The Pros & Cons Of Concrete and Fiberglass Pool Shells
In our blog post today, we will be: breaking down the differences in fiberglass pools & concrete pools and discussing which would be best for your project. This topic was very difficult to research reliably; any google search is riddled with misinformation being pushed by fiberglass pool manufacturers and installers. Practically every article on this topic either: frames the conversation as a battle for superiority between the two, are written by companies that install fiberglass pools, or are paid content by a fiberglass pool manufacturer… with the clear winner almost unanimously being 🎉FIBERGLASS POOLS🎉
This misinformation in these articles and blog posts is not being done maliciously. It is just marketing to sell a product, and I will say as a marketer they are doing a phenomenal job at it. As I am writing this blog it dawns on me that this may be coming off as hypocritical since I am a marketer for Island Way Pools, a company that specializes in designing and building concrete pools. Our goal today though, is to break through all the noise these fiberglass pool salesmen are peddling in the “Concrete vs. Fiberglass Pools” narrative they created and get to the truth… They can both create amazing pools but they are not intended for the same clientele.
Concrete has been used throughout history to create pool-like structures. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese utilized it to create their bathhouses, plunge pools, and magnificent fountains. It was not until the 1890’s where we would see the first residential pool created for the Vanderbilt residence. This was the start of the pool industry in the US, but really only for the rich and famous. It was not until the 1950’s where the concrete pool industry we know today started to take off. The introduction of gunite in the late 40’s, a prospering economy after WWII, financing options becoming more widely available and G.I. Bill benefits paired with working wives created the perfect storm: "The Everyman Pool". Pools now became accessible to the average family and the industry took off from there. Advanced techniques, new materials, and new design ideas were introduced in the coming decades that allow pool builders to create the masterpieces you see today!
Long Term Durability: Properly built concrete structures are known to withstand the test of time: just look at the Egyptian pyramids and Roman structures that still stand today! The same can be said for a properly built concrete shell pool. With proper maintenance, balanced water chemistry, and working with a reputable contractor will leave you with a pool that will last you decades.
Customization:“ If you can dream it, we can build it” is a true statement with concrete shell pools. When you scrollPinterest looking at these stunning pool projects, they are almost always concrete shell pools. The only limitations you will run into with concrete pools will be: the skill of the contractor you hire, those imposed by your local municipality, and your budget. These endless design possibilities available are why concrete pools are a great choice for those with a specific vision for their pool and outdoor living space.
Installation: While installing a concrete pool is more complicated and time consuming than a fiberglass one since they are constructed on your property (How To Build An Island Way Pool); meaning difficult to access sites are typically safer to have a concrete pool installed at. Properties with difficult access may face extra charges though since the crews will not be able to use heavy machinery to assist them.
Costs and Time: Typically a concrete pool is going to be more of an upfront cost than a fiberglass pool. This upfront cost though is only about 5-10% more for nearly identical pool projects. In addition to this extra upfront cost, having a concrete pool installed takes much longer to install than fiberglass pools. The average pool project takes roughly 10-12 weeks to be built and if you are having extra features included in your project expect this timeline to only take longer.
Maintenance: Since concrete is a porous surface, it is more prone to algae. Proper water chemistry and routine cleaning are going to be essential to protect the beauty and structural integrity of your pool. Over the span of 10 years, it is not uncommon to see concrete pool owners spend $10,000-$15,000 to maintain their pool. You will also need to have a new finish and tile installed in your pool project 10-15 years after it has been installed. This will cost you $10,000+ depending on the materials selected and the scope of work you decide on.
Texture of finish: Concrete pools have a variety of finishes and some of these selections can be rough on people’s feet. New materials and innovation in existing materials have put this complaint on concrete pools at bay for the most part, but it is still worth mentioning. Visiting our showroom (it's on the beach, so maybe make a day out of the trip🤔) is a great way to see and feel the material that will be used before you commit to one.
Who are concrete pools for?
CLIENTS WHO: have a specific vision for their pool project, have a very large space to work with (concrete pools have no size limitations), difficult to access sites, or are wanting a pool that is going to withstand the test of time. With all the advancements in construction techniques, you really can have whatever you dream built with concrete. The only limits you will face with a concrete shell pool are: your budget, creativity, and the skills of your builder/contractor.
Pascal Paddock, a founding father of the pool industry, introduced the first fiberglass pools in the 1940's. These pool shells were delivered in 4 separate pieces and were constructed on site. This approach led to structural issues and leaks, which kept fiberglass from emerging as a competitor to concrete shell pools. That all changed in the late 1950’s... The one piece fiberglass pool was introduced to the market. It took another 40 years until the pool industry would start to see more innovation in the fiberglass pool industry. The 90’s is when the fiberglass pool industry we know today was born: pools built with raised bond beams, spillover spas and vanishing edges were all introduced to the market. Offering clients more customization of their projects.
Fast Installation: Your average fiberglass pool project can be completed in about 4 weeks.
People have even reported having them installed in just a couple days! This is very enticing to clients working on a deadline or do not want to deal with the hassle of your property being a construction site for a few months. The reason fiberglass pools can be installed so fast is because the shells are prefabricated off site and are dropped in the hole. This eliminates a majority of the steps involved in the pool building process.
Easy Maintenance: Fiberglass pools have a gel coat installed on them and this coating, unlike concrete, is non-porous. This means that algae is not going to be as much of a concern for your pool: you will use less chemicals, need to brush far less, and will only need the gel coating replaced after 10-15 years. This is a big selling point for people who are worried about long term costs or know they will neglect taking care of their pool.
Texture of Finish: Fiberglass pools have a gel coat that acts as their finish. This gel provides a very smooth surface that many people love the feel of. It is worth noting that this gel coat can make the pool surface slick; which can be dangerous on ledges and pool stairs.
Costs: When researching the pros and cons of fiberglass pools, you will consistently see price listed as a pro. The issue with this statement in a majority of these blogs or articles is that they are not comparing similar pool projects but are comparing the starting points of each project. Fiberglass has a lower starting price point… that is for small, basic pools with no features included. If you were to get identical pool projects quoted: the prices are roughly the same or you save about 5%-10% on a fiberglass pool.
Now in the long-term you will save on maintenance costs due to the fiberglass not raising the Ph levels like concrete and the smooth surface helps prevent algae growth. While your maintenance costs will be less than a concrete pool, it is important to note that fiberglass pools do require maintenance unlike many blogs say. You will still have to ensure you have proper water chemistry, repair any cracks/damage, and will have to have a new gel coat installed in 10-15 years just like a pool shell has to be resurfaced. During the life of a pool, you may save roughly $5k on pool maintenance of a fiberglass pool compared to a concrete pool.
Design Limitations: Fiberglass pools are prebuilt from molds and then are delivered to your property when it is time for installation. This allows for a very fast installation process but will limit your design possibilities. One of the biggest design limitations is the size of the pool you may get; because of delivery restrictions, 16'x40' is the largest option available. For most families and households, a pool with these dimensions is probably enough.
Another limitation you will find will be customization of the layout and features of your pool. Since the shells are made from prefabricated molds, you will have to choose from the options you are provided. If you have a specific vision of your pool and the outdoor space around it, this most likely will not be possible to achieve with a fiberglass pool. As mentioned above in the history of fiberglass pools, the 90's introduced many popular features as options for fiberglass pools. You can now find molds with infinity edges and spillover spas!
Difficult Site Installation: While installing a fiberglass pool is much easier than installing a concrete pool, locations with tight access locations can complicate this process. The fiberglass shell will need to be transported into your backyard, which at difficult sites means craning the shell over the house. This poses all kinds of risks to your property and the pool shell. While it is often touted as a strength that fiberglass pools can flex, bow, or twist; it cracks when this happens and... nobody wants a cracked pool shell.
Like concrete shells, the success of your pool project will fall heavily on the skills of the builder/contractor you hire.
Repairs/Remodels: Repairing and remodeling a pool is part of owning a pool. While this process is still possible with fiberglass pools, it often a lot harder. Pool shells are not meant to be drained empty, the water inside them counteracts all the force from the soil surrounding the shell. A concrete pool can be drained and repaired fairly easy due to the shell being able to withstand these forces with brute strength. A fiberglass pool's strength is it's ability to bend and flex (essentially absorbing and distributing these forces throughout the shell). As mentioned previously though, this bending and flexing is what causes cracks in your pool. So once the fiberglass shell is drained, it will be more prone to cracks and breaks. In addition to this, the draining the shell can cause big issues:
A) Soil mixed with water weighs more than just soil. This extra weight can cause the pool shell to collapse in on itself before the pool has finished draining. Or...
B) The water can cause the pool shell to pop out of the hole that was dug and float on top of the water that was drained.
Remodeling your fiberglass pool is very limited. With a concrete pool Island Way Pools can add spas, water features, and pretty much whatever you can dream up to your pool or outdoor living space with fiberglass pools you will not get this creative freedom. With remodels you will be limited to the decking, new gel coat, and equipment upgrades with most builders. The hesitation for more extensive upgrades stems from the increased risk of cracks and breaks when a fiberglass pool shell is drained.
Who is a fiberglass pool for?
CLIENTS WHO: are working with a strict timeline, are looking to save a little money up front, or if you live an area where weather and soil conditions are more suited for fiberglass pools (typically this is in colder climates).
What Pool Shell Should You Get?
Ultimately the decision will come down to what you think best fits the needs of you and your family. Both fiberglass and concrete shell pools can create amazing spaces with the right builder and a great design. However it is worth noting that a concrete pool is superior in every aspect (endless design options, endless features available, structural integrity, future upgrades, and safer to install) but one... and that is installation time. If a quick timeline is your goal, then you should be leaning more towards a fiberglass pool shell. If you are looking to build the pools you see on Pinterest or have a specific vision for you space, then you should be leaning more towards a concrete pool shell. A good rule of thumb is to consider what most of your neighbors have; if they overwhelmingly have one type of pool shell, it is probably for good reason.
Are you ready to start building the outdoor space of your dreams? Take advantage of your complimentary design and consultation today: (727)-488-2047. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog post! Do you have any future topics you would like us to cover in a future blog post? Email me at IslandWayThomas@gmail.com.