Today's post takes a long term point of view on the real, true cost of pool ownership. We take into account realistic upkeep costs associated with each type of pool, with all else being equal in regard to water chemistry and overall pool care.
Let's get right down to it then - here's estimated costs of replacing or renovating a concrete, vinyl or fiberglass pool surface.
Vinyl Liner Replacement
Pool liners are often sold with 20 or 25 year warranties, but most people (with the exception of Debbie) that I know will replace the liner years before the warranty is up. Sometimes it's just to change the color or pattern, and other times the liner has become faded or torn after many years of service, at least ten years.
Replacing an inground vinyl liner is something we've talked about a lot on this blog. You can do it yourself for around $1000, or $1500 if your pool is very large. Buying custom inground vinyl liners is something anyone can do, with measurements sent to your SPP Pool Expert. Tools and supplies needed are minimal for installing an inground pool liner as well. However, if you want to have a service company replace an inground pool liner, turnkey prices are around $4000.
The walls of an inground vinyl pool are constructed of steel or polymer, and are good for 50 years, or longer. Individual wall sections can be replaced, if traumatic events would require it, but that is a rare occurrence with modern pool walls. Like concrete pools, you can replace the pool deck without effect to the pool walls.
Fiberglass Shell Replacement
Fiberglass pools are often sold with 25 or 35 year warranties on the shell, and in most cases, a fiberglass pool shell, typically covered in Gelcoat, similar to a pool slide surface, is a solid structure that will outlast the warranty.
In other cases however, especially in situations where the pool is surrounded by expansive soils or high water tables, the supporting soils beneath can shift, which can cause stress cracking or bowing in areas of the pool. Hollow spots under the floor can lead to concave cracking.
For most fiberglass pools, one would be wise to plan on shell replacement or resurfacing after 20-25 years. If the shell is in good shape, with few hollow spots and very little cracking, a local company can rebuild fiberglass pools. Prices for fiberglass resurfacing start at $5000 for small pools. Problem is, not every town in America has a fiberglass pool restoration company. In Florida, and much of the eastern coastal regions it's no problem - but other parts of the country are not adequately served.
Shell replacement is a expensive option, and one that is usually avoided if possible. The cost of a shell replacement, even just a few years after building the pool, will surely cost more than the price of the original pool, and may involve a new pool deck and new plumbing, so really can be a completely new pool.
Plaster Pool Replacement
Concrete or shotcrete pools are built with steel and are sturdy enough to have 50 year warranty, and can last much longer. Typically, concrete pools are coated with a plaster mix. Concrete pools can also be coated with a surface of aggregate, commonly known as PebbleTec, or have quartz aggregate or pozzolans mixed into the plaster to add color and strength. These provide additional longevity over regular pool plaster, which degrades over time.
Most pool plaster that is well taken care of, in a residential environment, should last 15-20 years before a new plaster coat is needed, but much like a pool liner, many people may re-plaster at 10-15 year intervals, to improve appearance or to go along with other repairs (tile and coping replacement, for instance). Pool plastering is not something that is DIY friendly, and prices for a pool replaster, also called a new whitecoat, start at $5000 for regular plaster on a small to medium sized pool. Optional additives or alternative surfaces can double the cost.
Plaster pools have the unique ability to be acid washed, which strips a thin layer of plaster from the walls and floor, exposing fresh, unstained plaster. Acid washing can remove stains and restore a plaster surface, but eventually, the 1/2" plaster coating wears thin and will need to be replaced.
No matter what type of inground pool you install, some sort of surface repair is going to be needed. Just like a new car, all pool surfaces will become stained and scratch, or pitted and etched over time. Some pools are just more expensive to fix than others, and can't be done DIY - just sayin'.
Vinyl liner pools outnumber other pool surfaces by a huge percentage in these United States. Over 3x the number of vinyl liner pools are installed, than both fiberglass and concrete combined!
SPP Pool Expert