The thought of having a swimming pool for your family has been on your mind. Just imagine the years of excitement, enjoyment, laughter, fun and memories it will provide.
However, if you want to ensure you get the most out of your decision, you should arm yourself with the knowledge of available options and which type of pool will best meet your lifestyle today as well as many years ahead.
Let’s get started by asking the simple question: What is the best type of swimming pool for my home and my family?
The Three Primary Types of Swimming Pools…Plus One
In 2020, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (the swimming pool industry’s major trade group) estimated that over 300,000 new swimming pools were installed within the United States (2020 Market Report.) This represents more than a 20% growth within the industry.
These 300,000 swimming pools fall into these primary categories:
- Above ground pools
- In-ground pools
- Anything else
Let’s explore the four main options of swimming pools.
Option #1: Concrete (Gunite) Swimming Pools Pros and Cons
Most pools are made out of gunite (concrete)
For many of us, the gunite (or concrete) pool is where you grew up. Those were the good old days where you would come out of the pool with scratches on your hands and feet because of the rough finish. And your eyes would burn from all the chlorine in the pool along with your hair turning white.
The advantage, though, is that you had a pool – and it could be built to your specific requirements. Theoretically, you would have a “custom” pool but more often, most pools would be built the same way out of convenience and ease of estimation.
That is why almost all the pools more than 40 feet in length are concrete or gunite pools. This is the Olympic size swimming pool or the pools that are built within community centers, health clubs or for public swimming.
Advantages of concrete (gunite) pools
A concrete pool is like a blank canvas. It can be designed and customized to fit any desired shape, size, or depth. Visually, a concrete pool is quite appealing because of the ability to customize it.
Concrete pools also add value to your property and are considered an asset to the owner when it comes time to sell the home.
Disadvantages of concrete (gunite) pools
Beauty aside, concrete pools are extremely high-maintenance. Keeping them pretty, clear, clean, and healthy takes a lot of elbow grease. More chemicals and brushing are required to maintain them. Plus, a concrete pool requires resurfacing every 8-15 years.
Secondly, a concrete pool has a rough surface, which can be hard on your feet, especially young kids. It also encourages acid washing and rapid algae growth.
Next, concrete pools usually take a long time to build. Not everyone has the patience to deal with three to six months of construction going on in their backyard.
Finally, concrete pools are not the best option for salt chlorination. Yes, salt chlorinators can be installed in concrete pools. However, a concrete pool will require additional maintenance and resurfacing earlier than if traditional water sanitizing was in place. Given the many amazing benefits of salt chlorination, this is a disadvantage for concrete pools.
Option #2: Fiberglass Swimming Pools Pros and Cons
Fiberglass pools have come a long way since their introduction.
When fiberglass swimming pools were first developed, they were imperfect marvels of technology. As with many new inventions, there was a learning curve which resulted in numerous innovations which has led to today’s groundbreaking designs and collection of colors to choose from.
Today, the questions have shifted from deciding what kind of swimming pool you should have (gunite vs vinyl liner vs fiberglass) to deciding what kind of fiberglass swimming pool your family would best enjoy (rectangular vs freeform, splash pad or roundabout bench, dark blue or sand color?) After you make this decision, you then have to decide on what additional features you want in or by your fiberglass swimming pool (tanning ledge, bubblers, water streams, spa jets or fire pits.)
Advantages of fiberglass pools
One of the greatest hallmarks of a fiberglass swimming pool is its low maintenance appeal, outpacing any other type of swimming pool on the market in that regard. Thanks to their smooth, non-porous surfaces, algae growth is stunted on fiberglass and when used with a salt chlorinator, the minimal maintenance aspect is highly appealing to many pool owners.
Next, because they are fabricated off-site, you can be guaranteed that the pool will look exactly like you ordered it. Being built under factory conditions also means that there are quality controls throughout the entire production process. If there is bad weather outside, that will not delay the production of your pool since it is enclosed.
Fiberglass swimming pools take minimal time to install. Once the hole for the pool has been excavated, (which can only take a day for many installers,) the finished swimming pool structure can be lowered into the waiting hole, leveled, and then plumbed. All that is required at that point is the decking and landscaping to be completed around the pool. (Fun fact: fiberglass swimming pools can be fully installed an operational in as little as 5 days.)
Of course, the number one advantage is that fiberglass swimming pools designs have advanced greatly over the past twenty years. Imagine Pools swimming pools are now available in 10 designs ranging from a “plunge pool” to ones offering splash pads and built-in spas to an eight-foot depth pool allowing for the use of a diving board.
Then there is the advantage of color technology of fiberglass swimming pools. Imagine Pools offers each of its swimming pool designs with the industry leading SMART color technology. This is the highest rated gelcoat available on the market which stands up to extreme summer conditions in Australia (and Texas) to the cold winter temperatures that are found in Toronto, Canada. With seven color options available, you are sure to find the right color to match your desired “pool mood.”
Construction of fiberglass pools has also advanced within the past 20 years. Fiberglass pools are no longer flimsy sheets of fiberglass that break easily. Today, Imagine Pools are built with multiple layers of the highest quality vinyl ester resin. The entire process, known as Centurion Core™ Construction, allows Imagine Pools to offer Limited Structural Warranties including a protection against osmosis (which is water seeping between the fiberglass layers causing the pool to bubble.) In addition, Imagine Pools allows a fully transferrable warranty within the first five years of ownership.
Disadvantages of fiberglass pools
When you look at fiberglass swimming pools and the advancements made, it is difficult to come up with many disadvantages to owning a fiberglass swimming pool. The designs have increased as have the color options which has allowed fiberglass pools to take a larger share of the pool construction industry.
Despite this, there are some limitations to fiberglass pools. The primary one is that limitation on design customization. If you prefer to have steps on the other side of the pool, or you would like to add some bench seating, it can be done – if you’re willing to pay for the cost of a new mold (and wait for it to be built.) If you have that kind of money, then you’re probably better off signing for a gunite pool and working with your own designer. Imagine Pools undertakes extensive market research to ensure we can offer a range of designs to suit 95% of customer requirements however if you are wanting a design that is a little out of the ordinary, then you may need to consider concrete swimming pools.
While having a pool built in a factory is great, the next challenge is making sure that it gets to you. That means that you need to be prepared for shipping costs of your pool. This may be minimal if you live close to the factory but if you live a thousand miles away, it could end up being an expensive proposition adding as much as $9,000 to the cost of your pool (if not more if you’re further away.)
In these situations, fiberglass pool manufacturers will try to “batch” deliveries so that the costs of shipping can be shared amongst multiple pools/ customers. This may mean waiting a little bit longer to get your pool.
The other obstacle you may have is making sure that the pool can be delivered to your backyard. Having access is important in being able to deliver a pool to your backyard is important and, while this is rare, there may be times when a company is unable to physically deliver a pool to you. (Check out this video of a helicopter delivering a pool!)
Option #3: Vinyl Liner In-Ground Swimming Pools Pros and Cons
About 25% of all pools are vinyl liner pools.
For several years, vinyl liner pools were considered the solution to those wanting a more “significant” and “better looking” swimming pool. They did not take as long to install when compared to concrete/ gunite pools. Plus, more design options were developed giving families more opportunities to find a style that met their lifestyle.
Advantages of vinyl liner pools
If you are leaning towards an inground pool but are on a limited budget, a vinyl liner pools may be the best choice for you. Due to their low material costs, a vinyl liner pool, in most cases, will cost between $5,000 and $10,000 less initially than their concrete or fiberglass pool counterparts.
With a vinyl liner pool, your options in terms of available shapes and sizes are fairly expansive. Thanks to today’s technology, you can create a pool as deep and as aesthetically-pleasing as you want.
Disadvantages of vinyl liner pools
The biggest disadvantage of a vinyl liner pool is the liner itself. Made of polymer, it is prone to breaking down with time and will need to be replaced. Additionally, the liner can easily tear or pull apart from the sides, causing it to slowly creep into the water.
Vinyl liner pools and pets (especially dogs) do not mix well. Dogs, with their nails, can easily rip a vinyl liner pool forcing you to scramble to make the repair and not lose any valuable water.
Although warranties express one thing, you can expect your inground vinyl liner pool to last between 7-12 years on average. The average replacement cost (labor, liner, and water) ranges between $3,000 and $7,000, depending on the size and shape of the pool.
Another disadvantage of a vinyl liner pool is its overall aesthetics. Some might say a vinyl pool appears “cheaper” and “temporary,” as opposed to a fiberglass or concrete pool. As a result, a vinyl liner in-ground pool usually does not add value to your home as a fiberglass or concrete pool would do of the same size.
On a side note, in many countries now vinyl liner pools are no longer sold.
Option #4: Above Ground Swimming Pools Pros and Cons
Advantages of above ground pools
Above ground pools are the best option when it comes to cost. Unless you decided to install an expansive deck around it, an above ground pool will not put as big of a dent in your pocketbook as an inground pool – at least, initially.
Above ground pools are now available in a variety of sizes and shapes but there are still limitations due to the nature of their construction.
Disadvantages of above ground pools
First of all, most people might note that an above ground pool simply does not have the eye-catching appeal as an inground pool. Some might go so far as to say it is an eyesore. Some subdivisions don’t even allow above ground pools within their covenants. Even if you think you will enhance its appeal by embracing it with a deck, it will never have the same breath-taking beauty as an inground pool. As a result, an above ground pool is not typically factored in as an improvement to your home when it is being appraised and can be regarded as more of a deterrent when you try to sell your house.
Secondly, above ground pools have limitations with respect to depth and design. Most typically come in three shapes – circle, oval or rectangular. In ground pools come with a much broader portfolio of exciting and engaging designs.
Above ground pools are not built to last for a long time. You will need to replace panels, if not the whole pool, over the course of five to ten years. This can get rather expensive as well as discouraging because you may feel yourself getting into a never-ending cycle not to mention having to take time to do more research, find the right installer, and wait for a dealer to come out to set up your new pool.
Above ground pools are not compatible with saltwater systems. This is important as more and more families are switching over to these type of cleaning systems within their pools. The salt will actually eat away at the metal and support functions within your above ground pool causing it to deteriorate faster – and forcing you to an even earlier pool repair or replacement.
In general, above ground pools incorporate metal walks, which tends to fall prey to oxidation and rust. The result is that most of these pools will fail within eight to 15 years. Because of this, an above ground pool is not typically considered to an improvement to your home when it is being appraised and can actually be regarded as more of a deterrent when you try to sell your house.
In conclusion: what is the best swimming pool for you?
We firmly believe that the Imagine Pools composite fiberglass swimming pool is the best available swimming pool structure for 95% of customer requirements. We urge people on a budget to look at fiberglass before above ground and vinyl liner pool options. Even if you need to wait a year to save up the difference in the long term, it will undoubtedly be the best decision both in terms of maintenance and increased value in your home.
A note about costs in general
Due to the recent healthcare crisis, many families shifted their attention from travel and getaways to figuring out a better way to enjoy their time at home. This resulted in a historic, record-breaking demand for swimming pools of all types.
This increased demand has placed a great deal of pressure for manufacturers to provide more pools as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, several obstacles have risen that has made it more difficult for pool builders and installers to meet this demand.
Many of the raw materials needed to build these products come from overseas. It has become increasingly difficult to have all the ingredients needed to build these products. And for those fortunate enough to be making pools, the prices have risen almost 25% forcing many manufacturers to re-evaluate their options, including raising prices.
In addition, the labor market has changed. The building of pools depends heavily on being able to find builders and installers who are willing to accept the hard work that comes with installing them. For gunite dealers, it has been a challenge to find enough talented workers to stay on schedule. For fiberglass pool manufacturers, they continue to search for people committed to returning every weekday to be part of an ambitious team. Therefore, be prepared for increased prices on pools.
For many families, it is worth it.
Yes, buying a swimming pool is a significant investment but for many families, the value is priceless. The simple convenience of being able to walk out your back door to get some exercise or simply to lounge in your spa is a fantastic quality of life benefit. Knowing where your children are and who their friends that they are playing with, in your backyard, is a comfort for many parents. Being able to host family gatherings or entertain family friends, by your pool, is a source of great pride.
Yes, swimming pools are worth it simply for the incredible memories they can deliver and for the joy that it brings to everyone.
Are you ready for the next question?
Now that you have learned about the primary types of swimming pools, and the advantages that come with having a composite fiberglass swimming pool delivered to your backyard, the next question is “Which swimming pool design is the right one for me and my family?”