Gunite vs. Vinyl Liner in Northwest Florida

MeowMeow724

Member
Jun 2, 2019
11
FL
Loaded question.........
S.O.S. send help! :p

We are in the process of gathering quotes and information for a new pool project. I did post yesterday about that, to gather your insight and ensure we don't miss anything on the quotes or considerations for the install. Thanks to all who have helped on that!!

We are rather torn on the material... gunite vs. vinyl liner (polymer.. not metal or wood framed).
The liner is more inline with the budget $ I have in mind, but IF there is a compelling reason for gunite, we could likely spend the extra $10k or so for it.. but it has to be truly worth it.

In our area, there seems to be a good mixture of gunite and vinyl pools installed. The people we know personally, who have pools, seem to have vinyl but they've typically inherited the pool through their home purchases.
We are very close to the Gulf of Mexico, in the Northwest Florida panhandle. Given that info, I am not sure if there is a reason for, or against, either material?

Are the choices usually made based upon budget or aesthetics?
We don't have any plans to sell our house, so I am not sure how much the increased value of gunite over vinyl attracts us.
We've heard and read that gunite can be more work and maintenance cost over time.
We know that UV is a consideration with liners, and would likely perhaps choose one of the newer 27 mil liners that have UV protection in the material.
We like that with gunite we can have a tanning ledge or other customization options (but will we actually use it? We totally thought we'd use our boat all the time.. so... lol)
We also like that the liner is customizable if we decided to change the water color (not typically why you'd change a liner but it's an option at lesser cost than resurfacing the gunite).

We are looking for a freeform type shape and have received some great ideas for both, including nice curvy vinyl shapes like Mountain Pond, approximately 16'x32' in size. We'd do a salt system.

How do you decide? What considerations should be made to assist in the decision?
We go back and forth, and depending on the day we're more for-or-against one over the other!

Thank you!
 

Nectarologist

Well-known member
Apr 3, 2015
511
New York
For me it was the cost and like you, in my neighborhood there is a mix of vinyl and gunite pools, above grounds too. But costs aside there are other factors. I don't think there are any factors that say you must spend the extra money. The only one, imo, is if all pools in your neighborhood had gunite (but as you said this is not the case).

Vinyl liners are much, much quicker to build. They are softer on the feet too. Not a concern of mine but my kids complain when in gunite pools (not a big deal, it's not cutting them or anything). In theory it can be cheaper to maintain over the life of the pool but you can't really tell until the life of the pool is over. I know pools that have 18 yo liners and others that lasted 6 years. Cool liner patterns that you can change out but they do fade (and look terrible when they do) and cost $$$ to change. You can still get a tanning ledge and benches with a vinyl pool. The can pour concrete for the ledge and order the vinyl to fit over it. I've been pools with it, they are great. They can puncture a lot easier than plaster or the like can fail. I had a dying oak tree over my pool that caused two holes. Patched and I took the tree down.

Gunite can be made to any shape. It has a higher end look imo. Should last longer than you or I :) Slightly more to monitor re chemicals but nothing that would make you not get one. The big drawback is the build time. In in the NYC metro area and you can't dig until late March at the earlierest. So pool builders have a limited build season which means they do as many jobs as they can so it's not like they can keep scheduling out forever like in FL. You may find they are able to keep on a shorter schedule in your area b/c of this. You do have to refinish them at some point. If you don't take care of the chemical balance you'll also need to acid wash it (i'm not sure how it goes if you do take care of the chems).

Imo, I'd go gunite if I had the money but I had to control costs at some point. You can make a vinyl pool look great. I feel it's all in the coping myself. I don't have a compelling reason. From a pure money perspective it's not worth the extra money. But...a pool isn't either. The best bang for the buck is an agp. I've had both and they both cool you off and provide for great family memories. So I personally felt that the vinyl in-ground was a good compromise.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: JodieM

Chickinvic

Well-known member
Jul 12, 2017
57
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Almost every pool here is vinyl liner (including ours). I like the ease of them and the fact that you can change the look by switching out the liner. Ours is currently getting a new liner put in, but I honestly think the old one was original to the pool (so 30 years old). It is still quite functional, but it was definitely time to change it (we only bought the place in September 2017, so it wasn't us that neglected the liner lol).
 

MeowMeow724

Member
Jun 2, 2019
11
FL
Thank you!
We just got one more quote for a gunite, sliiiiiiightly smaller (i.e. less than a foot both ways), and it is closer to the vinyl quote we got. This makes things interesting... They are about $6k-$8k different now. BUT, that doesn't necessarily mean that even if we select gunite, that we'd go with the cheapest gunite quote.. The big buys- Blue Haven, are actually a bit cheaper. But I wonder if they just "churn and burn" more than what a local small builder would do. The smaller company on our short-list limits the number of projects they do and don't go for quantity.

I like that with the liner you can change the look if desired (not that it's cheap.. just more possible and less $).
Gunite feels more substantial.. and likely won't be any concern with random falling twigs or small branches, or acorns that seem to come off our oaks at times, but can be more maintenance along the way.

Our backyard is probably about 9ft above sea-level (house is about 11ft) if that's any factor!

Regarding the price point of the home--- very valid point. Ours is a bit above average for our area (older neighborhood SLOWLY being revitalized, with lots of older homes, and ours is a 2015-build). However, we discovered a home down the road a bit that is on the canal - twice the value of ours-, which is also a much larger and nicer home as well, has a vinyl pool. And there is truly a mish-mash of gunite and vinyl throughout our neighborhood when we looked via satellite imagery. So it's just "one of those things". :) The builder we spoke with today said it changes for them based on the economy; right now they're probably a 60/40 split in favor of gunite this year. But vinyl was on the upper end somewhat recently also.

This is a toughie :)
 

Chickinvic

Well-known member
Jul 12, 2017
57
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Price point of the home is something to consider. You won't find a vinyl pool at a high end home here in the southwest.
Must be a location thing. Lots of very high end homes here have vinhl pools.
Thank you!
We just got one more quote for a gunite, sliiiiiiightly smaller (i.e. less than a foot both ways), and it is closer to the vinyl quote we got. This makes things interesting... They are about $6k-$8k different now. BUT, that doesn't necessarily mean that even if we select gunite, that we'd go with the cheapest gunite quote.. The big buys- Blue Haven, are actually a bit cheaper. But I wonder if they just "churn and burn" more than what a local small builder would do. The smaller company on our short-list limits the number of projects they do and don't go for quantity.

I like that with the liner you can change the look if desired (not that it's cheap.. just more possible and less $).
Gunite feels more substantial.. and likely won't be any concern with random falling twigs or small branches, or acorns that seem to come off our oaks at times, but can be more maintenance along the way.

Our backyard is probably about 9ft above sea-level (house is about 11ft) if that's any factor!

Regarding the price point of the home--- very valid point. Ours is a bit above average for our area (older neighborhood SLOWLY being revitalized, with lots of older homes, and ours is a 2015-build). However, we discovered a home down the road a bit that is on the canal - twice the value of ours-, which is also a much larger and nicer home as well, has a vinyl pool. And there is truly a mish-mash of gunite and vinyl throughout our neighborhood when we looked via satellite imagery. So it's just "one of those things". :) The builder we spoke with today said it changes for them based on the economy; right now they're probably a 60/40 split in favor of gunite this year. But vinyl was on the upper end somewhat recently also.

This is a toughie :)
Just to ease your mind a bit, we are on a heavily treed lot with very high winds at times. All sorts of debris finds its way into our pool and the liner seemed to not be worse for wear. Good luck no matter what you cboose.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MeowMeow724

MeowMeow724

Member
Jun 2, 2019
11
FL
Thanks Chickivic, that does help!

The other consideration is water table. We for sure have a high water table just because of our geographical location. Our backyard is guesstimated at about 9 ft above sea level according to some app I used. Unfortunately our survey doesn't state it.. it says 100 ft which is obviously wrong and they didn't check elevation.

I am not sure if one is better, or more concerning to have, over the other. Because we have a good mixture of pool types in our area there is no clear answer.
Concrete cracks, and liners can bow out with ground water.

If they hit water when they dig they will install well points, but if not and they don't, there could still be concern with groundwater in periods of heavy rain, and etc.

This is certainly a tough decision! It would be amazing if people in my area just so happen upon this post.. I actually stumbled upon a post from someone from a couple of towns over and based on their signature it looks like they chose gunite, but I don't have any insight as to why. :testresults:
 

Chickinvic

Well-known member
Jul 12, 2017
57
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Thanks Chickivic, that does help!

The other consideration is water table. We for sure have a high water table just because of our geographical location. Our backyard is guesstimated at about 9 ft above sea level according to some app I used. Unfortunately our survey doesn't state it.. it says 100 ft which is obviously wrong and they didn't check elevation.

I am not sure if one is better, or more concerning to have, over the other. Because we have a good mixture of pool types in our area there is no clear answer.
Concrete cracks, and liners can bow out with ground water.

If they hit water when they dig they will install well points, but if not and they don't, there could still be concern with groundwater in periods of heavy rain, and etc.

This is certainly a tough decision! It would be amazing if people in my area just so happen upon this post.. I actually stumbled upon a post from someone from a couple of towns over and based on their signature it looks like they chose gunite, but I don't have any insight as to why. :testresults:
We have a very high water table too. Our location on the lot though is good. Our liner will never float or anything. I would consult with a very EXPERIENCED pool builder or two and ask about it. Some will install a sump for example.
 

MeowMeow724

Member
Jun 2, 2019
11
FL
We have a very high water table too. Our location on the lot though is good. Our liner will never float or anything. I would consult with a very EXPERIENCED pool builder or two and ask about it. Some will install a sump for example.
The sump pump is similar to the well points, to my knowledge. The well points are plumbed in and can be connected to a pump if the ground water causes an issue.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chickinvic

Other Threads of Interest