What Is The Best Type Of Swimming Pool? (Type, Sanitation & Material)

If you’re planning on installing a swimming pool in your backyard, you have plenty of decisions to make and I’m not even talking about relatively minor stuff like a diving board or slide. There are many decisions to make about the pool type, sanitation system, and material that the pool is actually built with.

What is the best type of swimming pool you can buy? Let’s take a closer look at the major options you have at your disposal.

Pool type

Above ground pool

Above ground swimming pool in a backyard

Every time I see the words above ground pool, I think of the old joke by the late great comedian Mitch Hedberg:

I saw a commercial for an above-ground pool. It was 30 seconds long. Because that’s the maximum amount of time you can picture yourself having fun in an above-ground pool.

Mitch Hedberg, Just For Laughs, 2002

In all seriousness, while old style above ground pools were small and mostly for kids, larger more modern ones can be built much more spacious and designed with an elevated deck around it along with other features.

And you can use a salt water chlorinator system with your above ground pool should you choose to do so. If you have limited space or a limited budget or simply don’t want a permanent option that involves digging up your backyard, an above ground pool might be an option to consider.

Inground pool

An inground pool is more expensive than an above ground pool and takes more time and effort to build. You also tend to need more space to build this sort of pool although these days smaller inground pools can be built that don’t take up as much land as larger inground pools used to when a rectangle or kidney-shaped one were the popular ones that existed.

Needless to say you can pick an off the shelf design or pick a funky one with all sorts of angles and turns although you’re going to spend more on that, too.

And clearly it’s a long term option that can’t simply be disassembled and removed like an above ground pool.

Plunge pool

A plunge pool is one that is typically smaller and not as deep as a standard inground pool. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t have a big enough backyard for a full sized pool, don’t want to fill your entire backyard with a pool or just don’t need a deep pool because you’re not into diving or jumping in, then a plunge pool might be for you.

My next door neighbors got one installed and I can see the benefits as they have a dog and wanted some backyard left that wasn’t swallowed up by a bigger pool. They also knew they weren’t going to be diving or jumping in so a smaller 5′ deep pool suited them just fine. You can build a deeper plunge pool too if needed but the cost will obviously go up.

One of the major costs of an inground pool is the depth of the pool so building a pool that bottoms out at 8′ is going to be more expensive to dig and install than a smaller 5′ deep pool.

Pool sanitation system options

Chlorinated pools are popular but aren't the only option.
Chlorinated pools are popular but aren’t the only option for sanitation. Plus, chlorine doesn’t just come in commercial liquid or powder form.

Every pool needs a method to clean or sanitize the water to keep it clear and safe for swimming. There are more sanitation options available today than in the past and the ones that do exist seem to be getting more automated and feature rich than ever before.

Let’s take a look at the popular sanitation options you can consider and which ones work for which type of pool.

Salt water pool chlorinator

Here on this website we specifically talk about salt water pools but it’s worth taking a look at the other choices and that’s what we’re doing on this page. While I can extol the virtues of a salt chlorination system based on my experience, the fact is that a salt chlorinator does come with a higher up front cost than just a regular chlorine or bromine pool.

Having said that, if you like the possibility of less work balancing chemicals and automation features so that you can run your pump, heater, lights, waterfall and other items on a schedule, a salt water chlorinator might be for you. You can get similar functionality these days from a regularly chlorinated pool but such an automated system will cost as much as a salt chlorinator if not more.

So at that point your decision might simply be do I want a chlorinator that converts salt to chlorine or do I just want to use regular chlorine?

Quick Tip: The salt cell of your chlorination system will need maintenance (cleaning) each year. While you can do it yourself with chemicals, you can also choose a salt chlorination system that comes with a reverse polarity feature to constantly clean the cell automatically. Not only does it eliminate the cleaning work it can help to extend the life of your salt cell and allow it to work more effectively with no extra effort on your part.

Regular chlorine pool

If you’re ok with manually adding liquid or crystal powder chlorine to your pool, this option might be for you. You can also get chlorine pucks that are compacted into a round shape and will dissolve slowly when you put one or more of them in the basket of your side skimmer.

So you don’t necessarily need to have large buckets of liquid chlorine on hand any more although you certainly can do that. You can also buy a bucket of chlorine tablets or pucks and supplement that with small bags of concentrated chlorine called shock to quickly bump up chlorine levels when needed.

And you can also purchase floating chlorine dosage products that you fill with chlorine and then toss into the pool. Over time, it releases small amounts of chlorine automatically to keep the pool sanitized.

You should expect to spend around $300 – $800 per year on chlorine regardless of which product you buy although the more convenience you desire the more you’ll pay over time.

Quick Tip: Chlorine automation systems now exist too so you can purchase a system that will drip feed chlorine into the water as per the settings you select so you don’t have to manually add chlorine yourself. You’ll pay extra for this but perhaps the convenience suits you and your lifestyle. That way you’ll spend slightly less time maintaining your pool and more time using it.

Bromine pool

We’ll mention bromine for completeness but unless you have an indoor pool or spa, you’ll want to stick with chlorine. Bromine doesn’t have the strong chlorine smell but unlike chlorine, bromine can’t be stabilized.

Bromine is more stable than chlorine and reacts better to warm water which is why it’s a good choice in hot tubs. But the fact that it dies quicker in hot direct sun than chlorine and can’t be stabilized unlike chlorine generally makes bromine a choice only if you have an indoor pool that is away from direct sun.

Quick Tip: Bromine is better suited for indoor pools and for hot tubs. The benefits of bromine are the lack of strong smell and its ability to work well in warm water.

Ozone pool system

Ozone pool systems are relatively new but have been in vogue since the early 2010s. In a nutshell these systems convert oxygen to ozone inside the pool piping to sanitize the water before returning the water to the pool.

It requires installation of a pool ozone system which typically comes at a cost of between $1,000 and $3,000. The important thing to understand is that an ozone system still requires supplemental chlorine added. Ozone has a very short lifespan and once created, can survive just long enough to sanitize the water in the piping at that time and around 20 seconds later has already been converted back to oxygen.

Unlike chlorine which literally waits in the pool to be used until it comes into contact with contaminants, ozone treats water immediately and then is spent. Thus you either need to manually add some chlorine to an ozone pool or add a salt water chlorination system and use that to produce the required chlorine to keep the pool sanitized.

Quick Tip: Some pool ozone systems combine ozone creation with UV technology to further kill bacteria and sanitize water. They still require chlorine addition however so it’s worth remembering this to ensure you don’t think that an ozone swimming pool is a non-chlorinated pool, because it isn’t! Chlorine has to be added manually albeit in smaller amounts than a regularly chlorinated pool.

Salt water pools can damage metal equipment
Salt water pools can damage metal equipment like a pool ladder and can negatively impact concrete too.

Pool material options

There are three main materials used to build pools and each have pros and cons to consider.

Vinyl liner pool

The cheapest of the three options and the one that many of us grew up swimming in at friends’ houses. A vinyl pool has a thick vinyl covering that is tightly and custom cut to cover the surface and walls of your pool. The vinyl is held in place around the pool at the top with a bracket system but can come loose at times which is a downside of a vinyl liner.

Another downside of vinyl pools is that the vinyl can rip, tear and leak and does need to be replaced over time typically around the 10 year mark give or take. If you choose a lighter colored liner, it will noticeably bleach over time from the sun and darker colored ones will lighten over time too.

Having said that, vinyl pools can utilize chlorine, salt water or ozone systems with no trouble. They have a long track record and while some people argue they can have a cheap feel to them when compared to the other two options on the list, you can buy quality liners that look good.

Fiberglass pool

Fiberglass pools are newer than vinyl liner styles but have been around long enough now that the industry is well-established and there are plenty of colors, designs and shapes available. They tend to have a reputation for being high quality looking with many features that can be built in such as integrated steps and seating.

Fiberglass pools are prefabricated and delivered to your home in one piece. Typically the pool shell is lifted over your house using a crane and then lowered into the ground in the hole that has been dug. The pool is then fastened in place, the pump and other equipment is installed and the area around the pool is backfilled and secured.

Fiberglass has been used for many decades in boat building and it’s for a good reason: Fiberglass is very durable and resistant to not only water but salt water, too.

In that regard, you can build a fiberglass pool and use regular chlorine, a salt chlorination system or ozone system with no trouble.

Concrete pool

Concrete pools tend to be the most expensive pools to install. While concrete can have a high quality look and is typically used in commercial and public pools, it can also be used for your backyard too. But there are a few considerations.

First off, concrete pools need to be resurfaced every 10 years or so. This involves draining the pool, doing the resurfacing and any other repair work and then refilling the pool with water and balancing the water. That costs money and takes time away from using the pool.

Secondly, concrete + salt water aren’t a great mix. Salt water content in a salt water pool is low relative to the ocean but it does contain salt nonetheless and over time, concrete can be damaged due to salt exposure. A concrete pool with a salt water chlorination system might need to be repaired and then resurfaced more frequently than every 10 years as a result. This also comes with a cost.

So while a chlorine or ozone system will work just fine, you might want to think twice about using a salt water chlorination system in a concrete pool. Some pool builders will disagree but then again they won’t be the ones paying for your resurfacing.


You have plenty of options to consider when building a pool. Certainly your overall goals for your pool use will come into play as will your budget, backyard size and desire to fill your yard with a pool that will be there for the (very) long term.

While you can certainly pick any sanitation option you like, you should check ahead of time with your town or city to inquire about anything you should know regarding pool ownership.

  • Are there restrictions on dumping large amounts of pool water (salt water particularly) in the sewage system when draining a pool for winter closing?
  • Can you legally refill your pool with tap water from the garden hose or must you truck water in at a greater expense?
  • Are there other aspects of pool ownership that are specific to your home area that you should know ahead of time regarding fence and safety requirements to name one thing?

Before you sign on the dotted line, ensure you understand all the pros and cons of each swimming pool option you’re considering.

And to add one more consideration to the mix…did you that self cleaning pools now exist?

Carl Mueller

I bought a home with a salt water pool in 2006 and soon realized the benefits over traditional chlorinated pools. On this website I'll discuss all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years. I'll also help you troubleshoot various problems with pools in general and ones specific to salt water pools that I've experienced personally!

Recent Posts