This is a hot topic right now. I have seen pools where the saltwater has damaged stamped concrete, natural stones, and coping. I’ve also seen damage to travertine tile.
However there are those that say damage to these items is a result of inferior materials. Here is an opinion from Sean Assam who points to what he thinks are “low grade” materials from stone quarries in Arizona and Texas:
My name is Sean Assam, with Aqua Cal AutoPilot Inc. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and have been exposed to almost every facet of the pool industry. I am CPO certified. I instruct classes in Water Chemistry and Testing Methods, Pumps and Filters, and our own “Pool Pilot Flight School” (all of which are approved continuing education credits, required for Florida contractors). I was the Technical Support Manager and R & D director for the last 5 years at AutoPilot. Currently I do the Commercial sales and support for Aqua Cal (Heat Pumps) and AutoPilot. So now I’m dealing with large commercial systems on small and large public pools, such as the Ritz Carlton Resorts, Hyatt Resorts, Four Seasons, Marriott Hotels, etc. I’m sure if there were real issues, these major facilities would not even consider salt as an alternative to sanitizing their pools and spas.
For years, it seems that everything that has occurred negatively to a pool has been blamed on salt systems. It really does not matter that these same issues have been around much longer than salt system, but salt has been the convenient scapegoat. I’m not sure what may be causing the coping or deck damage, but in my opinion, these problems are regional and most likely have to do with the quality of the deck material (limestone quarry) and cement mixture.
The contractors are mostly in Arizona and Texas. And while the materials they use there are similar to materials used nationally. It makes sense that even from the same quarry, the quality can vary from high grade to low grade. If this were a salt issue, the problems would be of national scale. Salt systems have been around in the US since 1984, even longer in Australia (1960’s). Prior to AutoPilot purchasing this company from The Olin Corporation, we were a distributor of the Lectranator salt system. We’ve sold several thousand systems in South Florida alone and I cannot think of a single deck damaged pool that was contributed to the salt system. Since we purchased the company in 1992, we’ve sold over 100,000 units nationally, and another 50,000 units internationally. That’s just one manufacturer in the salt chlorination industry. Combined, there are over a million salt systems installed in back yards all over the US. Certainly, this would be a national epidemic, if it were damaging. Yet, we’re not seeing this, but on a few isolated cases. I can say that none of these contractors, having damage to their customer’s pools, were AutoPilot dealers. If so, I would have been personally called out to investigate the problem. That’s not to say that we’re much different than the others. Salt systems all operate in a similar manner. I can say though that salt systems are being unfairly blamed for these long standing issues. Some natural materials are inappropriate to use with any pool and others should probably be protected with a sealer.
See full article Corrosive Pool Water Problems
Its certainly fair to point out that appropriate natural materials should be used. It would help to know how a pool owner can ensure he or she is built a compatible pool.
I can’t speak for areas outside of Texas at this point but I’ve definitely seen corrosion damage here. Because of this I am a fan of an ozonator and a mineral pack to go virtually chlorine free. You can actually do this for the same or a lesser cost than a saltwater system and it is “greener” more natural alternative with less upkeep cost compared to salt cells that have to be replaced every 4-6 years.
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