Most swimming pools are made from concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I will run through the basics of each pool type below to help you make the right decision.
- Some factors to consider when choosing a concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl pool include: intial and long-term costs, maintenance, shape, style, size, and installation.
- Concrete pools are the best option if you’re looking for a durable pool with flexible customization.
- Fiberglass pools are the best option if you’re looking for a smaller pool that is durable and easy to maintain.
- Vinyl pools are the best option if you’re looking for a great middle option in terms of cost, customization, and maintenance.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pool
Here are some of the factors you should look at when considering a new pool:
- Initial Cost: What is your budget for installing the pool?
- Long-Term Cost: You need to consider durability when comparing pool types.
- Maintenance: Some types of pools require more maintenance than others.
- Shape and Style: Do you already have an idea of what you want your pool to look like? What features it needs to have?
- Size: Do you want a large or very deep pool? Make sure it’s the right fit for your backyard.
Concrete pools are made with a shotcrete base (also known as gunite) – a mixture of cement and sand sprayed with a high-powered hose onto a steel bar frame that can contour to whatever shape you want for your pool. After the shotcrete is set, a cement plaster is poured over the top, giving your pool a nice decorative finish. The budget for a concrete pool is usually upwards of $50,000.
Advantages of Concrete Pools
Concrete is highly durable. You don’t have to worry about sharp objects breaking the concrete. Although some maintenance is involved, you can rest assured that the concrete is a durable option.
Concrete pools can be created in almost any shape and size. The world is your oyster in the planning part of building your swimming pool.
Concrete pools themselves can last up to 20 years, although they may require refinishing or resurfacing before this.
Disadvantages of Concrete Pools
Concrete pools usually cost the most to install and resurface. To build a concrete pool, you must pour concrete, which generally means hiring someone to do the job. You’ll also have to resurface concrete pools every 4-7 years.
Fiberglass pools are made from a finished fiberglass shell set into an appropriately-shaped hole in the ground. They are manufactured off-site and trucked to the residence. To prevent the fiberglass from bowing in either direction, the hole is backfilled with sand while the water is pumped into the pool. The cost of a fiberglass pool is usually $35,000 or more.
Advantages of Fiberglass Pools
Most fiberglass pools will last 25 years or more. You will have to do very little to maintain these pools and keep them running smoothly for decades.
Fiberglass is a naturally smooth surface, so it is an excellent option if you want a smooth feel and aesthetic vs. the more natural feel of a concrete pool.
You will spend less money and time maintaining the chemical level of your fiberglass pool. Fiberglass pools are non-reactive and typically require fewer chemicals than other pools.
Fiberglass pools generally require very little maintenance during their lifetime. This means that fiberglass is also typically the least expensive overall.
A fiberglass pool can take as little as a week to install. Fiberglass pools come premade in their exact shape and can simply be placed into the hole in your yard and sealed up. You may need to hire someone for this job as it usually involves heavy machinery to lift the pool.
Disadvantages of Fiberglass Pools
Fiberglass shells are constructed off-site, so you cannot customize the shape and design. So if customization is important to you, fiberglass pools are not the best option, as they come in a limited range of shapes and styles.
Since fiberglass pools are pre-constructed and must be able to be trucked to the site, this usually means they are smaller on average than concrete and vinyl pools.
Vinyl pools are created by making a frame for the pool within a suitably shaped hole in the ground and then placing wall panels and a vinyl liner. The vinyl liner is flexible and has seams to match the shape of the pool. Vinyl pools are the cheapest option, at around $25,000 to $35,000.
Advantages of Vinyl Pools
Vinyl pools are the most budget-friendly pool option. The vinyl material is very affordable and generally does not require an expert to install it, making it the cheapest pool in terms of the initial price.
Size and shape
Vinyl pools are built on-site, so there are virtually no limitations on the size and shape of a vinyl pool. You can design the pool’s shape and size to your preferences.
Concrete pools will likely have an abrasive surface unless you have a smooth finish. The surface of a vinyl pool is non-abrasive, so if you are looking for a smoother and less natural feel, vinyl pools are a good option.
Disadvantages of Vinyl Pools
Vinyl pools are made of a relatively thin sheet of vinyl. So naturally, most vinyl pool liners aren’t very durable and must be replaced every 5 to 9 years.
Vinyl liners are prone to punctures and tears. The smallest stick or rock can eventually tear a vinyl liner due to the amount of pressure on the liner when it is filled with water.
Over the pool’s lifetime, vinyl will often be the most expensive option due to high maintenance and replacement costs. You will likely have to fix repairs often, and you will need to partially drain the pool to repair the liner’s sections. The liner also needs a complete replacement after only 5-9 years, which is not very long compared to fiberglass and concrete pools.
Comparing Concrete, Fiberglass, and Vinyl Pools
To help you make your decision, here are some handy charts that break down and compare each pool type by major consideration factors.
|$30,000 – $200,000
|$17,000 – $62,000
|$25,000 – $35,000
|Cost to maintain over 10 years: $27,000+
|Cost to maintain over 10 years: $3,700
|Cost to maintain over 10 years: $13,000
Vinyl is the cheapest pool type when you only look at the initial cost. However, the long-term cost of a vinyl pool may surprise people. The high long-term cost comes from the need to replace the liner every 5-9 years. When you replace the liner, you’re looking at shelling out around $5,000.
On the other hand, concrete is by far the most expensive type of pool, both in terms of initial cost and long-term costs. Fiberglass may be middling in terms of the initial cost, but it is a much cheaper pool when you look at the costs over the pool’s lifetime.
Maintenance and Durability
|Most maintenance involved
|Easiest pool to maintain
|Some maintenance is involved
|Lifespan of up to 20 years but needs resurfacing every 4-7 years
|Lifespan of 25 years or more
|Lifespan of liner around 5-9 years
Fiberglass is by far the easiest pool to maintain. Plus, you will spend a lot less time and money on chemicals to maintain a fiberglass pool. Vinyl liner pools are also relatively to maintain. However, it’s worth noting that the liner is prone to punctures and tears, making this type of pool harder to look after. Concrete pools require the most maintenance; they require more chemicals and acid washing to keep the pool clean.
In terms of the overall durability of each type of pool, fiberglass lasts the longest, as it has a lifespan of around 25 years. While concrete pools come close, resurfacing is needed every 4-7 years.
Shape and Size
|Shape, style, and design options
|Complete control over shape, style, and design
|Not much room for customization
|Many design options
|No size limitations
|Smaller on average than other pools
|No size limitations
Concrete pools should be your pick if customization is important to you. Not only do you have complete control over the design of your pool, but you can build it to any size and shape. If you have a particular pool shape in mind, concrete offers the most flexibility. There are a few design options for vinyl as well, since contractors build the pool on-site. Fiberglass pools don’t offer much room for customization, as these pools are constructed off-site. And since fiberglass pools are pre-constructed and trucked over, they also tend to be smaller than concrete or vinyl pools.
|Installation process and time
|45 to 75 days
|25 to 45 days
Concrete pools take the longest to install, sometimes taking months. Generally, pool owners will start the process in the winter, but it won’t be a pretty sight in your backyard! Vinyl liner pools are much easier and faster to install than concrete pools, usually done in a matter of weeks. And finally, fiberglass pools have the fastest installation time, as most of the work takes place off-site. To install a fiberglass pool, you simply place the pre-made pool into the excavated hole.
Need Help Building Your Pool?
I offer design consulting services to help you build your ideal pool. I'll work with your contractor, create build-ready designs and specs, and much more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better: fiberglass or vinyl pools?
Fiberglass pools are more durable, long-lasting, easier to install, and cost less over time than vinyl pools. They are generally a better option if you have a large budget and don’t mind having limited customization options. If cost is a big concern or you want to customize the shape and size of your pool, a vinyl pool may be the better option.
Are vinyl or concrete pools better?
Concrete pools are the most expensive option, but they are highly durable and will last a very long time. On the other hand, vinyl pools are much more cost-effective but easier to tear and will need to be replaced much more frequently. I would go for a concrete pool if you have the money to do so, but vinyl pools are still a good option if you are on a tighter budget!
Are fiberglass or concrete pools better?
This is a tough one. Both fiberglass and concrete pools last a long time and are extremely durable. But concrete pools are more flexible as you can design the pool in any way you wish. However, fiberglass pools require less upkeep and can be installed very fast. Both are great options for your pool, but I recommend going for a fiberglass pool if you want to save money and time on maintenance. For more customization options, go with a concrete pool.
More Questions? I Can Help!
If you have more questions about the differences between concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl pools, I’ll be happy to answer them. Just shoot me an email via the contact form.