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Vinyl vs. Fiberglass vs. Concrete Pools: What’s the Best Inground Pool?

May 20, 2022

Inground swimming pool with a waterfall feature

A backyard pool is one of the luxuries in life that cab be worth the investment. To get the most out of your pool, you need to carefully consider the many material options available. The best type of inground swimming pool for your home and your family may not be the same one your neighbor has. Find out the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl, fiberglass and concrete to make the most informed decision for your family’s pool type.

What to Consider When Choosing Inground Pool Materials

Your first decision is whether or not to buy a swimming pool for your home. You then will have several options for the materials, size and design. Most swimming pools use concrete, fiberglass or vinyl in their construction. Each of these materials has benefits and downsides that may make one the best choice for you.

When deciding if you should get a fiberglass pool, vinyl pool liner or concrete pool, consider the following attributes of the material and the finished pool:

Initial Cost

You will spend the most upfront for your pool’s installation. The materials used in the pool’s construction will factor heavily into the total price along with installation costs. Create a budget before you start pool shopping to establish parameters for what you can afford.

Long-Term Cost

You should also consider how long the pool will last. Longer-lasting materials, such as concrete, will provide a better return on the initial cost over time, as you won’t need to replace them or put as much money and time into upkeep.

Maintenance

To ensure you get a long life from whatever type of swimming pool you have, you need to maintain it properly. This maintenance includes regular cleanings, draining and filling between seasons and making repairs to the structure. Think about the cost of cleaning supplies, as well as whether you’ll take care of maintenance yourself or hire someone to do it.

Shapes Available

If you have an irregular space in your yard for a pool, you may want a material that can conform to that area to maximize the swimming space you have. Not all swimming pool materials can do this.

 

Uniquely shaped inground swimming pool with waterfall feature

 

Pool Size

The size of the swimming pool in your backyard should factor in the length, width and depth of the pool. You will also need to allow for ample space around the pool for safe access to the water. Remember that the size of your pool will also impact the initial cost. Larger pools cost more because they require more time and materials for installation. Plus, you will spend more time maintaining a larger pool than a smaller one.

Colors and Finishes

What colors and finishes do you want to choose from for your new pool? Your choice of material will limit your options for both. With an inground design, this factor only influences the inside of your pool.

Vinyl pools have a liner that can be smooth or embossed. Fiberglass swimming pools have a gel coating covering the fiberglass shell. This coating comes in shades of gray, white or blue and can be textured to reduce slipping. Concrete pools have the greatest range of colors and finishes, from epoxy paint to tiles.

Pros and Cons of Vinyl Liner Swimming Pools

You can have an affordable inground pool if you choose vinyl liner as the material. These types of pools cost the least and conform to the shape of the frame that supports the liner. So should you get a swimming pool made with a vinyl liner? See how the pros and cons compare to help you determine if a vinyl pool fulfills your pool needs.

Why Should You Choose a Vinyl Pool?

The perks of vinyl pools make them a popular option for many homes that want affordable pools in a range of sizes with easy installation. The advantages of vinyl pools include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: The greatest advantage of vinyl pools comes from their upfront cost. Initially, these pools are the most cost-effective to purchase and install. They consist of panels that create the frame and the liner installed inside it. These materials are readily available to most manufacturers and install quickly. Due to the lower cost of materials and installation, these pools are less expensive than concrete or fiberglass alternatives.
  • Style variety: Because the pools start with a frame made of modular panels, they have a large range of shapes and styles to fit any yard. If you have limited space for a pool or want a custom-designed shape, you can easily find affordable options in vinyl pools. Plus, vinyl pools can fit larger spaces than fiberglass pools.
  • Quick installation: These pools take much less time to install than concrete pools. They don’t require the extensive processes required of concrete pools. You can get your vinyl pool installed in just a few weeks.
  • Suitability for spaces with tight access: If you have a tight space in your yard or houses that are close together in your neighborhood, getting a fiberglass pool shell into your backyard may be impossible. Since vinyl pools are constructed on-site, you don’t have to worry about installers getting large equipment between houses.

What to Consider With Vinyl Pools

Like all pool materials, vinyl is not perfect. It has some drawbacks that may make fiberglass or concrete the best choice for your home. Weigh the following disadvantages against your expectations and needs for a swimming pool to see if you can live with them or if you need to choose a fiberglass or concrete pool:

  • Life span: The most concerning downside to owning a vinyl pool is its life span. While the panels last a lifetime, you will have to replace the vinyl liner at least every decade. Physical damage to the liner from cuts or algae damage from poor pool care will shorten the life span of the liner.
  • Cost of ownership: Due to the need to replace the liner every 10 years, vinyl liner pools have a higher lifetime cost than fiberglass pools, which are low maintenance. If you will own the home where you have your pool installed for more than 10 years, factor this lifetime cost into the overall cost of ownership for your swimming pool.
  • Pool care: You need to be judicious with your pool cleaning and care. These pools have a greater susceptibility to both algae growth and stains, especially if you leave debris in the pool for too long. When not in use, keep the pool’s surface protected from leaves and wildlife with a pool cover.
  • Sensitive material: The vinyl liner for a pool can get cut by sharp objects. Therefore, you need to be careful when cleaning the pool to avoid tearing the liner and needing to prematurely replace it. You should also avoid having rocks and pebbles around the pool, as those could get in the water and tear the liner.

For some people, the downsides of owning a vinyl pool are not significant enough to dissuade them from investing in this type of pool. But others may prefer a pool with a lower lifetime cost or maintenance requirements.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fiberglass Swimming Pools

Woman lounging by a swimming pool

Fiberglass liner swimming pools have a molded shell that fits into the ground. These have lower installation times than concrete pools but fewer design options than vinyl pools. Compare the following pros and cons of fiberglass pools to decide if you should choose this option for your backyard.

Choose a Fiberglass Swimming Pool for These Benefits

Check out the pros of fiberglass swimming pools:

  • Durability: Fiberglass swimming pools have a durable construction that lasts decades. The material used for these pools may last for half a century and require little care to last that life span. Fiberglass is not as susceptible to damage from sharp objects as vinyl liners are.
  • Minimal maintenance: Fiberglass pools have the lowest maintenance requirements of the three main pool materials. The fiberglass does not require liner replacement, draining to repair cracks or regular scrubbing off of algae stains. With routine pool care, you can keep your fiberglass pool looking great for years.
  • Quality gel liner: Fiberglass pools have a smooth gelcoat inside to protect the interior from algae and UV damage. Though smooth, the surface still offers some slip resistance for those in the pool. Since the coating resists algae staining, you won’t spend time over the lifetime of owning the pool scrubbing off stains on the interior.
  • Quick installation: Fiberglass pools have a fast installation time. In some cases, they may take less time to install than vinyl liner pools, and they almost always require less installation time and effort than concrete pools.
  • Style variety: With fiberglass pools, you have several options to choose from for shapes, including options for stairs, benches or ledges inside the pool. You cannot usually get these interior options with vinyl liner pools.

Keep These Fiberglass Pool Qualities in Mind

The potential downsides of owning fiberglass pools stem more from the installation process than from the attributes of the pool itself. If you want to buy a fiberglass pool, choosing a trusted installer and providing them with adequate space can mitigate some of the disadvantages, which include:

  • Size limits: While fiberglass pools have a range of molded shapes, they have limits to their sizes. The pool shell comes to your backyard intact. You usually can’t find these types of pools in large sizes due to the logistics of getting the pool to your home.
  • Installation requirements: The installation process requires enough space to get the pool shell into your backyard plus the heavy equipment needed to carry it there. Poor installation can negatively affect the quality and life span of the pool.
  • Cost: Due to the many issues with installation and the materials used, fiberglass pools cost more than vinyl liner swimming pools. However, they still cost much less than concrete pools.
  • Warping: Fiberglass can warp when the installer replaces the backfill into the hole around the pool. As with other aspects of installation, an experienced pool installation contractor can prevent damage to the pool shell, including warping or structural failure.

If you want a fiberglass pool, choose a highly experienced, professional contractor for the installation to avoid the most common disadvantages of this type of swimming pool.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Concrete Pools

A concrete swimming pool is an investment that may last longer than your house. These pools are highly customizable and have a structure that lasts decades. Like vinyl and fiberglass pools, concrete pools are not perfect and have pros and cons to their ownership.

Why a Concrete Pool May Be Right for You

These pros of concrete pools may make them the right choice for your backyard:

  • Customizability: Many people choose these pools due to the ability to create personalized designs to fit in their backyards. The only limitation to these pools’ sizes or designs is the amount of space you have available in your backyard. If you want a custom pool in an unusual shape or a large size, concrete allows for the greatest range of options.
  • Durability: Concrete is extremely durable, with the pool structure often lasting longer than even fiberglass pools. Sharp objects typically won’t damage the pool’s structure, and you can choose a variety of interiors, including plaster coatings, paint, tile or aggregate.
  • Aesthetic quality: Concrete swimming pools are luxurious additions to homes across the country due to their attractiveness. With customizable options for the style, size, shape and interior, concrete pools often look the best. If you want a colorful, tiled pool interior in a large pool with an unusual shape, concrete can fulfill your pool dreams.

A concrete swimming pool being installed

Concrete Pool Factors to Consider

If you’re thinking about diving into a concrete pool, keep these potential downsides in mind:

  • Cost and installation: The most significant downsides to concrete pools are their cost and installation times. The cost of these pools is the highest of the three styles, but the pool can last much longer than fiberglass or vinyl pools. Part of this high cost is the installation, which can take several weeks or months to complete, depending on weather conditions and the size of your pool.
  • Maintenance: Once installed, concrete pools have heavy maintenance requirements. Algae can easily stain their interiors. To prevent this staining, you need to keep the pool chemistry carefully balanced. You’ll also need to vacuum and scrub the pool at least once a week to remove existing algae. You will also need acid washing of plaster-lined pools at least once every five years. In some cases, you will also need touchups or relining of the pool every decade.
  • Interior texture: The interior of concrete pools is often rough and can scrape the feet of those using the pool. Even if you have recently refinished the pool’s interior, it will still have a rough surface.

Concrete pools are beautiful, high-maintenance additions to your home. If you can keep up the care of one of these pools, it will provide you with decades of swimming in an attractive oasis in your backyard.

Find Accessories for Your Home’s Best Type of Inground Pool From SPQ Brands

SPQ Brands has more than 20 years of experience manufacturing pool accessories to make any swimming site in your backyard better. Whether you want a pool heater to extend your swimming season or covers to keep out leaves, you’ll find these and much more from our trusted line of products.

Contact us today to learn more about the best accessories to personalize your swimming pool, whether you choose to install a vinyl, fiberglass or concrete model.

Solar pool heating panels on the roof of a home with an inground pool