Inground Pools: Gunite, Fiberglass, Vinyl Swimming Pools
When determining what type of inground pool to build, you have three options to consider: gunite, fiberglass or vinyl. Each pool type has unique benefits and considerations.
Gunite Swimming Pools
Gunite, a mixture of cement and sand, is considered the highest-quality material for inground pools. With the flexibility of gunite, you can achieve just about any swimming pool shape that you wish.
Gunite pools are built entirely on-site. First, the site is excavated. After excavation, the pool builders construct the pool utilizing reinforced steel bars. From there the gunite is shot through a high-pressure nozzle and allowed to cure. The hardened gunite then becomes the pool’s shell.
Gunite is highly customizable. From a classic pool design to a natural-looking freeform pool, utilizing gunite allows pool owners to create whatever design they desire.
With proper maintenance, gunite inground pools can last for decades without any major renovations or repairs. Out of the three types of inground pools, gunite wins on durability.
Gunite offers several interior finish options to choose from, ranging from river pebble aggregates to epoxy paint finishes. With the addition of glass tiles, pool water can appear ocean blue or sleek turquoise in color.
There is no limit to the design aspect of a gunite pool. With curved or intricate, flowy shapes, gunite poolscapes offer elegance and visual appeal. From a tropical oasis to a soothing Zen Garden-style landscape, you can build a pool to suit any theme you can imagine.
When you compare the three, gunite pools require the most maintenance. You will need to brush your pool regularly to prevent the buildup of algae. The surface may also need to be etched with acid washing. Caring for a gunite pool is more time-consuming than any other in-ground pool type.
While adding custom features raises initial costs, you can save on delivery charges, as gunite pools are fully constructed on-site. They are typically more expensive than vinyl or fiberglass pools.
Gunite pools typically require resurfacing every ten years. Repairing the cracks (if any) or re-tiling can also increase lifetime costs.
Gunite pools take the longest to build and may exceed two to three months, depending on your pool size and the features you select. For example, building an L-shaped pool may take less time than building a pool with a spa addition or paved patio.
Fiberglass Swimming Pools
Fiberglass is one of the most popular inground pool construction materials utilized, both in the U.S. and globally. Over the past several years, the fiberglass pool market has grown exponentially.
The fiberglass material is non-porous, making it a sturdy option for inground pool building.
Fiberglass pool installation begins with a factory-manufactured pool shell. The shell is then transported to the backyard pool site. Any seating areas, steps, tanning ledges, sun decks, or other pool elements come built with the pool shell. You will not have to forego swimming pool features, as they can be incorporated into your design.
While fiberglass pool shells come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they are prefabricated. Therefore, you may have to make some compromises on your initial design ideas. However, for basic designs or small pools, fiberglass can be your best choice.
The pre-molded fiberglass inground pool shell has various layers of chopped fiberglass, which is reinforced with polyester resin, vinyl ester resin, and glass mesh materials for added strength. Since their first debut, fiberglass pools have come a long way and can sometimes surpass the durability of concrete pools.
Fiberglass pools have a gel coat surface that is smooth to the touch. Unlike concrete, fiberglass does not feel uncomfortable on bare feet. The non-abrasive surface also helps prevent algae growth.
Since the pool molds come from fiberglass pool manufacturers and are turned around quickly, there is a limitation in the shapes and designs available. Also, they cannot be wider than 16 feet due to shipping restrictions.
Fiberglass pools are ideal for a saltwater system since there is no metal incorporated that could succumb to rust. Waterline cleaning or brushing is relatively easy in comparison to concrete. The risk of algae growth is limited.
The initial investment in a fiberglass pool is similar to gunite and higher than vinyl. You also need to pay the delivery costs to get the pool shell from the factory to your home.
Fiberglass pools come fortified with extremely durable materials, which makes them hard to break. They are flexible and tough with the right installation, and if damages do occur, they are typically easy to repair. Since they need no replacements or resurfacing, upkeep costs are minimum.
One of the biggest benefits of fiberglass pools is how quickly they can be obtained. Once the shell arrives, installation takes very little time.
Vinyl Swimming Pools
Vinyl liner swimming pools offer more flexibility in design than fiberglass, and the installation process is more straightforward than with gunite inground pools.
The construction process for vinyl pools is similar to that of gunite, but instead of applying gunite, the builders add a custom-made vinyl liner sheet onto the galvanized steel pool wall panels. The liner is vacuumed and the surface tested for possible air leaks. Pre-decking steel and an interior block wall are installed as the final step in the process.
In terms of shapes, sizes, and designs, the sky’s the limit with vinyl swimming pools. Vinyl pools are highly flexible and customizable, which means you can incorporate a wide array of design elements. Although most pools are rectangular, you can get a custom-built pool with fluid lines or eccentric curves. Vinyl liners are available in varying thicknesses.
Technological advancements have made vinyl pool liner structures much more durable than in the past. However, getting the right thickness is crucial as the liner could tear easily.
Taking care of a vinyl pool is critical to its lifespan. However, even with proper care, a vinyl liner has a lifespan of approximately 5-9 years.
The surface of the vinyl liner pool material is exceptionally smooth, which provides excellent algae resistance.
Vinyl liners are available in many colors, and you can choose one that blends well with the overall theme of your backyard. They can look stylish and sophisticated when combined with other décor elements.
Compared to other pool types, vinyl may require more care. The effects of direct sunlight for prolonged periods may cause the liner to sag or make the surface wrinkly. If you do not fix these issues promptly, they could lead to significant repairs. On the other hand, brushing or sweeping is relatively more relaxed as there is fewer algae buildup.
Vinyl liners are the most affordable option among the three types of pools. Even the installation costs are far lower than those of gunite pools of similar size.
On average, you may have to spend a good amount of money on vinyl liner replacements. Typically, the liner needs to be replaced every five to nine years. A vinyl pool also has the lowest resale value of the three types of inground pools.
Features and Add-Ons
Vinyl offers a myriad of choices to reflect your personality. Whether you want a classy and luxurious pool or a functional one, vinyl allows for creative designs to make your pool a focal point.
Within four to eight weeks, you can have your vinyl pool ready for swimming. A vinyl liner pool is also easy to install, with ready-to-assemble kits available on the market.