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Shopping for a pool? The experts weigh in on pool materials [VIDEOS]

Why spend money going on vacation when you can create a retreat right in your backyard? Maybe it’s a stretch, but Betz Pools has done it before. Your yard can be the perfect getaway spot with a pool. The expert at Elite Pools tells us how and CIU Pools educates us on what goes into building the perfect pool. 

Before we get to the story…

Mark Luff – a partner and sales manager at Betz Pools gave us a tour of this stunning backyard complete with a state-of-the-art concrete pool. You have to see it!

How is the pool constructed?

Betz Pools: Mark Luff, senior sales and project manager at Betz, says the company uses a unique product to build the concrete foundation of any pool. Luff says it begins with gunite, which refers to the mix of sand and cement with water added.

“We’ve always used a dry gunite mix,” he says, adding the concrete mixture is mixed right in front of a client’s home. “We add the water literally a split second before the concrete forms and it never moves again.” As soon as it’s mixed, it gets sprayed int the shell of the pool.

The alternative that some competitors opt to use is shotcrete. “You put cement in the truck at a factory, add a whole whack of water and keep the concrete moving so it won’t harden,” he explains. The problem is the mixture wants to harden and more water is added into the mixture to prevent that. “The concrete doesn’t have much force, it’s not compressing as much because it has two to three times more water content.”

Another benefit to using a dry gunite mix is the mixture is more malleable. “We can cut it quicker,” says Luff. “We can cut the shavings off, make the wall stand up straighter.”

The challenge with using a ready mix, Luff says, is a pool company is at the mercy of a concrete company. “If the truck is late, you have to stop the job,” he says. “We don’t have to worry about that. We’re in control of our own destiny.”

Luff presumes the reason why companies opt to work with a concrete company is because it’s less expensive and a faster way of building pools. “You have to pay for your own equipment as opposed to renting a pump,” he says. “You have a third day of clean-up – getting rid of the spoiled concrete that’s not good enough to go into the pool.”

An example of what the shotcrete process looks like.

An example of what the shotcrete process looks like.

Elite Pools: Ken Feinstein, a partner at Elite Pools, a Toronto-based pool contracting company that distributes fiberglass and vinyl pools to builders, talks to us about the differences between building a concrete and fiberglass pool. Shotcrete refers to the way a contractor would build the shell of the pool while on site. Fiberglass pools are fabricated in a controlled manufacturing environment.

“When it comes to the homeowner, it’s actually a shell that’s on a flatbed truck and delivered as a finished product,” he says. “We just connect the plumbing to it and fill it with water.”

Since the pool itself is not fabricated on site, there is less risk of variation and quality.

fiberglass shell

A fiberglass shell.

CIU Pools: Any pool installation begins with digging a hole into the ground, which is CIU’s responsibility in the installation process.

“We put gunite steel all the way around the pool where the walls are,” Maurizio Vivona, construction manager for CIU Pools explains. Dirt will be placed on the walls that slope, followed by concrete where the footings are.

“We patch it with clear stone, do the plumbing and add another thin layer of concrete inside the pool.”

Once the pool construction is done, CIU will finish off the backyard project with interlocking, natural stone and patterned concrete to name a few. “We put whatever decking you want and you’re good to go,”

Want to see how CIU constructs a backyard pool? Take a look at this video:

What materials are best to build a pool?

Betz Pools: Luff says Betz works with two materials to construct pools: vinyl and concrete.


“Vinyl pool was created to be a more affordable pool rather than concrete,” says Luff. “It puts more pools in backyards.” Not only that, but there are far more vinyl pools built than concrete. It could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 and will last anywhere from 25 to 30 years form a structural perspective. “You could go longer if everything goes well.”


Luff says concrete pools is the more expensive option, so why would people want to choose it? He uses this analogy to explain: “You could go to Honda, GM and Toyota to buy a nice vehicle that would do the job for you,” he says. “Or, you could go to BMW, Mercedes and get the same basic car that’s priced $20,000 to $30,000 more. Some people see the value.”

Both pools are good quality, but there are features specific to concrete pools that you wouldn’t get with a vinyl pool, such as a zero edge pool.

“There are minor [design] details you can achieve when you build a concrete pool,” he says.

A concrete pool starts at $80,000. While it’s considerably more money compared to a vinyl pool, it’s built to last. Luff says a home can be renovated in 50 years and the concrete pool is made to look brand new. “Nobody would be able to tell the difference.”

Concrete pool and landscaping done by Betz Pools.

Concrete pool and landscaping done by Betz Pools.

Vinyl pool and landscaping built by Betz.

Vinyl pool and landscaping built by Betz.

Elite Pools: Elite works mainly with fiberglass pools unless there is a specific need for a product that’s unavailable, says Feinstein. The reliability of a fiberglass pool often outweighs the competition. “Fiberglass has integrated seats and steps,” he says, adding the finish won’t need replacing or repairing. “They get something that looks like a concrete pool without the cost associated.”

“The aesthetic is more like a concrete pool, but without the cost and maintenance.”

When a fiberglass pool is backfilled, which is the material that goes between the undisturbed earth and the actual shell, says Feinstein, Elite Pools uses a clear stone that has 100 per cent drainage property. “No water would seep into it,” he says. “Water will not sit up against the sides of the pool.”

An added benefit to a fiberglass pool is the interior quality. “You pay for it now and don’t have to reinvest in it,” he says, adding salt water won’t have an impact on the shell or finish. It could otherwise be a problem with a concrete pool with a vinyl liner. Plus, the salt water won’t cause the pool to rust overtime.

Vinyl liners pose a problem if clients allow their dogs to swim in the pool, for they could potentially ruin it when trying to get out of the pool. A replacement liner could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 depending on its size, says Feinstein.

fiberglass pools

Fiberglass pools constructed by Elite Pools.

CIU Pools: CIU installs mostly vinyl pools, says Vivona. The benefits to a vinyl pool is a client can get any shape and size, therefore can build an aesthetically pleasing backyard based on their taste and availability of space.

“It’s the best material for our climate,” he says.

Vivona says vinyl pools are very sturdy and durable and will not require routine repairs. One of CIU’s clients have had a vinyl pool for over 10 years and other than routine maintenance – cleanings, open and closing services – nothing has been done to it because there was no need.

“If you do decide to do something, you can change the liner and have a brand new pool,” he says, adding the cost of a new liner on average is $4,000.

“Liners have to be changed eventually because they get brittle,” he says. “Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with those pools.”

CIU vinyl pools

Vinyl pools designed and built by CIU Pools

What about other materials?

Betz Pools: Fiberglass is a common material used to construct pools, but Betz does not work with the product for a few reasons. “With fiberglass, you’re stuck with whatever happens to the finish: scratches, blotches, chemical fading,” says Luff. With a concrete or vinyl pool, clients can have a new liner installed and it will look brand new.

Fiberglass has a smooth surface, but is not exempt from algae. “Algae can get inside the liner and gunite, that is true,” says Luff. “But to say that a smooth surface doesn’t take algae, that’s baloney.”

Luff has seen a fiberglass pool fall apart in the past. “Vinyl and concrete are almost the same price. Why would you spend the same amount of money on a temporary pool?”

Concrete pools installed by Betz.

Concrete pools installed by Betz.

Elite Pools: Concrete is another common material used to construct a pool, but Feinstein believes fiberglass is a far better alternative from a cost and maintenance standpoint. A concrete pool could cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 per month in maintenance, compared to virtually no maintenance fees for a fiberglass pool.

“Fiberglass is typically installed and backfilled to grade, ready for landscaping and decking within 2 to 3 days, so it’s a much quicker process,” he says.

A concrete pool, on the other hand, could take anywhere from 5 to 6 days to construct in a client’s backyard. Feinstein says a concrete pool gives clients the opportunity for more customization, but do the features outweigh the cost?

“Fiberglass has 80 to 90 different shells, which is a lot, so for the most part, it satisfies most people’s needs,” he says.

When it comes to cost, a fiberglass cool could cost 40 to 50 per cent less, depending on the nature of the project. “Typically, fiberglass pools are 10 per cent more than a vinyl pool, but fiberglass are much more popular,” says Feinstein.

How else does it stand up to the competition?

“A fiberglass pool is considerably stronger than concrete, 14 times stronger and is very, very resistant to impact,” he says. “You could hit it with a hammer and you’re not going to damage the finish. It won’t do anything to the gel coat.”

The gel coat Feinstein is referring to is an interior finish material that’s built to last.

fiberglass pools

CIU Pools: In Vivona’s expert opinion, a vinyl pool is suitable for Canada’s climate, which is why CIU sticks to that material.

Vivona does believe that a concrete pool is suitable for other very hot climates, such as Florida. “Gunite (concrete) is the best,” he says.

One of the reasons why CIU doesn’t work with other pool materials – concrete/gunite and fiberglass to be specific – is because of the maintenance and repairs associated with the material construction.

“A fiberglass pool will need refinishing. A concrete pool will need to be remarbled overtime,” he says, adding both processes are expensive in comparison to the minimal maintenance for a vinyl pool.

Vinyl pools built by CIU.

Vinyl pools built by CIU.

How do you choose which company is best?

Betz Pools: Betz just celebrated its 75th year in business, therefore has many years of experience and expertise to offer their clientele. Not only that, but since pool renovations can turn a backyard upside down, Betz offers a full-service design and build backyard. “We will do anything you want, from luxurious poolside cabanas, barbeques, planting and fencing,” says Luff. “We’re a one-stop shop where we want to take responsibility for the entire project.”

Betz can arrange consultations for the following backyard features:

  • Landscape;
  • Architecture design;
  • Lighting;
  • Arborists.

Luff says the benefit to this is clients don’t have to worry about calling and coordinating different contractors for their backyard renovation.

“We have a 24-hour emergency service line because we have pools that run outside all year round, indoor pools, hot tubs,” he says. “You can get a tech 365 days a year, 24/7.”

Betz also arranged weekly service, chemical checks, openings and closings.

“We’re by far the largest service company in Ontario, in Canada,” says Luff. “In the U.S., there are very few companies that do pools and service. It’s something that’s quite unique to Canada.

Landscaping done by Betz Pools.

Landscaping done by Betz Pools.

CIU Pools: For over 30 years, CIU has been providing clients with the design and installation of vinyl pools.

“We’ve been around for over 30 years,” says Vivona, adding his father started the business after moving from Italy to Canada. This family-run business does more than just pool installation; they provide all forms of pool maintenance and service to ensure clients’ pools are in order so they can be enjoyed all summer long.

CIU has also expanded to provide prospective clients with a showroom, located in Vaughan, north of Toronto. It enables the company to see what pool options are available to them and illustrates that the organization is a reputable one (read below for more information).

Vinyl pools built by CIU.

Vinyl pools built by CIU.

It’s all about the customer!

Betz Pools: If you’re looking to build a pool in your backyard, you’re likely already aware that it’s going to be a costly project. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay on budget. “We make it your backyard, your level of quality based on budgets,” says Luff. “There’s good, better and best in everything we do.” Whether a client is looking for a waterfall or barbecue area to go with their state-of-the-art pool, there’s a diverse price range for quality, quantity, durability and material choices.

Betz provides unique cleaning systems with self-cleaning drains and other little tricks that Luff says makes the pool operate better and more efficiently.

CIU Pools: Backyard pools are a big investment, therefore you want a reliable company that will visit your house should any problems arise. “We come back for anything, for any problems, warranty issues,” says Vivona.

Not only does CIU Pools perform routine checks, openings and closings for pool clients, but they can also repair and replace broken liners.

“We do it all,” he says. “We do from start to finish, digging to finishing.”


Left: Betz Pools. Right: CIU Pools.

Advice for pool buyers?

Betz Pools: “I like no regret shopping,” says Luff. When in consultation with a client, Luff will ask them what their dreams are for a pool. From there, they work together to come up with a design idea that’s budget-friendly for the client. “I like to start big and work our way backwards,” he says. “Eventually, the customer sees what they could have spent, what they can save and are happy with the purchase they made.”

If down the line a client wants to make changes to the pool they’ve built, Betz will work with the client to ensure those additions are possible down the road.

Elite Pools: When a client purchases a concrete pool over fiberglass, a majority of the time spent in people’s backyards is not at the pool installation point, but how they finish it once the pool is in the ground, says Feinstein. “People like to come home and see a finished product. You pay for it; it gets delivered into the backyard and dropped into the hole.”

With a shorter turnaround, it enables clients to move on with the rest of the backyard setup.

CIU Pools: When it comes to any home renovation, including building a backyard pool, has provided advice on hiring a credible company. CIU believes the same and advises clients to hire a company that has a storefront as opposed to a pool contractor working out of a pick-up truck. Why? “You’ll never find those guys ever again,” says Vivona.

With a storefront location, clients will know exactly where to find CIU Pools.

Backyards featuring Elite Pools.

Backyards featuring Elite Pools.

Vinyl pools with waterfall by CIU Pools

Vinyl pools with waterfall by CIU Pools

From the Editor: Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about buying a pool. Everyone will have a different opinion and take on pool materials but I’ll tell you this – my family opted to purchase a vinyl pool. Like CIU’s client, we’ve had the pool for well over 10 years and not once did we experience an issue with it. To this day, the liner has NOT been replaced. Every Friday afternoon, a technician would come to the house and conduct routine pool cleaning with no question.

What we want you to take away from this piece is an overview of what’s on the market in your price range. If you’re interested in having a pool built in your backyard oasis and don’t know where to start, call one of our pool contractors for advice!

Happy shopping!

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