Concrete vs. Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Which is Best?
You know you want a swimming pool, and – after a lot of research -- you’re pretty sure that you’re leaning toward an inground pool. But now, you’re faced with another big decision: What kind of inground pool do you want?
The good news is, you’ve got some great choices: concrete (gunite), vinyl, and fiberglass. While each of these options is unique in its own way, you’ll find that they all have their own pros and cons. Whether you’re looking for long-term durability or you’re more interested in keeping initial costs down, you’ll find that there’s an inground pool that’s perfect for you.
In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of each type of swimming pool. Here are the main advantages of each:
- 100% customizable
- They look amazing
- Durable/long lifespan
- Limited Customization
- Easy to repair/replace
- Limited Customization
- Fastest installation
- Easy maintenance
- Long lifespan
Concrete Swimming Pools: Overview
Concrete swimming pools are one of the most popular choices, and with good reason: They look amazing, they last a long time (with proper maintenance, of course) and they offer almost limitless options for customization. Want a funky, freeform shape, accented with show-stopping waterline tile? A natural-looking oasis surrounded by stone and a custom water feature? A swimming pool designed with thoughtful details like a tanning ledge for you and a shallow play area for the kids? If you can dream it up, you can have it with a concrete pool.
Despite the higher price tag, many swimming pool owners say that a concrete pool’s long lifespan makes up for the higher initial cost. You can expect a properly maintained concrete swimming pool to last 20 years or more.
Concrete Swimming Pools Traits
Concrete swimming pools are a popular choice for many homeowners, and it may be the right choice for you if you’re in interested in a high-quality, long-term investment. Here are just some of the reasons people love concrete pools:
- Near-endless customization. Concrete pools are built to your exact specifications, so there is almost no limit when it comes to your pool’s shape and size. It’s also super-easy to build in extras like tanning ledges, steps, and more.
- The pool finish. Concrete pools have a wide range of options for the surface of your pool. From plaster, to pebble, to all-tile, there are a wide range of colors, textures, and styles to create the look you want.
- They offer great durability and a long lifespan. Concrete swimming pools are built to last. In fact, with proper maintenance, you can expect to enjoy your pool for up to 20 years or more.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Concrete pools can require more work, maintenance-wise. Concrete is naturally porous, which means that the pool walls may need to be brushed more often to prevent algae.
- They take longer to install. With a concrete pool, you can expect your swimming pool installation process to take several weeks or even a couple of months.
Vinyl Swimming Pools: Overview
Vinyl pools are high quality, relatively low maintenance, and, perhaps most importantly, they’re one of the most affordable options out there when it comes to inground swimming pools. Vinyl swimming pools can be faster to install– most vinyl swimming pools can be installed as quickly as a week or two (compared to the several weeks or months required for other types of pool installation).
A few things to keep in mind if you’re considering vinyl: You should expect to have to replace your vinyl liner in approximately 6 to 10 years. It’s also worth noting that vinyl swimming pool liners can fade over time, especially when exposed to sunlight and exposure to higher-than-normal levels of pool chemicals. They’re also a little more likely to develop waterline stains, which means you’ll need to spend time scrubbing your pool walls with a soft brush to avoid permanent discoloration.
Vinyl Swimming Pool Traits
Like any other type of swimming pool, vinyl swimming pools come with their own unique pros and cons. Here’s what you should know before you make your decision:
- Price. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly swimming pool, vinyl tends to be more affordable.
- Easy, affordable repairs and/or replacements. Getting a new liner can be like getting a whole new pool.
- Less algae. Vinyl liners are less prone to algae growth than concrete pools – and that means less time scrubbing your pool walls and more time swimming and relaxing!
Some things to keep in mind:
- Vinyl Liner Lifespans. You can expect a vinyl pool liner to last anywhere from 6 to 10 years.
- Sometimes less durable, but easily replaceable. Vinyl needs more care to last as long as concrete or fiberglass, and a vinyl pool liner may not stand up to heavy use as well as other types of pools.
- Additional costs over time. Yes, vinyl pools are the least expensive to purchase up-front – but you generally need to replace the liner every 6 to 10 years.
Fiberglass Swimming Pools: Overview
Looking for fast installation and low maintenance? A fiberglass swimming might be perfect for you. Fiberglass is a strong, lightweight material made from tiny glass fibers that are woven together and strengthened with polyester resin. The result: A pool surface that’s smooth, attractive, and easier to maintain than concrete or vinyl pools.
Fiberglass is naturally algae resistant (the smooth, non-porous surface doesn’t provide many places for the slimy stuff to take root), which can contribute to healthier, more balanced swimming pool water. For most fiberglass pools, the biggest maintenance issue is waterline staining/buildup, which can typically be removed with a sponge and a splash of pool cleaning solution.
Do a little research, and you’ll quickly learn that most folks who opt for fiberglass absolutely love their swimming pools. You’ll also learn that, cost-wise, fiberglass can be one of the more expensive options out there. Part of this can be attributed to the unique manufacturing and shipping considerations required with fiberglass swimming pools: Unlike other types of pools which can be assembled on-site, a fiberglass pool is built at a factory and shipped to you in one large piece. That said, most fiberglass pool owners agree that the extra durability and long lifespan are worth the higher upfront cost.
Got a fiberglass pool? Leave draining to the pros.
Fiberglass swimming pools can sustain serious structural damage if not properly drained. If you need to drain your fiberglass pool for any reason, call a pool professional to get the job done right!
Fiberglass Swimming Pool Traits
Considering going with fiberglass? There are a lot of things to love about this durable, low-maintenance option:
- Installation is fast. You can have your fiberglass swimming pool up and running in as little as 4 – 6 weeks.
- Maintenance is easy. Fiberglass pools are algae-resistant. Simply wipe stains and buildup with a sponge, and as long as you check and balance your pool water regularly, maintenance is simple.
- Long lifespan. With proper maintenance, a fiberglass pool can last as long as 25 to 30 years.
- Lots of customization options. You can choose fiberglass swimming pools in a variety of colors, and you can even add extras like steps, tanning ledges, and water features.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Fiberglass pools cost about as much as a concrete pool. Part of this is due to high shipping costs, since fiberglass pools are pre-made off-site and shipped to you in one large piece.
- Fewer options for size and shape. Because fiberglass pools are pre-made, your choices for pool size and shape are somewhat limited.
- You need lots of room for delivery and installation. Your fiberglass swimming pool will arrive in one (very) large piece. You’ll need to make sure that your backyard and the surrounding area can accommodate an extra-wide delivery truck and possibly a crane.
Check with your HOA before you commit.
If you live somewhere with a homeowner’s association, it’s a good idea to double check to make sure that there aren’t any heavy equipment restrictions that would prevent you from having a fiberglass pool delivered and installed.
Many pool builders specialize in specific types of inground pools and some types of pools are more popular in certain areas. Be sure to check out the builder’s “products and services” offered on their website or give them a phone call.
Once you’ve chosen a pool type, the next step is choosing accessories:
Continue to Step 2:
Choose Accessories and Features