What Is the Best Type of Pool for Cold Climates? Concrete vs. Fiberglass vs. Vinyl Liner
Did you know that people in some northern states ice skate on their inground pools during the winter? Yep, it gets that cold.
If you live in an area where people skate on their pools as much as they swim in them, you might have questions like:
What is the best type of pool for cold climates?
What problems can occur when a pool freezes?
Are fiberglass pools ok in cold weather? What about concrete and vinyl pools?
More importantly, when you live in a cold climate, your swim season tends to be much shorter than it does for those of us living in warmer areas. And because you only get a few precious months out of the year to swim in your inground pool, you’ll likely want to make sure that your pool isn’t more trouble than it’s worth.
Inground pools can be very high maintenance depending on the type, and we want you to be aware of any problems that you may encounter with a frozen pool in your backyard.
At River Pools, we manufacture fiberglass pools for customers across North America, including cold weather states like Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Colorado, Ohio, and North Dakota. In this article, we’ll explain how each inground pool type fares in freezing conditions, as well as some problems that you can encounter when your pool freezes.
Let’s dive in.
Concrete Pools in Cold Climates
Concrete or gunite pools are the most common pool type across the country, including many of the cold northern states. These pools are made up of rebar, sprayed concrete, and a surface material like plaster (most common), pebble, or tile. They are also the most expensive of the inground pool types and the most labor and cost-intensive to maintain.
Most pool contractors who build concrete pools in cold areas will build them with additional support to better withstand freezing temperatures. This helps a little, but you might still experience issues with your concrete pool over the winter.
Problems with Concrete Pools in Cold Climates
The biggest problem that you can run into with a concrete pool in cold weather is structural cracks in the concrete caused by freeze and thaw cycles. Concrete expands and contracts as the temperature goes from freezing to mild and can crack in the process. Structural concrete pool cracks can cause leaks or lead to bigger issues if they shift the pool plumbing.
The bottom line: Cracks are common in concrete structures, especially in cold weather, but they are fixable.
Read more: Concrete Pool Repair: Structural Problems
Does plaster crack in cold weather?
Structural problems are the number one concern for concrete inground pools in cold weather, but you may also see issues with plaster surfaces. Pool plaster has a tendency to crack, and you may see small hairline cracks forming over time due to freezing and thawing. Although pool plaster cracks are often minor and won’t cause leaks or major damage, they can be pricey to repair.
Fiberglass Pools in Cold Climates
Fiberglass pools are still relatively unknown in many areas across the country, so it’s not uncommon for people to ask us, “Are fiberglass pools good in cold climates?”
In our experience, fiberglass pools function well in frigid temperatures because they are made with highly flexible materials (various types of fiberglass for the structure and resins for the pool’s gelcoat surface). Freezing and thawing won’t strain or crack a fiberglass pool like it might with a concrete pool, so you shouldn’t have to worry as much about your pool cracking or breaking.
Problems with Fiberglass Pools in Cold Climates
We pour concrete around the fiberglass pool shell to lock it in place and add more concrete under tanning ledges, steps, and benches. Many customers also choose a concrete pool patio because it tends to be more affordable than other decking materials.
There’s always a risk that your concrete pool patio and the concrete poured around your pool can crack in freezing weather. However, although it might not look pretty, these cracks shouldn’t cause any leaks or damage to the pool itself because the concrete doesn’t make up the actual structure or surface of the pool.
The bottom line: Fiberglass pools come with minimal risks in cold weather, including a lowered risk of cracking and pool leaks.
Vinyl Liner Pools in Cold Climates
Vinyl liner pools are universally known as the most budget-friendly inground pools, and for this reason, we also see them a lot in colder areas of the country. The structure is held in place using poured concrete, much like a fiberglass pool, but the walls of the pool are made of metal or polymer and aren’t prone to cracking in cold weather (they also aren’t as durable in harsh climates). However, you can run into some problems with the vinyl liner surface over the winter months.
Problems with Vinyl Liner Pools in Cold Climates
The liner material in a vinyl liner pool is fragile and can be prone to cracking in extreme temperatures. When the pool freezes in the winter, your pool liner might become brittle and form cracks or tears, which can also lead to leaks.
If your pool develops a leak in the winter, your only option may be to wait until the warmer weather comes around to have it fixed, leaving you open to even more damage in the meantime.
The bottom line: The pool liner can develop cracks and tears when it freezes. The structure of a vinyl liner pool isn’t prone to cracking, but it’s also not very durable in extreme weather.
What is the best type of pool for cold climates?
Fiberglass pools tend to be the least problematic in freezing conditions. This is because the materials used in the surface and structure of the pool are flexible and can withstand both high and low temperatures.
Vinyl pool liners can develop cracks in deep freezes, while concrete pool plaster and the structure of a concrete pool can crack with freeze and thaw cycles.
Can I leave my inground pool empty over the winter?
You might be tempted to drain your pool and leave it empty over the winter months to reduce the impact of freezing weather, and while we understand the logic, it’s simply not a good idea. Your biggest problem would be your pool floating out of the ground due to the pool being empty.
This can happen to an empty pool when the groundwater levels increase and would be MUCH worse than anything a freeze-thaw cycle could do. In addition, pool liners can become even more brittle if the pool is left empty, which pretty much guarantees new cracks.
Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing your inground pool type besides how your pool will fare in cold weather. Some of the most important points to think about when shopping for an inground pool include cost, maintenance, designs, and materials.
If you want to compare the three main inground pool types in depth, you can download our free ebook below or visit one of our online guides next:
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass pools for customers across North America. If you are interested in installing a durable fiberglass pool in your backyard, you can visit our pool gallery, try out our pool pricing calculator tool, or request custom pricing using the button below. Happy swimming!