I get this is a question that I answer on the daily... AND I LOVE IT! The truth is, each style of pool can be a good fit for any one person. What is so great about this conversation is the fact that I cant tell you what pool is better, it is completely up to you! What I can do for you is, describe in as best detail as possible what each style of swimming pool is and give you the pros and cons for both . Through all of that you should have enough information needed to make your own decision. Lets get it going!
What is an in ground vinyl liner swimming pool?
To start, the vinyl liner it self is actually the surface or the membrane of the entire swimming pool. Made of colorized PVC vinyl, the liner is set in the pool and hung in the "bead track" which is located at the top of the pools wall. Once the liner is in proper position, it is vacuumed against the walls and floor, then the pool if filled with water.
Looking under the liner: Pool Walls
Typically the walls are constructed of 14 gauge stainless steel panels that are bolted together. The steel is a g235 stainless steel and will last a lifetime in the ground. If steel is not the right choice for you, vinyl liner pools can also be constructed with a polymer style of wall. Polymer is a corrosive resistant material that is made up of a blend resins.
Looking under the liner: Pool Floor
With a vinyl liner swimming pool, unlike a fiberglass or a gunite pool. The flooring is a separate structure from the walls. During excavation, the floor is dug out to specs with the machinery. Now, since we can not rest a liner on just dirt alone, we have to pour a vermiculite floor. Typically builders should use a mixture of vermiculite and portland, a popular brand would be Pool Crete. Pool Crete has similar properties to concrete but has a softer surface which is more forgiving on the liner. Also, Pool Crete does not crack like concrete, so you wont have to worry about jagged edges ripping the liner.
Hanging the liner:
Once the walls are up and the pool floor is poured it is now time to hang the liner.
The liner gets removed from the box and unfolded from inside the pool. Pool builders love it when the liner gets warmed up by sun making it easier to install by becoming more flexible. Once the liner is unfolded, the corners of the liner get matched up with the corners of the wall and the liner the crew begins to hang the liner. The liner gets shifted in to proper position so that their is not wrinkles. Then liner vacuums are hooked up behind the liner and the liner then gets sucked back removing all of the air behind the liner sucking it up against the walls and floor. Then you can being to fill the pool with water and cut in your pool fittings.
What are the pros of a vinyl liner swimming pool?
Cost- The most popular pro for vinyl liner swimming pools is the upfront cost. Initially a vinyl liner swimming pool is cheaper to purchase than any other style of swimming pool. This is simply due to the fact that the raw materials that make up the swimming pool (steel or polymer and vinyl) are very cheap to purchase and do not typically have large increases from year to year.
Custom Design- The second most popular feature for a vinyl liner swimming pool is that fact that you can customize them with very little limitations.
What are the cons of a vinyl liner swimming pool?
Liner Replacement- The number one con of a vinyl liner swimming pool is replacing the liner. Typically liners start around $3,000.00- and can go up from there depending on the size and how custom the pool is. We have seen liners last as much as 6 months and go passed 10 years. The average life expectancy of a swimming pool liners is 3 - 9 years.
Wrinkles in the liner- There is no doubt that a liner will wrinkle making it very difficult to clean the pool floor. It also makes the pool floor look ugly and old. Wrinkles happen with the overall age of the liner drying out or they happen because of chemical abuse. A simple overdose of chlorine that hits the liner in a certain spot can cause an unsightly wrinkle. Also if the pool chemistry stays out of balance long enough, the pH and Alkalinity can cause wrinkles as well.
Liner Fading- Along with the wrinkling of the liner you will also experience some signs of fading at some point. This is something again that will happen overtime or chemical abuse to pool water.
Coping discoloration- Most vinyl liner pools are constructed with what is called a coping channel. The coping is the top of the pool that the concrete gets poured into. So, it is literally where the top edge of the pool meets the concrete. This coping channel is aluminum and comes standard painted white. Builders install this style of coping simply because it is the cheapest priced product to install and to be honest it has just been that way forever. The problem with this coping is that it ages badly, the paint begins to fade or peel off and the natural aluminum color begins to appear. It is also another guarantee that it will need to be painted sometime in the future to avoid more discoloration. For a more professional and clean look you may opt to go for a concrete coping, but this is typically an increase in price.
Warranties: Although a liner warranty is typically 20 - 25 years long, the truth lies in the fact that they are "pro-rated." You might ask, "what does "pro-rated" mean?" Well, It is a fancy way of saying the warranty is portioned or chopped. Example: "Liner Manufacturer A" has a 25 year warranty on their liner, while reading the fine print you find out that you will only receive 100% protection for the first 3 years. After 3 years the liner is "pro-rated" and begins to loose its value after 3 years. After the first three years, pool "Liner Manufacturer A" will only cover the liner up 75% of the total cost, and then after 5 years "Liner Manufacturer A" will only cover the liner for 50% of the total cost etc. Until basically, they have washed their hands clean and they just chalk it up to "normal wear and tear," and cover almost nothing. Also it is important to understand that these warranties only cover manufacturer defect and do not cover rips or wrinkles caused by you. In addition, water and labor are to be paid by the pool owner as well.
So there you have it! The definition of what a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool is and the pros and cons associated with it. In the next section I will describe to you what a fiberglass swimming pool is and what the associated pros and cons of it will be as well!
What is a fiberglass swimming pool?
A fiberglass swimming pool is a one piece pool constructed upside down on a mold. Manufactured with multiple layers that consist of a gel coat layer, a vinyl ester layer, and many layers of fiberglass afterward to give the pool its strength and high quality finish. Once the pool is completed it is the lifted off of the mold and ready to be delivered.
Below Is an image of the process River Pools Powered by Thursday Pools uses when they manufacturer their fiberglass swimming pools. Below you will find an "exploded" image of the interior of a fiberglass pool with the associated "call-outs"
The Composite Sandwich of Awesomeness is a fun term that they use to describe their technique of manufacturing simply because fiberglass pools are made of layers just like a sandwich!
What are the pros of a fiberglass pool?
Low Cost of Maintenance - As mentioned earlier, the finish of a fiberglass pool is the called the gel coat. The gel coat has a very low porous finish. This means in a fiberglass pool the algae will not attach to the surface and can simply be removed by a light brushing. With this smooth non porous finish it leaves no places for algae to hide and stay attached such as the seam or a wrinkle in the liner. For these reasons, fiberglass pool owners typically spend 75% less time and money maintaining their pools.
Durability - Known as the strongest pool in the swimming pool industry. There is no need to worry about damaging the pools surface. Unlike a vinyl liner where we have seen holes punctured by a dogs claws, shingles off of a roof, patio furniture, robotic pool cleaners, swimming pool vacuum pole and many more. Even if the surface does get damaged it is typically a simple fix and not the $3k-$5K of replacing a liner.
Attractive Look - A fiberglass finish is considered by many to be the most luxurious looking swimming pool on the market. This is due to advancements in the industry such as beautiful colored finishes, ceramic tile, tanning ledges, water features, stunning pool lights, elevated spas, poolside walls, etc. The actual gel coat finish it self is very similar to the finish you would find with a quartz counter top. With a base color under tone, a speckled color and a glittered finish!
Compatibility with Salt Systems - With no surfaces that can deteriorate such with a vinyl liner pool aluminum coping or the possibility of a steel wall pool panel. Salt systems are a proven way to simplify pool chemistry and shorten the time you have to maintain the water chemistry.
Low Lifetime Cost of Ownership - With a chart that was created from our friends at River Pools Powered By Thursday Pools. Below you will see a "10 Year Pool Cost Projection"
Which Swimming Pool Is Better: Fiberglass VS Vinyl Liner VS Concrete
What are the cons of a fiberglass swimming pool?
Cost- Although fiberglass pools are the cheapest to own in the long term. The biggest con associated with a fiberglass pool is the initial cost of the pool. On average we see fiberglass pool to be about 15% more expensive than vinyl liners on initial purchase point. As you can see from the chart above, even though the initial cost of fiberglass is a bit more than a vinyl liner, you spend far less in the long run when factoring in the cost of liner replacements every 5 to 9 years.
Not Customizable - With fiberglass pools, what you see is what you get. You can not customize the shape or move any of the stairs, ledges or benches.
Which swimming pool is better: Fiberglass or Vinyl liner?
Like I said before, the great thing about this topic is that it is completely up to you. I honestly can not tell you what pool will work for you and your family. All I can do is show you the highes and lows of each product. Maybe you have a dog that loves to swim so you know you can get a liner. Or maybe the fiberglass shapes do not suit your style so you want to custom design a liner pool, totaly your choice! Below I have one last image of desired pool qualities for each style of pool also created by River Pools Powered By Thursday. This is just a quick summary of everything we discussed in this aticle so you dont have to keep scrolling back and forth on the page for info!
Well I hope that I have filled you with enough information so you can make your own educated decision on what pool is right for you and your family!