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    DIY Inground Pools - Concrete, Fiberglass or Vinyl?

    March 16, 2015


    From a Do it Yourself perspective, what's better - concrete, fiberglass or vinyl inground pools? The 3 different inground pool types are world's apart when it comes to installation and not all pool types are so DIY friendly.

    Let's jump right in on each inground pool construction method, and explore some of the challenges that a DIY pool builder could encounter, or some specific skill sets that will require some professional assistance.

    There are many shared steps in pool construction, no matter what type of pool shell is used, many of the steps are the same such as:business_woman_blueprint_meeting_150_wht_14734

    • planning and permitting
    • excavation and electrical
    • plumbing and heating
    • safety requirements

    However, there are distinct differences when it comes to constructing the shell of the pool, and if you make it out of concrete, fiberglass or steel/concrete covered in vinyl. Here's a list of those distinctions or how each pool construction differs by pool type.


    A concrete pool is only overdug to the backside of the pool wall, or about a foot wider and half a foot deeper. A steel cage of rebar is created on site, inside the pool, to conform to the shape of the pool wall. The pool light niches are hung, and the pool plumbing is set in place. A shotcrete or gunite crew arrives next to "shoot the pool", burying the rebar cage in a solid shell. Workers work with trowels to smooth the shape of the pool, steps and swim outs. The next step is setting the tile and coping on the top of the pool walls, and then after a few weeks of curing, the gunite is coated with a waterproof plaster topcoat. The pool is filled and balanced, and brushed daily for a few weeks to help cure the plaster.


    A fiberglass pool is overdug 1-2 feet all around the pool, but the floor is not overdug unless soils are rocky, then some soil is replaced with clean fill, and then tamped down smooth to match the exact slope of the pool floor. Step or bench areas are best cut in by hand, in an effort to match the angles of the pool shell. When ready, the fiberglass pool shell is delivered, and lifted off of the flatbed truck by crane or excavator, and placed into the hole. Adjustments are made to level the shell, the plumbing is connected and the sidewalls of the pool are backfilled with gravel and tamped. The pool deck is then constructed so as to overlap the edge of the pool and provide some support.


    A vinyl lined pool is overdug by about 2.5 feet all the way around the pool and dug about half a foot deeper. The areas are smoothed and tamped and the walls are constructed around the pool. A concrete truck delivers a ready mix that is poured around the outside of the pool walls, about a foot deep, locking the walls in place. The floor is then constructed of a concrete mix or vermiculite mix, troweled smooth to the shape of the floor and deep end. The plumbing is connected and the pool liner is installed over the steel or polymer walls and cementitious floor, sucked tightly with a large wet vac and filled with water. The pool is backfilled with fill dirt and tamped and the pool deck can then be installed.


    Definitely not concrete, it's way too involved, with too many specialized trades required. Fiberglass seems simple on the surface, just drop the shell in the hole, but small issues with soils or imperfections in placement can cause a fiberglass pool shell to shift or tilt, or have hollow spots under steps and benches, which can cause cracking.

    The vinyl liner type of pool is perfect for the DIY inground pool installer, because it is much more forgiving of errors or issues with soils, and because it's not a one-piece shell, it's more flexible in the ground, and able to adjust to stresses from the water weight, surrounding soil and a very heavy pool deck.man-with-hats

    And, it's sold at a much lower price point; vinyl pool kits start at $5000, so much more affordable than fiberglass pool shells, which can easily cost $15000.

    Call us today to get your DIY inground pool project started, and build your own inground pool!  

    Chris Low
    SPP Pool Expert  

    Blog Author
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