Choosing Between Vinyl and Gunite Pools
Pool Education, Pools
If you have started researching inground pool options, you have certainly come across the terms vinyl and gunite. While each option has its benefits and desirable traits, there are some key differences that can help in your decision making. But what are these differences, and how do you know what is right for you? We’ll provide a brief overview, along with some pros and cons, below.
Vinyl Liner Pools
The pool type that most people are familiar with is a vinyl liner pool. These pools have been around since the mid-50s and continued to gain popularity in the U.S. since the swimming pool boom took off during the ’60s. Since then, more advanced construction methods have been developed, providing more flexibility in style, shape, and color.
Vinyl Liner Construction
So what exactly is a vinyl liner? A vinyl pool liner is a durable type of plastic available in various thicknesses. Liners are available between 20 to 30 mils thick, and choosing the ideal thickness comes down to finding a balance between durability and flexibility. The greater the thickness, the longer-lasting the liner will be. Installing the liner is one of the last steps in building a vinyl pool, so let’s take a look now at the earlier stages of construction.
The pool base is formed by digging out the dimensions and shape of the pool. After the soil is excavated, a prefabricated steel structure is installed around the perimeter. At this time, preliminary plumbing work is done to rough out the pool drains and return lines.
A concrete beam is then installed around the base of the steel walls, to lock them in place and provide structural stability. Once the concrete is dried and inspected, the pool floor is formed by pouring a layer of sand or vermiculite, providing both stability and soil drainage. Final connections are then made to the plumbing and equipment, and the area surrounding the pool walls is backfilled using soil left over from excavation. Finally, the liner is ready to be installed. Special care is taken to secure the liner to the steel walls, and a vacuuming device is used to ensure an air-tight installation with no creases in the liner. The pool is then filled, chemicals balanced, and you’re ready to start swimming!
Longevity and Durability
Vinyl liners have become popular for their ability to be fairly customizable while still being relatively economical and easy to install. Weather-permitting, it provides one of the fastest installation options as well.
The pool will require certain care and maintenance once installed. To preserve your liner throughout the years, install a pool cover when it’s not in use and during the off-season. A pool cover helps filter out the heat and UV rays that can damage the liner. Years of direct sun exposure can thin out the liner making it more vulnerable to cracks and tears. The same can happen with the improper use of chemicals. Cleaning is easier as the walls can be brushed down with little hassle.
Vinyl liners, though durable, will need to be replaced every 5-9 years, depending on need. The liner replacement is preformed rather quickly, and the costs involved are not as drastic as a complete rebuild. At the time of replacement, there is an opportunity for owners to give their pool a new look with a different liner design or color. Some owners may take the opportunity to add additional features to their backyard space.
Gunite has been around long before vinyl liner pools. These pools are said to withstand the test of time. Though it’s a significantly more expensive build, many find that it is worth the investment.
Gunite is a type of concrete that is created by mixing cement, sand, and other aggregate materials. After excavation, the structure is formed by shaping a steel cage out of rebar. Preliminary plumbing is done, and then the gunite mixture is shot directly onto the rebar and then troweled to a smooth finish. This method creates a solid structure with no seams or breaks, making gunite the most durable construction option for inground pools.
As a gunite pool is built from raw materials, rather than prefabricated components, there is more freedom to customize to enhance the pool’s final look, such as sun shelves and benches, attached spas, or other unique features like negative edges.
Once the gunite shell has cured, the pool equipment is installed and plumbing is completed. Coping stones and a tile line are installed, and then a plaster finish is applied to the interior to give the pool a smooth surface. You have a wide selection of finishes to choose from that vary in both color and texture. After plastering, the pool is filled and chemicals are balanced.
Maintaining a Gunite Pool
What draws many to this type of pool is the long life span and greater customization options. Given that the structure is properly constructed and properly maintained, gunite pools are said to last a lifetime. However, due to the material’s porous surface, it’s more prone to algae growth. As a result, gunite pool owners have to thoroughly brush and clean the walls of their pool more often. By cleaning the surfaces regularly, you avoid the overgrowth of bacteria that can be more difficult to combat.
As with vinyl liners, weather and improper water chemistry can cause the plaster finish to crack or peel. Resurfacing may need to be performed throughout the pool’s lifespan, often every 8 – 15 years.
Vinyl and gunite pools are two of the most popular options in pool construction. Each one carries unique benefits, which can provide options for future pool owners at different price points. Deciding which one is best for you will take time and understanding of your property and what you hope to build! At B&B, we have been building custom vinyl and gunite pools for nearly 50 years! Contact us, and we would be glad to aid you on your journey to pool ownership!