The purchase of a swimming pool is a significant investment for many families. If you want an in-ground pool, then one of your top options is to choose fiberglass. That’s because it is a material made from small strands of glass that are extruded into fibers. It is an option that first entered commercial production in 1936, with the material containing 60% resin.
The resin in fiberglass transfers the load between the fibers, which is why the material has such a high level of tensile strength. That means a swimming pool made from this material is exceptionally light without compromising on how strong the supports are for your installation.
It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that fiberglass reached the mainstream consciousness and became an option for swimming pools. The laminates used for boats were similar to what the swimming pool industry was using, allowing the manufacturers to create a niche industry where affordable installations could help homeowners enhance the look and feel of their property.
If you are thinking about adding a fiberglass pool to your property, then these are some of the pros and cons you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Fiberglass Pools
1. You will receive a faster installation time with this option.
One of the most significant selling points for a fiberglass pool is that you can install one rather quickly. If you want an in-ground pool made from gunite or concrete, then it will take you up to 60 days to complete the project. Using fiberglass can cut the installation time by 50% – and sometimes even more. Some installers promise that they can get the work done in as little as two weeks.
2. There are reduced maintenance needs with a fiberglass pool.
When you have a fiberglass pool, then the surface gets a smooth gel coating that resists algae growth exceptionally well. You won’t encounter the same problems that gunite and concrete pools encounter with this growth. Mold and mildew issues are minimal with fiberglass as well. That means you are spending less time to clean the pool, paying for less labor, and you typically have fewer repairs to manage as well.
3. You can choose from a wide variety of shapes.
When fiberglass pools were first introduced to the market, there were a handful of generic shapes from which to choose. Most of them involved some variation of the standard rectangle. Now manufacturers are creating as many as 40 different shapes that you can install on your property for an in-ground pool. That means you have more ways to create a high-end installation without the significant costs that come when using other materials. This advantage has played a significant role in the popularity of using this material to create designs that look customized.
4. There are multiple ways to enhance the appearance of a fiberglass pool.
Because there is a lot of focus placed on the installation speed of a fiberglass pool, one of the common criticisms of this medium is that its appearance can look subpar. Experienced contractors can include a variety of options, including stone, tile, and brick copings, to help the final product look just as attractive as the traditional options that are still available. That’s why this choice is one of the fastest-growing segments in the U.S. pool industry today. Their versatility makes it a useful investment to consider in almost any region of the country.
5. The durability of a fiberglass pool is beyond compare.
Lab tests were conducted to see how effective fiberglass is as a surface for a swimming pool. When pure chlorine was left soaking in a pool for 45 days, it only took a simple sanding of 1/5,000-inch to restore the surface to a usable product. There are also products that make it easy to refinish a pool if it experiences some sort of damage because of a storm or another catastrophic event. That’s why owning a pool made from this material can provide a significant level of savings when compared to the traditional materials.
6. You can choose from several customization options.
Fiberglass pools can come in almost any shape or color that you can imagine as you complete the look of your backyard. There are different hues to choose that can complement the house, garden, or yard. You can even add custom mosaic tile to simulate specific environments, like the beach, so that your backyard feels more like a spa or a vacation then part of your backyard. You can incorporate sunbathing ledges, add waterfalls, incorporate stone, metal, or glass, and even include LED lights for a fun swimming experience at night.
7. The fiberglass surface is smooth on the feet and skin.
Have you ever dived into a swimming pool only to find that the surface felt rough and uncomfortable? You can even scratch or cut yourself on a concrete surface or other materials with the lack of smoothness that they provide. You won’t have that issue when you choose a fiberglass swimming pool. That means you can have a comfortable shallow-end experience for the kids without worrying about what the pool could do to them. Assuming that you maintain the gel coat correctly, it may never need to go through a resurfacing process.
8. Fiberglass does not impact the pH levels of the pool.
Even though you might pay more for the privilege of owning a fiberglass pool, you’ll find that the lower maintenance costs tend to help pay for the expense over time. You’ll be using fewer chemicals with this option as well. This surface doesn’t impact the pH levels of the water in the pool like other materials, which means you can eliminate several chemicals from your overall treatment package. When you add in the lower labor costs as well, the savings can add up to a lot over time.
You can also use fiberglass for pools that are based on saltwater instead of chlorine if you prefer. The durability benefits that you experience with the traditional setup will still exist.
List of the Cons of Fiberglass Pools
1. Poor installation practices can impact the quality of your pool.
Fiberglass pools arrive as a pre-manufactured shell. You must work with an experienced contractor who follows the correct procedures for installation to ensure that your investment pays off over time. Anyone can dig a hole to place the foundation of the pool. What you’ll need to watch for is the work that happens afterward. Your installer should backfill the space with sand and pea gravel as the pool gradually fills with water to ensure the correct supports.
If the installation does not go as planned, then you can experience everything from improper water circulation to a collapse of one of the walls because the bracing was inaccurate. Only work with contractors who are licensed, insured, and bonded so that you have some outs available if the fiberglass pool doesn’t live up to your expectations.
2. The fiberglass can interfere with the quality of the water.
You must maintain your water quality in the pool throughout the year to ensure that the gel coating can provide the protection the fiberglass requires. If you have a poor pH level or the alkalinity levels are too high, then it may only take a few years before you’ll need to repair this component of the fiberglass pool. Even something as simple as an improper calcium balance can be enough to trigger this disadvantage. That’s why it is imperative to test the water weekly to ensure it remains at the appropriate quality.
3. There is still a significant cost to consider when installing a pool.
Although you can save up to 50% on the installation of a fiberglass pool when compared to the other options that are available, you’re still going to have an expense to manage. Depending on your geographic location and the size of the pool you want, you could pay up to $36,000 (and sometimes more) for the entire install. Pool decking and landscaping could cause that price to surge as well.
Even if you opt for a smaller pool and minimal additional structures, it might still cost more than $23,000 to complete the work. There might be financing options available if your credit profile is strong enough, but a concrete pool can sometimes go in for about half of the cost of a fiberglass pool.
4. Fiberglass pools are prefabricated.
A fiberglass pool looks like you created a customized installation, but you and the contractor both know that this perspective isn’t true. You’ll receive the entire shell of the pool, so that means selecting the shape before the item ever leaves the factory. When it is installed correctly, then the material can last for up to 40 years. If problems arise with the coating or the structure before or during installation, then it can be challenging to repair. Settled plumbing is a common problem with this option because it sinks and shifts due to a 100% sand backfill. Try to repair any leaks immediately to limit the damage that can occur to your yard.
5. The fiberglass can be susceptible to warping issues.
Because the fiberglass pool is prefabricated, there can be issues with bending, bulging, and warping during the backfill process. Gravel backfills tend to reduce this potential disadvantage because it is less likely to shift and settle over time. If the sand gets wet, then you could experience this problem at any time. The only reason why sand could be a better option is if your natural soil is already sandy. Repairing this issue can be very costly, especially if it breaches the integrity of one of your walls.
6. Sun exposure can cause the topcoat to start pealing on the fiberglass.
Many homeowners choose a multilayer topcoat for the fiberglass swimming pool because it can create vivid colors, add metal flakes to the surface, and even offer a high-gloss finish. Each layer has an individualized sheen that requires you to match it during a repair, which is why this pool surface can be very difficult to fix if something goes wrong. The topcoat can start to fade, crack, and peel over time with something as simple as sun exposure as well. If the repair specialist attempts to replicate each layer, then the results can be less than flattering. The best way to avoid this disadvantage is to select a fiberglass pool that comes with a single color. That will make it much easier to blend or match the paint colors.
7. Spider cracks can be a big issue with some fiberglass pools.
It is not unusual for the prefabricated fiberglass swimming pools to develop spider cracks in their clear topcoat. Even those these will not compromise the integrity of the pool, this issue can give it the visual appearance that there is a potentially fatal flaw in the structure. Most thin cracks in the topcoat tend to be the result of poor manufacturing, tension during the installation, or issues with the shipping process. You can always reorder a damaged fiberglass pool, especially if it is under warranty, but that means you’ll have an extended installation experience that can become exceptionally frustrating.
8. Your property will need access to heavy equipment.
Because a fiberglass pool comes in a premanufactured unit, your property must have enough space to accommodate the heavy equipment necessary to install the product. That means a crane or lift will need to move the pool from the truck transport to the hole dug in your yard for the product. If there is no such access or your HOA forbids having it around for some reason, then you may need to choose a different type of swimming pool for your property.
A fiberglass swimming pool is an excellent mid-range option for homeowners who want to improve the value profile of their property. Apartments, condominium associations, and businesses may wish to consider this option as well to provide amenities that can improve client interactions or reduce vacancy rates.
Fiberglass pools also provide a long-term solution that can last for up to 40 years. Make sure that you receive recommendations from neighbors, friends, and pool specialists in your area before starting the project. You will also want to take the time to read manufacturing reviews for the industry before making a final decision.
The pros and cons of fiberglass swimming pools allow homeowners to enjoy a custom look without paying the price for a 100% unique product. You’ll want to work with an experienced pool contractor who follows each installation step correctly to ensure the maximum return on your investment. There are some maintenance issues to manage that apply to all pools, so take some proactive steps to prepare for those problems so that you can spend more enjoying the water and sunshine with your family.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.