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Ceramic Core Fiberglass Pools: The Truth Behind the Material

By: Marcus Sheridan on March 13th, 2010

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Ceramic Core Fiberglass Pools: The Truth Behind the Material

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"What the heck is a ‘ceramic core' fiberglass pool?"...........

sand and ceramic poolsThis blog post is simply the product of the growing number of emails I've been receiving on a daily basis from literally readers all over the US and Canada who are considering the purchase of a swimming pool. The subject of these emails always vary, so from time to time I choose a particular question to address that strikes  my fancy.

As I've mentioned so many other times, the process of buying a swimming pool can be a tricky one, mainly because there is not enough honest information available to you, the consumer, with respect to what really adds value to a pool vs what does not.

The Consumer Advocate

Providing such information has always been the goal of this blog and I feel we're accomplishing this goal based on the profound amount of readership that makes me do a double-take every time I see how many consumers are reading these articles. But it just goes to show, if you give people the good, the bad, and the ugly information on any given product; they will in turn recognize the authoritative voice of the source.

But today's article, as I mentioned earlier, is a direct result of a question I received from a very intelligent, informed consumer who was perplexed over certain sales 'features' he was hearing about as he researched fiberglass swimming pools. Specifically, he was asking about two particular ‘features': Ceramic Core Fiberglass Pools and the use of Carbon Fiber in Fiberglass Pools.

Upon discussing with him this topic, I decided it was time that our readers were made aware of what a ‘ceramic' fiberglass pool really is. In general, if a fiberglass pool manufacturer claims to have a ceramic core pool, what they are actually using is a ‘fillite' powder. (Please note the root word). In fact, one such company that produces fillite, Eager Plastics, explains what their fillite powder actually does:

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Fillite - 500 powder (EP7707) is a finely-divided, free-flowing spherical powder with a gray-green color. ...Fillite is a glass-hard, inert hollow silicate sphere. Fillite is primarily used to reduce the weight of plastics rubbers, resins and cement, but has been used a variety of filler applications. Other applications include use in refractories, PVC flooring, SBR latex carpet backing, break linings, phenolics, epoxies, cast polyesters, synthetic marbles, syntactic foams, BMC, SMC, FRP, low-density cements, shotcrete, wallboard joint compounds and automative sound dampening sheets.

The addition of EP7707 Fillite provides the following outstanding features:

1. Fine particle size for easy mixing
2. Reduces cost
3. Reduces resin exotherm......

CHEMICAL PROPERTIES:
Shell
60% SiO2
30% Al2O3
4% Fe2O3
0.5-4% K2O / Na2O
1-2% MgO
0.2-1.0% CaO

I know this all may appear a little confusing, but if you're into science you'll quickly see that a ‘ceramic core' is actually 60% Silica and 30% ceramic. In fact, Wikipedia defines Silica as:

The chemical compound silicon dioxide, also known as silica (from the Latin silex), is an oxide  of silicon  with a chemical formula of SiO2  and has been known for its hardness since antiquity. Silica is most commonly found in nature as sand or quartz, as well as in the cell walls of diatoms. Silica is the most abundant mineral in the Earth's crust

I've talked to various fiberglass pool manufacturers regarding this subject and they all laugh about what the product actually is and the fact that its components are available to everyone.

Simply put, if ceramic core (or should we say silica core) technology truly did benefit a fiberglass pool, everyone world be doing it. But the reality is that more than 90% of fiberglass pool manufacturers on the planet have chosen not to use this product. I think it's also important to note that there are fiberglass pool manufacturers that have multiple lines of fiberglass pools, some made with ‘ceramic' and others without. So my question at that point becomes-If the stuff is so great and critical to a quality pool, why wouldn't a company put it in all their products, not just one line out of many?

Other 'Features'

But this article isn't just about 'ceramic' cores. It's also about ‘Carbon Fiber', ‘Kevlar', and any other scientific words that pops up in the future. Frankly put, all of these hot, ‘space-age' phrases that sound very scientific are only means of semantically confusing a consumer, and thus have no place in the fiberglass pool market, or any other market for that matter. Fact is, if a pool was truly made out of carbon fiber or kevlar it would cost at least 10 times as much as one without. So as a consumer, if you hear a manufacturer claim they put such products in their pool, I'd make them guarantee it on paper and then I'd make them show these ‘miracle materials' in the shell when the installers cut out the returns and skimmer sections of the pool. Just by doing this, one will quickly see what components are truly making up the pool shell.

True Value

My point with mentioning these items is that fiberglass pool manufacturers need to focus on the important things that genuinely make a pool stronger and better-Quality resins, quality gel coats, and quality workmanship. Any pool manufacturer that can achieve these 3 metrics with every shell they produce should be highly commended and sought after by consumers. And as for those that would rather use these 'features' to create product differentiators, I can only hope they'll eventually turn back to the basics and win over their consumers the old fashion way-by earning it.

Marcus Sheridan

Questions? Please leave your thoughts below.