At The Complete Backyard, we’ve worked on concrete pools for 30+ years and hear a lot of customers talk about both gunite and shotcrete pools. We work a lot with both types of pools (although primarily shotcrete) so we know how they differ and each of their pros and cons.
So what’s the main difference? Well, they are actually nearly the same thing. The main thing is how the pool is built and what materials are used.
What is Shotcrete or a Shotcrete Pool?
Shotcrete is a type of concrete formula that many pool builders like to use for pools. It can be both wet mix or dry mix that is water-sprayed when applying.The term shotcrete is just the action of the concrete being “shot” out of the hose. Once it’s poured or shot, it’s molded and shaped to how the pool is supposed to look (which can differ a lot).
So shotcrete is an adjective to describe the concrete and gunite is a term that was coined based on the way dry-mix shotcrete is applied to create the base of the pool.
From here, we will separate them and refer to wet-mix shotcrete as traditional “shotcrete” and dry-mix concrete as “gunite”.
The Actual Difference Between Gunite and Shotcrete
Both gunite and shotcrete are types of concrete pools. The main difference is how the concrete is mixed and applied. Shotcrete refers to pre-mixing your concrete with water and then applying it with a hose. Gunite is dry concrete mix that mixes with water while its being sprayed out of the hose onto the surface.
Gunite, believe it or not, is actually a trade name that describes dry shotcrete mix. Since the dry mix has to be shot out of a hose like a gun with water (to prevent it from drying) it’s been coined that term.
Shotcrete will always come pre-mixed so it’s important to get the concrete to water levels correct when mixing. Gunite on the other hand gets mixed by the nozzleman, or the technician working the hose. Majority of concrete pools you will see are “gunite” pools but we love using the shotcrete method when building our pools.
How The Traditional Concrete Pool Process Works
Whether it’s the shotcrete or gunite method, almost all concrete pools follow the same methodology of applying their concrete to shape the pool.
- Dig out the area of where you are installing the pool
- Install the plumbing
- Install rebar for the pool walls and the floor
- Spray the concrete – wet concrete (traditional shotcrete) or dry concrete mix (gunite) to encase the rebar cage
- Shape the concrete in the shape of the pool (along with ledges, stairs, and anything else custom)
- Cure your concrete
- Install the pool tile and coping
- Install the patio or deck
- Apply the finish (this refers to how the pool wall and floor feels – it’s typically plaster, aggregate, or tile)
- Start your finished pool!
Don’t want to do all that yourself? Then don’t! Here’s how the process should go and does when you work with us:
- Pick out what you want in a pool
- Approve the design
- Enjoy it once it’s fully built
The Differences When Using Gunite
When using the gunite dry mix, the difference is that the concrete hopper is pre-loaded and feeds the material through a gunite nozzle hose. The technician working the hose controls the amount of water that gets mixed into the material to manage the consistency best. With wet mix, you won’t control how much water is mixed in with the concrete which can create problems but if you work with an experienced technician or hire a professional pool company, you won’t have anything to worry about either way.
At The Complete Backyard we prefer using Shotcrete to build our pools as it gives us better ability to get your custom pool done quicker, but we’ve built gunite pools too!
Understanding The Shotcrete Process
When we build shotcrete pools, we load the wet mix fully into the concrete hopper and shoot it out through the hose similar to how you would using gunite. We don’t change how much water is mixed into the concrete and it allows us to focus on shaping and designing the pool structure a lot more. We’ll elaborate more but for us it’s way faster and more efficient when using shotcrete – a long as you have an awesome team that knows what they’re doing.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of A Shotcrete Pool
Shotcrete laying or spraying doesn’t require as much technical knowledge as gunite spraying does (for laying the concrete base of the pool). A shotcrete pool laying also takes less time generally than gunite because it has to be applied quickly in a single day or a single session of constructing the pool. Due to it’s quick laying, it also is a lot more even and consistent as a base than gunite is.
One advantage that we love is that we can focus more on shaping the pool and all of the custom designs since the concrete is already pre-mixed and doesn’t need to be changed at all or monitored. That’s how we can get some of the amazing pools you see in our portfolio.
Custom Construction and Style With A Shotcrete Pool
That’s our secret when using shotcrete as the method instead of applying the concrete – is more styling! When you don’t have to worry about the concrete mix, it makes it a lot easier to shape the pool and all of it’s custom needs. Our customers have asked for some pretty intensive things stylistically. Without the shotcrete method, it would be much harder to do it all. Even though we love shotcrete and all of the design advantages it has, it does come with a few drawbacks (that are no big deal for us honestly – but good to be aware of them).
The thing that is both an advantage and disadvantage is the fact that shotcrete has to be applied quickly. The construction process for a shotcrete pool can’t stop and start and has to be completed all in one session. So while it does save time, it can be a problem if issues arise during the laying process.
Shotcrete can be more expensive than gunite on average because of the short time window it has to be mixed, poured, and shaped. That’s not to say it always is more expensive but it can be depending on your project.
Cracks can still form if the shotcrete has too much water in it. The more water in the shotcrete mix, the more likely cracks are to form.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of A Shotcrete Pool
Gunite can be applied multiple different times and still bond together. This allows builders to take more time to complete the pool project. Generally, when you’re taking more time with gunite it will allow you to have less errors in the process.
Poured concrete will traditionally only be able to form and bond together in one session. Meaning you won’t be able to add on any more concrete after it dries because the two won’t mold together and instead cracks will form where they meet. That’s why gunite is unique as you can apply it over and over even after it’s dried because of the mix it will still join together with the concrete previously poured.
Gunite can also be less expensive occasionally because the process can be stopped and started and the projects take longer to complete.
Gunite requires specially skilled nozzlemen to mix and pour the concrete properly. Errors have a higher chance occurring since the dry-mix needs to be created so specifically. Things like hose clogging, the concrete being too wet, too dry, and more can all cause problems. These errors in the mix can ruin the quality of your new pool.
Another thing to think about is gunite creates some excess material like rebound. In our experience, it makes a big mess and is not environmentally conscious. It can be hassle to get rid of and it’s not something you think about before you’ve experienced dealing with it.
Should You Choose Gunite or Shotcrete For Your Pool?
Always consult your pool builder when it comes to which of the two types is right for you. Most of the time, your builder will choose for you if they know what they’re doing. And that’s not a bad thing either. Both can make beautiful, high-quality pools in the right hands.
Some builders have technicians that are better at one or the other (or both) so it may depend on their team. In our experience, having a great mix can allow you to spray the concrete quick using shotcrete and get the job done super fast, giving you more time to love your new pool. Builders that use gunite probably have the right technicians to do so and might not be able to complete the process in a single session.
Regardless of the pouring method, you’ll want to make sure you vet the pool company you work with. Especially before you sign your contract, you want to know who is going to be creating your dream pool.
Concrete pools typically start at $30,000 and go above and beyond. For us at The Complete Backyard, it won’t differ that much between a gunite pool and a shotcrete pool cost, we try to make it the best for the pool you’re wanting.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shotcrete vs Gunite Pools
So which is better, gunite or shotcrete?
Gunite can last longer and maintain higher quality but it depends on the technician or the builder. Gunite can also have a smoother surface and withstand more pressure. Shotcrete on the other hand is faster to finish drying and allows more focus on the design of your pool.
Is shotcrete more expensive than normal concrete?
Shotcrete is made with a specific purpose in mind so it is more methodically put together than normal concrete. So yes, it is A LOT more expensive than average concrete. It also has a lot more durability and lifespan than average concrete.
What is the difference between concrete and shotcrete?
Concrete is used in building things like foundations, streets, sidewalks, and more. Shotcrete is more of a type of mix of concrete and the way it is applied. Shotcrete application involves premixing cement and water and spraying it at a high velocity onto a surface with a type of hose.