Tile Design IdeasThe back patio area of a modern house showcasing a pool with gray tile surrounding it.

Whether you’re installing a new pool in your backyard or renovating an existing pool, ceramic and porcelain tile are a reliable, long-lasting, and beautiful choice. Learn everything you need to know about using ceramic and porcelain tile in and around your pool.

Benefits of Ceramic and Porcelain Tile for Pools

Waterproof Installation System

Water resistance is the No. 1 concern for materials used within and around swimming pools.

Ceramic tile and porcelain tile recommended for pools are unaffected by water, pool chemicals, or daily sunshine.

Fade Resistance

Fading due to prolonged exposure to the sun, as well as from pool chemicals, is an issue for some nonceramic pool finishes, such as vinyl pool liners. In fact, fading is often a sign that vinyl pool liners are failing and likely to tear soon, requiring prompt replacement.

Because ceramic and porcelain tile have their colors baked right into their body, they’re considered color permanent. Color permanence means that your ceramic or porcelain pool tile won’t fade from the sun, so you can be sure that your tile colors will remain as bright as they were on day one. Be sure to also check with your setting materials manufacturer for grout recommendations suitable for outdoor use in areas with treated pool water.

[Related: Low-Maintenance Benefits of Ceramic and Porcelain Tile]

Resistance to Bacteria Growth

Bacteria, mold, and mildew will strive to grow anywhere moisture is present, including swimming pools. Making matters worse, pools are commonly contaminated by swimmers’ germs and unsafe water supplies, leading to the presence of bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, campylobacter, and salmonella; protozoa such as cryptosporidium and giardia; hepatitis A; and noroviruses.

It is important to follow guidelines for keeping your pool water free of contaminants. Pool disinfectants, such as chlorine and other chemical additives, may take care of most of these concerns fairly quickly. These additives can fade some other pool liners but not ceramic and porcelain tile.

Additionally, ceramic and porcelain pool tile are resistant to the growth of harmful bacteria. Some tile options even have antimicrobial properties, which can suppress and even destroy harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi.

Easy Cleaning

Pool owners who outsource pool cleaning services spend an average of $1,200 to $1,800 a year. Whether you’re outsourcing these tasks or performing them yourself, anything that simplifies pool upkeep helps to save you time and/or money.

In addition to being resistant to bacteria, porcelain and ceramic tile are stain-resistant and incredibly easy to clean. Most of the time, wiping with water is all that’s necessary to clean dirt and debris from porcelain and ceramic tile.

Calcium deposits may be an issue if your pool has a high pH balance or high alkalinity, or if you keep your water at high temperatures. Find a product designed for removing calcium from ceramic and porcelain tile, as well as a product designed to inhibit calcium buildup.

[Related: Easy Cleaning Tips for Porcelain and Ceramic Tile]


The average inground vinyl pool liner lasts between five and nine years. During that time, your vinyl pool liner is susceptible to scratches, punctures, and fading from pool chemicals and sunlight.

Concrete pools must be resurfaced every three to seven years. Over time, concrete pools can become excessively rough, crack, stain, flake, peel, or even develop plumbing leaks.

None of these issues are concerns for ceramic and porcelain pool tile, which are stain-, scratch-, and fade-resistant. Options in porcelain and ceramic tile are resistant to the damage of repeated freeze-thaw cycles, which also alleviates the worry about cracks forming in your pool tile.

When properly installed and maintained, ceramic and porcelain pool tile can have a much longer lifespan than other pool finishes, reducing maintenance and replacement costs and keeping you and your family happily enjoying your pool.

Slip Resistance

Even when people are being careful, the wet nature of many pool surrounds is a reason to opt for a surface material with slip resistance.

Ceramic and porcelain tile come in many slip-resistant options ideal for pool surrounds, giving you added peace of mind.

Design Versatility

Ceramic and porcelain tile offer beautiful style options for both your pool interior and pool surround. Choose from a nearly limitless combination of tile colors, natural looks or creative patternssizes, and shapes to create a pool design that’s uniquely “you.”

Whether you opt for classic stone-look pool tile or a multicolor pool tile mosaic, the perfect ceramic and porcelain tile options are waiting for you.

[Related: Not Your Typical Pool Tile]

Inlaid Tile, Waterline Tile, and Pool Surround Tile

In your search for the best pool tile, you may come across several terms used to refer to pool tile. An understanding of these terms will aid in the pool tile design process, so let’s take a look.

Inlaid pool tile is tile that is installed under the water’s surface, such as on the bottom, sides, or steps of your pool. Inlaid tile may have special installation considerations.

Waterline tile sits just above your pool’s waterline and below its rim, providing the opportunity to create a stunning focal point.

Pool surround tile is the tile that surrounds your pool, and may carry over into other areas of your outdoor space, such as a patio or outdoor kitchen. Slip resistance should be top of mind when choosing pool surround tile.

Pool Tile Installation Considerations

Proper installation is important for pool tile. Here are some considerations to review before beginning the pool tile installation process:

  • Appropriate tile selection: Make sure that the specific ceramic or porcelain tile you choose is designated for exterior use and for submerged installations if you plan to use it inside your pool.
  • Grout color: Before settling on a grout color, check the manufacturer’s specifications to make sure it is stable in treated pool water and designated for outdoor use. The pigments used in some types of grout may be altered by pool chemicals or UV rays.
  • Movement joints: Movement joints are an important consideration for the construction of your pool and pool surround to accommodate expansion and contraction of the tile.
  • Curing: Best practice is to allow your pool tile to cure before filling your pool with water. Your installer will have more specific instructions on curing and filling with water.

In order to properly install pool tile and navigate the above considerations, hiring a qualified tile installer is recommended.

[Related: Qualified Labor Is Critical for Successful Tile Installations]

Pool Tile Design Considerations

Your first step in the pool tile design process is to choose whether you’re tiling the inside of your pool, your pool’s waterline, your pool surround, a combination of these, or all three.

Then you can decide on a tile look. (Keep reading to find popular tile looks for pools.) If you’re tiling multiple areas of your pool, you can choose to match them or contrast with different tile styles, such as in the photo above.

But pool tile design doesn’t stop there. Get creative by incorporating different design elements into your pool.

For example, you could incorporate your hot tub into your pool design so that the hot tub overflows into the pool when in use. This option provides the opportunity to showcase a unique tile design where the hot tub and pool meet.

No hot tub? You can still show off stylish tile by creating a tile feature wall above one or multiple sides of your pool, potentially equipped with fountains.

To raise the stakes even higher, consider implementing design elements directly into your pool, such as the tree and porcelain pavers in the pool featured below.

A pool bar is an excellent idea for anyone who entertains often. Choose an impressive bar tile design for guests to lean on and admire as they sip their beverage of choice.

Also called zero-edge pools, infinity pools are designed to look as though they disappear into the horizon — or as in the example below, into the lake surrounding the home. An infinity pool is a great choice to create an impressive pool design that’s one with nature.

Popular Tile Looks for Pool Interiors

When it comes to tiling the inside of your pool, blue is the classic, go-to option.

Blue isn’t a random choice: It’s a great color for any water application, it can look cleaner than green tiles and other darker colors, and it reflects the color of the sky.

Black and white tile pools manage to look simultaneously traditional and modern. In the photo below, the black and white checkered pattern on the pool’s floor gives it a textured look.

Pool interiors are a great opportunity to show off mesmerizing tile mosaics. Ceramic and porcelain tile with iridescent finishes catch the light of the sun, sparkling and creating a dazzling design.

Popular Tile Looks for Pool Surrounds

Pool surrounds present even more opportunities for impressive tile designs.

Stone-Look Tile Pool Surround

Stone-look tile is an excellent choice for any outdoor application, and pools are no exception. Unlike many types of natural stone, stone-look tile doesn’t require sealing to achieve all-around weather resistance.

This pool surround is dressed to impress with beige stone-look tile, including a special design surrounding and drawing attention to the pool itself as well as matching porcelain pavers for the walkway.

Marble-Look Tile Pool Surround

Marble looks aren’t just for countertops anymore — this stunning pool area is proof that marble is just as at home poolside. In fact, you’ll note that the same marble-look tile design is used from the living room to the edge of the pool, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor space.

What’s more, this marble-look tile is trusted to withstand not only splashes from the pool, but also water from the outdoor shower.

[Related: 2020 Tile Trends: Modernized Marble]

Slate-Look Tile Pool Surround

Slate-look tile adds rustic charm to any poolside area, especially when paired with earth tones as with this pool surround. While this tile looks a bit weathered by design, you can rest assured that it won’t fade, scratch, or otherwise change appearance over the years.

Wood-Look Tile Pool Surround

This isn’t your average pool deck: Wood-look tile allows you to create the look of natural hardwood right up to the side of your pool, meaning that your living room flooring and your pool surround flooring can be one and the same.

Plus, with ceramic and porcelain tile, you don’t need to worry about faded colors or deterioration that wood pool decks can create.

[Related: 2020 Tile Trends: Refined Natural Wood Looks]

Concrete-Look Tile Pool Surround

Ceramic and porcelain tile take concrete looks from drab to industrial chic. This concrete-look pool tile surround features slight hints of brown to add a rustic aesthetic that pairs well with the outdoor space’s woodsy vibe.

Plus, unlike actual concrete, you don’t need to worry about water damage, staining, or cracking with concrete-look ceramic and porcelain tile.

Terracotta-Look Tile Pool Surround

Fancy a trip to the mediterranean? Create the atmosphere you’re dreaming of without leaving your home with terracotta-look ceramic and porcelain tile.

A terracotta-look tile pool surround will provide all the romance of being in the Italian or Spanish countryside, but with an added level of durability and moisture resistance that you can’t expect from actual terracotta.

Dive In (to Your Pool Tile Search)

We hope you’ve found this guide useful for choosing your pool tile. For even more information on the benefits of ceramic and porcelain tile for pools, visit our website or explore our Pool Tile Pinterest board for more design inspiration.

Where to Buy Tile

Your next steps are simple:

  • Use the search tool at the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) to find a ceramic tile showroom in your area for a more individual, one-on-one shopping, design and education experience, or visit a home improvement or flooring retailer.
  • For specific products and installation-related materials, you can consult the product locator of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).
  • Download our Tile Buying Guide below to share with your contractor or designer or bring with you to the showroom. Having these tips handy will make it that much easier to shop for your tile.

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