The Pros and Cons of Fiberglass Pools
Nothing in life is perfect - fiberglass pools included. Even though we exclusively manufacture and install fiberglass swimming pools, we know that they aren’t the right fit for everyone. In fact, we’re not afraid to turn away potential clients if we see that what they’re looking for is more aligned with a concrete or vinyl liner swimming pool.
At the end of the day, our focus is on making people happy. We believe that everyone should get the swimming pool of their dreams, whether that’s a fiberglass, concrete, or vinyl liner pool.
In this article, we’ll make our case for why you might want to get a fiberglass pool, but we’ll also share some of the disadvantages of fiberglass pools that you need to know. Let’s start with the pros.
Fiberglass Pool Pros
Before we dive into the advantages of fiberglass pools, we need to make something clear: not all fiberglass pools are made equal. The following advantages apply to high-quality, well-manufactured fiberglass swimming pools.
(To start you off on the right track, you can learn more about the top 10 fiberglass pool manufacturers here.)
Fiberglass pools are durable
One main advantage of owning a fiberglass swimming pool is that they are durable inside and out. Both the structure and the surface of a high-quality fiberglass pool can last as long as you want them to, provided you take good care of your pool. In general, a well-made fiberglass pool can last over 50 years.
Fiberglass pools are low maintenance
Fiberglass swimming pools are really as low maintenance as people say they are. Let’s consider chemical usage. Because fiberglass pools have a non-porous surface, you don’t have to spend as much time balancing chemicals or scrubbing the walls. You also don’t have to worry about acid washing the pool, changing the vinyl liner, or spending all day patching holes in the liner.
Fiberglass pools go a long time without needing to be resurfaced
While we're on the subject of pool surfaces, a fiberglass pool’s gelcoat can last the entire lifetime of the pool without needing to be redone. Is this always the case? No.
Some people will find that they need to resurface their fiberglass pool, but this is often twenty to thirty years into the pool ownership. Compare this to vinyl liners, which need to be replaced about every 5-9 years and concrete pools, which have to be totally resurfaced every 10 years or so.
If your fiberglass pool is well maintained, you may never have to have it resurfaced. In the event that it does need a new surface, however, it can be done with a product like ecoFINISH, which is a durable polyethylene powder coating that comes in a range of colors and can be applied with different textures. (Read our ecoFINISH review here.)
Fiberglass pools are resistant to algae
Not only is algae unsightly, but it also increases the need for chemicals and lengthens the time that you need to run your pump and filter. Thanks to the non-porous fiberglass pool surface that we mentioned earlier, algae isn’t going to stick to the walls and won’t become a problem in your pool.
Concrete pools, on the other hand, can quickly become an algae breeding ground due to the porous nature of plaster. That’s why you have to scrub your entire concrete pool surface with a steel brush every week.
Fiberglass pools require less labor to maintain
Following that same thread, because fiberglass pools don’t need to be acid washed, have wrinkles smoothed out, or many of the other maintenance chores that vinyl liner and concrete pools require, you’ll spend a lot less time and energy keeping your pool in good shape. If you hate pool chores, you might want to explore fiberglass pool maintenance in more detail to see what you’ll need to do.
Fiberglass pools have a low lifetime cost
All that acid washing, resurfacing, repairing, and liner replacing costs money. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. Because your fiberglass pool does not need these things, and because you don’t have to run your pump and filter as long, you will save thousands of dollars over the years.
Fiberglass pools have a fast installation time
Want your concrete pool fully built, in the ground, and full of water in two days? Unfortunately for concrete/gunite pool fanatics, that’s impossible. This is the norm for fiberglass pools, though.
That’s because the shell comes to your home fully constructed and ready to be installed. Once it’s in the ground and we begin backfilling the pool, we also have to fill the pool with water to equalize the pressure, so the installation gets done a lot faster.
In total, you can expect your pool to be done with patio and everything else 100% installed within 2-4 weeks.
Remember, concrete pools can take 3-6 months, and liner pools can take 6-8 weeks.
Fiberglass pools are compatible with salt systems
You might be thinking, “A salt system can work with any swimming pool." And to that, we say just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should. You can use a salt system on a vinyl liner pool, but we would advise against using a salt chlorine generator if you have metal pool walls. Salt plus metal equals corrosion, and that would only shorten the lifespan of your pool.
Concrete works with salt systems, right? Sort of. If you have a plaster-based surface, the salt could wear it down faster, which means you’ll be looking at resurfacing your pool a lot sooner (and that can be expensive). Fiberglass pools, on the other hand, work well with salt systems.
Fiberglass pools are attractive
This is more of a subjective opinion than a fact, but we invite you to browse our pool gallery to see for yourself. Fiberglass pools offer multiple color options and can be customized with your waterline tile of choice. They also have a sleek, smooth finish and are compatible with attractive coping options (vinyl liner pool coping isn’t always as pretty).
Fiberglass pools have built-in features
Want a tanning ledge, bench seating, or a spa? With a vinyl liner or concrete pool, that’s going to cost extra. With a fiberglass pool, these features are built-in at no additional cost, depending on the model that you choose. This means that you can get a pool with all the hottest features without worrying about racking up the price.
(Read next: 7 Pool Extras That Won't Break the Budget)
Fiberglass pools have a smooth surface
That non-porous surface that we mentioned is a gelcoat, and it is very smooth while still being slip-resistant. Remember scraping your knees and toes as a kid down at the public pool? You won’t have to worry about that. For anyone who has ever jumped in a little too hard at the shallow end and scraped their foot on the plaster, the gelcoat is for you.
Fiberglass pools are manufactured in a controlled environment
Do you live in a weird climate? Worried about how the weather will affect the construction of your pool? Fiberglass pools are built off-site in a controlled environment, so even the most horrible weather won’t affect the quality of your swimming pool.
We also let the gelcoat cure in an enclosed space at just the right temperature and humidity levels. This way, each model that comes out of our warehouse in Warsaw, Virginia maintains the same high quality, whether the pool is going down the street or all the way to Utah.
Fiberglass pools can increase the resale value of your home
Not all swimming pools increase the value of your home, but fiberglass pools often do. Vinyl liner pools, in particular, aren’t considered as permanent as concrete or fiberglass and won’t contribute to the value of your home. A fiberglass pool investment, on the other hand, may increase your home’s value by around 5%. Keep in mind that this may vary by home, region, and other factors.
Fiberglass pools can be installed above ground or semi inground
Can’t decide if you want your pool fully inground, semi inground, or completely above ground with a wrap-around deck? A fiberglass pool can be installed anywhere and any way you want, even on the roof.
Fiberglass pools are more environmentally friendly
Not only do they not require frequent acid washing, resurfacing, or liner replacements, fiberglass pools also save on chemicals and electricity (because you won’t be in a lifelong battle with algae, you’ll be using fewer chemicals, and you won’t have to run the pool pump and filter as much). In addition, if and when you decide to remove or replace your pool, the old fiberglass can actually be recycled.
Fiberglass pools save money
Because fiberglass pools don’t require as many chemicals or as much electricity to operate, you end up saving a lot of money in maintenance costs. And because you never have to drain your pool to acid wash or replace the liner, you won’t have to spend money on refilling the pool either.
And who knows? With the new pool sharing apps, your fiberglass pool might even make you some money.
Fiberglass pools are flexible and strong
The earth doesn’t only move when there’s an earthquake. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for the earth to make subtle shifts over time, which is often why concrete pools develop structural cracks. Fiberglass is strong but still flexible enough to withstand the movement of the earth without causing any major damage to the shell.
Fiberglass Pool Cons
As we said, fiberglass pools aren’t perfect, and they’re not perfect for everyone. Here are the fiberglass pool disadvantages that you need to know about before you buy:
Fiberglass pool designs are limited
There are a wide range of fiberglass pool designs to choose from, but the main thing that differentiates fiberglass pools from concrete pools is that you, the customer, won’t get to take part in the design process.
You’ll still get to choose the color and add-ons that you want, but you won’t be able to draw a custom shape or request a specific size or depth. Say you want our L36 pool, but you’d like to get rid of the tanning ledge and make the pool a foot deeper. Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to do this without building an entirely new pattern and mold.
A lot of work goes into building a mold, and each mold can produce hundreds of pools over its lifetime. It would be much more expensive for the manufacturer and the customer if we had to build a brand new pattern and mold for every person who wants to modify their pool.
Fiberglass pools can’t be wider than 16 feet
Have you ever driven behind one of those trucks with an oversize load sign? This means that whatever is being hauled (i.e., swimming pool, mobile home, etc.) exceeds 8.5 feet in width. To get our oversize load pools from our manufacturing plant to your home, we’re required to obtain permits and follow certain rules.
Anything that exceeds 16 feet in width is classified as a superload. Superloads are harder to transport because they face more regulations than oversize loads (a more extensive government approval process and possibly even a police escort). For this reason, fiberglass pools are typically no wider than 16 feet.
On the positive side, the width limitation allows us to ship our pools all over the country without too much hassle.
Fiberglass pools are more challenging to DIY
Fiberglass pools can be installed DIY, but they can be more challenging than vinyl liner pools despite the fact that they come in one piece. To start, it can be tricky to get the pool level (and it’s important that you do so!). Pouring coping around a fiberglass pool can also be challenging, so we always recommend that you get someone who has some fiberglass pool building experience to help you out if you want to DIY the installation.
Fiberglass pools are more expensive than vinyl liner pools
Fiberglass pools generally cost around $40,000 to $85,000 and up while vinyl liner pools typically cost between $25,000 and $65,000. This can be a disadvantage if your main goal is to get an inground pool on the lowest budget possible. However, it’s important to note that fiberglass pools have lower lifetime costs and they can increase the value of your home, whereas vinyl liner pools do not.
Want to see about how much that cost will be with all your favorite pool accessories?
Use our Design and Price Tool to walk through your options and approximate price!
Repairs on some colored finishes don’t always match
If your gelcoat needs a small repair for any reason, that area may not be an exact match to the rest of the pool. Fiberglass pools can slightly fade over time, and the repaired area might be more noticeable than you would like it to be. The gelcoat on a fiberglass pool fades only very little and at a very slow rate, but a fresh gelcoat patch can be obvious, depending on its placement in the pool.
You can’t resurface the entire pool with gelcoat
You might be able to make small gelcoat repairs on your fiberglass pool, but to resurface the entire pool with gelcoat would be impractical. Gelcoat is a durable and attractive finish, but to cure properly, it needs to sit at a certain temperature (approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit) in a controlled environment. Since your pool is already in the ground and likely outdoors, this won’t be an option.
Fiberglass pools can get osmotic blisters
We’ve found a way to beat this, but osmotic blisters are still a problem for many fiberglass pool manufacturers. What are they anyway?
Osmotic blisters are usually described as small bumps or bubbles in the pool shell. They form when tiny water molecules get behind the gelcoat layer and create a chemical reaction with glass fibers. While it won't compromise the structure of your pool, it will deteriorate the finish and become quite unattractive.
Have questions about fiberglass pools? Ask us in the comments, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass pools for customers across North America. Feel free to take a look at our catalog of models and visit our learning center today. Also, be sure to download your free ebook for more information on how to get started on your journey to a fiberglass pool.