Fiberglass Pools vs. Vinyl Liner Pools vs. Concrete Pools: An Honest Comparison
Is there an unbiased comparison of fiberglass inground pools, vinyl liner pools, and concrete pools on the internet?
A client who recently reached out to me doesn't think so. He stated in an email:
"As you're no doubt well aware, it's a desert wasteland when trying to find information on pools... Sorting through the internet for useable information is difficult in the extreme. Of the few forums I've found, most devolve into trolls arguing gunite pools vs. fiberglass pools vs. vinyl liner pools - over and over and over and over.
"What would help a great deal is to find some kind of unbiased information that explains each pool in detail and then backs off - letting me (or the customer) make the final decision."
Well, Michael, this article is my effort to provide an objective source of information about the three types of inground swimming pools. The approach is simple. I list the advantages and disadvantages of fiberglass inground pools, vinyl liner pools, and concrete pools...then "back off" so you can form your own opinion.
Our free guide allows you to thoroughly compare fiberglass, concrete, and vinyl liner pools to find the one that's best for you.
Fiberglass Pools Pros and Cons
Pros of a Fiberglass Pool
Fiberglass pools have some substantial advantages over vinyl and concrete, but there are some disadvantages as well.
- Low maintenance: The gelcoat surface of the fiberglass pool shell is nonporous. This inhibits the growth of algae and reduces the amount of sanitizing chemicals required to maintain the pool.
Little or no lifetime cost: 99% of the time, there is never any money invested in the shell of fiberglass pools. No vinyl liner to replace and no resurfacing.
Non-abrasive surface: The gel coat surface of fiberglass pools is smooth to the touch.
- Built-in seats and steps: Most fiberglass swimming pool designs have seating, and all have steps incorporated into the shell of the pool.
- Manufactured in a controlled environment: Fiberglass pools are built in the controlled climate of a factory.
- Quick installation: Because the shells of fiberglass pools are built off-site, the installation occurs more rapidly...3-6 weeks on average.
- Beautiful: You can do amazing things with a fiberglass swimming pool, such as beautiful colored finishes, ceramic tile, tanning ledges, water features, stunning pool lights, elevated spas, poolside walls, and more.
Cons of a Fiberglass Pool
- Limited shapes and swimming pool designs: Because fiberglass pools are built from a mold, the consumer is limited to the shapes and sizes offered by the various fiberglass pool manufacturers.
- No wider than 16': Fiberglass pools are shipped via the road. Shipping restrictions limit the width of the fiberglass pool shell to 16 feet.
- Repairs on some colored finishes do not match: Many fiberglass pool manufacturers use colored finishes that do not match in the unlikely event that a repair is needed. However, a solid surface gelcoat will help prevent this issue.
- Higher initial cost: Fiberglass pools are more of an initial investment—usually at least $10,000 more than vinyl liner pools and about the same as concrete pools.
Vinyl Liner Pools Pros and Cons
Pros of a Vinyl Liner Pool
- Low initial cost: Vinyl liner pools have the lowest initial swimming pool cost of any of the three types of inground pools.
- Customizable shape and size: There are no limitations of the length, width, and depth of vinyl liner pools.
- Nonabrasive surface: The vinyl liner material is smooth to the touch.
- Doesn't foster algae: The vinyl material used in vinyl liner pools is also relatively non-porous, so it inhibits algae growth.
Cons of a Vinyl Liner Pool
- Higher lifetime cost: On average, a vinyl liner will last 5-9 years at a replacement expense of $2,500-$3,500 plus the cost of water. It usually adds up to $4000-$4500.
- Liner warranties are pro-rated: Many vinyl liner manufacturers have a 20-year pro-rated warranty...read the fine print.
- Have to use the pool with care: Dogs, kids throwing stuff in the pool, tree limbs, etc., are all concerns. The liner is only 20-30 mils thick, which is the thickness of several sheets of paper. One mistake could cost you big bucks.
- Lower resale value: When you go to sell a home with a vinyl liner pool, one of the first questions asked is "how old is the liner?" If it's more than 3-4 years old, there's a significant chance a request will be made to replace the liner before the sale of the house, or the value of the pool will depreciate.
Concrete Pools Pros and Cons
Pros of a Concrete Pool
- As big as you want: Concrete pools can be any size, shape, or depth.
- More flexibility with swimming pool design features: Vanishing edges, beach entries, tanning ledges, etc., are all just a sketch away from reality with concrete pools.
- Works of art: Concrete pools can be integrated into design as a literal work of art in the landscape.
Cons of a Concrete Pool
Unfortunately, the flexibility concrete allows from a design perspective comes with a price.
- High lifetime cost: Concrete pools will need to be renovated every 10-15 years. This involves resurfacing and re-tiling the pool at an expense of $10,000-$20,000 or much higher depending on the pool.
- More chemical use: Because the surface of concrete pools is very porous, more chemicals and filtration are required to prevent algae. The alkaline pH of the pool shell also constantly raises the pH of the water, requiring the frequent adding of acid to counteract the effect.
- More maintenance: Concrete pools also need to be frequently broomed or swept with a pool brush to remove algae from the pores of the plaster or aggregate surface.
- Longer install time: Concrete pools take longer to install...usually 3-6 months.
- Each of the three types of inground swimming pools—fiberglass, concrete, and vinyl liner—comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Fiberglass pools are extremely easy to maintain, can be installed quickly, are very durable, and can be beautifully designed. However, their initial cost can be higher than vinyl liner pools, and the shapes and sizes are not customizable.
- Vinyl liner pools have a lower initial cost and a customizable shape, but the biggest disadvantages include having to frequently replace the liner, the possibility of algae growth, and the riskiness of the liner warranty.
- Concrete pools are extremely durable and allow for a customized size and shape. The disadvantages include more effort to maintain, more chemical usage, highest cost of ownership, a rough interior surface, and a slow installation time.
Still have questions about these three types of inground swimming pools? If so, contact us directly or comment with your thoughts below! And don't forget to download your free copy of our ebook, "Comparing Fiberglass, Concrete, and Vinyl Liner Pools in the Modern Age."