Gunite vs Steel (Liner) vs Radiant (Liner) in ground pool

markd85

New member
Aug 7, 2019
3
Connecticut
Hello all,

I live in northern CT, on a hill with ground thats mostly clay. In the spring, the ground is very mushy (due to the clay) and dries around april-ish, so i'm expecting some drainage issues with a new inground pool and freeze/thaw issues that might arise. I'm looking at a 18x36 size. Ive had different pool companies come out, and they all tell me their product will be best in my environment and not to get any of the others. I've gotten quotes for Gunite, Galvanized Steel walls with vinyl liner, and something called "Radiant Pools" with a vinyl liner which looks like some kind of fiberglass/polymer. I'm trying to sort the sales tactics from the facts. All my neighbors have steel wall/liner.

First decision is Gunite vs liner in general. Second decision, if i were to go with liner, is the difference between the radiant pool product and the steel wall.

The Steel wall installers have told me the steel they use is galvanized and wont rust for decades, but im concerned about the ground moisture and shortening the lifespan. we've had probably 3 different installers that put in basically the same product.

The radiant pools installer told me hes been installing these pools since the technology came out 50 years ago, and he still has customers with one in the ground from 50 years ago in perfect condition (or so he says). The radiant pools website has a lot of marketing info about their pools being insulated, etc. This partcular installer had the most experience himself (man in his 70s at least) and was very "no frills" about the different pool technologies. Had never heard of a sun shelf and had never heard of pool chlorinators or UV filters.

Three of the installers pointed to a magazine called "PSN" where they are top 50 in the country. not sure what that means.

Can someone help me with my decisions? i.e. Gunite vs Liner, then Steel vs Radiant?

Personally, i'm leaning towards the Radiant because of the concerns about rusting, but its also a relatively rare technology as this guy has the only license in the state to put these pools in. Ive reached out to the installer from the next state over to give a quote and see what they say.
 
Last edited:

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
15,767
Tucson, AZ
With winterization a must in your area, I’ve always considered gunite/plaster pools to be a very poor choice. Water has to be drained in the winter which means partially exposing plaster to freezing air temperatures. The increased risks of freeze/thaw damage and plaster discoloration as well as calcium scaling problems is just too much to ignore in my opinion. If all or most of your neighbors have vinyl lined pools, then that seems like right choice.

As for steel versus “other” options, I have no useful opinion. I’d be very wary of going with the “radiant” pool option if my only choice was ONE licensed builder in the entire state. If they go out of business or if you have a poor working relationship with the company during the build, that’s going to make dealing with issues down the road all the more frustrating.
 
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Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
733
NY
Mine is another option but you may have to partially take control of the build and sub out the work due to nobody offering it to you. I have a concrete wall with a sand bottom, liner pool. Some like mine use vermiculite for the floor. Basically it is like the foundation of your basement before they poured the slab floor. Just with a slope and a shallow/deep end. Once the cement dries they put a track on the top edge and the rest of the liner install is the same. I will need a new liner at times like the steel/radiant but the frame of the pool will outlast us all. Im on Long Island so our winters are very similar and this is the primary type of pool here. Unless you're rich. Then Gunite is done as a status symbol.
 
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Chickinvic

Well-known member
Jul 12, 2017
215
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Hello all,

I live in northern CT, on a hill with ground thats mostly clay. In the spring, the ground is very mushy (due to the clay) and dries around april-ish, so i'm expecting some drainage issues with a new inground pool and freeze/thaw issues that might arise. I'm looking at a 18x36 size. Ive had different pool companies come out, and they all tell me their product will be best in my environment and not to get any of the others. I've gotten quotes for Gunite, Galvanized Steel walls with vinyl liner, and something called "Radiant Pools" with a vinyl liner which looks like some kind of fiberglass/polymer. I'm trying to sort the sales tactics from the facts. All my neighbors have steel wall/liner.

First decision is Gunite vs liner in general. Second decision, if i were to go with liner, is the difference between the radiant pool product and the steel wall.

The Steel wall installers have told me the steel they use is galvanized and wont rust for decades, but im concerned about the ground moisture and shortening the lifespan. we've had probably 3 different installers that put in basically the same product.

The radiant pools installer told me hes been installing these pools since the technology came out 50 years ago, and he still has customers with one in the ground from 50 years ago in perfect condition (or so he says). The radiant pools website has a lot of marketing info about their pools being insulated, etc. This partcular installer had the most experience himself (man in his 70s at least) and was very "no frills" about the different pool technologies. Had never heard of a sun shelf and had never heard of pool chlorinators or UV filters.

Three of the installers pointed to a magazine called "PSN" where they are top 50 in the country. not sure what that means.

Can someone help me with my decisions? i.e. Gunite vs Liner, then Steel vs Radiant?

Personally, i'm leaning towards the Radiant because of the concerns about rusting, but its also a relatively rare technology as this guy has the only license in the state to put these pools in. Ive reached out to the installer from the next state over to give a quote and see what they say.
We are in OttaWA with a very high water table. Our liner on 30 year old pool was just changed this summer and showed very little rust (no structural problems) on the steel walls.
 

Chickinvic

Well-known member
Jul 12, 2017
215
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
With winterization a must in your area, I’ve always considered gunite/plaster pools to be a very poor choice. Water has to be drained in the winter which means partially exposing plaster to freezing air temperatures. The increased risks of freeze/thaw damage and plaster discoloration as well as calcium scaling problems is just too much to ignore in my opinion. If all or most of your neighbors have vinyl lined pools, then that seems like right choice.

As for steel versus “other” options, I have no useful opinion. I’d be very wary of going with the “radiant” pool option if my only choice was ONE licensed builder in the entire state. If they go out of business or if you have a poor working relationship with the company during the build, that’s going to make dealing with issues down the road all the more frustrating.
Hardly anyone has concrete pools here in Ottawa for these reasons. The different product required and thickness, etc, makes it something like 3 times the price of other pool types here.. Pools are very common but are almost all liner pools and some fiberglass.
 

Justify

Member
May 7, 2019
16
Iowa
We have one radiant pool installer in our area. We talked to him and got an estimate from him, but in the end we decided to go with another builder and polymer walls. Maybe this would be an option for you too?
 

markd85

New member
Aug 7, 2019
3
Connecticut
Thanks for all your replies, sorry for the delayed response, i thought i was going to get some kind of notification when there was a new post.

We are still researching options, but the other installer that uses the same radiant pools product (they have "territories" for the product hence the limited installers, but nothing to stop both installers from overlapping installation location) is coming next week. we'll see what they say. its basically an insulated polymer/fiberglass with a steel core. its supposed to reduce the need for a heater.

I think we're definitely going to skip the gunite. Still leaning toward the radiant frame for the rust prevention characteristics. I do acknowledge the risk of having a limited number of installers around to service the pool once its in, though, so that will be of consideration.
 

bmoreswim

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 16, 2012
5,324
Central MD
The middle of the country is a transitional zone for gunite it seems. Probably 50/50 here in MD. But you are headed vinyl and there is no reason not to.

As for heat and pools. In CT, if you like warm water, get a heater. Don't rely on their hype about a type of pool being warmer. Pool walls aren't the issue. Water evaporates (drawing heat away in the process) from the surface which is where the vast majority of heat is lost. I recommend using a cover for heat retention (though they are a pain unless it's an autocover - then it's expensive). A cover is what you need to keep heat in. To add heat over and above sunlight, get a heater.