Pool Shell Materials: Understanding The Different Types Of In-Ground Pools

An aerial view of a swimming pool.

Splash into the World of Pool Shells

Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about those sun-soaked summer days lounging by a shimmering pool in Clayton, NC?

Or perhaps you’ve been deep in thought, wondering which pool shell material would best complement your backyard oasis?

You’re not the only one.

Many North Carolina homeowners grapple with these questions, and this guide aims to shed light on the intricate world of in-ground pool materials, including details about vinyl liner pool installation in Clayton.

By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision, ensuring your pool not only looks fantastic but stands the test of time.

Importance of Understanding the Different Types of In-Ground Pools

An aerial view of a swimming pool in a backyard.

Choosing a pool shell material isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It’s one of the crucial things to consider when building an in-ground pool.

It’s a significant investment, both in terms of time and money.

The right material can enhance the aesthetics of your backyard, increase the longevity of your pool, and even boost the overall value of your property.

Conversely, a hasty decision could lead to frequent repairs, higher maintenance costs, and a pool that looks out of place.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Pool Shell Material

Beyond the initial cost, factors like maintenance, durability, and design flexibility play a crucial role in determining the best pool shell for your Clayton, NC, home.

Considering the soil types and climate conditions of your location can also influence your decision.

For instance, while a particular material might be cheaper upfront, it could require more frequent maintenance, leading to higher costs in the long run.

1. In-Ground Concrete Swimming Pool Shell

A concrete pool shell under construction

Concrete pools, especially those made of gunite, are often seen gracing the pages of luxury home magazines.

Their popularity stems from their durability and the unparalleled design flexibility they offer.

Gunite Pool Construction Process

Imagine wanting a pool shaped like a guitar or perhaps one with a built-in bar or an island.

With gunite, such customizations are possible.

The construction process begins with excavation, after which the dug-out space is lined with reinforced steel.

A mixture of cement and sand is then sprayed onto this framework.

Once the gunite cures and hardens, you’re left with a robust pool shell that’s ready to be finished with tiles, paint, or plaster.

Concrete pools are the most expensive type of in-ground pool and the installation process typically takes 3-6 months to complete.

Visual Versatility and Appeal

Although many people opt to keep plain plaster as their pool surface material, you also have the option of adding finishes like tile or stone.

The finishing touches to a gunite pool can transform it from a simple swimming area to a stunning backyard centerpiece.

For instance, glass tiles can create a mesmerizing mosaic effect, reflecting the sun’s rays and making the pool sparkle.

River pebble aggregates, on the other hand, can give the pool a natural, rustic charm reminiscent of a secluded mountain stream.

Gunite Maintenance and Durability

While gunite pools are known for their durability, they do require consistent care.

Regular brushing can prevent algae buildup, but the pool will also likely need acid washing every 3-5 years to maintain its luster.

Additionally, concrete pool shells will also need to be replastered or resurfaced every 10-15 years.

Both of those maintenance tasks will potentially add tens of thousands of dollars to the lifetime costs of a concrete pool.

However, with diligent care, a gunite pool can last several decades, making it a wise investment for many homeowners.

Different Types of Concrete Pool Shells

A concrete pool installer sprays plaster on a concrete pool shell

One of the most frequently misunderstood styles of in-ground pools is concrete pools.

Many pool owners, even after extensive discussions, often confuse the terminology and specifics of their concrete pool.

Let’s break down the confusion and clarify the different types of concrete pools:

Gunite Pools

  • Definition: A gunite pool is an in-ground concrete swimming pool. The term “gunite” refers to a specific concrete pumping process.

  • Construction Process: In gunite pools, dry mixed concrete is pumped through lines and mixed with water at a spray nozzle. This mixture is then sprayed into place, forming the base pool structure.

Shotcrete Pools

  • Definition: A shotcrete pool is another type of in-ground concrete swimming pool, but its construction process differs slightly from gunite.

  • Construction Process: Unlike gunite, where the concrete is mixed onsite, shotcrete involves pre-mixing the concrete. This pre-mixed concrete is then pumped through lines in its wet form and sprayed into place, similar to gunite.

Cast Pools

  • Definition: A cast pool is an in-ground concrete swimming pool that uses a different method of placing the concrete.

  • Construction Process: Casting involves placing concrete via forming and pouring, as opposed to the shooting and hand carving methods used in gunite and shotcrete pools. Cast pools utilize both backside and front-side concrete forms. In contrast, sprayed pools like gunite and shotcrete only have a backside form, with the interior pool shape carved out and troweled by hand.

2. In-Ground Fiberglass Swimming Pool Shell

fiberglass plastic swimming pool entrance step with clean fresh refreshing blue water

Fiberglass swimming pools are the epitome of convenience.

They’re relatively quick to install and require minimal maintenance, making them a favorite for busy homeowners.

Fiberglass Pool Shell Construction Process

Unlike gunite concrete pools, which are built on-site, fiberglass pool shells are manufactured off-site at a fiberglass pool factory and arrive as a single, prefabricated structure.

Once the excavation is complete, this fiberglass pool shell is lowered into the ground, and you’re one step closer to taking that refreshing dip.

Fiberglass pools are usually less expensive than concrete but more expensive than a vinyl liner pool.

You can learn more about the cost difference between a fiberglass pool shell vs. a concrete pool here.

Depending on the specific type of fiberglass pool shell and the experience of the pool installer, a fiberglass pool can be installed in as little time as 3-5 weeks.

Fiberglass Versatility and Appeal

While fiberglass pool shells don’t offer the same level of customization as other types of in-ground pools, they come in a plethora of shapes and colors.

From classic rectangles to free-form designs that mimic natural ponds, there’s a fiberglass pool shell for every taste.

On the other hand, the size of fiberglass pool shells is limited due to load limits for transportation.

For this reason, the total size of your fiberglass swimming pool shell is restricted to a width of 16 feet and a length of 40 feet.

Fiberglass Maintenance and Durability

One of the main selling points of fiberglass pools is their ease of maintenance.

Thanks to its proprietary gel coat, the smooth surface of a fiberglass swimming pool is resistant to algae growth, meaning fewer chemicals are needed to keep the water clear.

Additionally, the non-porous surface of fiberglass swimming pools means less frequent pH adjustments, saving both time and money spent on chemicals.

3. In-Ground Vinyl Swimming Pools

A True L shape vinyl liner pool with vinyl steps & a waterfall

Vinyl pools offer a balance between cost-effectiveness and design flexibility.

They’re especially popular in areas with cold winters, as they’re resistant to cracks caused by freezing and thawing.

Vinyl Pool Construction Process

A vinyl pool consists of a frame, typically made from steel, plastic, or reinforced concrete.

A vinyl liner is then attached to this frame, creating a watertight seal.

This design ensures the pool remains resilient, even in areas prone to ground movement.

Vinyl liner pools are the most cost-effective type of inground pool you can install.

You can learn more about the vinyl pool vs. concrete pool cost here, while a cost comparison for vinyl pool vs. fiberglass can be viewed here.

Once a permit is issued, the vinyl liner pool installation process typically takes 4-6 weeks.

Vinyl Versatility and Appeal

Vinyl liners come in a myriad of colors and vinyl liner patterns, from vibrant blues to subtle grays.

They can even mimic the appearance of more expensive materials, like mosaic tiles or natural stone, giving homeowners the luxury look without the hefty price tag.

Vinyl pools also feature a wide range of vinyl liner pool shapes and sizes, allowing you to personalize the look of your in-ground swimming pool and find a size that fits your property perfectly.

Vinyl Maintenance and Durability

While vinyl liners are cost-effective, they can be susceptible to damage.

Sharp objects, rough play, or even some animals can cause tears.

However, today’s modern vinyl liners typically come with a 20-year pro-rated warranty.

In any case, most vinyl pool owners tend to get a vinyl pool liner replacement after 10-12 years because of issues like color fading from chlorine or physical damage.

Similar to fiberglass pool shells, vinyl liners are resistant to algae thanks to their smooth, non-porous surface. Vinyl liners are also the most comfortable pool when it comes to surface texture, due to the smooth, yielding nature of vinyl.

With regular care, vinyl liner pools can offer years of enjoyment.

Different Types of Vinyl Liner Pool Walls

A vinyl pool installation during the second day of work. Steel wall panels are visible

Beyond the vinyl liner, there are also two main types of wall systems used in vinyl liner pool construction.

Steel wall and polymer (plastic) wall systems are the most common.

Some pool contractors used to install concrete block walls for vinyl pools, but that is rarely done today.

Each type of wall system offers its own set of benefits, ensuring there’s a vinyl pool for every home and budget.

Generally speaking, steel walls are more customizable, while polymer walls are more resistant to corrosion.

You should consult with a pool installation expert to determine the best pool wall system for your specific needs.

Here at Prestige Pools of NC, we are proud to use high-quality pool walls made by Hydra Pools.

Overview of Three Main Pool Types

For your convenience, here’s a table that highlights the differences between the three main pool types:

Feature/AspectIn-Ground Concrete (Gunite) PoolsIn-Ground Fiberglass PoolsIn-Ground Vinyl Pools
Construction Time3-6 months3-5 weeks4-6 weeks
Design FlexibilityHigh (customizable shapes)Limited (pre-fabricated)High (many shapes and sizes available)
Initial CostHighModerateLow to Moderate
Maintenance FrequencyRegularMinimalModerate
DurabilityUp to 50 years with care25-30 years with careLiner will need to be replaced every 10-12 years
Surface FeelHardSmoothSoft
Aesthetic AppealHigh (variety of finishes)ModerateHigh (variety of liners)
Maintenance CostHigher (resurfacing, acid wash)LowerModerate (liner replacement)
Popular FinishesTiles, plaster, stoneProprietary gel coatVinyl liner patterns
Construction ProcessSprayed concretePrefabricated shellFrame with liner
Resistance to AlgaeLowHighHigh
Typical WarrantyVariesVaries20-year pro-rated (liner)
Special FeaturesCustom shapes, built-in featuresLimited customization, size limitsVariety of liner designs and shapes

Dive Into A Vinyl Liner Pool With Prestige Pools of NC

A Roman End style vinyl liner pool installed by Prestige Pools of NC

Navigating the world of pool shell materials can be daunting, but with the right information, you can make a decision that you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Whether you’re leaning towards the durability of gunite, the low maintenance of fiberglass, or the cost-effectiveness of vinyl, our goal at Prestige Pools of NC is to guide you toward the type of pool shell that will work best for your specific situation.

That being said, if you are leaning toward a vinyl liner pool in Clayton, NC, we can help!

Prestige Pools of NC specializes in vinyl liner in-ground pool installation and has the expertise to bring your pool dreams to life.

Ready to dive into your dream pool?

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call. Your backyard oasis awaits!