Tiling or Vinyl Liner

Bluepools always uses ICF high density concrete formers called polybloks to construct strong, highly insulated, reinforced concrete pool walls. Tiling has always been regarded as being aesthetically more attractive than a vinyl liner pool but the thicker high quality modern liner options are now challenging this idea. However it is important to provide a choice so that Client can have a tiled pool if they really want one. Many people believe that it is not possible to tile pools built with ICF formwork but this is simply not true.

Bluepools has undertaken several projects where tiles have been used on a Polyblok wall using this approach. Tiling on Polybloks has been carried out extensively in the Eastern US states and this exciting new technology is now available in the UK.

This page described the advantages and disadvantages of using Tiles and Vinyl Liners on Polyblok built pools, whether they are deck level or freeboard as well as the costs, the installation process and the possible risks.

I. Tiled Polyblok Pool

New tiled pools frequently leak and it is often very difficult to find where it is so that it can be sealed. Traditionally civil and structural engineers have used a theoretical approach to solving this by putting a lot more reinforcement into the concrete to reduce cracking and calling it "water retaining concrete". But paradoxically this can make the problem worse in thin swimming pool walls because the amount of reinforcement makes it very difficult to compact the concrete properly and this is exacerbated because inlets and skimmers have to be cast into the pool walls.

Pool contractors have built tens of thousands of pools in the UK using hollow dense concrete blocks that have 2 No 10mm reinforcing bars per block - using about 10% of the reinforcement required by the water retaining concrete rules. They made sure that these pools were watertight by rendering the inside face with two layers of render that is waterproofed by the addition of a specialist chemical (Unibond) that makes the sand and cement in the render mix "stick together" stopping any cracking in the render itself. Furthermore because the Unibond makes the render stick to the face of the concrete blocks water cannot find a path to the joints between them. This traditional pool industry approach stops the transmission of water very effectively.

Bluepools designs the pool walls with 330mm polybloks and reinforcement complying with the Structural Codes of Practice (not water retaining) and relies for waterproofing on modern specialised render systems that are even more effective than the "Unibond" that was used in the past.

The tiled pool and hot tub in the following picture was built using Polybloks in 2018 and has been operating satisfactorily since then.

tiled polyblok pool and spa

So the tiling of the ICF forms is technically possible but Bluepools normally recommends the use of in-situ Alkorplan vinyl liners in its projects because the tiling can add at least £30,000 to the cost of a typical pool.

Furthermore the tiling relies on the chemical products for the render, adhesive and grout that are provided by various manufacturers. This results in a situation where no-one will provide an overall guarantee and the risk of tiling failure is borne by the pool owner.

The Alkorplan liners are provided with a 10 year guarantee that is issued by a major international company and if it fails the pool will be reinstated without any arguement.

II. Vinyl Liner Polyblok Pool

Two types of vinyl liner:

• On site in-situ welded from 2m wide rolls

Two vinyl membranes are laminated with a core of a polyester mesh that provides great strength and durability, without losing the elasticity and flexibility needed to adapt to any shape or corner of the pool.

Reinforced membrane vinyl liners are the most widely used pool liners in the world. Nowadays, it is the most advantageous system on the market and the one to present the fewest problems. It's attractive appearance, reasonable price, fast and easy installation and absolute water-tightness, guaranteed for 10 years, have made it the most widely-used pool waterproofing system in the world.

installed alkorplan vinyl liner

Find out more about the Renolit Alkorplan 2000/3000/Touch/Ceramics.

• Factory made bag liners

One single 0.75mm vinyl membrane without reinforcement. These liners are hung from a continuous liner lock fixed just beneath the pool coping. A vaccum is introduced between the liner and pool walls using an industrial vacuum cleaner where the liner is sucked and stretched into the pool corners, assissted by the water pressure. These liners have a 5 year guarantee on the liner material and 10 years on the joints.

They are absolutely ideal for outdoor domestic pools where they will last a lot longer than tiling and cost about 1/3 of the price.

factory made vinyl bag liner for pool

Vinyl Liners

III. Deck Level vs Freeboard

Deck Level Pools

In a deck level pool the water laps over the coping and spills through a grill into a gutter. With this type of pool, the pool wall and any tiling is covered by water and cannot be seen. As a result the aesthetic advantage of tiling is negligible. Furthermore, not having 150mm drop to the water level provides a far more attractive overall appearance.

Moreover, the water quality in a deck level pool is far superior because of the increase in flow from the pool water surface itself. As a result the majority of premium quality domestic and commercial pool installations are all deck level pools incorporating vinyl liners.

Tiled pools will also increase the cost of any pool by a significant amount (see table below) and carry a high risk of failure.

Freeboard Pools

In a freeboard pool the water level lies about 150mm below the pool copings and this 150mm is exposed and the tiling can be clearly seen.

Historically it was considered that nothing compared with a carefully built, traditional, freeboard large tile pool.

Mosaic tiled pools never ever seem to quite cut the mustard in this respect but had the advantage that the tiles were supplied in sheets and were much easier to install than large tiles. Currently, in fact it is very difficult to find any tradesmen that are both willing and capable of producing a first class large tiled pool.

Deck Level or Freeboard

IV. Cost of Materials


Large anti-slip porcelain tiles can cost between £20 to £40 per square metre.

Sheets of mosaic tiles can cost £80 to £100 per square metre. These prices will result in a cost of £2000 to £4000 for large tiles and £7000 to £9000 for a 10m x 5m x 1.2m swimming pool.

Large tiles and sheets of mosaic tiles can be installed on the polyblok pool walls but the polystyrene needs to be covered with special water-proof render that is applied in two coats.

The cost of the render, tile adhesive and epoxy grout for the tiling joints can add 25% to the tile costs.

Vinyl Liner

A bag type 0.75mm vinyl liner made in a factory, costs about £50 per square metre resulting in a cost of about £4000 for a 10m x 5m x 1.5m deep swimming pool.

The 1.5mm thick (double layer 0.75mm vinyl membranes reinforced with a core of polyester mesh) Alkorplan in-situ liners cost between £20 and £30 per square metre.

V. Cost of Installation


In a 10m x 5m pool, mosaic tiles will take about 6 weeks in total to apply the render, fix sheets of mosaic tiles and carry out the joint grouting. For large tiles it will take 8 weeks.

Tilers that have swimming pool experience are difficult to find and the labour will cost at least £500 per day resulting in an installation cost of about £15,000 for mosaic tiles and £20,000 for large tiles.

Vinyl Liner

The bag type liner will take two days to install and the in-situ liner about a week.

Typical costs for a 10m x 5m x 1.2m deep pool:

Cost element Bag type liner

In-situ type


Mosaic tiles Large tiles
Materials £4,000 £2,000 £10,000 £4,000
Labour £1,000 £8,000 £15,000 £20,000
VAT £1,200 £2,000 £5,000 £4,800
Total £6,200 £12,000 £30,000 £28,800

VI. Risks


Tiles are provided by a tiling wholesaler, the adhesives are provided by a specialist manufacturer, the render by another and the grout by another. All the chemical elements require site measurement and mixing in accordance with the suppliers' instructions.

As a result, the finished tiles are dependent on each and every element being carried out properly and no overall guarantee can be provided. Hence the risk is all carried by the Client.

If the pool leaks it is very difficult to identify where the leak is as the water spreads out behind the tiling. As a result serious leaks can result in the need to take off the tiles and renew them - a very costly process!

Vinyl Liners

The bag type liners are provided with a 5 year guarantee on the material and a 10 year guarantee on the joints.

The Alkorplan liners are provided with a 10 year guarantee and backed by the resources of a major international company and hence our Clients are not at risk if there are any issues.

The vinyl liners insulate the pool water from the wall behind and if the pool leaks the location can be determined by an instrument that identifies where the current is passing through the liner.