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    The Pool Wall Debate - Steel or Polymer

    December 16, 2013

    steel-or-polymer pool walls

    At SPP, we offer both the steel wall which is a 14 gauge steel panel, and also have the polymer wall inground pool kits. Both types of pool kits come with the same equipment package and accessories. Both steel or polymer pool kits walls have a limited life time warranty.

    Advantages of Polymer and Steel Walls


    Steel Wall Pool Advantages - The first advantage is that steel wall pools are typically less expensive than polymer walls. Secondly is that you can backfill after installing the liner with steel walls, but with polymer the backfill should be done before the pool is filled.

    Another advantage of the steel wall pools are that they are much stronger than the polymer pools. This is one reason that when a bridge or building is being built they use steel for the structural construction of the project. One important advantage of steel over polymer wall pools is that the steel pool has an adjustable turnbuckle brace which allows you to adjust the pool wall by moving it in or out, and makes it easy to make sure the pool wall is plumb.

    polymer-pool-wall-ltPolymer wall pool Advantages -  Polymer pool walls are made of a non–corrosive material that are strong and stable, and will never rust, corrode or dent. Polymer walls are a lighter weight than steel walls, which makes them easier to lift and handle so less chance of injuring yourself when lifting the polymer panels. The polymer panels come with a K Brace, which looks like a K when sideways. No turnbuckle adjustment, but includes a fat drive stake to keep the brace in place to reduce movement. One more advantage of a polymer wall is that you can use less overdig than with steel walls. This can be important in very tight installations with very little deck on one or more sides.

    Disadvantages of Polymer and Steel Walls

    Steel Wall Pool Disadvantages - There are also a few disadvantages of having a steel wall pool over the polymer but to be honest I can only think of a few. I built a steel wall inground pool in my own backyard living in Massachusetts so I am firm believer that the steel wall pool is going to be structurally stronger than a polymer pool. One negative with having a steel wall pool is that the panels are much heavier so it is more difficult handle and maneuver when you are building the frame of the pool. The steel wall has the potential to rust or corrode but most likely this will never occur because our panels have a G235 coating on each panel which means we have 2¾ ounces of zinc per square foot on each panel to prevent from rusting. We also put wall foam in our pool kits, to help protect the steel wall panels, and the liner.

    Polymer wall pool Disadvantages - The first disadvantage of polymer over steel wall pools is that the polymer pools are typically more expensive than our steel wall pools. Another disadvantage of the polymer pools could apply if you live in a very cold climate. With the polymer walls there is no room for expansion or contraction of the panels so they could potentially crack. A third is that when building a polymer pool you need to backfill at the same time you fill up the pool liner. The backfill is used to help equalize the pressure on the wall of the pool. When backfilling a polymer pool it is highly recommended to use a ¾" crushed gravel or something that compacts easily when backfilling the pool. The installation cost for the polymer pool is typically more expensive if you use gravel to backfill around the outside of the polymer walls.

    Soil & Climate Conditions: Polymer or Steel

    STEEL-WALLSteel wall pools are a better choice if you live in a colder climate such as New England, because they are more durable and unaffected by harsh winter weather. Another time the steel panels are a better choice is when you have a good compactible backfill material that is taken out of the hole during excavation such as sandy loam, or a good clean soil.

    POLYMER-WALLPolymer may be a better option if you live near sea level, close to the ocean, or if you have a lake or water way close to the pool. Another time the polymer pool is a better option is when you have clay as the material that is taken out hole  during the excavation process. Clay is not usually used for backfilling because it does not compact very well. We would advise that clay be replaced with gravel or any good clean fill dirt with higher compaction.

    Installation Differences: Polymer or Steel

    When installing the steel wall pools there is an adjustable  turnbuckle that is used to move the panel in our out so it is easier to make any adjustments with the pool panel when checking to make sure the pool panels are plumb. When installing the polymer pool walls the bracing system is different so the procedure is different compared to the steel wall pool. Polymer pools

    assemble-steel-pool-wallsWhen building the polymer pool you need to backfill at the same time you are filling up the pool so the backfilling helps equalize all of the pressure on the polymer walls.

    With steel you can backfill once the pool walls are complete or you can backfill after the liner is installed, this is the best option because you can check to make sure there are no leaks in the liner or in any of the plumbing lines.

    When installing a polymer pool, you need to use a hole saw to cut in your pool returns, also known as inlets. Our steel wall panels have the return holes already cut in the panel. Lastly, one more difference with the polymer pool is the hardware that is used is a nylon bolt and washer, where the steel walls use steel hardware.

    The Polymer pool kit we sell come with a standard Hayward skimmer and the steel wall pool comes with the Hayward Widemouth skimmer. The size of the skimmer width is different and so is the installation procedure so make sure you follow the skimmer installation manual when placing the skimmer wall panel and connecting the skimmer to the wall, and to the plumbing pipe.

    To sum it all up, my usual advice to our SPP Pool Kit customers, is to go with steel walled pool, unless the pool is in a marine environment, next to an ocean, lake or river, and you have very moist soils, primarily clays. Or, if the customer wants a very light weight installation or the smallest total excavation, in those cases a polymer walled pool may be a better choice.

    It's often one of the first conversations that we have with customers - wall type and coping type. If you're considering building your own inground pool, look at our complete inground pool kits, and let us help you guide the way. From layout to landscaping, SPP's inground pool installation advisers, known as the SPP Pool Experts, ahem - are available for free consultation every day, to our DIY pool clients. It's our distinct advantage!

    Give us a call today about your backyard dreams ~ 800-983-POOL  

    Chris Low
    SPP Pool Expert  

    Blog Author
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