When it comes to swimming pool composition, you have thousands of choices. Actually, that’s not true. You have three choices: Vinyl, Fiberglass and Concrete. Concrete pools (or shotcrete or gunite, if you’re into unnecessary synonyms) have too many drawbacks to recommend unless you desire a swim up bar or vanishing edge. They have a lengthier install time, they have to be resurfaced and repaired every few years, they don’t work well with salt, they require more chemicals and maintenance, and if your skin touches the surface, it feels like you’re rubbing up against, well, concrete.
Unless you have some justifiable reason to invest in a concrete pool (like commercial applications or wacky landscaping that requires peculiar geometry), don’t. Depending on your needs, you’ll find a more attractive, cost-effective and practical option in vinyl or fiberglass.
Let’s start with the similarities.
Unlike concrete, both vinyl and fiberglass are non-abrasive, which makes them algae resistant and silky smooth on the skin of the semi-naked people splashing around inside.
But there are differences, as well — the most immediate of which is short-term vs. long-term cost.
Fiberglass pools generally cost more upfront, but require little or no long-term investment since they don’t wear out or need replacing. Vinyl pools are cheaper to install, but will likely come with a higher lifetime cost, since vinyl liners need to be replaced after 10 years or so.
Fiberglass pools are prefabricated, and are therefore limited to certain sizes and shapes. With vinyl, on the other hand, your design options are limited only by your imagination. Fiberglass pools can be installed quickly. Dig a big hole. Plop in a pool. Fill with water. The end. Vinyl pools, on the other hand, take longer to build. They’re also more prone to damage from debris like rocks or branches, or from dog claws (or human claws, depending who you party with).
Both vinyl and fiberglass come with benefits and drawbacks, with the biggest considerations being customizability, durability and upfront vs. lifetime costs. Whatever the choice, you’ll come away with a beautiful, functional, value-enhancing investment — and neighbors who suddenly want to be your new best friend.