6 Reasons We Expanded From A Nationally Recognized Installer To A Manufacturer Of Inground Fiberglass Pools
A lot has changed at River Pools since our humble beginning as a pool installer in 2001. Initially, we bought fiberglass pool shells from other manufacturers just like Ford dealers buy cars from Ford. We knew that we wanted to be the best fiberglass pool company possible, but we never dreamed that someday we would become a highly sought-after manufacturer in our own right.
Below are 6 reasons why we expanded from being a nationally recognized brand and premier pool builder throughout the Virginia/Maryland region into a manufacturer of fiberglass pools for distribution across the country.
1. We wanted to design pools we would want in our own backyard.
By the time we started manufacturing, we had sat across the kitchen table with thousands of prospective clients. We had a deep understanding of what sizes, shapes, features, and colors resonated with the consumer.
One of the things we love most is the freedom to design our own pools. We scrutinize every square inch and treat every pool as though it is going in our own backyard. The creation of every design is a thrilling experience that we laughingly liken to the birth of a new child, and we are excited to constantly expand our line and bring new models into the fold.
2. We wanted pools that were easy to install.
Before we began manufacturing, we had installed over 1,000 fiberglass pools from most of the major manufacturers in the country. Heck, we had been named one of the Top 50 Pool Builders in America by Pool and Spa News, so we clearly understood what made a pool great from an installation standpoint. We also knew that we could leverage that experience to produce the most structurally sound and installation-friendly pools available, and that’s what we set out to accomplish.
Were we successful?
Here’s a text we received from Billy Becker, one of the nation's leading fiberglass pool installers after installing his first Resonance 32 model:
“The pool set like a dream, the walls were straight, and it was nice and level. It went great!”
Coming from an installation background ourselves, we understand how frustrating it is to spend countless hours trying to compensate for a pool that is manufactured crooked or out of level, or having concerns that the pool could break from being built too thin. We vowed that first and foremost, our pools would be a pleasure to install.
3. We want to reach more people.
Having been a regional pool builder with international brand recognition, we constantly received requests from good people around the world who desired to work with us. These are folks who clearly aligned with our core beliefs and philosophy.
Here’s a typical message that came through our Facebook page:
Facebook User:"Do you install in my U.S. City area or have a local experienced dealer?"
River Pools and Spas: "Hi, great to hear from you! We do not currently have a dealer that services your area. We have had people like yourself go to local pool builders and request they become a dealer...that's a long shot, but always an option. Thanks, and good luck!"
Facebook User: "Thanks. Sorry to hear that. We were almost sold on the CC40!" (Crescent Cove 40)
River Pools and Spas: "Glad you like it. :)"
Facebook User (the next morning): "After watching your videos, I don't think I could trust another manufacturer/builder. Nothing seems to come close."
Frankly speaking, this breaks our heart. We knew that manufacturing fiberglass pools would open the door to work with great folks like this through our network of authorized dealers. Our dealer base is ever expanding, we’re able to reach more and more people, and we’re excited to someday realize our vision of families across the country enjoying beautiful fiberglass pools that are easy to maintain and a joy to own.
4. Defective pools from other manufacturers presented a major challenge.
As we grew as an installer, from six pools per year to well over one hundred, we came to understand that we were only as good as the pool shells we installed. Unfortunately, we did not always receive great pools, and sometimes not even acceptable ones. We felt obligated to our clients to ensure they were delighted in the end, so we took great measures to make everything right. Although our customers were happy, we were left extremely frustrated. This was the spark that ignited our first ambitions to manufacture our own pools.
We’re careful here to point out that there are really good fiberglass pool manufacturers in the marketplace today, and generally speaking, the quality of fiberglass pools has increased across the board since our early days as an installer. Notwithstanding, the same principle holds true - A builder is only as good as the pool he or she installs. And there are certainly builders who currently find themselves in the same situation we were in years ago.
5. We needed to control our own destiny.
Eventually, our frustration reached critical mass, and we decided the only way to be the best fiberglass pool company was to manufacture our own pools. Was it a leap of faith? Sure. Did virtually everyone tell us we were crazy? Yes they did. But we had a clear vision of what a fiberglass pool should be, for both the homeowner and the builder, and we felt destined to make it a reality.
6. We believe in the benefits of fiberglass pools.
None of this would be possible without our deep conviction that fiberglass pools bring tremendous benefits to both homeowners and pool professionals. Having began as a vinyl liner installer, we saw an immediate difference in what we might call “customer delight.” Basically, our fiberglass pool customers wouldn’t stop raving about their pools. This, and the fact that the installations went relatively well, led us to the point where we fully embraced fiberglass. In retrospect, it was the best thing we ever did, and we still carry with us a vigor and excitement for the product, and see the tangible evidence of these benefits in the faces of our customers.
We are excited to share with you how we manufacture our pools through our cutting-edge system called Cross-Lynx Composite Technology.
Cross-Lynx Composite Technology
The fiberglass pool shell is the foundation of the entire pool project. We have made it our mission to produce a pool you can rely on for many years, even decades, into the future. The fruit of our efforts is our manufacturing methodology called Cross-Lynx Composite Technology.
Cross-Lynx is a series of cutting edge materials and manufacturing best practices that when implemented, ensure you have the strongest, most durable fiberglass pool possible.
Without getting too technical, the core premise of Cross-Lynx is to drive a process called polymerization during the manufacturing process. Polymerization is the process by which polymer molecules cross link together to form a web of strength within each layer of the shell structure. Each layer of our fiberglass pool undergoes this polymerization process, and the more cross linking that occurs, the stronger and more corrosion-resistant the pool shell becomes.
We developed Cross-Lynx Composite Technology to drive the polymerization process and fuse the entire structure together, layer by layer, into a single composite structure that is incredibly strong and durable.
Layers of Cross-Lynx Composite Technology
1. Gelcoat Surface Layer
The entire surface of the pool that we see, touch, and feel is a thin layer of gelcoat. Because fiberglass pools are actually built from the inside out, gelcoat is the first layer applied during the manufacturing process. Our gelcoat is spray applied to a thickness of 27 to 30 mils and provides the rich color and smooth finish that make fiberglass pools beautiful and user friendly.
Gelcoat Spraying Process:
Our skilled technicians spray our gelcoat blend evenly to provide a beautiful finish and optimum coverage.
You have probably heard that fiberglass pools are easier to maintain than traditional pools. This is because the gelcoat surface is relatively non-porous. This makes the pool algae resistant and eliminates the need for burdensome maintenance like brushing the entire pool each week, or costly acid washing every 3-5 years to kill embedded algae.
It’s important to us that our gelcoat achieves a proper cure, as this will ensure its durability. If you read enough online forums about fiberglass pool gelcoat, you’ll find some people, especially with older white pools, had problems with their pool surfaces eroding away. The surface would “chalk” and turn to white powder before their eyes. The surface of these pools was deteriorating. In some cases, this was most assuredly due to homeowner neglect, but in many cases the gelcoat never achieved a full cure. This deterioration could be for a number of reasons such as:
- Improper Factory Conditions
- The Gelcoat was under-catalyzed
- The Gelcoat was not backed by another layer of laminate to drive the cure
To prevent this from happening, we go to great measures to ensure that, not only our gelcoat, but all the layers of our pool shell achieve maximum polymerization. With as many polymer chains cross-linked as possible, the product reaches a full cure with maximum strength and durability. One key to making this happen is temperature, because it is heat that drives the cross-linking process.
Here's how we drive the cross-linking process of our gelcoat:
Check Mold Temperature with a Temperature Gun to Ensure at Least 77 Degrees Fahrenheit
Fiberglass pools are manufactured on a mold. Molds are huge fiberglass structures that are a mirror image of the pool. We heat the entire mold to a minimum temperature of 77 degrees before spraying gelcoat. This is because once the gelcoat is sprayed, it will immediately become the same temperature as the mold. 77 degrees is the ideal temperature for composites manufacturing, so by ensuring the mold is 77 degrees, we are helping the gelcoat to achieve a full cure.
Heat Gelcoat Material to at Least 77 Degrees
When it comes to composites, consistency is our friend. By ensuring our drum of gelcoat material is well blended and the right temperature before it is sprayed, we are creating a condition where it can reach its highest performance potential.
Maintain Consistent Air Temperature and Humidity Levels
Our factory is climate controlled with state of the art Infrared Heat that delivers heat to the plant while allowing our ventilation system to function properly. Air temperature is another variable that can greatly affect the cure of our pools. Having the ability to control our factory conditions is a huge advantage over concrete or vinyl liner pools that are constructed on site and subject to the volatilities of weather.
Use Specially Blended Catalyst at the Correct Percentage
Gelcoat, and all other resins within the composite, are blended with a catalyst, which is a liquid that, when added, initiates the process of polymerization. We use special blends of catalyst for the summer and winter, and ensure that the correct percentage of catalyst is mixed with the gelcoat during the spraying process. Too much catalyst and the gel sets too rapidly, preventing proper spray pattern overlap. Too little catalyst and the cure of the gelcoat is compromised.
2. Vinyl Ester Resin for Blister and Corrosion Resistance
The second layer of the fiberglass pool manufacturing process is our vinyl ester chopped fiberglass layer. Vinyl Ester is a premium grade resin specifically blended to prevent an unwanted process called osmotic blistering. Osmotic blistering is a phenomenon where the gelcoat surface forms actual blisters and separates from the next laminate layer.
This happens as water travels through the gelcoat, comes in contact with other contaminates and forms a larger molecule. The larger molecule then tries to exit the same way it came in, and causes an outward force on the gelcoat, eventually resulting in a blister.
Vinyl Ester resin prevents this from happening because it acts as a water tight barrier. The water passes through the gelcoat, contacts the pure water barrier, then leaves. There are a huge variety of blended vinyl esters available to composites manufacturers, and truth be told, it only takes a small percentage of vinyl ester to call a product “vinyl ester resin.” Our Vinyl Ester is specially blended to produce the best blister protection available.
Our Vinyl Ester Resin Application Process:
Our fiberglass specialist applying chopped fiberglass with vinyl ester resin.
Next we roll out the fiberglass to consolidate and remove all air.
A second advantage to our Vinyl Ester Chopped Fiberglass Layer is that it helps drive the cure of the gelcoat. As soon as the gelcoat has set, we apply this layer of chopped fiberglass that serves as a gigantic heating blanket. The beauty of our Cross-Lynx Composite Technology is that the exothermic heat (called exotherm for short) generated from the curing process of each layer actually helps drive the cure and cross-linking process of all previous layers. Talk about synergy!
3. Chopped Fiberglass For Strength
Now that we have our gelcoat surface applied and our corrosion and blister resistance covered, it’s time to start building strength of the pool shell. Chopped fiberglass is applied by a “chopper gun” that simultaneously chops continuous strands of glass fiber into roughly 1” pieces while spraying resin and catalyst all onto the mold. It is then rolled out to consolidate and remove air.
Application of Chopped Fiberglass:
Why Do We Use Chopped Fiberglass vs Hand Laid Fiberglass To Build Strength
We have done it both ways, and we prefer chopped fiberglass for several reasons:
- Chopped glass actually gives the pool the perfect balance of flex and strength. We have found that pools that are more hand laid than chopped are actually more flexible than we prefer. The pool needs to be strong enough to lift, transport, and set, and also rigid enough to hold its shape. We feel that chopped fiberglass in bulk strikes that perfect balance.
- We do not have a lot of employee turn-over. One of the disadvantages of chopped fiberglass from a manufacturing standpoint is that it requires a lot of skill to produce a consistent thickness. In contrast, hand laid woven roving has a set weight and thickness so it’s easier to manage material use. However, because our fiberglass specialists are highly skilled and we keep the same teams year after year, we don’t have a problem with consistency. This is evident by the cut-outs from every pool that show the true pool thickness and the fact that we weigh each and every pool as an internal quality control measure.
4. Hand Laid Woven Roving at Stress Points
We reinforce specific areas of the pool shell that are subject to higher levels of flexural stress, such as where the pool floor meets the walls, tanning ledges, steps and benches with this added layer of woven roving fiberglass for additional strength.
Application of woven roving to our pool shell
5. Structural Comb Supports
Fiberglass is naturally flexible. In fact, its tensile strength is many times that of concrete. But there are times where we want it to stay put. Consequently, we utilize structural comb ribs and support layers throughout the pool shell and obtain a much higher strength in these areas with very little material or labor cost. We use structural comb supports under the entire surface of all steps, benches, and tanning ledges. We also utilize structural comb ribs along the side walls of the pool.
Our Structural Comb material, when sandwiched between layers of fiberglass, adds incredible strength.
6. Final Chopped Fiberglass Strength Layer
Our pool manufacturing crescendo is a final layer of chopped fiberglass to provide even more strength. The exotherm from this layer is the final heat blanket that will continue to drive the cross-linking process of all previous layers to a full cure. While adding this layer, we also glass-in the lifting points on the pool.
The concludes the manufacturing of the pool shell. Next, the pool is removed from the mold, trimmed and detailed, and shipped to a very excited family somewhere.
Next topic, pool warranties.
What You Need To Know About Fiberglass Pool Warranties
Fiberglass pool warranties are a strange thing because, on the surface (no pun intended), they all seem pretty much the same, but they aren’t. Again, the fiberglass pool is the foundation of the entire project, so if you think the pool warranty is important, we would suggest taking the time to read the entire warranty from any manufacturer that you’re considering.
Questions to ask about fiberglass pool warranties:
- Is the warranty transferrable?
- Does the content of the warranty match the claims of the warranty's name?
- Who is on the hook to drain the pool and replace water and chemicals in the event of a structural failure?
- Are the company's warranties readily available on their website?
Fiberglass Pool Warranties Come In Twos
Fiberglass Pool manufacturers provide two warranties: one to cover the structure of the pool shell, and another to cover the surface. The structural warranty is typically for a much longer duration and is usually pretty straight forward. The surface warranty, depending on the manufacturer, can be a little more difficult to follow, and in some cases, not even provide much of a warranty at all. This is where reading the warranty comes in handy.
Our Lifetime Structural Warranty
Here are some highlight from our Lifetime Structural Warranty:
Our 15-Year Surface Warranty