Swimming Pools, Part 1—Should You Go With Vinyl, Fiberglass or Concrete (Gunite/Shotcrete)?—BYHYU 084
This week’s episode will give you the pros and cons of different types swimming pools in hopes of helping you decide whether your dream house should even include a swimming pool, and if so, what kind. We’ll compare vinyl, fiberglass and concrete pools this week, and next week we’ll talk about sanitation systems, including chlorine, saltwater and ultraviolet light systems. Let’s begin today’s lesson by briefly discussing how a pool might impact the resale value of your house.
Swimming pools are obviously more popular in warmer regions, including areas like Florida and Texas. In areas where swimming pools are common, homes with pools typically have higher resale values when compared to similar homes without pools. And when pools are a common amenity within a neighborhood, you can often recoup your initial installation costs when the time comes to sell your home.
But, if you live in an area where swimming pools are not the norm, a pool may discourage potential buyers. You may have a more difficult time selling your house, and you probably won’t get back all of the money that you invest in installing your pool.
In short, a pool is a great selling point for those buyers who really want and expect one, and it’s a great deterrent for buyers who don’t.
Whether you think a pool is a good investment, or you know that it’s not a great investment for your area, but you want to install one anyway because of the fun and enjoyment it will provide for you and your family, it’s important to evaluate your options so you choose the type of pool that’s best for your budget and lifestyle.
Let’s start by taking about above ground pools.
ABOVE GROUND POOLS
Above-ground pools are the easiest and cheapest to construct. They are typically built from prefabricated kits. Although ambitious DIYers can install above ground pools themselves, most homeowners hire professionals to do the job.
The first step for installation of an above ground pool is leveling the ground. The pool is then assembled on top of that flat surface. Next, outer wall of the pool is erected. It’s made of metal, plastic or wood. A vinyl liner is then placed over the pool walls and the pool is filled with water. The liner is then smoothed out and fastened into place. The pump and filtering system are hooked up, and then the pool is pretty much ready for use.
That quick and easy assembly process, and the budget friendly price tag, are the main advantages of an above ground pool. Plus they’re pretty easy to disassemble and move it to a new location.
The main disadvantage of above ground pools is that they are less durable than other designs. Above ground pools might last up to 15 to 20 years before the structure gives out, but the pool liner needs to be replaced every 5 to 10 years. The other main disadvantage, many argue, is that above ground pools are less attractive that in ground models.
Next, let’s talk about IN GROUND POOLS.
VINYL LINED IN GROUND POOLS
Vinyl lined in ground pools are structurally very similar to vinyl above ground pools, but they look more like conventional in ground pools. The installation entails a construction crew digging a hole and placing a metal frame around the perimeter of the hole. That frame is then covered by a vinyl lining, similar to an above ground pool assembly.
PROS OF VINYL IN GROUND POOLS
1. Low initial cost. Vinyl in ground pools have the lowest initial cost of any of the three types of in ground pools.
2. Numerous pool shapes and sizes are available. There are no limitations of the length, width, and depth of vinyl in ground pools. Many standard shapes and sizes are available and you can even order custom shapes and sizes.
3. Vinyl liner pools are non-abrasive. Vinyl liners are smooth to the touch, so they won’t cause damage if you accidentally scrape your skin on the sides of the pool. If you’ve ever had your skin scraped or scratched by a concrete pool, you know how nice a smooth pool surface would be..
4. Vinyl inhibits algae growth. Vinyl is relatively non-porous so it inhibits algae growth. This means fewer sanitizing chemicals are needed, which saves money.
5. Quick installation. The average-sized vinyl in ground pool can be installed in 1-3 weeks.
CONS OF VINYL IN GROUND POOLS
1. Higher lifetime cost. A vinyl liner will last between 7 and 15 years. On average, the liner needs to be replaced every 5-10 years. Replacement liners cost $3000-$4000, plus the cost of adding water back to the pool. Many liners have 20 year warranties, but those warranties are usually pro-rated, so the amount you will receive from the manufacturer if the liner is damaged decreases over time.
2. You have to be careful in a vinyl pool. Because vinyl pools can be damaged much more easily than fiberglass or concrete pools, you have to be careful about the types of activities that occur in vinyl pools. Dogs claws, sticks, and sharp toys can all potentially cause damage to vinyl pools. If you have rowdy kids, or dogs that like to swim, a vinyl pool is probably not the best choice for you.
3. Lower resale value. If you want to sell a house with a vinyl in ground pool, you may be asked to replace the liner if it’s more that 3 or 4 years old. If you refuse, you may get less money for your house, or you turn off potential buyers all together.
CONCRETE POOLS— GUNITE OR SHOTCRETE
Concrete pools are the most common in ground pools in the US, and they are also most expensive. They’re usually made of either gunite or shotcrete.
Gunite and shotcrete are terms that are often used interchangably, and although they’re similar, they’re not exactly the same. Both gunite and shotcrete are made by mixing cement, sand, and water, and both produce a strong concrete pool.
Shotcrete and gunite pools start out the same way. A hole is dug and plumbing is put into place. The walls of the pool are constructed with rebar (steel rods) that are wired together. Then, either shotcrete or gunite are sprayed, or shot, onto the steel framework with a pressurized hose, or gun.
The main difference between gunite and shotcrete is the stage at which the water is added.
Shotcrete is a ready-made, wet mixture that has been prepared by the manufacturer. In other words, water is added before the shotcrete is transported to the job site. The wet shotcrete is then poured into a pump and applied to the pool framework.
Gunite is a dry mixture that is mixed manually with water on the job site through the nozzle. The water and dry gunite are mixed at the job site by the hose operator, so the water-cement ratio has to be controlled by the operator.
Compared to a shotcrete pool, a gunite pool is more prone to construction defects due to operator error, since the gunite is mixed by the crew, instead by the manufacturer.
After the gunite or shotcrete concrete mix is sprayed over the framework, the pool concrete is smoothed with a trowel, then sits for a week or two to cure.
When the concrete has cured, the inside surface of the concrete pool is finished with plaster, concrete paint or pebble surfaces. The most popular finish is plaster, which is a mixture of cement and marble sand. Gunite or shotcrete pools can also have tile, or fiberglass finishes.
PROS OF CONCRETE POOLS
1. Great flexibility in pool design. Not only can concrete pools be any size, shape, or depth, but you can add in interesting features like infinity edges, beach entries, and tanning ledges.
2. Concrete pools are durable and long lasting. They can last for decades and are literally as hard as a rock, so rowdy kids and dog paws are unlikely to damage concrete pools.
3. They are beautiful and luxurious. Concrete pools can really add to the beauty of your landscape and, in areas where pools are common, concrete pools are considered a top of the line amenity.
CONS OF CONCRETE POOLS
1. High initial and lifetime cost. Concrete pools usually have the greatest initial cost of all in ground pools. Plus, every 10-20 years, concrete pools need to be resurfaced. Each resurfacing can cost up to $10K or more.
2. More chemicals and maintenance are needed to maintain a clean pool. Because concrete pools are very porous, algae can grow more easily in them than in other type of pool. As a result, more chemicals and filtration are required to prevent algae. In addition, concrete pools need to be frequently swept with a pool brush to remove algae from the pool surface.
3. Longer installation time. Concrete pools take usually 2-4 months to install. That’s compared to an installation time of just a few weeks for vinyl in and fiberglass in ground pools.
Fiberglass pools are factory made from fiberglass that has been molded into different pool shapes. Fiberglass, remember, is a reinforced plastic material that’s comprised of resin that’s been embedded with glass fibers.
To install a fiberglass pool, a construction crew digs a hole that’s appropriately the size of the pool. They then install the necessary plumbing, add some sand as filler, and lower the preformed fiberglass pool structure into place.
The pool is then leveled and hooked up to the plumbing. The empty pockets around the pool are backfilled with sand or dirt, and a deck, made of concrete, pavers or some other material, is placed around the pool.
PROS OF FIBERGLASS POOLS
1. They’re low maintenance. The surface of a fiberglass pool shell is non-porous, so it inhibits the growth of algae. As a result, you’ll need fewer sanitizing chemicals to maintain the pool, which will save lots of money over the lifetime of the pool. Another reason that fiberglass is a low maintenance, money saving option is because fiberglass pools don’t need to be resurfaced like concrete pools do, and there are not vinyl liners that need to be replaced.
2. Fiberglass is a non-abrasive surface. The surface of fiberglass pool is smooth to the touch.
3. Quick installation and Quality: Fiberglass pools are manufactured in a climate controlled factory environment, so there are fewer potential errors in the construction of the pool as compared to pools built on site. And because the shell of the pool is pre made in a factory, including built in seats and steps, pool installation is relatively quick—3-5 weeks on average.
CONS OF FIBERGLASS POOLS
1. Limited shapes and designs. Because fiberglass pools are built in a factory, from a mold, they come in limited shapes and sizes. And most models are usually no wider than 16 feet. That’s because fiberglass pools are shipped on trucks and there are shipping restrictions that limit the width of the fiberglass pool shell to 16 feet.
2. Pool repairs may not match the original pool color. A fiberglass pool that is improperly manufactured or installed may develop cracks. Cracks can also develop due to high impact forces such as earthquakes, or dropping heavy objects into the pool. When damage is done, repairs can usually be made, but the material used to do the repairs may not match the original pool color.
So, that’s it for our pool comparison. Finally, let me say a quick word about cost
The average costs of above ground and in ground pools that I found online varied considerably. For example, one online source said that the average in ground pool costs in the $25K range. Another source said the average cost was around $45K. Of course prices will vary depending on the size, shape and material of the pool and your location. But in general, above ground pools generally cost thousands of dollars, and in ground pools cost tens of thousands of dollars. The average size of an above ground pool is about 19 feet in diameter, while the average size of an in ground pool is around 30 by 15 feet.
Okay, let's review and test some of what you learned with couple of quiz questions.
1. Which is not an advantage of fiberglass pools?
A. They come in unlimited shapes and sizes.
B. They have a smooth surface, so they are not likely to cause abrasions.
C. They are low maintenance.
D. They resist algae growth.
The answer is A. Fiberglass pools do not come in unlimited sizes and shapes. They’re factory made and need to be transported by truck, therefore pool sizes and shapes are limited.
2. True or False: Vinyl liners need to be replaced every 5-10 years.
That’s true. On average, vinyl liners, whether they are in an above ground, or in ground vinyl pool, need to be replace on average every 5-10 years. And a replacement liner costs about $3000-$4000.
After you decide what type of pool structure you want, you’ll have to decide want type of system you want to use to keep your pool free of bacteria. The most common systems are chlorine, saltwater, and ultraviolet light. We’ll go over those options next week. So make sure you’re subscribed to to podcast so that future episodes will be automatically downloaded to your device.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for listening. I hoped you learned as much as I did and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode of Build Your House Yourself University—BYHYU.
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