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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Vinyl Liner, Fiberglass, and Concrete Swimming Pools

  • September 18, 2017
  • 3 Minute Read
  • Pools

On my initial meeting with a client, one of the first questions is usually, “which type of pool is best in Lincoln, Nebraska?” Even if they’ve attempted to do their research before our meeting, it is not easy to find honest answers to this question. First of all, it seems like the only sources of information on the internet are manufacturer’s web sites, which are obviously biased toward their own product. If the client has consulted with another pool professional who specializes in vinyl liners or fiberglass, I can always tell because they come armed with the comment, “I heard that concrete pools don’t work in our harsh Nebraska climate.” However, If they have talked to somebody who only builds concrete pools, they have undoubtedly heard horror stories about fiberglass pools popping out of the ground.

In the interest of full disclosure, we build all three types of pools and the truth is any of these will work in most situations. The main thing is it is engineered and built correctly for the project site and soil conditions. Beyond that, you want to make sure that the finished product will fit your needs and style. With that said, here are some things to keep in mind when making the decision:

Vinyl Liner Pools

Advantages:

  • Lowest initial cost: Vinyl liner pools have the lowest initial cost of the three types of in-ground pools.
  • Customizable shape and size: There are no limitations of the length, width, and depth of vinyl liner pools.
  • Vinyl liner pools are non-abrasive: The vinyl liner material is smooth to the touch.
  • Uncomplicated to refinish surface: Liner replacement is relatively quick and clean and can be completed in a day or two without any heavy equipment.

Disadvantages:

  • Consider lifetime cost: The average life of a vinyl liner is between 5 and 7 years at a replacement expense of $4,000-$6,000 including labor and materials.
  • Have to use care with the pool liner: While liners are made of durable material, sharp objects, pets, and patio furniture falling in the pool are all concerns.
  • May not work on challenging sites: If the site has a major slope or ground water present, a vinyl liner may not be the best choice.

Fiberglass pools

Advantages:

  • Low maintenance: The gel coat surface of the fiberglass pool shell is nonporous.
  • Consider lifetime cost: Most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty against leakage.
  • Non-abrasive surface: The gel coat surface of fiberglass pools is smooth to the touch.
  • Built-in Steps and Benches: Most fiberglass pool designs have seating and all have steps incorporated into the shell of the pool.
  • Quick installation: The shell is manufactured off-site and delivered on a trailer. Since a big part of the work is done off site, the installation time is short.

Disadvantages:

  • Limited shapes and designs: Because fiberglass pools are built from a mold, the consumer is limited to the shapes and sizes offered by the various fiberglass pool manufacturers.
  • No wider than 16′: Fiberglass pools are shipped via the road. Shipping restrictions limit the width of the fiberglass pool shell to 16′ to the outside of the pool. Most inside dimensions are about 14’ maximum.
  • Repairs on some colored finishes do not match: Many fiberglass pool manufacturers use colored finishes that do not match in the event that a repair is needed.
  • Consider lifetime cost: The lifetime warranty usually does not cover fading or cracking of the surface. It also may not cover damage due to natural causes like ground water.
  • Higher initial cost: Fiberglass pools cost more than vinyl liner pools to build.
  • May not work for challenging sites: If the site has a major slope or ground water present, it may not be the best choice.

Concrete Pools

Advantages:

  • Customizable size and shape: Concrete pools can be any size, shape, or style. There are almost no limits to what can be done.
  • The Best option for challenging sites: With the proper engineering, a concrete pool can be build on the side of a hill or virtually anywhere.
  • Design freedom: Vanishing edges, beach entries, shallow lounging areas, etc. are all possible with a concrete pool.
  • Finish materials: Concrete pools can be integrated into a design with materials such as tile and stone to become a piece of landscape art.
  • Permanent installation: This is the only type of pool that is a permanent structure.

Disadvantages:

  • Higher cost of installation: Because of the materials and specialty labor involved, concrete pools are typically the most expensive to install.
  • Porous surface: Water care is important to prevent staining or deterioration of the finish material.
  • Longer install time: Concrete pools typically take longest to install of the three choices.