Four Different Types of In-Ground Pools and How to Choose One

inground swimming pool

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An in-ground pool is a water-filled recreational or exercise fixture built permanently into the ground with the top sitting flush with the lawn. It is also a more lasting design element in your landscape than an above-ground pool. When choosing an in-ground pool, you'll have a choice of four main types of materials including concrete mixes, fiberglass, and vinyl. Each type of material has pros and cons that you'll want to consider before choosing a pool. Below, we’ll break down the ins and outs of each type of in-ground pool and the factors you should consider when choosing which material is best for you and your yard.

Basic Types of In-Ground Pools
   Basics Positive  Negative
Concrete with plaster or aggregate finishes Used for custom-shaped pools Most durable material Takes a long time to properly install
Concrete and tile or stone Used as a base for decorative materials Aesthetically pleasing Difficult to repair/replace
Fiberglass Used for quick installations Lowest maintenance Limitations in sizes and shapes
Vinyl Used for less expensive installations Comes in any size or shape Deteriorates over time
  • 01 of 04

    Concrete With Plaster or Aggregate Finishes

    Workmen repairing a pool
    Scott Leigh/Getty Images

    Best for: Permanent in-ground pools

    Made of steel-reinforced concrete that forms a shell, concrete and plaster are the most common in-ground pool-building materials and were the first ones used when residential pools became popular. The reason: Concrete is durable and porous, which allows the plaster-coated shell to hold water, provide stability, and be replastered when needed, adding to its longevity and durability. Even though concrete has a higher up-front cost (as opposed to vinyl, for instance), it is considered the most cost-friendly option long-term as it can be maintained for years and likely will never have to be replaced if properly cared for.

    Here's how it works: After a hole has been excavated in a yard, the sides and bottom of the hole are lined or framed with rebar (steel rods). These can be sculpted into nearly any shape conceivable (from rectangles and hearts to guitars), along with adding steps, ramps, and other features. After the rebar is positioned, the pool shell is made by spraying a finish using shotcrete or gunite, a combination of sand, concrete, and water that's sprayed onto a surface using a hose. Once the concrete material is cured, it's topped with plaster (a combination of cement and marble dust), which may also include colored quartz for aesthetics. Plaster is what makes the pool actually waterproof and is an essential step in the process.

    This method helps a contractor in deciding the size and shape of a concrete pool. In most cases, a pool with modern curves should not cost any more than the same-size pool with a more traditional, angular shape.

    • Most durable, becoming stronger over time

    • Does not corrode/oxidize

    • Easily customizable

    • Longer installation time

    • Can be costly to install and maintain

    • Higher maintenance costs

  • 02 of 04

    Concrete and Tile or Stone

    A traditional rectangular pool
    The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals

    Best for: Decorative in-ground pools

    Concrete pools also act as a base for various other popular pool finishes, such as tile or stone. Once the concrete base of the pool is established and set (in steps similar to the above), the pool is coated with a thinset mortar upon which tile or stone can be set. The tile should set for a minimum of 24 hours before finishing with a grout that has been polymer fortified to stand up to constant moisture and pool chemicals.

    Opting for tile or stone for your pool is a purely aesthetic choice and doesn't really have much of an obvious benefit to the longevity of your pool. Typically these finishes last between 8 to 12 years and can be difficult to repair or replace, often necessitating the draining of the pool and a professional fix for even small chips or missing titles.

    • Beautiful designs

    • Long-lasting designs

    • Stands up to moisture and pool chemicals

    • Difficult to repair/replace tiles, stone

    • Professionals required for even small fixes

    • Requires precise chemical balance to avoid costly repairs

  • 03 of 04


    A fiberglass swimming pool
    Photography by Mangiwau/Getty Images

    Best for: Low-maintenance in-ground pools

    An in-ground swimming pool made of fiberglass will be sold as a large one-piece shell that arrives at your home by truck and then is positioned in the excavated hole with the help of a crane. A fiberglass pool has high up-front costs, but it has lower maintenance costs over time. It has limitations on size and comes in pre-fabricated molds.

    Unlike concrete pools, fiberglass pools are ready-made, making it difficult to request a customized design. Most fiberglass manufacturers offer many models and sizes to choose from, and things like steps, spas, and benches are usually pre-formed.

    Fiberglass makes the pool-building process quick and easy. The smooth interior surface is slick, making it tough for algae to cling to. After 10 to 15 years of exposure to the sun and chemicals, the fiberglass gel coating deteriorates. Recoating the gel it is not easy because the new coating does not stick easily to the older one.

    A fiberglass pool is not prone to growing algae, and over 10 years, the lifetime costs to maintain this type of pool are the least costly. It never needs acid washing or a deep refinishing (except for the possibility of topical recoating).

    • Low-maintenance

    • No deep surface refinishing necessary

    • Not prone to algae growth

    • Limited shapes and sizes

    • Fiberglass deteriorates

    • Slick surface, recoating difficult

  • 04 of 04


    A vinyl swimming pool
    Sisoje/Getty Images

    Best for: Least expensive in-ground pools

    Pools that are lined with vinyl are built with metal or plastic frames above ground or set into the excavated hole. Prefab supporting walls or panels made of plastic, steel, or aluminum are joined to the frame, making a form that is then lined with heavy vinyl to create the pool shell. The bottom of a vinyl liner sits on a bed of sand or other material, while the top is held down by the coping, which creates a finished edge and also acts as a border for the pool deck. Vinyl liner pools are the least expensive in-ground swimming pools and can be built in any size and shape.

    Like other materials, vinyl deteriorates over time with exposure to the elements as well as pool chemicals. Some liners come equipped with fungus and UV inhibitors, which can extend the life of a vinyl liner from 10 years to about 18 years. Depending on your location, a vinyl pool can be the least expensive option, running approximately $20,000 to $50,000.

    • Least expensive type of installation

    • Any size/shape available

    • Can opt for fungus/UV inhibitors

    • Vinyl deteriorates

    • Liner replacement costly

    • Water chemicals need precise balancing to slow down deterioration

Choosing an In-Ground Pool

Building an in-ground pool is a big decision. Many factors are most important in choosing which type of in-ground pool you should install. Before opting for any type of pool, research as many images of pools as you can to get a better idea of the kinds of designs you're drawn to. If you love a specific size or shape, it may drive the specific type of material you need for the pool. Are you going to live in your house for the long term? If so, you may want one of the more durable material options for your in-ground pool. Pool maintenance is truly an endless list of chores. Will you hire a pool maintenance company or do your own maintenance? The level of maintenance you're willing to do will most certainly be an indicator of what type of material you should choose.

Article Sources
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  1. How Much Does it Cost to Build an Inground Pool in 2021? Pool Magazine.