We all want to get the most out of whatever it is we pay for. Pools are no exception to that rule! I’m going to jump in and give a breakdown of the most durable pools out there and where you should put your money if you are looking to put some wear and tear on your pool.
Concrete Pools are the most durable pool in existence. The sturdy nature of concrete lends itself to creating a long last pooling that can take any type of weather, sun exposure, and heavy use while standing the test of time. An argument can be made against whether a fiberglass pool or inground vinyl liner is more durable than the other depending on the factors. Above-ground pools in general are the least durable pool but vinyl liner above-ground pools are the most durable in their class.
In this article, I’m going to dig more in-depth into the different types of pools available and which ones are most durable for the money.
What are the different types of Pools?
We analyze pools by two different classes: Above-ground and in-ground. Naturally, we all understand that as a permanent structure, In-ground pools are going to be more durable but that doesn’t mean above-ground pools don’t offer a sturdy option.
Inground pools can be broken into three different types: Concrete, Fiberglass, and Vinyl Liner. There are also types of pools defined by size and depth, you can check out more about that in our article about inground pool sizes. Above-ground pools have two different types: Hard Sided Vinyl Liner Kits and Steel or Plastic Frame Models like Intex or Bestway.
Inground Pools Vs. Above-Ground Pools Overview and Materials
Let’s break down the different classes of pools to see how they are built to find out which one is the most durable or at least sturdy enough to fit your needs.
All inground pools are set inside of the ground after excavation of dirt and rock which eliminates any accidents of destroying the pool by knocking something against it. All pools are backfilled using tamped rock, sand, or dirt. This brings the pool to grade and also prevents shifting that would get from just using non-virgin soil around and under your pool build.
Materials that can be used for the different inground pools
Concrete Pools: Rock, Rebar, Concrete, Plaster, Stone, and Pebbles
Inground-Vinyl Liner: Polymer, Fiberglass, Steel, Wood Vermiculite, Sand, Rock, Vinyl
Fiberglass: Fiberglass, Resin, Sand, and Rock.
Inground Pools have specific pros and cons for each type of pool. You can find out more details on each type in our article, How to Decide Which pool is right for you? But a quick overview of the pros and cons of inground pools.
Pros of Inground Pools
- Long-Lasting Permanent Structures
- Aesthetically Pleasing
- Water Features
Cons of Inground Pools
- Messy Installation
- Time-Consuming Upkeep and Maintenance
- Costly Repairs
Above-ground pools are non-permanent structures that have one great quality that sets them apart from inground pools. They are mobile and can be taken down to be removed at any time. If you decide to move homes and bring your pool with you, it’s possible. Or you can even sell your existing above-ground pool to replace it with a new brand and model after a few years of use. There is quite a bit of downside to an above-ground pool, the most obvious being that they are a bit of an eye sore. In terms of durability, above-ground pools just can’t hold a candle to inground pools.
With that being said, careful care and maintenance on metal-walled vinyl pool kits can create a long-lasting pool for your home.
Above-ground Pool Materials
Above-ground vinyl Liner kit: Steel, Aluminum, and Vinyl
Steel or Plastic Frame Models: Plastic, Aluminum, Steel, and Vinyl
The Pros and Cons of above-ground pools are nearly the opposite of inground pools.
Pros of Above-ground Pools:
- Non-Permanent Mobile Structures
- Resell Value
- Quick Installation
- Budget Friendly
- Fewer maintenance issues
Cons of Above-ground Pools:
- Not-Aesthetically Pleasing
- Less Durable
- No Customization
- Upgrades for Equipment and Accessories are usually needed
Factors that Impact all Pool Durability
There are specific factors that will have an effect on a pool and pool equipment like weather, temperature, water exposure, salt, and more. Because the nature of pools is typically a home feature for outside use, there isn’t a way around many of the impacts of these factors, but you can reduce the degradation of your pool and equipment.
We will dig into each of these factors to learn how they affect your pool and which materials might do a better job of withstanding these different elements.
Climate: Weather and Temperature
Where you live will have a big impact on the durability of your pool no matter what material it is made from. The year-in and year-out change in temperature somewhere like the Northeast will constantly expand and contract your pool materials.
Flooding, Earth Quakes, and strong wind conditions are something to keep in mind for pool longevity. Flooding is a huge issue for inground pools, if enough water pressure comes up beneath your pool and becomes heavier than the weight of your pool and the water inside of it, you risk having it pop out of the ground. A concrete pool can pop out but would be the least likely to because of built-in hydrostatic relief valves and the overall weight of the pool shell.
Strong wind conditions would most likely spell really bad news for your above-ground pool and would put extra strain on the pool structure. In this situation, for an above-ground pool, you should definitely opt for the kit with metal walls over any of the framed options.
Temperature changes weaken nearly every piece of building material over time but concrete, steel, fiberglass, and pressure-treated wood hold up quite well. These are core building materials for all of the pools we have mentioned so the temperature should not weaken pool structures in general.
Durability Concerns because of Sun Exposure
Constant exposure to the sun will fade everything over time. Even though pool liner technology has come a long way, vinyl liners in above and inground pools will fade over the years from this sun exposure. Finishes on concrete pools will also fade but not as quickly. Fiberglass shells will also begin to fade as the epoxy is exposed to sunlight over time.
In these examples, the most durable pool to fade from the Sun is going to be concrete.
Durable from Wear and Tear
Vinyl Liner pools both above and inground are going to be the least durable in the category. Vinyl liners can rip and tear especially as they begin to age. If you have pets or children playing a lot in the pool then this is something to consider. But luckily, a replacement on a vinyl liner isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg even though it is in the thousands of dollars.
Concrete and Fiberglass hold up quite well to wear and tear from heavy usage. If you are looking to install a pool for commercial use, you would need to pick one of these two options as they are the most resistant to damage from usage.
Metal or Plastic framed pools can take the least bit of rough horseplay. These are not structurally sound so they do pose a risk of a serious bump causing some damage that leads to your pool being completely drained or permanently damaged.
Is Pool Equipment Durable?
In this case, we will consider all of the pool equipment used to operate any of the pools whether above ground or inground as similar enough to compare together. Obviously, inground pools are going to be using equipment that is a bit more heavy-duty to push the increased thousands of gallons of water through the pool plumbing system.
All of this plumbing and equipment is sensitive to sun exposure, temperature changes, and heavy usage. During the winter months, pipes can burst and o-rings can become brittle. Sun exposure pays a heavy toll on this equipment as well over time. Things like valve handles can become brittle after heavy usage and sun exposure.
When setting up your pool equipment, if possible, do the best you can to prevent long exposure to elements.
Exploring the Most Durable Pool Options You Can Build or Buy
Let’s dive into each individual pool type and explore the unique durability pros and cons of each pool.
Concrete Pools: The Most Durable
The benefits of a concrete pool are numerous but durability and longevity are high on the list. Because of the structural material, any good build on a concrete pool is going to last over 50 years. Of course, you’ll need to provide quality maintenance and provide some resurfacing over time but structurally your pool is going to last a lifetime.
The other side of the coin is that it isn’t cheap to maintain a concrete pool. Resurfacing every 10 years or so could cost upwards of $10,000 dollars. Incorrect balance of water levels can also damage the surface of the pool quicker and because of the building materials used for concrete pools, maintaining proper water chemical balance is more difficult.
Fiberglass Pools: Longevity with Easy Maintenace
Fiberglass pools these days are made extremely strong, with quality materials, and through proprietary processes to make them better than ever. You’ll have to do research to ensure you are buying a well-built fiberglass pool and that it’s installed by a top-notch pool builder though if you want to cash in on the longevity of this pool. Issues with installation or poor craftsmanship from the fiberglass shell manufacturer would be the biggest issue you could face on the durability of your pool build over time.
Fiberglass shells are also great for saltwater pools and the surface of the epoxy surface makes fiberglass extremely easy maintenance. This can reduce some risks associated with bad chemical balances that destroy vinyl liners and concrete pool finishes.
The cons that you could face would be any issues with the shell that develops over time like spiderweb cracks or chipping from poor craftsmanship during the build. Luckily, these shells often come with 20-year warranties to protect the buyer. Pool shells popping out of the ground are a rare occurrence but I believe that fiberglass shells are the most susceptible to this based on anecdotal evidence I’ve heard and read over the years.
Vinyl Liner Pools: Budget-Friendly but is it Built to Last?
If you have read other posts on our site, you’ll know that we have experience with Vinyl-Liner pools and we do recommend them. But, in the terms of longevity, they might not be the best option. I’ll give you a quote,
No, I wouldn’t recommend Vinyl Liner Pools to anyone honestly. If you are thinking longevity and durability, then definetly not. I have seen cracks in those thin pool walls before we have even started working on getting them set. The materials are cheap and thin.Pool Builder with 20+ Years of Experience
I do believe in this line of work, that pool builders really do fall in love with whatever build it is that they perform. Not just because of marketing or sales, but because they are really passionate about what they do. So, I’ll take that quote with a grain of salt, but it is worth noting that if you don’t go with steel as the wall on your vinyl liner inground, you could be dealing with some cheap wall material that is going to be headaches repairing down the road.
With that being said, there are lots of examples online with pool owners doing repairs and liner replacements on inground vinyl liner pools that are over 30 years old. Some of them were even created using pressure-treated wood. I believe we can safely say though that because Vinyl Liner pools aren’t one piece like a Fiberglass or concrete pool, they aren’t as structurally sound for durability’s sake. The trade-off, they are the most affordable inground pool.
Above-Ground Pools: Surprisingly Durable All Things Considered
It wouldn’t be hard to find above-ground pool owners who have maintained their pools for over 20 years plus. Now, that wouldn’t be your newer model Intex or Bestway style pools but rather the vinyl liner above-ground pools that you can purchase as a kit. The steel walls are really built to last for a long time. If you keep any leaks from constantly running over your steel walls, you shouldn’t have any major rust issues comprising the integrity of the structure.
In regards to the super budget-friendly above-ground pools that you get from Walmart or Lowe’s, you could get 4 years out of these pools which is quite durable given the price and things considered. These of course, can’t withstand extreme wear and tear from use and if you have young rambunctious kids who are older and a bit rough, like my brother and I were, then your best bet in the aboveground pool style is to go for a Steel wall with liner kit.