms, the stone will need to be impregnated more often.
In damp rooms, a more practical solution may be to use natural stone for details and decoration. Any artificial stone is suitable for sauna and pool walls, but in places where the surfaces come into contact with water, artificial stone will prove to be more practical over time. Natural stone in dry rooms requires less maintenance. Among natural stones, granite or quartzite is the most practical in humid rooms. Marble, travertine, or onyx are much more sensitive to moisture, acids, and cleaning agents than granite or quartzite. Having pool floors or walls made from marble requires extra care. Acids corrode marble, onyx, and travertine more than granite or quartzite, and they change color from chemicals more quickly.
For pool or spa walls that do not come into contact with water, any natural stone is equally suitable, but in places where water is present, it is better to choose artificial stone. Although it is possible to maintain the perfect appearance of the stone surfaces in any environment, the main question is how much time and effort you want to dedicate to it. Natural stone without care may look great only in dry rooms, where there is no moisture or heavy water vapor. If you neglect to care for natural stone in a humid room, it will quickly lose its appearance and color, and after some time, you may notice mold.