Fiberglass vs Vinyl Liner Pools: Which is Better?
Throughout the years of helping pool shoppers compare and contrast the different types of pools available, I've had many that debated the merits of Vinyl Liners versus Fiberglass Pools. So let's take a closer look at these two swimming pool building methods and the pros and cons of each.
Vinyl Liner Pools
Vinyl Liner Pool Advantages
In just about every market, a vinyl liner pool will have the lowest initial install price. This is mainly due to the fact that the material costs for a vinyl builder are the lowest, and the labor isn't too bad either.
The majority of vinyl liner pool installations in most parts of the United States fall in the $20–40k range once you figure in the pool and patio.
Although vinyl liners have their drawbacks, one of the benefits of a liner is the fact that it, like fiberglass, is not rough on the feet and does not harbor algae growth (unlike concrete/gunite pools).
Having a non-porous surface leads to less chemical usage during the season and therefore money savings as well.
Unlike a fiberglass pool, vinyl liners can be customized into any shape or depth.
Do you want an L-shaped pool, a classic Roman, a Grecian, or something else fun and funky? A vinyl liner pool will fit the bill.
Vinyl Liner Pool Disadvantages
Although liner warranties are usually between 20–30 years, these warranties have very little value after the first couple of years because they are very pro-rated.
This means the liner loses its value each year. Plus these warranties do not cover labor and water costs during a liner replacement.
Although the structure of a vinyl liner pool will typically last over 35 years (assuming it's not a wood-wall structure), the liner itself will have to be replaced on average every 5–9 years.
In other words, I've seen vinyl liner pool owners that have replaced their liner 4 times in 20 years and others that have only replaced it once in 20 years.
Currently, the cost of a vinyl liner replacement, when you figure in labor, liner and water, is about $4,000.
Bleaching of Liner
For chlorine users, vinyl liner pools can fade significantly in only a few years' time.
What this means is that even though the liner itself may hold up, its appearance can be pretty awful once faded out.
While all pool types fade a little with time, it's extra obvious on a liner because it's not uniform. Because of the patterns, you can see parts that didn't fade and other parts that did. It's obvious.
Steps and Benches Don't Match Liner
In most cases, the steps and benches of a liner pool do not match the actual liner.
In other words, let's say you have a dark blue vinyl liner pool. In order to have steps and benches, usually white fiberglass structures are inserted and the liner butts up to these units. This lack of color uniformity can make the aesthetics of the pool suffer quite a bit.
In recent years, some builders have started overlaying the steps and seats with the actual liner to eliminate this problem. This technology is currently used by few builders though due to its difficulty to properly install.
Unlike a fiberglass pool, which is viewed as a long-term structure without major repairs, vinyl liners pools are viewed poorly by certain potential home buyers.
In other words, some home buyers are hesitant to purchase a home with a vinyl liner pool because of its inevitable costs down the road.
In fact, I've seen many cases where a potential home buyer requests the home seller to install a new vinyl liner in the pool as part of the closing stipulations for the real estate transaction.
A large majority of vinyl pool builders use an aluminum C-track coping edge for the interior coping of the pool's patio.
Although using a C-track makes the process of pouring concrete around a vinyl pool much easier, it also negatively impacts the pool's appearance. It forms an obvious white outline around the pool.
This is why we recommend cantilever coping when purchasing a vinyl liner pool.
Fiberglass Pool Advantages
This is what originally spawned the fiberglass pool movement throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Pool buyers, in general, want a pool that will be low maintenance in terms of chemicals as well as repairs down the road.
Fiberglass pools fit this need better than any other pool structure.
In their early stages, fiberglass pools were rather ugly, with white being the only finish available and exposed fiberglass coping edges.
But with new mold innovations, colored finishes, and cantilevered concrete, fiberglass pools have come to rival the aesthetics of concrete pools.
Because of their incredible longevity, the cost of a fiberglass pool, over its lifetime, is usually much less than a vinyl liner pool.
Because of their aforementioned benefits, fiberglass pools will often appeal to home buyers that normally would not have been interested in swimming pool ownership.
Fiberglass Pool Disadvantages
The main drawback of a fiberglass pool is that they typically go no deeper than 8' and no wider than 16'. This does limit the ability to customize pool shape and depth.
For some customers, the initial price of fiberglass pools can be a drawback.
When comparing a vinyl liner pool apples-to-apples with a fiberglass pool, you'll find that a fiberglass pool is initially $4–9k more.