Vinyl Liner Pools vs Fiberglass Pools
Let’s talk a little about the benefits of vinyl Liner pools vs fiberglass pools. One of the key things on a vinyl pool is the customization that you can do. You can build a vinyl liner pool make it any shape, size, or depth that you want.
Also, if there are certain type of benches or a step configuration that you would like, it can be done in a vinyl pool. Obviously with a fiberglass pool, it is what it is, what you see is what you get, but with a vinyl you can do some customization, and it can be as big as you want. There’s no limitation with the size.
For a fiberglass pools, 16 feet is wide as they come, and as long as 42 to 44 feet. With a vinyl pool, you have unlimited options.
We’ve had a couple of instances where we’ve a backyard was so tight, that we actually designed the Vinyl pool to fit that space. Dr. Eric Schuh’s pool on Old Hickory Lake was one that comes to mind. His house is a custom design with very specific geometric angles. The pool we built for him fit the space nicely, and actually went with the shape of the house. The architectural flow from the house to the pool made it look like the pool had been constructed along with the house.
Vinyl Pool Pros:
Some folks might see this as a negative, but a vinyl pool liner lifespan is about 8-10 years, as a rule of thumb. When it’s time to replace the liner, you can get a new color, or you can choose a new pattern such as stone, pebbles or tile, because the vinyl liner options constantly change as new products hit the market.
Vinyl Pools Cons:
Step and benches that don’t match the liner. Some newer pool installers use steps and benches that are inserted into the pool and butted up to the liner. These steps and benches are usually a a few shades of color off from the actual vinyl liner. A reputable vinyl pool builder will know how to install the benches and steps underneath the liner, and mld the liner perfectly to the shapes of the steps. Our vinyl pool gallery has several installation showing the proper way to address this in Vinyl pool.
Vinyl Liner Pools vs Concrete Pools (aka gunite)
Let’s review the differences between a vinyl pool vs a concrete pool, sometimes referred to as ‘gunite’. Actually, the appropriate word for conrete is shotcrete.
Most pools are able to have any kind of custom shape, size, depth, that sort of thing. In a Vinyl pool you can install interior benches and steps. On a concrete pool, you can do those same things. A couple advantages to a concrete pool is that they can be customized to very specific shapes. Options like ledges, with interior ledges, and benches are possible design features.
Concrete Pool Pros:
A few pros to a concrete pool are natural stone on top of the surface versus doing a traditional bevel-type ledge. That gives a concrete pool a little bit more of a natural look. Also on a concrete pool, you can do natural pool tile around the perimeter, and also in the steps and benches. In some cases, an all tile pool can be done, so it just depends on the situation.
On a vinyl pool, you’re not able to do some of those type of things. The vinyl pool compared to a concrete pool is going to be a lot less expensive, so that can help with some household budgets. If you’re trying to get into a pool and have a nice pool, a vinyl pool can achieve that.
A concrete pool is going to have a lot more opportunities to do more custom things. Infinity edges can be done easily in a concrete pool. Infinity edges can be done on a vinyl pool as well. It’s a little bit more complicated, but it definitely can be done.
With all of the pools, typically the way that we build them is that when it’s all finished, if you’re not a pool expert, it’s tough to know what kind of pool it is. At the end of the day, it’s about budget. You should go into the process knowing some of the aspects of the pool that you want to achieve, and how each style of pool varies in what you can and can’t do.
Terrain: If there’s elevation differences in the backyard, a concrete pool can be a better suited to the area because of the customization and the rebar that goes into it, versus on a vinyl pool.
Concrete Pool Cons:
Since concrete pool surfaces are more pourous than other pool materials, more maintenance is usually needed to keep the pool sparkling clean. Since algae can attach easily to the rough surface of the pool, scrubbing and cleaning is needed more often to get rid of the little buggers. A concrete pool also uses more cleaning chemicals due to a more frequent cleaning cycles.
Another con is the installation time. Concrete has to be shot from a nozzle and expertly maneuvered into place. If the ‘nozzleman’ isn’t experienced, the project might have to be done twice. Concrete pools normally cost more than other pool types, because of the custom designs and un-restricted options for this type of pool.
How Are Vinyl Pools Installed?
Vinyl Pool installation, explained by Jay Tucker, Owner of Swim World
Okay, so I want to talk about how a vinyl liner pool is installed. A vinyl liner pool as they term it is the structure of the interior surface of the pool it is the finished liner that goes inside, and actually holds the water. The perimeter foundation of the vinyl pool is typically a couple of things. It can be a concrete wall that’s around the perimeter of it, and then all of the liner actually goes over that, goes over the hole that was excavated for the pool. The perimeter of it can be a concrete wall. There are some polymer walls out there, and then the traditional majority of people install, including us, is a galvanized steel wall that goes around the perimeter.
The hole is dug, of course, to the specifications. Depending on if it’s four steps or a diving pool, that sort of thing. It’s dug down to what we call the panel grade ledge. What that means is that the pool panel, whichever it may be, is traditionally 42″ tall. Now they make a 54″ tall wall in the steel and also in some of the polymers, but that is the level that’s dug down to where those panel grades sit on.
Then from that point, you dig the depths, whether it be a four step or something else, so it’s deeper in the center or “diving depth” or in some instances, it’s a constant depth all the way across. All depending on what the customer wants. Anyway, you have some of those type of exterior walls, if you will, which make up the structure of the pool.
Vinyl pool bracing
Depending on that type of wall, there’s different bracing that are used to give the strength and support of that wall, especially on a straight wall pool. It needs some additional supports than it would be for a more rounded pool that has some curves in it. Curves are stronger than the straight walls, so bracing has to be done. Sometimes folks leave those out to cost, and my opinion is that’s sort of shortchanging the structure of the pool, so you want it to be strengthened.
Once the pool is dug to the appropriate specifications, then the pool is assembled. If it’s a steel wall, the panels are bolted together to form the final shape of the pool. The pool is then leveled and squared to make sure that it’s in line with ANSI specifications.
Then once that is done, what typically happens we’ll install a concrete footing, so that footing goes around concrete, and the perimeter of the pool. It’s usually anywhere from 6″ to 8″ to 10″ thick, deep and it’s about 2′, approximately 2.5′ wide, that goes all the way around the perimeter of the pool.
Now the concrete locks in the walls, it locks the bracing, so it gives it its strength at the bottom and holds everything in place like it needs to be. The nice thing about a concrete footing, is that now that it’s time to do the plumbing, running the pipe, that comes out of those returns, skimmers, et cetera, and it goes down to a nice concrete base, and that plumbing is run around the perimeter of the pool in the appropriate places, and then back to where the equipment will be placed.
Testing the vinyl pool for leaks
After the plumbing is installed, we put the plumbing under pressure, to confirm there are no leaks in the pipe. Typically about a 30 PSI is what we put the pressure on and hold and monitor throughout the process until the pool is back filled and the pipes are cut to plumb into the filtering system. Nice thing about that is that, it insures there are no leaks, so you don’t have any problems, or have to dig up pipe later on. These little details are the checks and balances, if you will. In some municipalities, they actually come out and check that pressure, but even if they don’t we still put the plumbing under pressure.
Bonding the Vinyl Pool so it doesn’t shock you
Now once the plumbing is done and the pool has lights, we’ll run electrical conduit and a bonding wire around the perimeter of the pool to ground the entire structure. It’s typically 18″ away from the water’s edge and that goes around the perimeter of the pool, and then back over to where the filtration equipment is going to be placed.
The purpose of that is to avoid any kind of a stray current, or electricity issues. If you don’t ground or bond the pool, you run the risk of a short circuit in the equipment, or worse…electricity flowing into your body.
In the State of Tennessee, we have to have an Electrical Bonding Inspection. Once that is done, we have those inspections, then we are ready to backfill that pool.
We backfill all of the pool with gravel around where the concrete will go. Gravel compacts better, you have less chances of it settling over the time. We’ve been out to multiple pools that have been back filled with dirt, even though you can compact dirt, it’s hard to compact it up against the swimming pool.
When you put water in, it settles. You can put water in, it settles, pack it, that sort of thing. It’s still going to erode and settle, and so I’ve seen plenty of pool decks that have dropped over the years and have been some trouble for customers. Unbeknownst to them, is they’re not sure if it needs to be gravel or dirt, so to cut costs and time, some folks will not use gravel around the pool backfill. We do.
Coping the pool
Once the gravel is in, depending on what kind of coping is going on, if they got stone coping, it’s typically … The footing is poured around the perimeter of the pool and the stone is laid. If it’s the regular aluminum coping that goes around, that’s typically already installed on the pool and ready to go. Sometimes concrete is the coping of choice. If that’s the case, then that’s poured at the same time the deck is. Once the particular coping is on, then the concrete decking is installed.
There’s a lot of different ways the concrete can be done. We’ve got stamped concrete, there’s overlays, there’s pavers, you can stain the concrete. There’s a lot of decorative things that you can do to dress a pool up and make it look nice. A sun deck is one of the things that we use a lot that’s nice. It gives some textured color, and it’s cool to walk on, so when it’s hot outside, you don’t have to wear flip flops or shoes or throw water on the concrete to keep it cool. Those are nice options.
Getting ready for swimmers
After the concrete is poured, typically we do some grade work around the perimeter of the pool, haul any dirt out, sort of finish the grade up as needed. Then the last thing and the most exciting thing and what most kids look forward to is to put the bottom in and the liner. When I say, bottom, there is a material that we put in. It’s vermiculite and Portland cement mixture that goes on, it’s troweled on, to give the fine lines of the interior of the pool to the specifications that we’ve measured for our liner, so it fits in there and pulls nice and tight. Nice defined lines, so that gives a nice surface for that liner to rest on, and to have years of protection versus sitting it on … Years ago, it was only a sand-type base, which would shift and move, and so this vermiculite, Pool Crete is what we call it. It’s stays in place, gives defined lines, and gives some sort of cushion for that liner.
The other thing that we do around the perimeter of the pool and the walls on the vertical walls is we put wall foam on, sort of like padding under carpet. We give some insulation there and also some protection for that liner to rest up against that wall, so that’s a nice option. The water goes in and it comes up in stages. Typically, there’s some kind of a step or it’s got to be cut out, lights and different things that have to be cut out, so there’s stages of the water that comes up.
Sometimes the vinyl actually goes over the steps, and so those have to be adjusted and that sort of thing. We put these high powered vacuums on behind the liner, so that sort of vacuum fits the pool to the interior so it doesn’t have any wrinkles. The liner is put in, water is filled up, cut outs and everything are done. Typically, at that time, if it hadn’t already been done, the filtration equipment is plumbed in, hooked up. The electrician comes in and gets us power to it, and then we get it going.
By the time the pool is full, we’re ready to circulate the water, do a little clean up, and then we’re finished. Final touches of landscaping and fencing and that sort of thing go into place, and then the back yard is complete.