Pool halls present a unique set of challenges to designers, architects, and engineers. You have issues with lighting, corrosion, humidity, safety, accessibility, and serviceability - to name a few. When it comes to finishing surfaces, each presents its own set of unique properties.
Wood breathes. It's porous, malleable, but not absorptive to sound. It catches fire easily and warps under the wrong conditions. Despite all of that, it continues to be one of the most popular finishing materials and architectural elements all across the world.
Here is a rendering by Helpern Architects of a natatorium in Manhattan:
While the ceiling canopies are beautiful, there is a reason that you hardly ever see wood ceilings in pool areas. The extreme humidity can seep into the wood and cause wood rot, and the chemicals given off by the pool will corrode everything in the plenum that isn't stainless steel.
To combat this, a few things can be done.
- Choose the right species. You can choose a species of wood that is made for high humidity. Teak, Ipe, and Cumaru are examples of this. These are hard woods that are made to last at least two decades without experiencing any wood rot. The problem? They're extremely expensive. Not only is the lumber expensive, but working with these species is more difficult, driving up the cost of labor.
- Use thermally modified wood. Thermal modification of wood is a process that heats the wood in the absence of oxygen. The low oxygen prevents the wood from burning at high temperatures, and it alters the structure of the wood molecules to become more durable. ACGI's supplier of thermally treated lumber offers a 25 year wood rot warranty. Any species can be thermally treated, meaning that less expensive wood can be used in areas of high humidity.
- Use a different material with a faux wood finish. There are times when the material is going to be 30+ feet away from anyone looking at it. Without close inspection, there is almost no way for someone to see the difference between a metal ceiling with a faux wood finish and a real wood veneer. Contact us for a sample to see for yourself.
Metal ceilings are a good choice of material because they are not porous to humidity. When the ceiling acts as a moisture barrier, the components used in the plenum can be made from aluminum or any other material without fear of heavy corrosion and rust drip. Using stainless steel components behind the ceiling is expensive, and a metal ceiling can prevent some of those costs.
Metal can be finished in many different ways and have many different aesthetics. Accent can supply a faux wood finish, as well as a real wood veneer for most of their metal ceiling and wall products.
Typically, the ceiling in a pool hall is made to be a moisture barrier. It is 100% sealed and does not let any humidity escape into the space above, allowing the dehumidification systems to perform optimally. Newmat makes a beautiful ceiling system that is a moisture barrier. With this type of ceiling, often times you can place lights on the sides of the pool. This makes light service a breeze. Newmat is quite a unique system aesthetically, you can see some examples below.
One last finish option that can be used in a pool area is acoustical plaster, so long as the pool area does not exceed 70% humidity. Fellert seamless acoustical plaster has been installed in many pool areas (public and private) with massive success. The great benefit of Fellert is that it absorbs more sound than any other acoustical plaster, up to 0.85 NRC with just 1" on insulation. Acoustics in a pool area can be a challenge, especially with the abundance of reflective surfaces.
If you have a swimming pool project coming up and are not sure on what finish materials can be used and in what way, reach out to us today. Working in the ceiling and walls niche since 1995 has given us a breadth of experience and knowledge in this exact area. From pricing estimations to general guidance, you can find it all here.