One of the most often researched inground pool considerations is the cost. Prospective pool owners often search, “What kind of inground pool is cheapest to build?”, “What type of pool is cheapest to maintain?” And “What inground pool lasts the longest?” All these questions may be stated as, “What type of pool is most cost effective?”
And the simple answer is, “it depends.” Inground pools come in three pool types: concrete/gunite, vinyl liner, and fiberglass. How much you’ll spend when you get it and how much it will cost you over the pool’s lifetime will depend on which pool type you choose. Differences in materials and chemical usage can change how much time and money you’ll spend on maintenance. So let’s look at the three types of inground pools, what goes into their installation, and what may change their price points.
These customizable pools can accommodate practically any shape or size backyard. Gunite pools are built from start to finish in your yard, and you can play a pivotal role in the final design. They’re also durable, like the sturdy concrete surfaces you walk or drive on, because it’s the same material! However, these pools do not customarily have the most smooth feeling for your feet compared to other pool types. As with anything you have customized, the more custom the work, the more it may cost you.
Vinyl liner pools are smooth to the touch and feel great on your feet, but they also have the potential to get slippery when wet. Like concrete, vinyl liner pools are built on-site at your home and can take on various shapes and sizes. Liners also come in multiple colors and patterns, so you have many style options. Also, like concrete, more custom projects may cost you more during installation.
Fiberglass pool manufacturers produce inground fiberglass pools in a controlled environment away from the installation site. Manufacturers build the shell and inspect it at the manufacturer’s location to ensure a higher quality product and offer a warranty that doesn’t come with all pool types. It’s important to note that, while building the shell in a facility helps with quality control, it also limits your options for shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a pool that’s 50 or 60 feet long and snake-shaped, you likely won’t find it with fiberglass. However, the fiberglass pools of today often come equipped with many widely-desired features for pool owners, such as tanning ledges, wrap-around benches, beach entries, and more.
By nature, gunite pools have crevices that can promote algae growth. To combat this, concrete pool owners will need to partake in regular maintenance (about four to five hours per week on average), such as regular brushing of the pool’s surface and using a higher volume of chemicals to penetrate the pool’s surface. Regular painting and resurfacing may also be necessary during the pool’s lifetime. These two things alone often mean you will have a more significant lifetime investment for this type of pool.
Vinyl liners will likely need to be replaced every so often (about every eight to 12 years on average). And to maintain that liner, you will need to pay close attention to the pool’s water chemistry and any potential tears in the liner from pet nails. Folds in the liner can also harbor algae, so care will need to be taken to combat it. A vinyl liner pool owner may expect to spend about two to three hours per week on maintenance on average. More chemical usage and these other maintenance items may increase your lifetime pool ownership cost.
This may be your best answer if you’re looking for the answer to, “What type of pool is easiest to maintain?” Fiberglass pools tend to only require about an hour or less of maintenance per week and use fewer chemicals than other types of pools. Are fiberglass pools easier to maintain? As a general rule and compared to the other inground pool types, yes! Inground fiberglass pools do not require replastering or relining, and their non-porous surface requires fewer chemicals. Water chemistry is also important for fiberglass pools, and other typical maintenance tasks, like skimming and vacuuming, will be necessary to keep your pool looking its best. However, fewer chemicals and lifetime maintenance requirements mean you may have a lower lifetime cost of ownership.
Now that you’ve gotten this far, how do you decide what type of inground pool is best? We recommend thinking about how you plan on using your pool and how much you want to invest in it, both financially and time-wise. Weighing the pros and cons of each pool type can, at the very least, help you narrow it down if not make your choice entirely. What type of pool is most cost effective may not be the one that meets your other pool “must-haves.” Finding a pool with the right balance of desired features and being as within budget as possible is the sweet spot. If you’d like a more thorough comparison of the three inground pool types, we have an eBook you can check out.
If you don’t want, need, or can’t fit a larger pool in your backyard, there are swimming pool alternatives that might be the perfect solution. Small pools or wading pools and wet decks (features that can either run solo or be added to your existing pool) may be your best option. Give our fiberglass inground pool cost estimator a try if you’re ready to get some ballpark estimates.