If you’re considering investing on a fiberglass or vinyl liner pool but aren’t sure which to choose, we can help you make the best choice for your budget and needs. Yes we are 3 Day Pools and we specialize in fiberglass pools but we know pools and want to help you make an informed decision.
The following comparisons will outline the pros and cons you need to know before making a decision:
- Installation Time
- Initial and Lifetime Costs
- Interior Surface texture
- Hands-on Maintenance
- Chemical Usage
- Energy Usage
Fiberglass pools have a maximum size normally 16’ wide, 40’ long, and 8.5’ deep. While there are numerous designs to choose from, you’re limited to selecting from a predesigned mold.
Size restrictions aside, you have the option to customize your pool with water features, tiles, bench seats, therapy jets, tanning shelves, and colourful lights.
Although vinyl liner pools are typically rectangular, you can customize the shape, size, and depth of the pool. Specialty shapes are more expensive but less than comparable fiberglass or concrete pool.
Fiberglass pools can also be customized with accessories and additional features, but shape choices limited. Vinyl liner pools offer a distinct advantage because they can be customized to almost any size as long as the liner can be correctly cut to that shape.
Recommended: Vinyl Liner Pool
Fiberglass pool shells are manufactured off-site and delivered to your home. By the end of the second day, you can enjoy your new pool. Patio and decking will require another 1-2 weeks. The entire process typically takes 3 – 4 weeks.
The installation process is carried out in your backyard and will be ready for use in 4–8 weeks.
Both fiberglass and vinyl liner pools have much short installation times compared to concrete pools (3-6 months). Fiberglass pools have a shorter installation than vinyl liner pools and are much less messy.
Initial and Lifetimes Costs
Depending on the pool size and any upgrade, a DIY fiberglass pool range between $12,000–$30,000.
For manufacturing and installation, most fiberglass pools run between $45,000–$85,000. You’ll also pay extra for extensive landscaping, accessories, and water features.
In the long-term, your only significant maintenance expenses will be chemicals and electricity, which equals to about $4,000 over a ten-year period.
Most vinyl liner pools are at least $10,000 less than comparable fiberglass or concrete pools.
If DIY is your passion, a vinyl liner pool may offer the best option. A complete DIY vinyl liner pool costs below $20,000. Base vinyl liner packages from most builder’s range between $25,000–$35,000. Ready-to-use vinyl liner packages normally range between $35,000–$55,000.
The pool will also use less electricity and fewer chemicals than a similar-size concrete pool, thus reducing the lifetime cost. Vinyl liners must be replaced every 5–9 years at a cost between $4000–$4500, including labor and materials.
To compare: the lower initial cost of a vinyl liner pool can be offset within the first ten years after construction, but over the lifetime of the pool, will cost thousands more than a fiberglass pool.
In addition, you need to carefully read your liner warranty, which may include fine print you may not like:
- The warranty will only cover the liner seams where the sections of material are fused together.
- The warranty doesn’t cover labor, water, or other expenses.
- The warranty is prorated, meaning you’ll get some credit toward a new liner during the first 2-3 years, but not much after that.
Vinyl liner pools are initially cheaper and may offer a better option if you’re on a budget and can avoid the long-term costs. While Fiberglass is initially more expensive, it will cost much less over time.
Interior Surface Texture
The interior surface of a fiberglass pool is called gelcoat, which is smooth. Steps or tanning ledges include an anti-slip surface which isn’t rough.
Vinyl liners are smooth everywhere except the ridge where one piece joins the other. It’s important to repair any damage and replace the liner on schedule.
Both surfaces are extremely smooth as long as they’re well maintained.
If the gelcoat is applied correctly, it will never need to be refinished.
The fiberglass layers in the pool shell provide a great deal of flex strength. Salt water chlorine generators improve water quality and the salt doesn’t damage the pool.
Vinyl liners for in-ground pools are typically 20, 27, 28, or 30mils thick, which is less than a millimeter. Branches, toe nails, twigs, and dog claws can easily tear it.
Also, insects such as ants and termites can actually chew through a vinyl liner. It’s important to hire an exterminator to treat the ground when building a new pool and check that your liner warranty covers insects.
You can only use a salt water system if your vinyl liner pool has polymer wall panels, not metal wall panels. The salt will corrode the panels and any galvanized steel handrails and ladder anchors.
Liners don’t last that long and must be replaced every 5–9 years. Even without major punctures, ordinary wear-and-tear takes a toll. Beneath the liner, metal wall panels eventually corrode or even disintegrate, and polymer wall panels become brittle and break.
The sections comprising a vinyl liner pool are relatively fragile and need a lot of care. In comparison, fiberglass pool shells and gelcoat surfaces are durable and built to last.
Because the gelcoat is inert, it won’t affect the water pH. You must still test your water chemistry each week, but you’ll seldom need to add acid to balance the water.
Liners must be replaced every 5–9 years. Though owners can do it themselves, we strongly recommend hiring a professional as it can be difficult to perfectly position every edge and corner.
Wrinkles in your vinyl liner won’t cause any issues, but if you decide to smooth them out, it will take considerable time and effort.
Divots and dents are also typical cosmetic, but any bumps caused by rocks or pebbles can cause tears in the liner. To remedy these issues, it’s necessary to drain the pool and remove the liner for repairs.
Regardless of which pool you choose, you must regularly test the water chemistry. Apart from that, fiberglass pools requires less overall maintenance.
The gelcoat surface of a fiberglass pool is smooth and algae-resistant.
Vinyl liner pool surfaces are also relatively algae-resistant, but algae can grow in submerged areas with no circulation such as seams around the pool steps.
Both surfaces lack the pores that attract algae in concrete pools. However, vinyl liner seams can be problematic.
Chemicals and Electrical Energy
Fiberglass pools require fewer chemicals because they get little to no algae. You an also save energy by running your pump and filter in shorter cycles or lower speeds.
Vinyl liner pools also require fewer chemicals and less time to properly maintain the water chemistry. You must still regularly check and balance the alkalinity, pH, calcium hardness, and chlorine levels.
The pump and filtration system of a vinyl liner pool requires less energy than concrete pools. Also, the energy consumption is similar is in cost to a fiberglass pool. However, it’s still necessary to pay attention to poorly circulated corners in a vinyl liner pool to avoid algae.
Both pools require less energy and chemical usage than concrete pools, but fiberglass pools are the lowest of all.
Which Pool is Best?
Ultimately, the choice depends what works best for your needs and budget. Keeping costs low may be your priority, or perhaps you prefer to build the pool of your dreams.
Vinyl liner pools are a better choice if:
- Your budget is $30,000–$45,000
- You want to do the pool as a DIY project
- You only intend to stay at the home for 2-3 years and avoid the first liner replacement
- You want the largest pool for the lowest price i.e. 20′ x 40′
- Resale value of your home doesn’t matter
Fiberglass pools are a better choice if:
- Your budget is $40,000+
- You want a small-to-medium pool with full features
- The largest 16′ x 40′ with 8.5′ Deep meets your needs Read: The Biggest & Smallest Fiberglass Pools
- You can find a design that meets your requirements
- You want a minimal amount of maintenance
- You want a pool with flex strength against constant ground vibration
- You want a pool with low long-term costs
- You want fast, easy installation
Unlike vinyl liner pools, fiberglass pools look great from the beginning, last a long time, and can be beautifully customized.