Graphic by Denise Baker

Many of the materials used in pool design are very tasteful. A few surpass that mark and can be called beautiful. A tiny handful go further still to become art. But only glass tile is sheer magic.

Looking at a pool that’s completely clad in high-quality glass tile gives me an almost physical sensation of joy like watching a cheetah run. The rich, luminous colors are otherworldly, impossible.

But that phenomenon comes with a price.

Glass tile pools have exploded in popularity in recent years and, as is often the case when an niche market goes mainstream, the increase in demand has led to an influx of cheaper product and installers who don’t know what they’re doing. This in turn has created more pools with failed tile, angry consumers, finger-pointing, lawsuits and a black mark on the reputation of the world’s most spectacular finishing material.

Complicating things even more is the fact that every industry member you talk with has a different opinion about the severity and cause of the problems. This makes it challenging to publish a story that brings clarity to the glass tile issue because there’s no real consensus on the topic.

But we love a good challenge.

You’ll find Rebecca Robledo’s in-depth look at this contentious subject, with multiple offshoots and side arguments fully examined. This article has been a long time in the making, and frequently over the past few months, when we were talking with a builder or manufacturer and mentioned what we were working on, they would perk up and say, “Glass tile! You want to know what I think? What we have is a situation where …”

We listened closely to those comments and many others, and now are reporting on what we heard. Every effort was made to be inclusive and unbiased. Send a note letting me know if you think we got it right.