POOL Buyers Guide

Making Your Experience Great

When planning a pool building project, it’s best to explore all options of swimming pools that not only fits your budget, but also reducing that buyers remorse we often feel when we say, I wish I would have done that instead. This guide will help you plan every detail of your pool build so you can have the best experience period.

Step 1: The Pool Budget

What’s your budget? When considering building a swimming pool, a budget is often the deciding factor for many of your decisions. See this swimming pool chart for a quick reference to total approximate cost of building your dream swimming pool.

Swimming Pool Type
estimated pool budget
Vinyl Pool
$45,000 to $65,000
Fiberglass Pool
$60,000 to $85,000
Concrete Pool
$85,000 & up

Step 2: Choosing Pool Material

Vinyl Swimming Pools
Vinyl-lined pools are the second most popular type of in-ground pool. Each pool is made from a one-piece flexible liner that fits into an excavated hole and is then attached to a steel or aluminum framed wall. Vinyl pools come in a limited number of sizes and shapes. Most are rectangular, but L-shape and freeform liners are also available. The average-size vinyl pool can be installed in one to three weeks.
The big danger with a vinyl-lined pool is that pointy pool toys, playful dogs, and sharp objects can rip or puncture the liner. Damaged liners can be fixed, but it’s best to pay extra for a heavy-duty liner that’s at least 20 mm (millimeters) thick.


  • Lowest initial cost: Vinyl liner pools have the lowest initial cost of the three types of inground pools.
  • Customizable shape and size: There are very few limitations to the length, width, and depth of vinyl liner pools.
  • Automatic covers: These pools can be built perfectly square for complete integration of an automatic cover.
  • Vinyl liner pools are non-abrasive: The vinyl liner material is smooth to the touch.
  • Easy to refinish surface: Liner replacement is relatively quick, clean, and can be completed in a day or two without any heavy equipment.


  • Consider lifetime cost: The average life of a vinyl liner is around 5 years at a replacement cost of $4,000-$6,000.
  • Take good care: While pool liners are fairly durable, sharp objects, pets, and patio furniture falling in the pool are all concerns.
  • Does not work on challenging sites: If the site has a major slope or groundwater present, a vinyl liner may not be the best choice. Liners can “float” and wrinkle from excessive rainwater.
  • Not a permanent structure: The structure consists of steel/polymer walls and a concrete floor under the liner. Done right, it is sturdy but relies on the water inside the pool for stability. This structure won’t last forever and care must be taken when the pool is drained.

Fiberglass Swimming Pool
Fiberglass pools are factory-molded into giant bowl-shaped shells, which are then set into the excavated hole by a crane. And while sizes and shapes are somewhat limited, the big advantage is that a fiberglass pool can be installed in as little as three days.

Another benefit is that fiberglass pools have a super-smooth gel-coat finish that’s extremely durable and nonporous, so these pools tend to use fewer chemicals than concrete pools. But before deciding on a fiberglass pool, be sure you’ve got plenty of space in your backyard for the crane to enter and maneuver. The area must also be free of any overhead wires or power lines.


  • Low maintenance: The gel coat surface of the fiberglass pool shell is nonporous.
  • Consider lifetime cost: Most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty against leakage.
  • Non-abrasive surface: The gel coat surface of fiberglass pools is smooth to the touch.
  • Built-in steps and benches: Most fiberglass pool designs have seating and steps incorporated into the shell of the pool.
  • Quick installation: The shell is manufactured off-site and delivered on a trailer.


  • Limited shapes and designs: Because fiberglass pools are built from a mold, the consumer is limited to the shapes and sizes offered by the fiberglass pool manufacturer.
  • Limited width: Fiberglass pools are transported to the job site on roads and highways. Shipping restrictions limit the width of the fiberglass pool shell to 16′ to the outside of the pool. Most inside dimensions are about 14’ maximum.
  • Repairs are challenging: Cosmetic repairs to the finish will not match the rest of the pool.
  • Consider lifetime cost: The lifetime warranty usually does not cover the fading or cracking of the surface. It also may not cover damage due to bad weather like groundwater from heavy rain.
  • Higher initial cost: Fiberglass pools cost more than vinyl liner pools to build.
  • May not work for challenging sites: If the site has a major slope or groundwater present, it may not be the best choice.
  • Automatic covers: These pools generally are not perfectly square, so complete integration of an automatic cover is more challenging and the cover may not run completely straight.
  • Not a permanent structure: Installed right, it is sturdy, but relies on the water inside the pool for stability. This structure won’t last forever and extreme care must be taken when the pool is drained to prevent floating the shell or bowing the walls.

Concrete Swimming Pool
Concrete swimming pools are very popular, but the most expensive type of pool to build. The benefit of concrete pools is that it can be formed to any size or shape for a truly custom pool. It generally takes between up to 12 weeks to install a concrete pool. Although its longer to build than other pool types, concrete is the strongest, most durable type of pool. And unlike other in-ground pools, existing concrete pools can be rebuilt, refinished, enlarged, or updated.


  • Customizable size and shape: Concrete pools can be any size, shape, or style. There are no limits to what can be done.
  • The best option for challenging sites: With the proper engineering, a concrete pool can be built on the side of a hill or virtually anywhere.
  • Design freedom: Vanishing edges, beach entries, shallow lounging areas, etc. are all possible with a concrete pool.
  • Finish materials: Concrete pools can be integrated into a design with more natural materials, such as tile and stone, to become a piece of landscape art. The cement finishes are available in an endless array of options and have a smooth but nonslip surface that is appealing.
  • Automatic covers: These pools can be built perfectly square for complete integration of an automatic cover.
  • Permanent installation: This is the only type of pool that is a permanent freestanding structure.


  • Higher cost of installation: Because of the materials and specialty labor involved, concrete pools are typically the most costly to install.
  • Porous surface: Water care is important to prevent staining or deterioration of the finish material.
  • Longer installation time: Concrete pools take the longest to install of the three options. 
pool material
install time
pool build size
lifetime durability
floor surface
Automatic covers
6 to 8 weeks
Renew vinyl every 5-6 years
Non-abrasive; smooth to touch
Perfect fit
2 to 4 weeks
Fading & cracking over time
Gel coat; smooth to touch
Up to 12 weeks
Re-plaster every 15-20 years
Smooth & non-slip
Perfect fit

Step 3: Pool Size & Covers

Pool Covers

Do you want an automatic cover? 

If the answer is yes, you really should consider a rectangular pool. A rectangle shape allows the cover parts to integrate directly into the structure of the pool. This gives the finished product a much cleaner look and when the pool is uncovered you can barely tell the cover is there. It also helps the cover run better and cuts down on wear and tear. Any shape other than a rectangle requires us to install the cover tracks on top of the pool deck. This is not visually appealing and creates drag and wear on the cover fabric and components. If a cover is not important, almost any shape is possible.

However, here are a few things to consider when thinking about investing in an automatic cover.

• Safety: As a safety device, the automatic pool cover completely seals and prevents unplanned access to your pool. And while there’s no substitute for proper supervision, your pool can be protected even when you’re not around.
• Convenience: Keep dirt and debris out of the pool while reducing operational costs and wear and tear on your pool’s filtration systems. Cut down on your pool maintenance by simply keeping your pool covered.
• Return on investment: By reducing evaporation, your pool cover conserves water and reduces the use of chemicals, saving you up to 70% on operating costs. With the heat kept in, and dirt and debris kept out, your pool equipment will also last much longer.
• Water conservation: An uncovered 16 x 36 foot pool can lose as much as 180 gallons of water a due to evaporation, taking expensive chemicals with it. Pool covers help conserve water while saving you money.

Pool Size

Size Matters. What size are you considering? 

Let’s first look at the predicted bather load, which is the number of people that you expect to be using the pool at the same time on a regular basis. Larger families and people that entertain large groups should try to maximize the size of their pool. The second factor to consider is the size of the space where the pool is going. It’s important for the pool itself to be aesthetically in scale with the yard, pool deck, and the house. 

How deep should you go? 

There are many different options for depths of the pool that can be dialed in based on your personal preferences. You have to consider if you will be diving into your swimming pool. A diving pool is typically about three feet deep in the shallow end and at least eight feet deep on the diving board end. A design of a diving pool has to meet strict standard for safety reasons. If a diving board is not necessary, the pool usually goes from about three feet deep in the shallow end and down to about 5 feet at the deepest point.

This type of pool is good for lounging, playing games like volleyball, floating around, jumping in off the side, a slide, basically anything you would want to do in a pool, except diving.

A shallow pool also has the advantage of having less water volume to treat. The filtration system and the amount of water care product used is based on the volume of water in the pool. So, a shallow pool will use less product for the life of the pool.


Step 4: Pool Pumps & Chemicals

The pump is the lifeblood of your swimming pool’s filtration equipment. Its job is to pull water from the main drain and skimmers and circulate it through a filter for cleaning. The water is then returned to the pool via return lines or jets.

Pumps come in various sizes and horsepowers. Choosing the right one depends on a number of factors such as total pool gallons, plumbing (the size of pipes, number of intakes, quantity, and types of fittings), turnover requirements (the ability to circulate the entire body of water through the filtration system at least once a day) and the square footage of the pool itself.

There is a detailed hydraulic formula for calculating a properly sized pump (and filter) for every pool shape. Some builders ignore this formula because they don’t understand it or haven’t taken the time to learn it. Instead they “guess,” which often results in improperly sized equipment, higher energy costs to the owner, and reduced life expectancy for the pump. We make sure to give you the best sized pool pump to do the job.

Filter swimming pools are subject to constant contamination from foreign matter brought in by swimmers, wind and articles used in and around the pool. Filtration is the mechanical process of removing this insoluble matter from swimming pool water. Water clarity is important for appearance, hygiene and safety. Filters are universal in pool systems, linked to the circulation system along with the motors and pumps.

As water pumps through the circulation system of a pool or spa, impurities are strained by a filter. The filter itself has no moving parts and is made of simple components.

There are three basic types of filters – sand, diatomaceous earth and cartridge that you will make a decision for your swimming pool.

Pool Filter Types

  • Sand Filter: The oldest and most popular, pool water is routed through a sand or mineral filled pressure vessel. Over time, dirt accumulates in the spaces between the sand particles causing the pressure in the vessel to rise as water finds it harder to pass through. You can then “backwash” the filter into a waste line, cleaning the sand.

  • Diatomaceous (D.E) Filter: These filters contain special internal cloth elements coated with D.E., a porous powder with microscopic openings that, when magnified, look a lot like tiny sponges. Clear water can pass through these openings, but particles as small as one to three microns are trapped during the first pass through the media. These are also cleaned by “backwashing” the filter into a waste line.

  • Cartridge Filter: Water simply passes through the pleated filter material. Dirt and contaminants are trapped there. After prolonged intervals, the filters are removed, pressure washed with a garden hose, and replaced.

Step 5: Pool Chemicals

Adding and maintaining pool chemicals is easy thanks to automatic chlorine generators. These high tech devices manufacture chlorine from salt that’s added to your pool periodically. Chlorinating your pool is as easy as pushing a button. You can also manually sanitize your water via chemicals feeders that can distribute chlorine and other forms of sanitizer at preset intervals as needed.

Mineral purifiers naturally sanitize the water while keeping the amount of chemical additives to a minimum, saving time and money.

Pool Treatment Systems

  • Chlorine – Most common type of chemical regiment
  • Nature 2 – Mineral-based system that can be combined with saltwater systems or traditional chlorine
  • Salt System – Creates chlorine from salt for a less chemical swimming experience
  • Baquacil – Chlorine-free system that is less irritating to eyes and easier on pool liners
  • UV/Ozone


In conclusion, Carolina Classic Pools wants you to understand all aspects of building a pool so that can not only
have a good experience during the summer, but an exceptional experience while planning and building a pool.

As owner and operator, I can relate best with the experience and stress of planning and building a swimming pool. Before I started building pools, I had less than impressive experience with a builder at my home. So, I decided to build my own custom pool business so that you will have the best experience possible building a pool that is right for your budget, backyard, and recreational needs.

Take the information you gathered here to start thinking about the right pool for you.
Book a pool appointment today and I will help you every step of the way.