Making the decision to install an inground swimming pool in your backyard is monumental. Once you let the idea sit for a few days, your brain will start working overtime.
So many questions. Do you want a free-form or an l-shaped pool? Should you include water features such as a slide or cascading waterfalls?
You have friends who own pools and they have all kinds of advice. Like what kind of pool you should get. And what shape and size.
Before you decide on free-form vs. kidney or diving board vs. pool fountain, you’ll decide what type of pool works best for your yard and budget.
We’re here to help you narrow down your options.
We’ve put together a guide to different types of inground pools. There’s more to swimming pools today than the cement pond you swam in as a kid.
Concrete Still Rocks the Swimming Pool World
Swimming pools have a long history going all the way back to ancient times. The first pools were built with brick and gypsum, a waterproof lining.
Those early pools served a spiritual purpose. Later, the Greeks and Romans used them for practical reasons, such as bathing and socializing.
Fast forward to 1915 when a Texas businessman purchased a swimming hole and built what’s now known as the oldest swimming pool in Texas. He built the pool from concrete.
Unlike some pool building trends, concrete stands the test of time. Even if you knew that already, did you know there are different grades of pool concrete?
Concrete by Any Other Name Is Still Concrete
In the pool world, there’s one type of product builders use for construction of a concrete pool surface. It’s called, well, concrete.
If you’ve heard pool designers and pool owners talk about gunite, shotcrete, or cast pools, they’re talking about concrete pools. Mystery solved, right?
The mystery only deepens when you realize they all share a name but vary in the following ways:
- Construction method
Let’s take a quick look at all three concrete products starting with the one known as cast-in-place.
When you have a cast pool built, you start with a form made from wood or steel. The pool team then pours a concrete mixture into the form. The form includes several separation joints between the pool wall sections.
Casting gives you a strong, smooth waterproof surface. Also, because of its smooth surface properties, it’s a popular choice for pool floors.
This is the most common concrete construction type, meaning most pool builders have experience installing it. Due to the number of separation joints, you won’t have as many shape options as other concrete pool construction methods allow.
Another popular product used in pool construction is shotcrete.
A shotcrete pool is different from a cast pool because of the concrete mixture and the application method.
Shotcrete contains less water in the mix. Instead of pouring it into a form, the builder sprays it into place in layers.
With proper design and construction, shotcrete results in a strong watertight pool surface. The builder needs fewer separation joints, which is the standard for excellent pool construction. Shotcrete uses a free form application and allows any shape pool.
Shotcrete is popular for its strength, watertight properties, and its versatility but so is gunite.
Often called dry gun concrete, gunite is a dry mix. It’s still trucked to the pool construction site but water isn’t added until the builder applies it.
Gunite wins in strength and watertight categories. If your builders choose gunite, you’ll have the strongest, most watertight pool in the world. Like shotcrete, gunite allows you a full range of pool shapes.
That’s it for the different types of inground pools constructed from concrete. Now, let’s look at another popular type—fiberglass.
The Fiberglass Pool Shell
If you’ve never heard of using fiberglass for a swimming pool, just imagine a one-piece pool.
That’s right—fiberglass pools are made in a factory from a mold and shipped to you. Be aware, it’s not like ordering online with 3-day delivery to your doorstep and a set of installation instructions.
A truck delivers the 2500 – 3500-pound pool to your home. Your pool builder uses a forklift or a crane, takes it off the truck, and moves it to the construction site.
You might look at the pool shell and think it’s a drop-in pool. It isn’t. While it’s a relatively simple and quick installation, the pool builder still does site planning, excavation, and a range of other installation tasks.
Also, fiberglass pools aren’t maintenance-free, but they do use fewer chemicals than a concrete pool. Because of the slick pool surface, algae find it difficult to thrive in a fiberglass pool.
Remember, they’re delivered by truck, so they can only be about 16 x 40 feet in size. Despite their size limits, you can order fiberglass pools in a range of shapes. You can also request built-in seating, tanning ledges, and steps.
Another popular type of inground pool is the vinyl-liner pool
The Vinyl Pool Kit
Inground pools with vinyl liners aren’t new to the pool industry. They’ve been around for over 50 years and are still popular today.
The building process for a vinyl liner pool resembles that of a concrete pool with some differences, of course.
Concrete pools need several trade specialists, including, but not limited to, the ones who apply the concrete, a plastering crew, and a tiling crew.
Like any inground pool, you’ll work with a designer. Vinyl pools offer a wide range of shape choices. You can choose water features such as slides, fountains, and even attached spas.
While we didn’t discuss the plumbing and electrical installation for concrete and fiberglass pools, all pools need both. The team completes plumbing before setting the vinyl liner.
You’ll have an electrician who ensures you can operate your pool pump, heater, cleaner, and lights safely. This is no different than a concrete or fiberglass pool.
Vinyl-liner pools are popular because of their durability. Repairs and replacements are relatively easy and so is installation.
While they may not be maintenance-free, the non-porous surface of the liner inhibits algae growth. You’ll still check for tears and be conscious of leaks so that you can patch those before they cause a disaster.
What you can’t do with a vinyl pool is drain it. The pressure of water in the pool is what keeps the liner in place.
Now that you know a little more about types of inground pools, let’s talk about one more type of swimming pool.
Should You Go Natural?
You may have heard of the movement toward a more natural swimming pool. Originating in Europe, natural swimming pools have stone or gravel bottoms and sloped sides.
Natural swimming pools usually have decking, often made of the same type of materials used in traditional pool constructions. Decking choices for natural pools include:
- Brick concrete
- Concrete Pavers
- Exposed aggregate
Some owners choose a plant zone and create a wilderness pond swimming experience.
Natural swimming pools rely on plants and gravel rather than chlorine, pumps, and filters. Plants and gravel filter water to a regeneration zone. The regeneration zone uses plants designed to clean the pool water.