An elite athlete allots a significant amount of time to training and competing, thus making where they practice and perform an important part of their success. Inside theJames E. Martin Aquatics Centerat Auburn University in Auburn, AL, the pool serves as training grounds for its elite swimmers and hosts many top swimming competitions. After the facility pool deck's tile renovation, the space has an improved visual quality for swimmers and spectators as well as safety for its users.

"The University wanted to improve the safety for swimmers by replacing the original porcelain tile on the pool deck," said Architect Dave McCauley, AIA, of Lyman Davidson Dooley, Inc. "The school also wanted to increase the visual impact of the floor so that visitors and competitors know this is Auburn University's home pool." To achieve these design goals, Daltile's Keystone Collection was selected in "Biscuit" (an off-white color) and Navy.

Before making a final decision of what material to use for resurfacing the deck, alternative materials to tile were discussed. However, the project team felt that tile offered a more durable surface and greater design opportunities to achieve the University's project goals.

The team of people that picked out the tiles -- which included Auburn University's Facilities Staff and Athletic Department -- did not go to a showroom, but did have 12- x 24-inch samples delivered to help finalize the color selection. "Our local Daltile rep assisted in getting samples and verifying availability of colors," said McCauley. "We selected tile that had integral abrasive finish added to it to increase the slip resistance."

Designing for athletes and fans

The 12,000-square-foot pool deck now features tiles that coordinate with the school's orange and blue banners that hang from the ceiling. "We used Daltile's Keystone Biscuit with an integral abrasive finish and Daltile's Navy as well," said McCauley. "Both colors were used in 2- x 2- and 1- x 1-inch sizes. Directly adjacent to the pool are the 1- x 1-inch tiles, while further away from the pool, the field tile and the base at the perimeter of the pool deck use 2- x 2-inch tiles. When we install tile on pool decks, we prefer to go with 1- x 1- or 2- x 2-inch size tiles to increase the slip resistance created by the additional grout lines."

Immediately next to the pool, running its entire length, there is about 6 inches of tile nestled between the deck trench drain and the pool. This space consists of 1- x 1-inch Navy-colored tiles forming a continuous band adjacent to the new white fiberglass gutter grating.

On the other side of the deck drain, spectators will be able to enjoy the embellished parts of the deck. The lettering is located on each length of the pool directly adjacent to the deck drains; all bands of lettering and their design complements were completed using Daltile's Keystone Biscuit-colored tiles, and were set on top of a field of Daltile Keystone Navy-colored tiles -- also measuring 1 x 1 inch. Running the length of the pool are the words: "Auburn Swimming and Diving" as well as "War Eagle."

Additionally, the same tiles were used to create Auburn University logos -- the "A" on top of the "U" -- which are located on the deck at each corner of the starting platform. The same design -- Navy background and Biscuit lettering – is used on the starting block area, where the lettering reads "Auburn Tigers." A continuous white line connects the slogans around the perimeter of the pool.

"The letters are 1- x 1-inch Daltile pieces that were waterjet cut by Daltile," said McCauley. "The 1- x 1-inch tiles were used in the area where there is lettering because it creates a smoother edge where there are curves."

Gravitating outwards, the deck's field is made of 2- x 2-inch Biscuit-colored Daltile Keystone tiles. Additionally, the natatorium needed a base along the wall, so one was made by installing the Biscuit-colored tiles. "Previously there was not any base and the school was having problems with deterioration of the epoxy paint on the lowest course of the walls," said McCauley.

Sharing the space

Olympic swimmers trained at Auburn's James E. Martin Aquatics Center in the summer throughout the tile installation. The installers -- an average of eight per day -- were also working around the busy schedule of the University's athletic teams as well as other local swimming and diving events hosted by Auburn. This did not provide for an ideal installation situation for the installers. As a result, the project took about one month longer than expected; five months in total.

"We sectioned off certain areas to work because of the traffic," said David Mills, project manager and President of Weiss Flooring Inc. of Montgomery, AL. "We literally had people get out of the pool and walk where we were working. In using the pool, a lot of water would splash onto the deck. The mudbed would get soaking wet, and we had to wait for it to dry to put the tile down."

Installation Details

Installer: Weiss Flooring Inc., Montgomery, AL

TILE PRODUCTS:   1- x 1- and 2- x 2-inch tiles from Daltile's Keystone Collection in colors "Biscuit" and Navy

INSTALLATION PRODUCTS:  Floor Patch Pro, Feather Edge, B-6000 Waterproof/Crack Isolation Membrane, Permalastic System, B-7000 Epoxy Mortar and Grout, and ProColor Sanded Grout from ProSpec of Charlotte, NC

an average of 8 per day



To overcome this challenge, fans and floor blowers were used to dry the space. "That was the biggest challenge of the project," said Mills. "We tried to schedule around the practices. We got some work done at night, between their practices or before they got there in the morning. But sometimes the deck got so wet that we could not do anything."

Beneath the surface

Mills recommended all ProSpec installation products be used for the tile job so that Auburn University would have a comprehensive warranty. The installation team used ProSpec's Floor Patch Pro, Feather Edge, B-6000 Waterproof/Crack Isolation Membrane, Permalastic System, B-7000 Epoxy Mortar and Grout, and ProColor Sanded Grout.

The tile-setting mortar was perhaps the most critical product used. "The advantage of using flexible tile setting mortar is that it allowed a greater flexibility; it accepts deformation [of the substrate] due to movement [of water] within the substrate," said Mills. "ProSpec's Permalastic Tile Setting Mortar provides a more durable setting bed."

The installation team started their work at the walls of the natatorium and worked their way in towards the pool. They sectioned off the space to get the outside finished first where it did not get wet.

After demolishing the tile, it was discovered that the existing sand and mortar setting bed was in good condition and therefore did not have to be demolished. "About 75% of the setting bed remained intact," said Mills. "Especially because of water, some parts did degrade. Those areas were located closer to the pool.

"In those areas we had to build back a new setting bed," continued Mills. "Other areas had lost their bond and turned back to sand and mortar; that's where we used ProSpec Patch. This was a unique case. Usually with a pool renovation you have to demolish the pre-existing substrate."

With the installation complete, and a newly renovated Aquatic Center, the reaction has been positive. "The University seems very pleased with the results of the project and are looking to continue similar improvements in the adjacent pool," said McCauley.