As I sit here dreaming of lazy summer days spent lounging poolside, I can’t help but picture myself floating blissfully in a sparkling backyard oasis. But before those dreams become a reality, an important decision must be made – what material should I choose for my new pool, concrete or fiberglass?
Both offer unique advantages and drawbacks when it comes to aspects like cost, durability, and maintenance. As a first-time pool owner still wet behind the ears, I set out to educate myself on the key differences between these two popular pool construction materials.
After splashing around in my research, the choice between concrete and fiberglass pools became clear. Here’s my dive into the deep end of pros and cons for each material – read on to see which option makes the biggest splash for your backyard!
Concrete Pools: Sturdy and Customizable but Require More Maintenance
When picturing a classic in-ground pool, a concrete shell likely comes to mind. Concrete has long been the go-to choice for pool construction across the country. Here’s an overview of what concrete pools bring to the table:
Customizable Shape and Size
One of the biggest advantages of concrete pools lies in their immense design flexibility. Concrete can be poured and molded into just about any shape and size to suit your backyard.
Want an elegant freeform shape with a spa? Concrete makes it possible. How about an enormous, resort-style rectangular pool? Concrete can handle it. This material allows for complete customization when it comes to designing your dream backyard oasis.
Properly poured and cured concrete makes for an extremely durable pool shell. The material is capable of standing up to decades of use as long as regular maintenance is kept up.
Concrete’s strength and resilient nature allow it to withstand the elements year after year. Leaks and cracks are rare in well-made concrete pools. You can count on a concrete shell to provide lasting value and stand the test of time.
Higher Upfront Costs
The major downside to concrete pools lies in their lofty initial price tag. All of that customizability and durability come at a cost. The bill starts piling up with the expenses of building custom rebar reinforcement, forming the shape with wood or other materials, extensive labor for pouring and finishing the concrete, and integrating utilities like plumbing.
In my research, I found concrete pools tend to run anywhere from $50,000 to well over $100,000 depending on the size and intricacy of design. They require a hefty upfront investment that may deter some homeowners from choosing this material.
Regular Maintenance is a Must
While durable, concrete still requires routine maintenance and care year-round to keep it looking pristine. That means vigilantly keeping up with chemical balances in the water, brushing and cleaning the surfaces, resealing and repairing cracks or damage, and other regular maintenance.
If not cared for properly, concrete can develop stubborn stains, scale buildup, algae growth, and erosion compromising the appearance and integrity of the pool. The maintenance requirements are definitely heavier compared to other materials like fiberglass.
Customization Can Complicate Repairs
One potentially annoying downside of concrete pools lies in the difficulty of repairing all those custom features later on. If cracks or damage occur, the unique shapes and contours of the pool make repairs extremely complicated and expensive to carry out.
Simple repairs may morph into costly ordeals with a highly customized concrete pool. It’s something to keep in mind when weighing concrete as your pool construction material.
Fiberglass Pools: Affordable Low Maintenance Option
In contrast to traditional concrete, fiberglass has emerged as a popular pool construction material praised for its affordability and minimal maintenance. Here’s an overview of the key benefits and drawbacks of fiberglass pool shells:
Lower Upfront Cost
The number one advantage of fiberglass over concrete is its significantly lower initial cost. Rather than custom-building forms and pouring concrete on site, fiberglass pool shells are prefabricated in a factory and then installed.
This translates to much lower labor and material costs overall, with typical fiberglass pool installations running $30,000 to $60,000. The affordability and value fiberglass pools provide is a major reason many homeowners gravitate towards this material.
Minimal Long-Term Maintenance
Another massive perk of fiberglass is that it requires far less routine maintenance and care compared to concrete. The smooth non-porous shell of a fiberglass pool repels stains, resists damage, and doesn’t allow unsightly scale to build up.
Chemical balances are easier to maintain as well. Keeping a fiberglass pool sparkling clean takes only a fraction of the time and cost of caring for a concrete pool. For homeowners looking to spend more time swimming and less time scrubbing, fiberglass is the practical choice.
Limited Shape and Size Options
The trade-off for fiberglass pools comes in the form of limited customizability. Rather than building a fully custom pool, fiberglass shells come in a range of pre-determined shapes and dimensions from the manufacturer.
While some options exist in shape, curved designs and intricate detailing are not typically possible with prefab fiberglass. For homeowners with a very specific dream pool design in mind, fiberglass may ultimately fall short.
Quick Installation Process
One other great perk of fiberglass over concrete is the significantly faster installation timeline. Rather than months of building and curing on site, fiberglass shells can usually be installed in weeks.
This quicker process gets homeowners swimming faster. Less disruption to your home or property also occurs compared to a full custom concrete pour. Overall, fiberglass pools go in much more smoothly and efficiently than concrete options.
While durable, fiberglass shells do have a slightly shorter lifespan compared to concrete. On average most fiberglass pools last 15-20 years before repairs may be needed. Concrete can last 50 years or more if properly cared for.
Eventually fiberglass may show signs of wear including cracks, bubbles under the surface, separation around steps, or plumbing issues. The repairs can be complicated compared to a concrete pool. It’s a drawback to weigh when opting for fiberglass construction.
Key Differences: Concrete vs. Fiberglass Pools
Now that we’ve dove deep on the pros and cons of each material option, let’s recap the key differences between concrete and fiberglass pools:
- Cost – Fiberglass pools provide greater upfront cost savings, with concrete pools requiring a much higher initial investment. Long-term maintenance costs are lower with fiberglass than concrete.
- Customization – Concrete offers immense design flexibility, while fiberglass comes in limited pre-determined shapes and sizes. Ability to customize is far greater with concrete.
- Maintenance – Fiberglass requires drastically less chemicals, cleaning, and overall maintenance compared to concrete pools.
- Durability – Properly built concrete pools generally last longer (50+ years) than fiberglass shells (15-20 years). But fiberglass is still plenty durable.
- Installation – Fiberglass pools get installed far quicker, usually within weeks compared to months for concrete.
- Repairs – Concrete repairs can be complicated by custom designs, while fiberglass repairs eventually become necessary as shells show wear.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Between Concrete and Fiberglass
As you mull over which material to use for your new pool, asking yourself these key questions can help guide the decision-making process:
- How much does upfront cost and affordability matter for this project?
- What’s my desired design – simple rectangle or unique freeform shape?
- How important is minimizing long-term maintenance and chemical costs?
- What’s my expected lifespan for a pool – 15-20 years or 50+ years?
- Do I need the pool installed in a matter of weeks or is a longer timeline ok?
- Does the hassle of potential future repairs outweigh the benefits of each material?
Once you’ve weighed your priorities surrounding these questions, the right pool construction material for your needs should rise to the surface!
Time to Dive In! How Exciting is That?
As a newbie pool owner researching the ins and outs of concrete and fiberglass designs, I’ve certainly logged some long hours hitting the books (and chat forums). But daydreaming about lazy summer days poolside has a way of making all that work worthwhile!
After taking the full plunge into understanding these two materials and their pros and cons, I’m feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to dive into a decision. Nothing beats imagining my backyard transformed into a private oasis!
The exciting process of bringing that dream to life awaits. But first, it’s time to towel off after all that informative swimming around in pool construction materials. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get pruning those first poolside beverages of the season!
Keep reading below for a quick roundup of answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I came across about concrete and fiberglass pools. Here’s to happy decision-making on the journey to your backyard paradise!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which material is better for cold climates, concrete or fiberglass?
A: Concrete tends to be a better choice for cold winter climates. It can expand and contract without damage as temperatures fluctuate. Fiberglass can crack over repeated freeze-thaw cycles in regions with substantial winter cold.
Q: Is a fiberglass pool smoother than a concrete pool?
A: Yes, fiberglass pool shells are constructed out of a smooth, non-porous material that results in an ultra-smooth surface. Concrete surfaces have slightly more texture and are more prone to roughness from chemical imbalances.
Q: Can you customize the shape of a fiberglass pool?
A: While some options exist, fiberglass pools do not provide the high level of customizability in shape or size that poured concrete pools offer. The majority of fiberglass pool shells come in set dimensions.
Q: Does a concrete or fiberglass pool increase home value more?
A: Generally a concrete pool provides a higher return on investment and appreciation in home value over a fiberglass pool. But any pool adds significant value and appeal to a home for buyers.
Q: How long does it take to install each type of pool?
A: Fiberglass pools get installed far quicker, usually within 3-8 weeks. Concrete pools require extensive site prep, pouring, and curing lasting 3-6 months on average.
Evaluate Your Needs and Dive in!
When exploring the choice between concrete and fiberglass for your new pool, carefully considering your specific needs in terms of budget, design, maintenance and longevity will guide you to the right material. Fiberglass provides outstanding affordability and ease of maintenance, while concrete offers unparalleled customization and strength for the long haul.
By diving deep into the pros and cons and weighing the tradeoffs, you’ll be able to cannonball into a decision with confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be living those sun-soaked poolside dreams in your personal backyard resort – now get ready to take the plunge!