After handling the physical safety aspects of pool ownership, my first taste of actual pool repair was replacing a boatload of tiny fallen tiles. Spoiler alert: it tastes like work.
I started by collecting the tiles that were off the wall already, and carefully prying off any other loose tiles (since they were guaranteed to fall off this year). The water level was still below the tiles from winterization, so they were not underwater for any of this.
Some of the tiles had been re-adhered at some point with Liquid Nails, as you can see below. I don’t even know what to say about that. Wrong product, wrong application, PITA to remove from the tiles. In the end, the only way I successfully removed the Liquid Nails from the tiles was to heat them in the oven (~250 degree F), then scrape it off carefully with a putty knife while cradling it in an oven mitt. In the end that was pretty effective, if stinky and time consuming. Don’t use your best oven mitt. Ask me how I know.
Most of the tiles just had some grout (which I cracked off dry, with pliers) and leftover mortar on them, and that come off well after a soak in a strong muriatic acid bath (I didn’t measure the exact ratio). The mortar dissolved, and (after thorough rinsing to avoid chemical burns) the remaining sand came off easily with a little manual rubbing (rubbing two pieces back to back got in the grooves and really saved my fingers from major abrasion).
Once the tiles were clean, I prepped the surface of the wall. That meant chipping out crumbling concrete/mortar (used a hammer and chisel), rebuilding some of the wall with mortar, and then mortaring the tiles in place. I likely replaced about 75-100 miniscule tiles. You know who is planning to replace all that lovely detailed tile with bigger boring tiles when the time comes? This lady. It went well but is not something I really want to do often. The mortar I used, shown below, can be used underwater, so I went with this rather than a product intended for tile floors or the like. I bought it at Home Depot. It was $5ish per container, and I needed 3.
I then used a grout appropriate for wet environments to finish it up, and I feel really confident that the repaired tiles are now the most well-adhered of any in the pool at present.
That done, moving on to fixing the concrete coping…
Future posts in this series:
- Repairing crumbling concrete pool coping blocks
- Replacing old cracking caulk in pool deck expansion joints
- Staining a concrete pool deck