Downsides of Fiberglass Pools

Downsides of Fiberglass Pools

Fiberglass pools have become a popular choice for many homeowners due to their quick installation, low maintenance, and variety of designs. However, there are several potential downsides to consider when choosing a fiberglass pool for your backyard.

In this article, we'll explore the key disadvantages of fiberglass pools, including durability concerns, size and shape limitations, higher upfront costs, and lack of customization options, as well as the importance of proper professional installation.

Key Takeaways

- Fiberglass pools may face durability issues like gel coat discoloration, spider cracks, and osmotic blistering over time.

- The size of fiberglass pools is limited due to transportation restrictions, typically maxing out at 40 feet in length and 16 feet in width.

- Pre-designed shapes and configurations limit customization options for fiberglass pools.

- Fiberglass pools generally have significantly higher upfront installation costs compared to other pool types.

- Proper professional installation following strict guidelines is crucial to avoid compromising the structural integrity of fiberglass pools.

- Homeowners should carefully weigh the potential drawbacks against the benefits before investing in a fiberglass pool.

Potential Durability Issues

When it comes to fiberglass pools, one of the major long-term concerns is their potential durability issues. The gel coat, which is the smooth, shiny surface of the pool, can be susceptible to discoloration over time due to improper water chemistry, exposure to certain chemicals, or UV radiation. This fading or chalking of the gel coat can detract from the pool's aesthetic appeal and may require costly resurfacing.

Another issue is the development of spider or hairline cracks in the fiberglass shell. These fine cracks can form due to ground settling, improper installation causing structural stress, or manufacturing defects. If left unchecked, these cracks can worsen and compromise the pool's watertight integrity.

Furthermore, osmotic blistering, where water penetrates the pool laminate causing the gel coat to bubble or lift, can occur. This results from unchecked osmotic pressure differences and often requires expensive repairs or resurfacing.

While fiberglass is generally touted as a durable pool material, these issues highlight the importance of proper maintenance, installation, and being aware of potential failure points as the pool ages.

Size and Shape Restrictions

One major limitation of fiberglass pools stems from the manufacturing and transportation process itself. Since the pools are constructed off-site as a single preformed unit, there are constraints on the maximum size that can be legally transported over roads. Most manufacturers limit lengths to around 40 feet and widths to 16 feet to comply with highway shipping regulations.

This size cap can make it challenging for homeowners with smaller yards to achieve an ideal fit without sacrificing usable space. Larger backyards may be underutilized if owners want to maximize water surface area.

Beyond the size restrictions, fiberglass pool buyers have relatively limited shape options compared to concrete versions. Fiberglass pools are manufactured in a handful of predetermined geometric shapes like rectangles, Grecians, kidneys, and freeform lagoon styles.

This lack of total customization can be frustrating for homeowners with very specific design concepts or yard layouts that don't accommodate standard shaped pools well. Realizing a truly unique free-form poolscape is extremely difficult with fiberglass.

The combination of size constraints and predetermined mold shapes means carefully measuring yards and planning pool dimensions is crucial before committing to fiberglass. Retrofitting an ill-fitting pool is far more difficult versus a custom concrete solution.

Higher Upfront Installation Costs

While fiberglass pools promote low long-term maintenance costs compared to other in-ground options, their upfront installation pricing can be quite steep. On average, a basic fiberglass pool installation runs $35,000-$65,000 for just the pool shell and putting it in the ground. 

Several factors contribute to these higher upfront fiberglass pool installation costs:

- The pool shell itself is expensive.

- Freight fees for delivering the one-piece unit can be very expensive depending on travel distance.

- Heavy equipment like cranes are required for moving and placing the bulky shell into position safely.

- More extensive site preparation and potentially even aerating or jackhammering ground is needed before installation can begin.

- If installed improperly, the warranty may be voided, incentivizing hiring very experienced installers over cheaper labor.

For budget-conscious homeowners, these high initial fiberglass pool installation costs can put them out of reach as an option, even if long-term maintenance savings help recoup the investment over 10-15 years of ownership. Financing may be required to make fiberglass pool installation costs feasible.

Need for Skilled Professional Installation

Given the rigid one-piece construction of fiberglass pool shells, proper professional installation following strict guidelines is absolutely critical. Any mistakes in procedures like leveling, plumbing, or adequately supporting and bracing the shell can lead to serious structural defects that are difficult and costly to repair after the fact.

Some key areas where professional fiberglass pool installers must exercise caution include:

- Excavation depth and dimensions meeting precise model specs to minimize ground pressure

- Flawless compaction and stabilization of the ground sub-base supporting the shell

- Perfect leveling and preventing shifts of the shell during the controlled lowering process

- Properly spacing, installing and securing rugged bracing along interior surfaces

- Verifying plumbing lines are correctly fitted with enough slack to prevent cracking

- Meticulously following electrical and grounding codes for bonding and lightning protection

If done incorrectly, the shell can crack under soil pressures or plumbing pipes can fracture the fiberglass leading to catastrophic leaks. Structural integrity is crucial for longevity with rigid shells.

Compared to more flexible concrete or liner installations, there is far less room for error. Many reputable fiberglass pool installers are factory-certified and have years of specialized experience. Their expertise helps ensure the significant costs of fiberglass pool installation go smoothly and without compromising the shell itself in ways that would void product warranties.

For homeowners looking to maximize their pool investment, scrutinizing the experience level of contractors bidding on fiberglass installs is vital. While upfront costs are steep, proper installation by qualified professionals ensures you actually get to enjoy that "low maintenance fiberglass life" for years to come.

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The Case for Custom Pools

While fiberglass pools offer some advantages like low maintenance requirements, the potential drawbacks highlighted above may make custom concrete options more appealing choices for many homeowners.

With custom pool construction, you avoid the significant size, shape and design limitations intrinsic to pre-formed fiberglass shells. . . .

Whether you have an irregularly shaped yard, want to maximize available space, or simply desire a truly unique freeform design, going the custom route allows your dream pool to be made-to-measure.

Custom gunite or shotcrete (concrete) pools can be formed into virtually any shape and size you can imagine. Freeform lagoon styles with romantic grottos? Not a problem. A massive 60-foot rectangle to lap swim laps? Easily accomplished.

Custom solutions make integrating impressive rock features, raised walls, tanning shelves and other deluxe elements seamless.

While fiberglass provides a smooth durable interior surface, custom concrete pools can be finished with a variety of premium exposed aggregate or tile interiors that may better complement your home's architecture and landscaping aesthetics.

From an investment perspective, the higher upfront costs of fiberglass pools may be better spent on a custom concrete structure built to last decades with proper maintenance. 

For discerning homeowners who view their pool as a long-term investment and integral part of their backyard's overall design and ambiance, the flexibility and customization possibilities of custom pool construction can make it worthwhile to avoid the inherent limitations of fiberglass.

At Unique Pools and Properties, our experienced designers can bring your ultimate poolscape vision to life through our custom solutions. We'll ensure your new pool complements your home's architecture and maximizes your outdoor living space, creating a true backyard oasis you'll enjoy for years to come.

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