Spa-rkling New

There aren’t many places as relaxing as a quietly bubbling spa, but the experience can let you down if the effects of age or neglect have not been properly mitigated. Lucy Mackey speaks with Mark Kidner, the landscape and swimming pool coordinator at Ultimate Swimming Pools, to get the low-down on when to renovate your concrete spa, and when to replace it.

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If your spa is looking a bit shabby, or not performing the way you’d like it to, it’s well worth investigating the option of renovating before you decide to replace it. As Kidner points out, renovating a spa is usually quicker and cheaper than replacing it, and creates much less mess.


In many cases, a renovation is a great solution for your tired-looking spa, but in others, a full replacement is more cost-effective. Identifying which is which is the key to a successful project.

Kidner identifies three key reasons to renovate: updating old equipment, refreshing the look, and performing minor maintenance. This last point is particularly important, because with timely maintenance, your concrete spa can easily last decades, but if cracks and bulges in the concrete are ignored, they can quickly blossom into issues that are much harder to fix. So, if your spa shows small cracks, discoloured grout and tiles, or the equipment isn’t performing as it should, a renovation might be the answer.

However, there are some scenarios where it’s simply better in the long run to replace your spa altogether. Kidner points out that the disadvantage of renovating is that you have to work with what you’ve got: “you can really only change the cosmetic aspect of the spa, and not the general size and shape”. If altering the size and shape is what you have in mind, simply replacing it might be easier. Similarly, “if the current orientation and positioning of the spa doesn’t work anymore”, or the design just doesn’t fit with a larger planned renovation, then it’s probably best to replace your spa. Lastly, if there are signs of severe structural damage, such as large cracks, replacing the whole spa might be the best option, Kidner advises.

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 If your spa is structurally sound but needs a cosmetic makeover, there is a lot you can do with a renovation. Common cosmetic issues, according to Kidner, include delaminated, stained or faded tiles, and missing or discoloured grout. By renewing these features, you can give your spa a whole new look with relative ease. “Retiling and grouting is like a new paint job on a house,” Kidner says, “it’s an instant facelift!” “Small format tiles are flooding the market and they look fantastic. The range of colour and textures is endless,” Kidner says. “But with a smaller surface for adhesive, small tiles have a higher potential of delaminating. A great remedy for this is to use an epoxy grout.”

Another simple way to refresh your spa’s look is to update the coping. “Drop-down coping is a great renovating option,” Kidner says, “as it covers any residue left from the old tiles.” Installing a new cover is another great way to keep your spa looking sharp when not in use. As they’re exposed to both UV from the sun and chemicals from the water, pool covers can discolour over time and detract from the look, so it’s worth taking a close look at yours.


When renovating, it’s a good idea to look at your spa’s equipment. New gadgets and gizmos will likely have entered the market since your spa was built. Kidner recommends taking the time to give your equipment a little maintenance, if you’re not investing in newer options. One of the key pieces of equipment that typically needs attention is the pump. “Even if your old pumps still work,” Kidner says, “pumps lose suction and performance [capabilities] over time. New, upgraded versions offer speed variations, which are more efficient in power usage and overall functionality.

“Technological advancements in the pool and spa industry are ever evolving to make your experience as user-friendly as possible,” Kidner says. “Automation systems, which can be integrated into smartphone apps are ideal for bringing your spa into the 21st century.” Modern automation systems such as the AstralPool’s Viron Connect 10 allow you to remotely monitor and adjust all essential spa systems; you can even set the spa to warm up so it’s ready when you return from work. “Having every aspect of your spa at your fingertips is a great way to upgrade your old spa,” Kidner adds.

Submerged lighting has come a long way in the last decade; switching old halogen lights for LED lights is a quick way to modernise your spa as well. With the option to install multicoloured lights, you can easily upgrade the look, too, and most LED lights can be retrofitted without much trouble.

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If you’re concerned about your spa’s environmental impact, updating its running system is a good way to cut down on energy, water and chemical use. When coupled with AI technology, variable-speed pumps can reduce speed to the minimum system requirement at any given time. Modern sanitation systems can achieve the same results in far less runtime than older models, and the same goes for heaters. 

You can even take the opportunity to replace or augment older heating systems with solar panels! If you don’t already have one, “installing a cover into the design not only keeps debris out of your spa, but helps retain heat and thus makes your spa more energy efficient”, Kidner says. “It also helps prevent evaporation and thus saves you money and water.”


A well-executed renovation can easily extend your spa’s life another decade, so it’s worth putting some thought into. Consider how you use your spa, and how it could serve you better; for example, have you found the interior gets slippery, or the maintenance is excessive? Or perhaps the coping is looking worn and no longer suits the exterior cladding of your home? If your spa shell is still sturdy, but you’d like to enhance the look or performance of the spa, then a renovation is ideal. On the other hand, if you’d like to change the shape, or there are major structural issues present, it’s better in the long run to replace your spa entirely. Either way, Kidner says it’s best to give some serious thought to your budget, your vision, and, most importantly, “employ a professional that listens and who wants to work with you, not against you”.

Images courtesy of Southern Cross Swimming Pools