Switching From Liner to Gunite Pools: A Comprehensive Cost & Process Guide

Paul West/ Backyard Gardening

Understanding Pool Types: Liner vs. Gunite

These two types, liner and gunite, play an integral role in the swimming pool world. Let’s jump into their key characteristics!

The Basics of Liner Pools

Liner pools take the spotlight for their affordability and swift installation process. Typically, these pools feature a vinyl sheet, serving as the ‘liner’, stretched over the pool shell. This liner offers a smooth finish, eliminating worries about scraped feet. It’s worth noting that these liners come in a fantastic variety of designs and colors, good news for those valuing aesthetics. But, their vulnerability to punctures and lower lifespan (around 7-15 years) compared to gunite pools, does pose as an aspect to consider.

The Basics of Gunite Pools

Let’s take a closer look at the alternative – gunite pools, known for their durability and design versatility. Constructed with a concrete and sand mixture, these pools boast a substantial lifespan of around 20 years or more. Their major selling point arguably lies in the ability to customize the pool shape and size to the owner’s preference. This inherent flexibility makes gunite pools a go-to choice for a luxury, personalized pool. But, their premium customization options do come paired with a higher cost and longer installation time.

Remember, the choice between a liner and a gunite pool largely hinges on personal preferences and pragmatic considerations such as budget and time constraints.

Evaluating the Conversion: Can You Convert a Liner Pool to Gunite?

Before leaping into the conversion process, examining the structural requirements is crucial. This allows the assessment of feasibility and robust understanding of infrastructural modifications involved.

Assessing the Structural Requirements

Structural modifications are inevitable when converting from liner to gunite pool. A liner pool’s structure, made up primarily of polymer or steel support walls, lacks the required strength to support a solid concrete gunite pool. So, you’ll replace or reinforce these walls, a process that’s not only labor-intensive but also technically challenging.

Consider, for instance, the pool base. Liner pools typically have sand or vermiculite, both light and inadequate to support a gunite pool. For the gunite, concrete and steel reinforcements become pivotal to withstand the pool’s weight and water pressure.

What many overlook is the time requirement. Structural modifications can often stretch for weeks, especially if there’s a need for soil testing or significant reinforcement for other areas such as the pool deck and surrounding world.

Cost Analysis of Conversion

Money speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Assessing the financial impact of converting a liner to a gunite pool proves insightful.

Begin with demolition costs. Removing the existing vinyl liner and support structure constitutes a substantial portion of the conversion budget. Removing the pool lining, reinforcing or replacing the walls, and altering the pool base are integral parts of the conversion process.

Next, factor in the cost of gunite spraying, steel reinforcements, and labor charges. Figures suggest that gunite pools can cost upwards of $50,000, a substantial leap from liner pools which typically range between $20,000 to $40,000.

Finally, remember the ongoing cost. Maintaining a gunite pool often costs more, because of its susceptibility to algae growth and potential for surface cracks. These could lead to expensive repairs if not addressed in time.

Making the conversion decision goes beyond the allure of design versatility and durability of gunite pools. You’ll put into consideration the structural requirements, financial implications, time, and effort required for successful conversion. It’s important to enlist professional help, ensuring the process is executed correctly and safely. Every detail matters when you’re making a significant, long-term investment in your backyard playground.

Step-by-Step Guide to Convert Liner Pool to Gunite

Starting off, let’s investigate into the planning and structural design–two major aspects of the conversion process of changing your liner pool into a gunite one.

Planning and Design

To begin with, you might want to sketch your dream pool. Choose the dimensions, customized features, and the desired finishes. Professionals like architects or designers come in handy here, as they are experienced in designing pool projects. They’ll help you create a design that not only matches your dream but is also feasible given your backyard’s constraints. For instance, if you’re looking to add a waterfall or jacuzzi, they might recommend the best position for such installations.

After the design stage, conduct a detailed structural analysis of your existing liner pool. This analysis is aimed at identifying the necessary modifications to the pool’s structure to host the gunite material. You might need to increase the strength and stability of the pool base and walls since gunite pools require robust support. Professional structural engineers prove useful for this task.

Finally, gather all necessary permits for the conversion project. Ensure you comply with your local building codes and keep your neighbors informed to prevent any disputes.

Key Construction Phases

Embarking on the conversion process involves several crucial steps.

  1. Demolition: Start by draining and removing your pool’s liner. You might have to demolish the pool walls, particularly if they aren’t strong enough to hold the gunite material. Rent a demolition hammer for this process and bear in mind that it’s quite labor-intensive.
  2. Reinforcement: Lay down the steel framework that will hold the gunite material. Shape the steelbars according to your pool design and secure them to the pool base and walls using wire ties.
  3. Gunite Spraying: Hire an experienced crew to spray the gunite material onto the steel framework. This work requires precision to ensure the gunite evenly coats the entire pool surface, so it’s an area where professional input is highly beneficial.
  4. Curing and Finishing: Let the gunite cure for about a week, during which you need to water it regularly to prevent cracking. Once cured, apply the final plaster or pebble finish to create a visually appealing surface.
  5. Equipment installation: Install necessary pool equipment, such as lights, filters, and pumps.

Ensure you monitor the whole process closely, regularly inspecting the construction work to guarantee it adheres to the agreed-upon design. Each completed phase brings you one step closer to your luxurious, sturdy, and visually stunning gunite pool.

Benefits of Converting to Gunite

As you dive deeper into the specifics of a liner to gunite pool conversion, you’ll discover some substantial benefits. Key among these advantages are durability and longevity alongside aesthetic and design flexibility.

Durability and Longevity

Switching from a liner pool to a gunite one isn’t just for design appeal. It’s a practical decision. Gunite construction offers proven strength and longevity. Simply put, a gunite pool lasts longer. While a vinyl liner pool may last about 10 to 15 years, a gunite pool surpasses that, with a lifespan of 20 years or more. That’s a substantial increase in the lifespan, giving you more pool time for your investment.

Here’s exactly what you’re getting:

  • Sturdy construction material: Gunite consists of dry mix sand and cement shot through a hose to create a solid structure. This technique leads to a highly durable pool shell.
  • Resistance to cracks: While all pools could develop cracks over time, gunite pools are tougher, with better resistance to cracking.
  • Low maintenance: Gunite pool requires less frequent maintenance compared to a liner pool. It doesn’t need liner replacements as the latter does.

Aesthetic and Design Flexibility

Beyond durability, you also get a clearer canvas for your design preferences when converting to a gunite pool. The flexibility in design options here is endless. You’re not locked into any shape or size. Whether you fancy a simple rectangular pool or a free-form design that winds around your backyard scenery, it’s possible with a gunite pool.

Examples of what you can achieve include:

  • Personalized shapes: Be it L-shaped, kidney-shaped, figure-eight, or any custom form, you’ll get it with gunite.
  • Add-ons: Waterfalls, beach entries, vanishing edges, tanning ledges, benches – all can be incorporated into your gunite pool design.
  • Tile finishes: Different color schemes, mosaic tiles, and even glow-in-the-dark tiles!

Remember, a well-designed gunite pool can amplify the aesthetics of your backyard space, transforming it into a tranquil retreat or a vibrant entertainment hub. It’s the added freedom to build not just a pool but also an extension of your personal style.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

Transitioning from liner to gunite pools presents a distinct set of challenges. It’s not a mere swap-in, swap-out operation. To help you navigate these obstacles, here are some considerations and potential challenges.

Permit and Building Code Considerations

Adhering to permit requirements and building codes plays a critical role in any pool conversion process. Municipalities set regulations concerning pool types, their design, and construction method, basing their standards on safety, durability, environmental impact, and aesthetic guidelines among others.

Obtaining the necessary permit is a critical hurdle. It’s paramount to ensure your conversion complies with the local building code. This code includes pool dimensions, depth, and distance from property lines, among other factors. Verify these standards and secure necessary approvals to avoid legal complications.

For instance, in Austin, Texas, a gunite pool must have a specific reinforcement structure that entails placing steel bars in a particular pattern, lining the hole dug for the pool. In other areas, like San Jose, California, the distance between the pool and the house could not be less than 8 feet. Without compliance with this, permit issuance becomes a challenge.

Maintenance and Care Post-Conversion

Another important matter involves the upkeep post-conversion. Gunite pools, unlike their vinyl counterparts, rely on chemical balancing to maintain their pristine condition.

The protection of the gunite surface implies that you’ll manage the pool’s pH levels more efficiently. It’s also vital to prevent algae growth and manage any saltwater systems if present. The adding of muriatic acid, for instance, assists in adjusting and maintaining the pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness.

Also, brushing the pool walls weekly helps to prevent algae buildup and promote better water circulation. Unlike liner pools that may require replacement every 5 to 9 years, gunite pools require more regular, but less intensive maintenance.

Further, you might have to deal with surface care as time goes by. Regular exposure to sun and pool chemicals may lead to surface discoloration, pitting or cracking. Resurfacing the pool every 10-15 years can enhance its appearance, making it smooth and comfortable.

In essence, the conversion process from liner to gunite proves advantageous in terms of long-term durability and aesthetic appeal. But, the road to benefits does not come without its fair share of challenges and considerations. It’s essential to prepare thoroughly and make informed decisions throughout the process.


So, you’ve seen the ins and outs of converting your liner pool into a gunite pool. It’s not a walk in the park, but with professional help, it’s entirely doable. You’ll need to be aware of the costs, structural changes, and local regulations. But remember, the payoff is a pool that’s durable, long-lasting, and customizable to your heart’s content. You’ll also need to keep an eye on maintenance – chemical balancing and surface care are key. But don’t let this deter you. Armed with this knowledge, you’re well on your way to making an well-informed choice about whether a gunite pool is the right fit for you.

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!