Concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl pool: Which option is best for you?

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You’ve decided you want a pool — congratulations! But to get you into your perfect backyard oasis, you’ll need to make several decisions along the way. One of the first is the pool type: Do you want a concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl pool? Each type comes with its own set of characteristics, pros, and cons. Understanding the differences between these options is crucial for making an informed decision that aligns with your preferences, budget, and long-term goals. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the key distinctions between concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl pools. To start, let’s define each type of pool.

Concrete pool overview

Concrete pools, also known as gunite or shotcrete pools, allow for flexible design since concrete can be molded into virtually any shape or size. Concrete pools are highly durable and can withstand various weather conditions and ground movements. Concrete pools are one of the most easily customizable types of pools—allowing for impressive features like waterfalls, spas, and intricate tile designs.

Building a concrete pool involves several intricate steps that require careful planning and skilled labor:

  • Planning and design are important steps for concrete pools because they are essentially custom projects, taking into account your property, needs, and preferences.
  • Most often, concrete pools are in-ground, so you’ll need to start with excavation to form a hole for your pool. Above-ground concrete pools are another option and can offer a striking, modern look.
  • After excavation, wooden or metal forms are installed to define the shape of the pool and provide support for the concrete during pouring. These forms, also known as molds or shuttering, are then reinforced with steel rebar.
  • After plumbing and electrical lines are installed, it’s time to pour (or spray) the concrete. Concrete mixtures (gunite or shotcrete) are specifically formulated for pool construction to ensure durability, strength, and water resistance. The concrete is poured in sections, starting with the floor and then moving up to the walls and any raised features.
  • The concrete surface is then finished by smoothing and leveling, applying waterproof coatings or sealants, and, finally, adding tile, plaster, or aggregate finishes.

Fiberglass pool overview

Fiberglass pools are pre-manufactured shells made from fiberglass-reinforced plastic. These pools are factory-molded to specific shapes and sizes before being transported to the installation site. Fiberglass pools are known for their smooth, non-porous surfaces, which inhibit algae growth and make cleaning easier. They are also quick to install, often requiring only a few weeks for completion. Fiberglass pools come in a variety of designs, from classic rectangles to freeform shapes, although customization options may be more limited compared to concrete pools.

Fiberglass pools have a different construction process than traditional concrete pools because they leverage pre-manufactured shells:

  • Unlike with concrete pools, the design and planning process of fiberglass pools is much more straightforward. That’s because you’ll likely choose from a set selection of pool forms with far fewer options for customization.
  • Fiberglass pools can be built above ground or in-ground, depending on preference and budget. Above-ground fiberglass pools typically come ready to use and are delivered and installed. In-ground vinyl pools require excavation.
  • Your chosen fiberglass pool shell is carefully delivered and placed into the excavated hole with a crane or forklift.
  • Then, the fiberglass pool shell must be leveled and aligned, sometimes using shims or supports to ensure structural integrity and aesthetics.
  • After proper positioning, the space around the perimeter of the shell is backfilled, often with sand or gravel. It's important to avoid over-compacting the backfill material, as this can put pressure on the pool shell and cause damage.
  • At this point, plumbing and electrical lines are installed to connect the pool to the filtration, circulation, and heating systems.
  • Once the plumbing and electrical systems are installed, the pool shell is finished with a gel coat or other protective coating to enhance its appearance and durability. The gel coat is applied to the interior surface of the pool shell and cured to create a smooth, waterproof finish that resists staining, algae growth, and UV damage.

Vinyl pool overview

Vinyl pools feature a flexible vinyl liner that is installed over a framework of steel, polymer, or aluminum panels. These pools deliver relatively low upfront costs and customizable design options, with a range of colors and patterns to choose from. The lifespan of a vinyl pool, however, is shorter compared to concrete or fiberglass options.

Vinyl pools have a unique building process and key considerations to ensure proper installation and optimal results:

  • Because vinyl pools allow for a bit more customization in terms of pool shape and size, the first step to building one is to design a layout that works for you.
  • Then, as with concrete and some fiberglass pools, excavation begins for in-ground vinyl pools.
  • The framing process for vinyl is similar to concrete pools, with the application of steel, polymer, or aluminum panels that form the walls and floor of the pool. The panels are connected and secured together to create a sturdy framework that will support the vinyl liner.
  • Next, plumbing and electrical lines are installed to connect the pool to the filtration, circulation, and heating systems.
  • Before installing the vinyl liner, a hard bottom—sometimes concrete or sand—is poured to provide a smooth surface upon which to apply the vinyl.
  • Finally, the vinyl liner (pre-cut to the specific dimensions) is carefully positioned, stretched, and applied to create a smooth surface.

How to choose between vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

When it comes to choosing between the different types of pools available, you’ll want to consider several factors, including cost, quality, construction time, maintenance, heat retention, and longevity.

Cost comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

Concrete pools typically have the highest upfront costs due to the labor-intensive construction process and customization options. Fiberglass pools are slightly less costly, and vinyl pools are the cheapest option in terms of construction costs. Keep in mind that any of these options for an in-ground pool will involve construction and equipment costs for excavation, and all require some sort of finishing—pool decking around the perimeter of the pool. However, it’s not just upfront costs that must be considered: Homeowners must take maintenance costs into account as well. Of all the options, fiberglass pools have the lowest maintenance costs, concrete pools have moderate maintenance costs, and vinyl pools tend to have the highest maintenance costs. In fact, the maintenance costs involved with vinyl pools can negate any upfront savings in the long term.

Concrete: $$$$ (with moderate maintenance costs)
Fiberglass: $$$ (with very low maintenance costs)
Vinyl: $$ (with high maintenance costs)

Quality comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

The quality of a pool—regardless of material—is only as good as the craftsmanship and materials used. So the most important thing is to choose a pool builder with a good reputation and stellar reviews. But beyond that, there are some differences in durability and quality between the different types of pools.

Concrete pools are known for their durability and structural integrity, making them a long-lasting investment. Thanks to the ability to customize with very high-end finishes (from tile to aggregates), concrete pools can be as luxurious as your budget allows.

With fiberglass and vinyl pools, on the other hand, what you see is what you get—other than colors, you won’t have the same option to upgrade finishes and customize every detail as you would with a concrete pool. The quality of fiberglass pools, however, is something to consider. Fiberglass is extremely durable, with clean, smooth surfaces that resist staining and algae growth. Vinyl pools are the lowest on the quality spectrum, as the liner can be prone to damage and require more maintenance to preserve its appearance.

Concrete Quality: High
Fiberglass Quality: High (but with less ability to work in luxurious, upgraded finishes)
Vinyl Quality: Moderate

Construction time comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

Building an in-ground pool, regardless of the method or materials, takes time. Expect at least several weeks from design/planning to final finishing touches like decking. Concrete pools have the longest construction process—usually taking several months. Vinyl is in the middle of the range for construction time—installing the vinyl is typically faster than the finishes used in concrete pools (tile, aggregates, etc), but they still require the time to build the framing, add the support/base and install the vinyl. Fiberglass pools have the fastest construction time as they are shipped ready to install—simply place them in the hole, level, and backfill! Keep in mind that several factors can influence any pool build, including weather, yard/property layout, the hardness/rockiness of the ground, permitting issues, and more.

Concrete construction time: Long
Fiberglass construction time: Short
Vinyl construction time: Moderate

Maintenance comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

All pools require maintenance, and maintenance costs money! For any type of pool, you’ll need chemicals, cleaning, and other consumable supplies to keep water sparkling. Concrete pools require regular maintenance to prevent surface stains, cracks, and deterioration. Fiberglass pools have low maintenance requirements due to their smooth surfaces, but periodic cleaning and chemical balancing are still necessary. Finally, vinyl pools need routine care to protect the liner from tears, wrinkles, and fading. In the event of damage to the liner, you could be paying a significant amount for repairs or replacement.

Concrete Maintenance: High
Fiberglass Maintenance: Low
Viny Maintenancel: Moderate

Heat retention comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

Heat retention is a key consideration for pool material choice—particularly in cooler climates. Pools with better heat retention can save hundreds of dollars a month in heating expenses—thousands of dollars over the life of your pool. Concrete pools tend to retain heat well, especially when equipped with additional insulation features. Fiberglass pools also offer good heat retention, thanks to their solid construction and smooth surfaces. Vinyl pools, on the other hand, are not a good choice for heat retention as their thinner material causes heat to escape more easily.

Concrete heat retention: Good
Fiberglass heat retention: Good
Vinyl heat retention: Moderate

Longevity comparison of vinyl, concrete, and fiberglass pools

Building a pool is a big investment of money and time, so it stands to reason that longevity will be a big priority! Concrete pools have a long lifespan, often lasting several decades with proper maintenance and occasional renovations. Fiberglass pools are also durable, with an average lifespan of 25 years or more. Vinyl pools may require liner replacement every 7 to 15 years, depending on factors such as climate and usage. But again, remember that choosing your pool builder wisely is everything—higher quality craftsmanship and materials could mean the difference of years of extra life for your pool.

Concrete longevity: Long
Fiberglass longevity: Long
Vinyl longevity: Moderate

Pros and cons of concrete pools

Concrete pools are a popular choice for high-end aesthetics and customizability. But they aren’t without disadvantages.


  • Most customizable in terms of design
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Suitable for various climates and soil conditions


  • High upfront costs
  • Lengthy construction process
  • Requires regular maintenance and occasional renovations

Pros and cons of fiberglass pools

Fiberglass pools can help save money and time in both the short and long term. But you’ll enjoy fewer customization options.


  • Quick installation process
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Smooth, non-porous surfaces resist algae growth


  • Limited customization options
  • Potential transportation and installation challenges for larger models
  • Vulnerable to damage from shifting soil or groundwater

Pros and cons of vinyl pools

Vinyl pools are an affordable choice upfront, but they aren’t without their unique challenges.


  • Affordable upfront costs
  • Customizable design with a variety of liner options
  • Comfortable and smooth surface


  • Prone to liner damage and fading
  • Requires periodic replacement of liners
  • Limited lifespan compared to other options

Choosing a pool style/type is a big decision! Concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl options all have their merits, so it’s important to decide which factors are most important to you when weighing pros and cons. By considering factors such as budget, looks, maintenance, and long-term goals, you find the pool that best suits your needs and enhances your outdoor living space for years to come. Need help making decisions on your new pool build? Contact us today!