Deciding which type of swimming pool to get is a big deal! It can be a tough choice with many options on the market—concrete or gunite pool vs. fiberglass pool. The first step in making this decision is knowing which one is the best fit for you, so we’re here to help break it down. In this post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of gunite pool vs. fiberglass pools.
About Gunite Swimming Pools
The first gunite pool was built in 1940. However, soon after, World War II stifled the industry. In post-war society, more homeowners started to purchase gunite pools. And today, depending on climate, gunite pools are still popular. For example, in Florida and California, where year-round temperature isn’t as extreme, gunite pools can be more affordable.
Advantages of Gunite Swimming Pools
- They are customizable. Concrete pools can be made into any shape, size or depth you want. If you’re looking for a unique pool design (say: the shape of a sun or a palm tree), a concrete pool is for you. Fiberglass pools are built with premade molds, so pool designs are limited to what molds the manufacturer already has. Luckily, as fiberglass has become more popular, manufacturers have plenty of pool design options to choose from that will fit most yards and fulfill the shape of your dreams.
- They are durable. Gunite pools are made from concrete! Like roads, sidewalks, and buildings, the inside of a gunite pool is durable (but prone to cracks). Excessive surface cracks can cause other problems such as staining, algae buildup, and calcium nodules resulting in the need to replaster.
Disadvantages of Gunite Swimming Pools
- They are expensive. As you’re doing your pool research, you’re probably wondering whether a fiberglass or concrete pool is more expensive. Aside from various cost factors, including price differences in temperate climates, there’s not a big upfront price difference between the gunite vs. fiberglass pool cost. Each typically ranges from $45,000-$65,000. But once you’ve bought the pool, you’ll have to maintain it. That’s when things can become pricey; the estimated 10-year maintenance cost of a gunite pool is $16,000 or more compared to a fiberglass pool that has an estimated 10-year maintenance cost of $4,500. Because the smooth gel coat makes fiberglass pools algae resistant, you will use fewer chemicals in a fiberglass pool than you would a gunite pool.
- They are subject to cracking. Have you ever noticed cracks on outdoor patios that are made from concrete? A pool is no different. As the earth moves, the concrete is not flexible, and instead of moving with the earth like a flexible fiberglass pool shell, the concrete cracks. This leaves you with expensive repairs and an undesirable finish to your pool.
- They are not salt compatible. If you are set on having a salt system in your pool, gunite is not for you. Salt gradually eats away at the cement finish the same way salt eats away a gunite driveway. If salt sits on the pool surface without dissolving, it can stain the surface in minutes. This shortens the lifespan of the pool.
- They are higher maintenance. When comparing fiberglass to gunite, one of the most important things to consider is how hard it is to maintain the pool. A big reason people decide not to get a pool is that they are worried that keeping up with the maintenance will be too much for them to take on. If this is one of your concerns, consider that gunite pools require more maintenance than any other type of pool. If you own a concrete pool, you will spend around four to five hours per week on pool maintenance compared to one hour per week with fiberglass.
- They have a rough surface. You most likely wouldn’t play volleyball barefoot on concrete barefoot; in the pool, it’s not much different! The rough surface can hurt your feet. The surface can be hard on your pets’ joints and paws. (The smooth gel surface of fiberglass pool shells is easier on your skin and more volleyball-friendly!)
About Fiberglass Swimming Pools
Fiberglass pools came into the swimming pool market in the 1950s and have tripled in popularity over the past 20 years. These pools have become a hot commodity due to their easier installation, lower maintenance, and luxurious designs with unique features like zero-entry and tanning ledges!
Disadvantages of Fiberglass Swimming Pools
- They are less customizable. Fiberglass pools are made from premade molds. This limits the design options to the molds that the manufacturer already has. If you want a giant pool in the shape of your initials, it’s most likely not going to happen with fiberglass. But luckily, since we’ve been in the fiberglass business for 35+ years, we have made many different fiberglass pool designs to choose from, ranging from big or small to rectangle or freeform!
- They are more difficult to DIY. Fiberglass pools are not DIY friendly. If you’re looking to install a fiberglass pool by yourself, think again. Fiberglass pools are hard to install on your own. A lot of equipment is needed, and it may be more of a headache than it’s worth. Many fiberglass manufacturers do not sell directly to homeowners and instead sell only to a dealer network. The dealer is then the one that installs your pool and ensures that it’s installed correctly so the lifetime warranty will be valid.
Advantages of Fiberglass Swimming Pools
- They are durable. We like to think of a fiberglass pool shell as a huge sandwich, “the composite sandwich of awesomeness,” made of 9 layers of different materials, including gel coat; fiberglass (chopped and woven), honeycomb core, and 100% vinyl ester barrier coat. The shell is manufactured in multiple layers, with each layer serving to maximize the strength and durability of the entire structure. This helps the fiberglass withstand weather conditions while still being flexible enough to resist cracking.
- They can be installed faster. Fiberglass pools go in easy and fast. Gunite pools will roughly take three to six months to install, while fiberglass pools typically only take three to six weeks because they are pre-built on the mold and ready to go into the ground once delivered to your house!
- They usually have a lifetime manufacturer warranty. Concrete builders typically don’t have a manufacturer; therefore they don’t have a manufacturer warranty, only the workmanship warranty by the builder. A fiberglass pool manufacturer ensures every pool purchased and installed is warranted not to leak due to structural failures caused by workmanship and material used in the manufacturing for the pool’s lifetime.
- They are the easiest pool to own. Like we said before, the average time you will spend maintaining a fiberglass pool is only an hour or less per week. A fiberglass pool’s smooth, non-skid gel coat finish is 100 percent non-porous and non-reactive, so it doesn’t absorb chemicals or affect how they perform. Aside from basic vacuuming, skimming and water testing, fiberglass pools are much lower maintenance than gunite pools.
- They have a smooth surface. The smooth gel surface on all of our fiberglass pools won’t snag your swimsuit or cause scratches! You won’t have to worry about the gel surface being too slick on steps or tanning ledges because of our proprietary process to produce non-slip fiberglass texture surfaces on each pool. The tanning areas, seats, steps and safety ledges all have this proprietary surface finish. This fiberglass texture provides a non-slip surface while still being easy on the skin and smooth to the touch.
If you are looking for a low maintenance, fast-to-install and durable inground pool, fiberglass is for you! If you’re interested in getting a fiberglass pool, the next step is to contact a dealer in your area and browse our pool designs to determine which is the best fit for your backyard oasis! If you want a quick ballpark estimate on the pool of your dreams, check out our pool cost calculator.