Inground Pools 101

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Spending hot summer days and cool evenings next to the pool is the ultimate backyard indulgence. If you’re considering the installation of an inground pool, we’ve got some information to swim around in your head while you make decisions.

Inground or Above Ground?

The difference between the two is obvious. Depending on your situation, an above ground pool might be a better option. For example, it’s much less expensive to install and is often portable if you move. Inground pools, on the other hand, are a permanent structure, so if you plan to stay a long time or hope to increase the value of your home with this desirable amenity, an inground pool is for you.

Types, Materials, and Cost of Ownership

There are three basic types of inground pools so we’ll provide a brief outline of each with a quick roundup of pros and cons.

Gunite Pools

A concrete pool material, also known as gunite, is one option. Installation can take three to six months, so begin work during the off-season. The process includes digging the hole and reinforcing it with rebar before filling with concrete. The concrete is then lined with plastic, pebble tech, tile, or other finish. Concrete pools can be customized into any shape and size, so they can fit in with all design styles.

However, the lifetime ownership of a concrete pool is more expensive than other types, since the porous surface is more likely to collect bacteria and algae. This means more chemicals, time cleaning the pool, and the added expenses of an acid wash every 3-5 years and the need to refinish the interior every 15-25 years, which can run $10-30k as of this writing.

vinyl pool with concrete deck from above

Vinyl Pools

A vinyl liner pool is a very common and convenient option. They are easy to customize—installation involves placing the vinyl liner over either a plastic or metal frame. Vinyl liners will leak at some point, often requiring replacement after five to 10 years, and you may also have to deal with tears and bubbles in the material.

If you plan to use salt water, don't select a metal frame. When the liner leaks, it will oxidize the metal and cause repair issues.

Fiberglass Pools

Fiberglass liners are a pre-formed option. Installation requires a hole large enough for the pool. The fiberglass liner is then placed into the hole and backfilled to secure it into place, a process that typically only takes a few weeks. Fiberglass is durable and requires less maintenance and overall lifetime expense. That’s because the nonporous finish is not susceptible to bacterial growth like concrete. There are few options, however, when it comes to customizing a specific shape, so you'll likely need to choose from standardized forms.

Safety

Pool safety is a significant concern, especially if you have children in the house. When planning for an inground pool, be sure to include safeguards in the design. These might include incorporating a pool cover, fencing, and gate locks.

rolled up pool cover

Covered, Indoor, or Outdoor

Inground pools are a lovely place to lounge in the sun, but you may be more interested in lap swims when it’s raining. Contemplate your ideal pool and decide whether you want it to be outside, covered with open walls, or completely enclosed.

Accessories

Since your pool will likely be a social spot, consider the many options for accessorizing. Pool lighting is essential for night time swims, so consider installing underwater lighting, and remember to light walkways and decking with flush lights or solar stick lights.

Your inground pool can also include a water feature, swim up bar with underwater stools, or lane markers for swim training.

pool with tropical deck area and chairs

Maintenance

Any discussion of pools requires some forethought into the maintenance required. Inground pools will require monitoring for proper chemistry with testing and chemical additions. You will also need to regularly inspect filters, pumps, heating equipment, and the cover.

Deck Ideas

One major advantage inground pools have over above ground pools is the ease of transition between the pool and surrounding deck. Pool decks can be made from tile, concrete, wood, and other materials. When making your decision, consider maintenance, the effect of weather where you live, expense, and safety (such as slippage).

Owning a home with an inground pool adds to your maintenance checklist and budget, but provides a place for relaxation and entertaining. Whether the trade-off is worth it is up to you.