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Six things you should know about using Mexican Tile in Pools and Spas

Posted by Andrew Kayner on

If you are planning to build or remodel a pool, and you are excited about the colorful choices available in Mexican tile, you are probably struggling to understand all the issues around what type of tile to use and maybe hearing mixed messages.

Here are six important points to remember when considering Mexican Tile in your pool:


  1. Rustic red clay Talavera tiles fired at low temperatures are NOT suitable for pools. Don’t be misled by advertising promising “frost resistant”. These tiles will absorb water and crack or pop off.  If you have heard pool contractors say “never use Mexican tile in a pool”—this is what they are talking about.  Many pool contractors do not know that modern Mexican tiles now come in high-fired Ceramic and Porcelain.
  2. Ceramic Mexican tiles fired at high temperatures are absolutely fine for pools and fountains in mild climates where there is no danger of freezing. Again, don’t be misled by claims of tile being “frost-proof”.  Even ceramic tile will over time, absorb water and if allowed to then freeze, it will crack.  Only porcelain tiles should be used in climates with frost risk.  If you only rarely experience freezing temperatures, you can protect your pool tiles by keeping the pool FULL all winter and using a frost blanket.
  3. Porcelain Mexican tile are fired to an extremely high temperatures to achieve a truly waterproof tile. It is not affected by freezing temperatures. Although you pay more for a porcelain tile, the peace of mind will be worth it.  
  4. Matt Finish vs. Gloss Finish Many of our customers like using the raised relief, commonly referred to as Malibu or Santa Barbara tile, in their pool. These look incredible as a waterline tile. Some of these tile use a combination of gloss and matte finish glazes. Matte finish glaze contain calcite which is damaged by strong acid solutions. Matte finish glazes should not be used where a pebble-tek surface is being used below the water line. Strong acids are used to etch away the cement to reveal the pebble detail. Over time, chlorine will discolor matte finishes as well. We work with our customers to replace the matte glaze colors with gloss glaze colors.   If you prefer the matte finish, you can use more mild cleaners and buy a special sealant that will help prolong the life of the tile.
  5. Tile sizes for pools: Most people use a 6”x 6” tile for a water-level border tile, or sometimes 4”x4” in smaller pools or spas. You might also consider a “subway tile” size of 4”x8” or 3”x6” or even larger size.  For pool steps, a 2’x2” tile is often used to help delineate and decorate the edge of the step.
  6. Tile Color and Design for pools: Of course many people choose blues, greens and turquoise for pools, but you can also be much more creative with any color of tile! Your pool colors and designs can be as unique as you are!


If you would like to talk to someone about using high quality Mexican Ceramic or Porcelain tile in your pool, or need design help, call the experts at Mexican Tile Designs, 866-320-1628 or email

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