Experts on Pool Construction
By Debra Wood
Inground pools and other swimming pools present a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to spend time at home. A new pool not only adds value to your home, but it also improves your life. Before you select a type of pool, you should first consider a few factors: budget and desired shape and size, where and how you plan to use the pool, and extras, such as swimouts, a spa and a vanishing edge.
What are the benefits of the three types of inground pools: concrete, vinyl-lined and fiberglass?
Jim Palmer, Vice President Marketing and Retail, Anthony & Sylvan Pools: Concrete inground pools offer an array of variations. Design possibilities are limitless. A prime benefit is staying power.
Fred von Lewinski, President, Charlottesville Aquatics Pool & Spa Center, Aquatech: You save money with vinyl-lined inground pools. The trade-off, though, is that you don't have as many design options. Most vinyl-lined inground pools come as a package, although for additional money, you can custom design a vinyl pool, add coping and make it like concrete inground pools. Another benefit with vinyl-lined inground pools is smooth and user-friendly texture, especially for children. You never have to worry about youngsters scraping themselves on the surface.
Kirk Sullivan, President, San Juan Pools: If you strip away all of the things inground pools have in common, like the deck and equipment, all you are left with is the vessel that holds the water. You want something that's strong, durable and easy to maintain. Fiberglass is a superior vessel for holding water. It does not chip, tear or alter the water chemistry.
Construction vs. Climate
Why are some types of inground pools more popular in some climates than others?
JP: Concrete inground pools are by far the most popular type of pool, primarily because of concrete's durability and aesthetic value. Although conditions vary from place to place, concrete inground pools can withstand most regional climatic conditions and they make a wise choice regardless of a homeowner's location.
FvL: Much has to do with the education of the consumer and the cost. For instance, in Florida, there is a lot less difference in price between concrete inground pools and a vinyl-lined inground pools. The farther north you go, you will find more disparity in pricing. Florida's sandy soil and high water table come into play. The sand moves around and you have to de-water the hole. It's easier to deal with a wet hole if you are building with concrete rather than vinyl. Whereas, vinyl works well, without modifying the construction details, in harsh environments that have heavy, deep-freezes. Climatic differences also affect choices in the coping and decking of inground pools. The coolness of an acrylic deck with simulated flagstone coping becomes more important in places that experience steamy temperatures. Pavers work well in areas that do not have freeze-thaw cycles, while concrete decks are popular in colder climates.
KS: Fiberglass inground pools work well in northern and southern climates and in all soil conditions, including moist, rock and high-freeze areas. Fiberglass has the ability to flex and accommodate movement. Most people who purchase fiberglass pools are second-time pool owners. They like the pool lifestyle but are looking for something that is quicker to install and easier to take care of.
All inground pools require excavation, plumbing, electrical work and decking, but how does the installation process differ?
JP: A pool really transforms a backyard. The construction process for concrete inground pools requires a little patience. There are a number of phases in construction, including the forming, applying concrete to the form, and tile, coping and plastering. The whole process takes between three and six weeks.
FvL: You'll be swimming quicker in vinyl-lined inground pools, usually within a week. Building vinyl-lined inground pools takes about a third of the time than that of a concrete one. There is great variation in how a vinyl-lined pool is built. You have many choices for wall materials. Some builders use wood, some pour concrete walls, but the majority use steel or polymer. There are also choices in the bottom material.
KS: A fiberglass pool shell is manufactured in one piece and delivered to your jobsite complete. Once the hole is dug and the pool lifted into place and leveled, water is added.
Debating Different Surfaces
What are the pros and cons of the surfaces of inground pools?
JP: Concrete interior-surface finishes, with different colors and textures, give the consumer free rein in designing a pool that coordinates with the rest of the backyard and the house. You can match the tile, coping and decking to achieve the desired look. Concrete finishes, however, need resurfacing every 13 years on average.
FvL: Vinyl-lined inground pools are smooth. It takes less effort to maintain the chemical balance, but they need to be replaced about every 10 years.
KS: Fiberglass is easy to maintain and does not need resurfacing. Fiberglass inground pools are smooth and tough, and algae can't penetrate the surface. Fiberglass is inert. Nothing bleeds out to change the water chemistry, so it is easier to maintain the pH balance. In addition, fiberglass is skin-friendly; however, it does cost a little more.
What should a potential owner consider when purchasing an inground pool?
JP: Research the company you want to use. Check with neighbors and friends. Find out how pleased they were with the construction process. You want to make sure that you have a highly reputable and knowledgeable company in your backyard.
FvL: The experience gained from longevity in business speaks for itself. Look for design awards. Ask about job supervision. And stay away from contractors who badmouth the competition. For a vinyl-lined pool, ask about the wall system. Materials used can affect the longevity of the pool. There are pros and cons for different materials, depending on the soil conditions, so locale dictates what is best.
KS: With fiberglass inground pools, two things are vital: the pool shell and the finished job. Pool shell quality and options differ. Many people think that all fiberglass inground pools are alike, but resins and production techniques differ. Inquire if the shell is hand-laid or chopped fiberglass and if it has 100-percent pure vinyl-ester throughout the laminate or only in the skin coat. Ask how many projects the builder has completed and if the crews have been factory trained. With a new contractor, ask for factory supervision. Check references and take a look at those jobs to assess if the completed pool projects a good visual effect.
Securing Your Investment
What should pool buyers ask about in regard to warranties, license, insurance and references?
JP: A consumer should look for a reputable company with stature in the marketplace, one that has the staying power to honor warranties.
FvL: Ask to see the contractor's business references, licenses and insurance. Ask how long the company has been operating.
KS: Fiberglass pool manufacturers typically back the warranty on the pool shell. Ask what is, and what is not, included in the warranty. Don't be confused by the length of the warranty. People often think a lifetime warranty refers to their lifetime, when, in fact, it refers to the lifetime of the business. Lifetime is an ambiguous term and courts have declared it to mean seven-and-a-half years. Check to make sure the contractor has workers' compensation insurance.