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A Vinyl Pool isn’t Just a Pool

Pools evolve from swim time to cocktail time

Pools evolve from swim time to cocktail time

The early 1950s were boom years for in-ground swimming pools. Prices for concrete pools dropped but were still out of reach for some homeowners, and they had the propensity to freeze and crack in cold-weather regions. Several manufacturers came on board and discovered polyvinyl chloride liners were a cost-effective solution to both problems and by the mid-1950s, the first vinyl pools debuted.

Advancements quickly followed, with new liner designs and patterns energizing the market in the 1960s, 1970s and beyond. Although liner reliability and precise fit were sometimes problematic, new computer-aided design technology revolutionized the industry in the 1980s. It then became possible to custom-fit an entire pool, whereas before, an installer had to worry about an ill-fitting liner slowing the installation process down.

The 1960s also brought about the invention of PVC membranes, which are much thicker and more durable than average vinyl. 

“Manufacturers have worked hard in evolving the liner and making it a more upscale product,” says Thomas Kennedy, marketing director for Tara Pool & Outdoor Products. This includes innovations and new technologies that are keeping pace with ever-changing lifestyle trends, from the aforementioned thickness and durability to colors, pool sizes, textures and configurations.

“In the past, the bigger the pool, the better,” says Anthony Jordan, business development manager for Renolit, a Germany-based company that specializes in producing high-quality plastics, particularly the much thicker PVC membranes. “Now, backyards have become smaller, due to the cost of real estate. With smaller backyards comes a trend toward smaller pools and constant depth pools, so they might be four feet. They’re there to embrace the social aspect.” Further, Jordan says, homeowners are including steps and tying in pools with a spa or a hot tub as well as sun ledges for tanning. 

Advancements in ink technology have created products like shimmering ink, which gives a sparkling glass effect in the liner and one with a metallic sparkle that “color shifts” or changes color depending on the viewing angle, says David Sones, design manager, industrial markets for Poolside by CGT. “Blue will always be a very popular color, and for a while, dark, dark blues and darker colors were the favorite,” he says. “Now we’re seeing it shift back into lighter colors, the natural element, so more natural colors and prints will follow suit.”

Kennedy agrees, adding, “A few years ago, a deep indigo called brilliant blue became very popular, but we’ve also done lighter-colored patterns recently, more grays and neutral colors, which people seem to be embracing.” 

Clay Thompson, owner of The Liner Guys, a Tara customer in Mobile, Alabama, also notes a trend toward more modern colors such as dark grays, light grays and light colors. “White liners are very popular,” he says. 

Innovative textures and new realistic designs for vinyl and PVC membranes have sparked huge interest from homeowners. In the case of textured PVC membranes, Jordan says they also “have the look and feel of real granite, or real slate or real stone … which draws people’s attention or senses toward the natural elements, a big draw right now.” 

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Since the pandemic, there’s been a sweeping trend in the pool industry as customers are seeing their backyards as extensions of their homes. “It’s a focal point of décor and entertaining, and it is a lifestyle for homeowners,” Sones says. “It adds more functionality. The swimming pool is no longer just sort of a quick way to cool off or get exercise.”

Coinciding with the neutral, natural colors that blend with backyard landscaping is a new product called ReNew vinyl, a sustainable pool material available from i2M. According to Kennedy, “It contains 51% pre-consumer recycled vinyl and has received recycled content certification [from SCS Global Services].”

With all the new customizations come new costs. “Price points are going up based on what the customer wants,” Thompson says.

However, looking at the long term, vinyl liners will remain cost-effective options over the life of the pool, especially given the resilience of the product, says Bob Lafrance, executive vice president of industrial markets for CGT. “They’re easily maintained, easily repaired and resistant to cracking,” he explains.  

They’re also easy to replace, as they can be installed over the top of existing pools as new designs emerge and homeowner aesthetics change. That means a very healthy marketplace for an industry that is heavily researching and developing new technology to improve and update with the times.


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Several companies are at the forefront of trends in the pool liner industry.

Renolit, for example, is an independent, family-owned business that has been specializing in high-quality PVC films and products for more than 75 years. Headquartered in Germany, it has 30 locations throughout the world. The company entered the North American market with 60mil reinforced PVC for commercial pools more than 30 years ago and recently, 70mil and 80mil reinforced PVC pool membranes for residential applications that are manufactured in rolls with customized designs, colors, patterns, textures and shipped to the builder or job site. The material is welded in place by trained installers on-site in the homeowner or facilities’ pool.

Another is Poolside by CGT, which is headquartered in Ontario, Canada. It manufactures single-ply PVC — 20mil and 28mil — vinyl that it sells to fabrication partners throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe. These partners cut and weld the vinyl material into the fitted liner shape and deliver the product to the builder for installation. The company also manufactures thicker PVC vinyl membranes that are sold through its distribution partners worldwide. 

Founded in 1984, Tara Pool & Outdoor Products is a family-owned-and-operated swimming pool products manufacturer in Alabama. Employing the prefabrication method, it ships customized 20mil and 27mil liners to customers across the U.S. for installation by pool professionals.

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