How to Lay Tile for Pool Decking

We decided to go with ceramic tile for our pool decking because we felt like it would be easier as a DIY. We’ve laid plenty of tile in the past and felt confident that we could get the job done and be happy with the end result. Of course, using tile meant that we would first need a slab of concrete poured to lay the tile on. This added some extra expense, but we offset that plus some by installing the tile ourselves.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how we installed the tile to create a clean and modern decking for our pool.

Material and Tools

  • Thinset large tile and stone mortar
  • Tile
  • 2 five gallon buckets
  • 1/4″ flooring trowel
  • Sponge
  • Tile grout
  • Tape measure
  • String
  • Tile saw
  • Pencil
  • Mixing arm

Step 1: Clean the Concrete Surface

The first thing we did was clean the concrete surface so that there was no debris laying around. To do this, we just used a leaf blower. It’s especially important to make sure there are no small gravels of chips of concrete laying on the surface. This will cause your tile to not lay flat.

Step 2: Determine your Starting Point

Anytime you lay tile, it’s a good idea to do some planning. I’m not saying that you have to lay out every tile before starting, but it’s good to put some thought into where you are going to start. This way you can determine what direction you will be going and where you are going to end. It will also help you plan ahead for dealing with any obstacles that you might run into.

Step 3: Pull a String

I think this might be the most important part of laying tile for pool decking. Before we started, I pulled a string from one end of the pool to the other on the side I was working on. We decided the tile would hang over the edge of the pool 1 inch.

So I marked 1 inch in on both ends and pulled the string tight across those marks. I used one of the large tiles to anchor the string on both ends temporarily while we laid the tile on that side of the pool. This allowed us to line up each tile with the string to ensure we would end up with a perfectly straight edge all the way around.

Step 4: Mix the Thinset Mortar

In a five-gallon bucket, I added some water. Then I poured in some of the thinset mortar. Using an electric drill with a mixer attached, I mixed the thinset until it was the consistency of peanut butter. I added more water as needed. It’s important not to mix up more thinset than you know you will use at a given time. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting what you don’t use if you are pulled away from the job. This happened to me on a few occasions.

Step 5: Apply Thinset and Lay Tiles

Using the trowel, I scooped out a good amount of thinset onto the concrete. Then holding my trowel at almost a 90-degree angle, I spread it evenly. I only applied enough for about 4-5 tiles at a time. Since the area was in direct sunlight and it was hot, I didn’t want the thinset to start drying before I laid the tile.

Once I had enough thinset spread, I laid the tiles in place one at a time, pressing them down firmly. The tiles we used did not require spacers, so I was able to butt them up against each other. This made the process a little faster.

Although, the process slowed down once I started laying the tile next to the house. This involved cutting. For this, I used a large tile saw. When I got to a piece I had to cut, I simply used my tape measure to determine how much I needed to take off and marked the tile accordingly with a pencil. Then I made the cut.

Step 6: Grout the Tile

Once we had all of the tile laid around the pool, it was time to grout. We used sanded grout in a color called pewter. I mixed up the grout in a five-gallon bucket just as I did with the thinset.

We used a float to apply the grout into the tile joints and worked in 10×10 feet sections at a time. Then we used a wet sponge to wipe off the excess grout from the surface of the tiles. We had to do this several times to remove all of it.

Even though this was a big project and a ton of work, we are glad we did it ourselves and couldn’t be happier with the end result!

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  • Reply Catherine Pesci

    Hi. So nice. What type of tile did you use?

    August 2, 2021 at 10:53 am
    • Reply Leigh

      Yes, I would like to know also.
      1) Was it “indoor/outdoor” tile? Or “exterior” tile? 2) Nonslip?
      3) Could I use any tile from a tile shop?
      4) In your opinion, what was the cost of this project compared to laying concrete pavers? I’m just curious.
      Thank you!

      Kindest Regards,

      September 3, 2021 at 6:11 am
  • Reply Brian

    The tile and pattern looks great. If you had concrete poured to lay the tile on would it have been cheaper to just do a concrete deck rather than the tile? We are in the planning phase of installing a pool deciding on decking.

    August 2, 2021 at 2:25 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks! Yes, it would have been cheaper, but we wanted a different look than solid concrete or stamped.

      August 2, 2021 at 6:15 pm
  • Reply Lou Deleguardia

    Hi, I live in Michigan and I’ve been told that tile around a pool isn’t a good idea because of the extreme change in the weather. What are your thoughts?

    May 20, 2022 at 1:49 pm
    • Reply Scott Kish II


      I used to live in Michigan and built homes and pools with my family growing up. Tile around a pool is no different then stone or any other covering over a concrete slab . As Henry said, the look is what he was trying to achieve and if you pour a slab and cover with tile, you need to make sure you take the proper precautions to settlement or movement with frost. The joints between the shell of your pool and the slab attaching to it are all you need to focus on and to make sure the connections aren’t done in a way where movement isn’t factored in. Your pool contractor should be able to advise you on this type of connection. Just make you have a very compacted and stable foundation under that connection and that it can handle 42” below grade for the frost line issues.

      September 26, 2022 at 12:57 am
  • Reply Enid Wilson

    Looks great. How did you seal between the pool and the tile?

    June 17, 2022 at 2:09 pm
  • Reply Atanas

    What about the slope away from the pool?

    November 28, 2022 at 1:10 pm
    • Reply Henry

      The concrete was sloped when it was poured.

      February 10, 2023 at 1:13 am

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