Which Pool Should I Buy?
Which pool should I buy? If this is where you are at currently in the process of having a new swimming pool installed then you will find the information contained on this page to be specifically useful. It is a very important question, probably the most important one, that you will need to decide when it comes to having a new pool put in. Fortunately there are only a few fundamental styles to choose from, for the most part, and so it should not be very hard to determine which one will be best for you. Or, more specifically, which pool will be best suited to your property.
Something that a first time pool owners do not realize, for the most part, is that the type of house you have and the area that you live geographically will probably determine for you which type of pool you should get. While there is some crossover of markets between the three main types of pools, for the most part each one is popular for a specific niche aspect of the housing market. For example, if you were to go to the most affluent neighborhood in your city, you would find that the vast majority of pools are types of concrete pools. Similarly, you will not find very many mansions with indoor pools that are vinyl liner installations. Again, there is some crossover, especially between concrete pools and fiberglass pools, but for the most part there will be a "best suited" pool type for your house already, regardless of what you think is best.
If you are in doubt about what would be the best pool for your house simply ask your neighbors. Chances are that 80% + of the pools in your neighborhood will be of one particular construction type...this is most likely the one that you should be going with for your house. Then again, there are two different potential questions being asked. Do you want to know which is the best pool for you, or the best pool for your property...because the answer might be different.
What is the best type pf pool? - The best type of pool is one that is complimentary to your property. When you are choosing which type of pool to buy it is important to understand that you are making a permanent change to your home and one day, very likely, you will want to sell this home to someone else. You do not want to deviate too far from "the norm" or else this can come back to haunt you when it comes time to sell. Pools that "look weird" or are otherwise unconventional can be very scary to potential real estate buyers and most especially when these unconventional pools fall into a state of disrepair and will require an unknown amount of work to recondition.
How To Choose The Right Pool
The right pool for your house is most likely going to be the same style that the majority of similar houses on your street have. You do not want to be the only house on your street with a concrete pool, or vinyl liner pool, or fiberglass pool. Or even worse potentially, having a hybrid pool or low-hung liner pool that no local pool technicians are familiar with or will touch with a 10 foot (telescopic) pole! There is definitively something to be said about conforming to mainstream standards when it comes to picking the right pool for your house. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule as well, such as with concrete pools.
The pool must match the property value - Concrete pools are almost unanimously regarded are the highest quality swimming pool that money can buy. In this way you could always make an argument for choosing a concrete pool for any property. I mean, how could the "highest quality" anything be bad, right? Well, the problem comes when you have a house with a small property worth $70,000 but you also have a concrete pool worth $125,000...because in total this property would only be worth right around $70,000. Adding a pool to your property, for the most part, does not increase the value of the property. It might increase the curb appeal, to the right buyer, but it also excludes your house from the majority of searches as most people do not want a pool. Pools are a liability, and expensive, and a lot of work, and dangerous, and not every person is willing to buy a house that has one.
So despite the fact that concrete pools are very high quality, they are not the best pool for every house. Along the same lines with a vinyl liner pool, while respectable and versatile as an entry level inground pool option, you would not want to be surrounded by houses with concrete (or fiberglass) pools and have the only vinyl liner pool on your block. For the most part this would be viewed as a negative by potential buyers in the future, similar to how having low end furnishings in a home can make it feel cheap as compared to a house finished with higher end appliances, faucets, lighting etc.
The Best Pool Is The One That Meets Your Expectations
More accurately, the best pool is the one that meets your expectations, along with having the least surprises along the way. Finding out that your house is not going to sell for top dollar because you have the wrong type of pool for your neighborhood or property value, like in the above example, would certainly count as a surprise...and not a very good one either. This introduces the question of what, precisely, you should be considering when choosing which type of pool to get?
Budget for your pool - As an experienced pool builder I can often determine which type of pool you should be getting simply based upon your budget and your list of features that you want the pool to have. Quite often people will come to the table with a long list of wants and then are surprised to find that the pool they want costs double the budget that they have. Upgrades for pools are expensive, and many times changing from a concrete to a vinyl pool can bring the costs back down into a realm where you can afford them without having to give up all of the extras that you want. Still, I would prefer to see pool owners spend more on a quality pool installation with less bells and whistles versus a lesser pool that has more in the way of diving boards, slides, peripheral equipment, fancy lighting, upgrades to interior surfaces or decking, or any number of expensive, but optional, upgrades.
Longevity - The longevity of the pool, or service life, is a very important factor when considering what type of pool to buy. Concrete pools have the longest service life, assuming it is well built, followed by fiberglass and then vinyl liner pools as a tie, more or less, for second place. A concrete pool can still be in serviceable condition, and daily use, after as much as 50 or 75 years. With modern construction standards these numbers could push well beyond this...especially with more preventative maintenance understanding than what was available 50 years ago. Fiberglass and vinyl liner pools will last for a long time when serviced well. At some point you will end up replacing every part of the vinyl liner pool such that no original components remain other than the hole that was dug in the backyard. Fiberglass pools have a finite service life, albeit a long one (for ones that are installed well), but ultimately if the entire shell fails then finding someone to rebuild the entire shell onsite is going to be tough.
Serviceability - There comes a point where you can simply not fix a pool any longer. Or at least it can be said it is not practical, nor cost effective, to repair any longer. Also it should be considered about how hard, or how difficult, it will be to get the service that you need. Fiberglass pools require the least experience in pool installations to put in. Next is vinyl liner pools, followed with concrete pools being the type that requires the most skill, and the most experience, to install properly. If you have a problem with your concrete pool you had better hope that there are concrete pool specialists in your area because you are going to have a hard time, and take a lot of risk, to drain it and repair tile or interior surfaces like plaster. These things really are not DIY level tasks so you will be relegated to paying specialist rates, or making compromises like painting your pool instead of plaster or tile to save some money. Do not believe any pool installer that tells you that their pool, or their product, never needs maintenance. This drives me crazy when dealers say stuff like this.
Fiberglass pool dealers are renown for saying how their product is better because the surface never fails and never needs refinishing like vinyl liners or concrete pools need to have done. Expect fiberglass pools can and do fail, and you do not need to look too hard online to find horror stories about gel coat failures, structural cracks, itchy swimmers with fiberglass rash...consider how serviceable each pool is before you buy one. Even if they tell you it will never fail. Assuming it did fail, and somehow you were not covered by their "iron clad bumper to bumper guarantee", how hard would it be to find someone to fix it, and how much would this cost you? If you own your house, and your pool, for long enough then you will end up paying for service and repairs eventually.
What Kind Of Pool Would I Get?
For me, without question, concrete is the way to go when you are talking about high quality, long lasting swimming pool installations. Of course, I was a concrete pool builder so I guess I am biased. What is interesting is that I also built vinyl liner swimming pools. So why would I do that if I think concrete pools are the best? The answer is simply that not every house (or property) can afford a concrete pool and in some situations a vinyl liner pool (or fiberglass) might be a better fit.
Concrete pools - I consider concrete pool construction to be the highest quality, and longest lasting, swimming pool installation possible. The only downside as far as I am concerned is that concrete pools are also the most expensive, and they also require specialized tools, equipment and skill to build and work on. Concrete pools are the most versatile in terms of shape, depth, or unique variations in the structure, as concrete is the most versatile and widely available construction medium on the planet.
Vinyl liner pools - Vinyl liner pools are inexpensive to build and require little previous swimming pool installation experience to put one together with a reasonable degree of success. Vinyl pools are constructed using staged components and almost all parts are individually serviceable or replaceable to one degree or another. Vinyl liners perform well in cold climate areas and also do not risk popping out of the ground in the same way that fiberglass pools and concrete pool shells can in areas with high water tables. In recent years there have been a lot of design improvements with vinyl pools, including more infinity edge options, tanning shelves, vinyl over steel steps, textured vinyl as well as custom on-site vinyl welding becoming more popular for even more customized looking poolscapes made from vinyl. Vinyl pools are a great value for the money and when installed well can look and feel almost as high quality as a more expensive concrete pool installation.
Fiberglass pools - I have a chip on my shoulder about fiberglass pools but it is less about the pool itself, and more about the way in which fiberglass pools are often sold to customers as never needing maintenance, and installed by people with minimal experience. A high quality fiberglass pool installed by a skilled builder and pool installer, who just prefers the fiberglass pool process, I have no problem with. My problem is that many house builders and general contractors install fiberglass pools themselves with little or no actual experience installing pools of any kind. Since a fiberglass pool is so easy to install many custom home builders push towards fiberglass pools in the design, not because it is the best option, but because it puts the most money back in their own pocket. Also a fiberglass pool and a concrete pool should not cost the same to have installed. This is another problem that I have with fiberglass pools. They should cost less than a concrete pool installation, and when they do, I am much more inclined to recommend that route for a home owner.
In summation, the type of pool that you should buy will depend on your unique budget, priorities, expectations for longevity and serviceability, and of course, your real estate value. Concrete pools suit high end residential installations and very custom designs. Indoor pools are usually concrete. Commercial pools are usually concrete. Vinyl liner pools are great for budget installations, cold weather applications, and areas with seasonal water table fluctuations. Vinyl pools are pretty easy to put together but still require people with trades experience such as concrete finishers. Fiberglass pools require the least skilled trades to install, but also are the least serviceable should something go wrong with the shell, or the installation.
If you are looking at building the pool yourself fiberglass becomes a much better option since you will not need to hire a dozen very specific skilled trades teams like with a concrete pool, nor will you need to build the core components of the pool like with a vinyl kit. If you have access to machines, and you can find a fiberglass pool manufacturer willing to work with you, you can probably put your own fiberglass pool in and save quite a bit in the process. If you still are confused about which type would be best for your situation please feel free to contact Steve for a second opinion on your situation.
Help for new pool owners
Different types of swimming pools
Questions that you should ask when looking for a pool builder
Steve talks about why pool buyers should be careful
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