When you take the plunge to add a pool to your landscape, you’re making a long-term commitment to transforming your property. Done well, a pool will seamlessly connect your house to your yard and provide plenty of options for entertaining and relaxing. A great design can even boost your property value for resale, making pool installation a good investment.
There’s nearly an endless array of pool designs and styles to choose from, but before you consider the shape and the overall look, it’s important to understand the two basic pool structures: vinyl liners and gunite.
All pools need liners to hold the pool’s shape underground and provide comfortable, beautiful footing for swimmers. The liner is what you see underwater, so you should definitely take the time to decide between the two most popular types.
Understanding Vinyl Pool Liners
Vinyl liners are assembled in modular panels that can be attached to the bottom and sides of your pool in nearly any configuration. There are no limitations to length, width or depth of vinyl liner pools. In fact, in the hands of a skilled builder, vinyl pools can be built in any shape, including curvaceous free-form designs, and they can include water features, sundecks, swim-outs and benches. If you can imagine it, a talented builder can achieve your vision with vinyl.
Understanding Gunite Pools
Gunite is a type of concrete pool. To build the pool to your specifications for shape and size, pool technicians set a rebar framework into the ground and spray a mixture of concrete and sand over the form. It also offers nearly total flexibility in the design of your pool, and gunite can be finished with a smooth plaster coating, tile or other decorative touches for further customization.
Vinyl vs. Gunite: The Differences
Like any building material, vinyl and unite each have their pros and cons. First, a vinyl liner pool is less expensive to install than a gunite pool. A gunite pool with standard finishes can easily start out between $10,000 to $15,000 more than the identical size and shape vinyl liner pool. This is because vinyl is modular and easier to install in most situations.
The other major difference is time. A gunite pool on average takes two to four months to build because the concrete needs time to completely cure, or dry before you can finish the pool and fill it with water. A vinyl liner pool, on the other hand, can be completed in just two to three weeks.
You’ll also want to consider the look and feel of your pool. Vinyl liners come in a range of colors and styles, and many people prefer their smooth feel underfoot. Vinyl pools protect your little ones, as well as your friends and family members, from scratches and bathing suit pulls that occur with coarser surfaces. With the proper 28ml liner, vinyl pools are also pet-friendly. Though gunite can be finished in a variety of ways for a custom look, most gunite pools have a rough surface. Over time, the plaster can be become rougher and require more frequent repair of chips and jagged edges.
Living in New Jersey means cold winters and months when you need to shut down your pool. Both vinyl and gunite pools can be winterized; however, colder climates can result in frost heaving tiles from a gunite pool, which will result in more frequent repairs.
For both pool types, you’ll need to maintain proper water chemistry for swimmer safety. Because the surface of a gunite pool is very rough, algae and debris can easily accumulate along the surface of the pool, requiring more chemicals and maintenance. The plaster finish on a gunite pool can also become discolored if the pool chemistry is off. If this happens and you are unhappy with the color change, you’ll need to replaster the whole pool to restore its good looks — a major expense. Vinyl, by contrast, holds its color and texture under pool chemicals with relative ease.
Maintenance and Repair of Vinyl and Gunite Pools
On average, both gunite and vinyl liner pools will need to be renovated every 10 to 15 years. A gunite pool repair involves resurfacing and retiling the pool, and, in some cases, the bullnose and bond beam may also need to be repaired. This work can cost approximately $8,000 to $15,000, depending on the pool size and finishes. Should the bullnose and bonding need to be repaired as well, the approximate cost could increase substantially, perhaps topping out at $20,000 to $25,000. Re-plastering and re-tiling a gunite pool can take one to two weeks.
When a vinyl liner reaches the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced, it usually costs between $2,500 and $4,500. Replacing a vinyl liner is much faster and can be completed in just one day.
The Bottom Line
Because vinyl liners now come in so many finishes and can be used in a wide range of pool shapes and sizes, they are often the best choice for an economical pool design that still looks like you paid a fortune for it. They’re also a great choice for weathering New Jersey winters with ease, so be sure to consider all your options when you talk to a pool builder about transforming your backyard.
*This piece has been republished from The Pool Boss.