Swimming Pool Comparison Guide: Concrete vs. Fiberglass vs. Vinyl

Most swimming pools are made from concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I run through the basics of each pool type below to help you make the right decision.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pool

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a pool. Cost is always an important factor, and it involves not only the installation of the pool, but also the pool deck, ongoing maintenance, and any repair work needed.

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

Concrete pools are made with a shotcrete base (also known as gunite) – a mixture of cement and sand that’s sprayed using a high-powered hose onto a steel bar frame that you can contour to whatever shape you want for your pool. After the shotcrete is set, a cement plaster is poured over top that gives your pool that nice decorative finish. The budget for a concrete pool is usually upwards of $50,000.

Advantages of Concrete Pools:

Durability

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.

Flexibility

Concrete pools can be created in almost any shape and size. The world is your oyster when it comes to the planning part of building your pool.

Longevity

Concrete pools themselves can last up to 20 years, although they may require refinishing or resurfacing prior to this.

Disadvantages of Concrete Pools:

Price

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

Fiberglass pools are made from a finished fiberglass shell that is set into an appropriately-shaped hole in the ground. They are manufactured off-site and trucked to the residence. In order to prevent the fiberglass from bowing in either direction, the hole is back-filled with sand while the water is being pumped into the pool. The cost of a fiberglass pool is usually $35,000 or more.

Advantages of Fiberglass Pools:

Longevity

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.

Smooth Surface

Fiberglass is a naturally smooth surface, so it is a great option if you want a smooth feel and aesthetic vs. the more natural feel of a concrete pool.

Chemical Use

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 the other types of pools.

Cost

Fiberglass pools generally require very little maintenance during their lifetime. This means that fiberglass is also typically the least expensive overall.

Rapid Installation

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:

Shape

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.

Size

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

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:

Cost

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.

Smooth Surface

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:

Short Lifespan

Vinyl pools are made of a fairly thin sheet of vinyl. So naturally, most vinyl pool liners aren’t very durable and must be replaced every 5 to 9 years.

Fragility

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.

Cost

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 full replacement after only 5-9 years, which is not very long in comparison to fiberglass and concrete pools.

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FAQ

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 be able 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 extremely 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 would recommend going for a fiberglass pool because you will save money and time on maintenance, and your pool ownership will be easier overall!

More Questions? I Can Help!

If you have more questions about the differences among concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl pools, I’ll be happy to answer them. Just shoot me an email via the contact form.

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