Fiberglass, Vinyl Liner and Concrete Inground Pools – The Pros and Cons
While concrete and vinyl liner pools were once the most popular choices in the industry, fiberglass has started gaining more and more popularity. Each of them have different benefits, but some might not be the best option for you and your family.
To help you decide which one fits your needs, budget and lifestyle, let’s learn more about these three options and dive into their pros and cons.
Concrete pools consist of a mixture of water, cement, sand and a type of coarse aggregate, like gravel or stones. You may also hear about gunite and shotcrete when discussing concrete pools – this refers to how the type of concrete mixture your experts install.
When spraying a concrete pool shell, your experts may use gunite, which is a dry mix of concrete that has water added onsite. Or instead, they may choose to use shotcrete, which is a wet concrete mixed beforehand. It won't need additional water as it's applied.
Between the two, gunite has a shorter drying time, is more durable and can withstand a higher PSI than shotcrete. But shotcrete is less expensive than gunite, making it easier on your wallet. Talk to your pool experts to see which one they recommend for your home.
PROS OF CONCRETE:
- Concrete pools are known for their durability. If you have sharp objects or toys in your pool, you don't have to worry about them scratching the finish.
- You'll have a range of design and color options, as concrete pools work with several types of finishes, including plaster, aggregates or ceramic or glass tiles.
- Concrete pools have a classic, clean look that won't fall out of fashion over time. You also won't have to worry about liners bubbling or falling off.
- If you're looking for an unconventional pool shape, concrete pools can easily accommodate your designs.
- You can easily add additional pool features, such as swim-outs.
CONS OF CONCRETE:
- Yes, they take longer to cure – approximately 28 days. It may feel as boring as watching paint dry, except it's concrete. This is on top of the installation phase, which can take anywhere between 20 – 60 days.
- Concrete’s finish will be rougher than our other choices. This may not be the best option if you have small children or animals who could accidentally get scratched.
- Concrete pools often have a more complicated design, including a cage of steel bars on the walls and floor of your pool, called "rebar." These additional steps and materials mean concrete pools are more expensive than vinyl liners or fiberglass.
- Even if your pool is well-maintained, a concrete pool will most likely need repairing or resurfacing every 10 to 15 years.
- Concrete pools often require more water testing than others. Concrete is alkaline-based and can quickly increase the pH of your water. If you're not carefully checking your levels, you could experience an algae bloom.
A fiberglass pool shell is a single structure consisting of several layers of durable resin and other materials. On top, their gelcoat finish makes for a very smooth pool.
Fiberglass pools aren't built onsite like concrete ones. Instead, they're created and molded in a factory, and once they're ready, they're transported to your house to be installed.
PROS OF FIBERGLASS:
- Out of our three options, fiberglass pools are the easiest to maintain and repair in case of any problems. There's no porous material that can collect excess water and bacteria, like concrete pools, and no liners to worry about damaging like vinyl pools.
- Like concrete pools, fiberglass pools are known for their durability. They can last you 25 to even 50 years if well-maintained.
- And unlike concrete pools, fiberglass is much more comfortable on your feet. Their gelcoat surface means no sharp edges. This is especially helpful when taking advantage of pool seating areas (which many fiberglass pools have!)
- This gelcoat is also the most resistant to algae growth.
- Since fiberglass pools are built offsite from molds, they have a quicker turnaround for installation – between 3 to 6 weeks.
CONS OF FIBERGLASS:
- Because they're premade in a factory, you'll have a more limited list of choices when it comes to color or design for your pool. If you need repairs, there's no guarantee that your manufacturer can fix it with the original color or material.
- Plus, because they must be transported fully assembled instead of being built in your backyard, they cannot be wider than 16 feet.
- While they're the easiest to maintain and can last up to a decade, fiberglass pools are still a sizable initial investment – certainly more than vinyl liner pools and sometimes as much or more than concrete pools.
- Fiberglass pools can suffer from osmotic blisters, which are bumps in the pool shell. These form when water leaks into the gelcoat, and while they don't put your pool structure in danger, they aren't very aesthetically pleasing.
Vinyl Liner Pools
As you can tell by the name, vinyl liner pools are made with a vinyl sheet to protect the structural shell of your pool from water. This shell is normally made of layers of materials like steel, aluminum and grout.
Vinyl liner pools are very thin – typically less than a millimeter. But you still have the option to choose a thinner or thicker vinyl. Thinner may be less expensive, but it will be less durable against rambunctious pool-goers like children and dogs.
When building a vinyl liner pool, you'll also have the choice between an embossed or non-embossed vinyl. Non-embossed is the industry standard and has a consistent level of thickness. Embossed feels a little softer but has peaks and valleys that could put your liner at risk.
PROS OF VINYL LINERS:
- Vinyl liners have smooth surfaces that concrete lacks.
- They’re the undisputed budget champions. They'll be less expensive than installing a fiberglass or concrete pool and are still considered relatively low maintenance (with the proper care, that is!)
- Vinyl liner pools can be built within 4-8 weeks, making it a less expensive and faster option than concrete pools.
- A standard vinyl liner pool is a rectangle, but these versatile pools can be customized to almost any shape you're looking for, along with size and depth.
- Unlike our other two options, vinyl liner pools are DIY-friendly. But we still recommend using a pool professional to ensure your pool is installed correctly.
CONS OF VINYL LINERS:
- Even a well-maintained liner will need to be replaced every ten years. And if it's not well-maintained, it could be well before that. Liners can bubble, wrinkle, fade or even turn yellow depending on weather factors and how well you're caring for your pool. On average, this amounts to ~ $2,000.
- Fiberglass pools have a high initial investment with lower lifetime costs, and vinyl liners are the opposite. While they save you money initially, those repairs over the years can add up.
- Like concrete pools, vinyl liners can be susceptible to algae blooms, scaling or other chemical issues.
- When it comes to maintenance, vinyl pools are smack in the middle. They won't need nearly as much attention as your concrete pools but will still need to be monitored more closely than fiberglass. If you're able to commit to a moderate amount of maintenance (or plan on using the money you've saved to invest in a pool cleaning service), vinyl could be the right choice.
Which One is Right for You?
All of these options are excellent choices for a pool – it just depends on your ideal level of maintenance, budget and design choices. Regardless of which one you pick, consistent, high-quality maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your pool.
If you're looking for a professional cleaning service that can keep your pool in perfect shape, contact our team today to learn more about our services.