Fiberglass vs Vinyl Liner Pools
Throughout the years of helping pool shoppers
compare and contrast the different types of pools available,
I've had many that debated the merits of Vinyl Liners versus
Fiberglass Pools. So let's take a closer look at these two
swimming pool building methods and the pros and cons of each.
Vinyl Liner Description as per Wikipedia:
Vinyl liner pools As mentioned above, vinyl
liner refers only to the interior surface of the pool, as
colorized chlorinated PVC thermoplastic vinyl may be used
as the waterproofing membrane in a number of diverse pool
construction methods. Vinyl Liner pools are typically more
numerous than other in-ground pool types, especially so in
European Union countries, Canada, England and New Zealand.
They are very popular in the Eastern and Southern United States,
where this pool type is considered to be a less expensive
option to gunite concrete or referred to as a prefabricated
pool that can be quickly installed during a single week, but
will still provide a durable, quality product that can last
for several decades. Designed by Cascade Industries engineer
Bob West and introduced to the New Jersey public in 1948,
the package pools were introduced to the wider American public
by Cascade's (c. 1948-1980) VP of sales Ed Gorman by inclusion
the 1951 Sears Roebuck catalog as a do-it-yourself project
for US$500.00 + delivery and installation. In the following
years many manufacturers world-wide have produced vinyl pool
kits of varying styles and quality that can be transported
to sites and installed in only a few days.
Designs range from simple (and cheap) prefabricated
wooden or galvanized steel walls to high-quality concrete
sacrificial shutters incorporating foam insulation that are
pumped full of high-density shotcrete and remain in place
once the concrete has set (as opposed to the wasteful method
of using and discarding plywood boxing that gunite and shotcrete
pools employ). Vinyl liner pools are popular with many pool
buyers due to lower initial cost, better insulation, the many
liner patterns and colors available, a child friendly embossed
non-slip finish, and the fact that the liners are treated
to discourage algae growth. Most chlorinated PVC thermoplastic
vinyl pool liners are .20" and .30" gauge (.50 mm & .75 mm)
and are recyclable when they reach their design life (usually
20 to 25 years in moderate climates). Replacement liners can
be installed in one to two days, and providing the basic pool
shell is of substantial construction, a pool may have several
new liners over its expected life, which could be as much
as fifty years in the case of a concrete construction.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_methods_for_private_pools"
Vinyl Liner Pool Advantages:
- Initial Price: In just about every market, a vinyl liner
pool will have the lowest initial install price. This is
mainly due to the fact that the material costs for a vinyl
builder are the lowest, and the labor isn't too bad either.
The majority of vinyl liner pool installations in most parts
of the United States fall in the 20-40k range once one figures
pool and patio.
- Soft/Non Porous Liner: Although vinyl liners have their
drawbacks, one of the benefits of a liner is the fact that
it, like fiberglass, is not rough on the feet and does not
harbor algae growth(unlike concrete/gunite pools). Having
a non-porous surface leads to less chemical usage during
the season and therefore money savings as well.
- Shape/Depth Customization: Unlike a fiberglass pool,
vinyl liners can be customized into any shape or depth.
So whether you want an 'L' shaped pool, a classic Roman,
a Grecian, etc; a vinyl liner pool will fit the bill.
Vinyl Liner Pool Disadvantages:
- Liner Replacements: Although liner warranties are usually
between 20-30 years, these warranties have very little value
after the first couple of years because they are very pro-rated.
This means the liner loses its value each year. Plus these
warranties do not cover labor and water costs during a liner
replacement. Although the structure of a vinyl liner pool
will typically last over 35 years(assuming it's not a wood-wall
structure), the liner itself will have to be replaced on
average every 8-12 years. In other words, I've seen vinyl
liner pool owners that have replaced their liner 4 times
in 20 years and others that have only replaced it once in
20 years. Currently, the cost of a vinyl liner replacement,
when you figure in labor, liner and water, is about $4,000.
- Bleaching of Liner: For chlorine users, vinyl liner pools
can fade significantly in only a few years time. What this
means is that even though the liner itself may hold up,
its appearance can be pretty awful once faded out.
- Steps and Benches Don't Match Liner: In most cases, the
steps and benches of a liner pool to not match the actual
liner. In other words, let's say you have a dark blue vinyl
liner pool. In order to have steps and benches, usually
white fiberglass structures are inserted and the liner butts-up
to these units. This lack of color uniformity can make the
aesthetics of the pool suffer quite a bit. In recent years,
some builders have started overlaying the steps and seats
with the actual liner to eliminate this problem. This technology
is currently used by few builders though due to its difficulty
to properly install.
- Resell Value: Unlike a fiberglass pool, which is viewed
as long term structure without major repairs, vinyl liners
pools are viewed poorly by certain potential home buyers.
In other words, some home buyers are hesitant to purchase
a home with a vinyl liner pool because in its inevitable
costs down the road. In fact, I've seen many cases where
a potential home buyer requests the home seller to install
a new vinyl liner in the pool as part of the closing stipulations
for the real estate transaction.
- Coping: A large majority of vinyl pool builders use an
aluminum C-track coping edge for the interior coping of
the pool's patio. Although using a C-track makes the process
of pour concrete around a vinyl pool much easier, it also
negatively impacts the pool's appearance. This is why we
at PoolSchool recommend cantilever coping when purchasing
a vinyl liner pool.
Fiberglass Pool Advantages:
- Lower Maintenance: This is what originally spawned the
fiberglass pool movement throughout the United States and
the rest of the world. Pool buyers, in general, want a pool
that will be low maintenance in terms of chemicals as well
as repairs down the road. Fiberglass pools fit this need
better than any other pool structure.
- Aesthetics: In their early stages, fiberglass pools were
rather ugly, with white being the only finish available
and exposed fiberglass coping edges. But with new mold innovations,
colored finishes, and cantilevered concrete; fiberglass
pools have come to rival the aesthetics of concrete pools.
- Long Term Cost: Because of their incredible longevity,
the cost of a fiberglass pool, over its lifetime, is usually
much less than a vinyl liner pool. Resell: Because of their
aforementioned benefits, fiberglass pools will often appeal
to home buyers that normally would not have been interested
in swimming pool ownership.
Fiberglass Pool Disadvantages:
- Shape/Depth Limitations: The main drawback of a fiberglass
pool is that they typically don't go deeper than 8' and
no wider than 16'. This does limit one's ability to customize
pool shape and depth.
- Initial Price: For some customers, the initial price of
fiberglass pools can be a drawback. When comparing a vinyl
liner pool apples to apples with a fiberglass pool, the
same package is normally about 4-9k higher for fiberglass.
For some customers, especially the ones that are thinking
in a short-term perpective, this difference can be too much.