We have been offering vinyl liner pool construction since 1980. And one of the first things many people ask us is, “What’s the difference between fiberglass pools, vinyl liner pools, and concrete or gunite pools?”
Here you will find the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl liner pool construction. In addition, this page will inform you of the following:
The different wall materials used in vinyl liner construction
The type of vinyl used for making liners
How vinyl liner pools are installed
How vinyl liner pools hold up in the clay soil found in the Jackson, MS area.
Vinyl Liner Pool Advantages:
Lower initial cost. Vinyl liner pools have the lowest initial cost of any of the three types of in-ground pools. ($10,000-$20,000 less than fiberglass; $10,000-$20,000 less than gunite)
Best Value. Per square foot, the vinyl liner pool gives you the most swim room for less money.
Customizable shape and size. There are few if any limitations to the length, width, and depth of vinyl liner pools. Although there are some standard sizes and shapes, any of them can be customize.
Customizable options. Today’s vinyl liner pool can easily have built in seats, benches, tanning ledges, steps, and swim outs.
Non-abrasive surface. The surface of a vinyl liner pool is smooth to the touch and extremely comfortable to swimmers.
Lower maintenance. The surface of a vinyl liner pool is nonporous. This reduces the risk for algae growth as well as the amount of sanitizing chemicals required to maintain the pool.
Vinyl liner easily repaired or replaced.
Vinyl liners are easily repaired. Should a leak occur, once it is found, an underwater patch kit can be used to repair most leaks in as little as 5-10 minutes.
Vinyl liners are easily replaced with very little down time. It only takes about 2 days to complete a vinyl liner replacement. On average, a vinyl liner will last between 7 and 10 years. (The oldest liner ever replaced by Paradise Pools and Spas was 26 years old. This is not typical. Nevertheless, we commonly replace liners that are 10-12 years old.)
Vinyl Liner Pool Disadvantages:
Liner does have to be replacement periodically. The vinyl liner does have to be replaced, on average, every 7 to 10 years. The average replacement cost of a vinyl liner is $3,500.00 – $4,500.00.
Vinyl Liner warranties. All vinyl liner manufacturers have a pro-rated warranty. This means only a designated number of years carry the full warranty while the remaining years are reduced by a percentage based on age. In addition, the warranty does not cover fading, wrinkles, holes, wear or labor. The warranty only covers a separation of the seam in the liner.
Wall Materials Used in Vinyl Liner Pools
Several different wall materials can be used to build vinyl liner swimming pools. Here we will discuss three: wood, steel and polymer.
Wood Walls – Simply stated – The only reason that wood walled pools exist at all is to create the cheapest possible price point for an inground pool. Wood is NOT product designed to go in the ground. The natural occurrence of wood when put in the ground is to rot or decay. There is a product called Wolmanized® wood. Wolmanized® wood in this application is plywood and 2×4 boards pressure-treated with CCA preservative to provide structural protection from termites and fungal decay. However, in our experience, this product has no real consistency. In other words, we have seen it work, work well, falter, and fail miserably. When replacing liners and doing remodel work, we have uncovered 15-year-old walls still in good shape. We have also uncovered 5-year-old wood walls in horrible shape. In addition, most wood walls are actually build by the pool builder himself or purchased from a wholesaler who buys the materials, builds them and sells them to the builder. Thus there are no standards, regulations or quality controls for this product.
WHAT WE DO: We do NOT use wood walls to construct vinyl liner pools.
Steel Walls – Steel walls can be very strong and can provide a structurally strong pool. They perform best in a dry, arid environment (such as the southwest – Arizonia, New Mexico). However, in the very humid and many times down right wet Jackson, MS environment, steel walls do not perform as well. The walls rust quickly, within just a few years, causing damage to the liner and resulting in addition maintenance each time a liner is replaced. There are regulations and standards for steel walls. Still, the variation in quality can be significant from brand to brand.
WHAT WE DO: We do NOT use steel walls to construct vinyl liner pools. However, if we had to choose between wood walls and steel walls, we would choose steel. The reason for this choice would be the strength of the steel wall and how that strength would enable the pool to perform in the Jackson, MS clay soil.
Polymer Walls – These walls are made from totally non-corrosive materials. They cannot rot, rust or corrode in any way. What is more, many of today’s polymer panels are almost as strong as steel due to the resins and raw materials being used. Yet, they won’t dent or corrode even when using the ever increasing popular salt systems, which are known to accelerate corrosion. Fact is, it is hard for us to find anything negative about polymer walls as they are impervious to almost any type of natural ground conditions. However, as with most products, polymer walls do vary in their quality. Some walls are very rigid and strong, like steel. Others can be less rigid and even wobble, warp and bend under slight pressure.
WHAT WE DO: We use one of the strongest polymer walls on the market today, the Matrix Pool System. Not only does this polymer wall give us strength, but also provides versatility by offering many shapes, sizes and options. Some of these options are benches, stools, tanning ledges and deep-end swim-outs.
Vinyl Used to Make the Vinyl Liners
There are different types and grades of vinyl used in the swimming pool industry. For the sake of this discussion we will limit it to two major types. Let’s categorized the two types as “North American” Vinyl and “Off-Shore” Vinyl.
North American Vinyl – Produced in North America, primarily Canada and USA. Most North American Vinyl is manufactured using a process known as calendaring. This process can be described best perhaps by picturing a huge series of pasta machines, in which the raw vinyl material enters and is pressed down by means of rollers. These rollers press the material flat like pasta over and over again until it becomes the desired thickness. During this process, air is pressed out of the material. This makes the material denser and heavier. In addition, there are no additives. The end product is a virgin vinyl liner, with no additives that is heavier and denser than its “Off-Shore” counter-part. It is usually a more expensive product that last longer.
Off-Shore Vinyl – Produced in other countries than North America, primarily China. This material is most often manufactured using a process known as extrusion. This process can be best described perhaps by picturing your old Play Doe set. Remember when you put the Play Doe in the machine, pushed the lever, and out came the desired shape? That’s what they do with the vinyl. They put the raw vinyl material into a machine and it pushes out a flat sheet in the desired thickness. This process allows air to be trapped in the vinyl, thus allowing microscopic air bubbles to be trapped throughout the sheet of vinyl. In addition, many off-shore vinyl manufacturers use additives, such as talc, chalk, and other powders to add volume. The end product is a vinyl liner that is still termed virgin vinyl but has additives and is lighter and less dense than its North American counter-part. It is usually a less expensive product that does not last as long. o Side Point – There are certainly different grades of vinyl, in both North American and Off-Shore vinyl. In addition, we have found a great deal of difference in the quality of workmanship in the manufacturers we deal with.
WHAT WE DO: We have worked very hard to align ourselves with manufacturers that use the best of both materials, North American vinyl and Off-Shore vinyl. We use both materials because we recognize that not all customers have the same wants and needs. When we talk with customers about their projects we explain the difference about both materials, tell them about the cost differences and let them make the best choice for them and their families. In this manner, those with cost concerns are able to save money, yet get a good quality product. While those who are interested in the best of quality are able to obtain that, and still get good deals.
How Vinyl Liner Pools are Installed – A Simplified Summary
After laying out the pool, an excavation crew digs a hole according to the pool’s specification.
The pool’s wall as then installed.
This is one place a pool builder can separate themselves from other builders. Not only does the choice of material play a huge part (Wood, Steel, or Polymer) but way the walls are installed. It is customary to pour a concrete bond beam around the pool. Yet the thickness and makeup of this bond beam is left up to the builder. Making this bond beam even more important here in Jackson, MS, is the clay soil that shifts and, at times, seems to be in constant movement. Strength is needed if the pool is to withstand the push and pull of this clay soil.
What We Do: We build our pools using the strongest polymer wall available. In addition, we wrap the pool wall with steel before pouring a concrete bond beam 2’ wide at a minimum of 8” thick. Steel + more concrete = stronger pool.
Pool bottom is installed.
This is another place a pool builder can separate themselves from other builders. Some older builders still us a sand/concrete mixture. This is not advised by the vinyl liner manufacturers. Most builders now use what is called Pool Crete. This provides a porous yet smooth finish for the liner to lay on. According to the manufacturer, Pool Crete should be 2” thick.
What We Do: We use Pool Crete, installing it at least 2” thick.
Plumbing inlets and outlets are set in the walls.
What We Do: We use all 2” plumbing on both the suction and return sides for better circulation and to reduce strain on the pool equipment, producing less electricity usage. In addition, we us only schedule 40 pipe and fittings.
The vinyl liner is installed.
It is up to the builder to decided when it is best to install the vinyl liner. On some projects it is advantageous to install the liner before backfilling. On others projects it is better to install the liner after the backfill, on occasions, even putting the liner in after the concrete deck is poured. Stay informed by your builder. Know why the builder is making the decisions he is making.
Sometimes this process is dictated by the wall material used. Some pool walls are simply not strong enough to handle the water weight, requiring the pool to be backfilled first. Great care is necessary when doing this. Walls can become out of level or crooked. For this reason, the dirt used to backfill is put in loosely and not packed in. Additional temporary bracing of the walls is sometimes needed to prevent issues.
Most polymer and steel walls are strong enough for the pool to be filled prior to backfilling. This allows for the dirt to be packed against the walls.
What We Do: Since we use on of the strongest polymer pool walls on the market, we have the ability to choose what is best for the project we are working on without be hindered by inferior wall strength. Most projects have the pool filled with water before backfilling, allowing us to pack in the dirt around the pool. Bottom line: We are allowed to make the best decision possible for the project and customer due to the strength and quality of the materials being used.
The pool’s equipment is installed. You have many equipment options. Ask questions and make sure you are getting what you expect.
This is yet another place a pool builder can separate themselves from other builders. Every customer deserves to know the equipment options they have. Be sure to ask about energy efficiency, as some pieces of equipment can cause you to use double the amount of electricity. In addition, make sure you are getting name brand equipment, not inexpensive knock-offs or inferior brands.
What We Do: We inform you of your choices and only use name brand equipment. Currently we use Hayward and Pentair equipment, the two leading brands in our industry.
The pool deck is formed and poured.
Here again a pool builder can separate themselves from other builders. Although no concrete deck carries any warranty against cracks, regardless of who pours or prepares it, certain practices in preparing the deck can help in preventing cracks and breakage.
What We Do: We provide deck supports any time a pool deck is poured on ground that has been disturbed or had fill dirt added. Concrete wire is also installed in every deck along with moisture beerier. In addition, a 4000 psi concrete mixture is used to pour decks instead of the traditions, 2500 psi and 3000 psi mixtures. These practices add an addition level of protection against cracks and breakage.
Vinyl Liner Pools and the Clay Soil in the Jackson, MS Area
If built with the clay soil in mind, vinyl liner pools can hold up well in the Jackson, MS area. What does it mean to build a vinyl liner pool “with the clay soil in mind?” It means to build the pool using materials and practices that have the best chance of withstanding the pushing and pulling of the clay soil. Some of these practices are:
Using wall materials strong enough to withstand clay soil
Using wall materials that do not rot, rust or corrode when placed in the ground
Using steel in the concrete to reinforce the pool
Using extra concrete and stronger concrete in the bond beam
Using deck supports, wire and superior concrete mixes to pour the pool deck
While no claims can be made that this is the only way to build in clay soil, it can be said that these are best practices. In addition, these practices can produce a vinyl liner pool that can handle the shifting of the clay soil.
(Disclaimer: Shifting and movement by clay soil can cause any type of construction to have issues. The statements made here are not meant to indicate otherwise.)
For some detailed information about other types of construction, click on the following links: