As a fiberglass pool installer in Orange County NY ,this is a question that I hear pretty often. For the longest time I would have had to say no. See, in the early days of fiberglass they had some obvious drawbacks. The 4 biggest drawbacks of fiberglass pools of old were.
The shapes often resembled that of a bath tub.
The gel coat colors were either white or some close variant to white like sky blue.
The mold technology was pretty lacking.
The Resins used actually absorbed water.
Can you believe that the pool on the left is still in production and has to compete with the pool on the right?
To be honest not every manufacturer has gotten all of these things fixed as of today. So let’s see what’s new in the fiberglass pool industry.
Now I know that some of you are thinking that shape is something that cannot be graded and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I would have to agree on some level, but when it comes to a pool shape is a little more important than that. Shape can affect how well a pool performs as well as how good it looks. For instance Leisure Pools adds a convenience ledge about two feet down from the coping on all of it’s pools. This simple change in shape allows children to easily move about the pool while providing a much stronger pool wall than the competition. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and you can now see Barrier Reef adding this feature in their pools as well.
Gel Coat Colors:
First a little definition – the gel coat of a pool is the part that you actually feel inside. Now color is another purely subjective topic. If you want a white pool plenty of guys make that and you will have no problem finding one. That being said who really wants a white pool anymore? No one I’ve spoken with in the past 5 years. Now why is it that so many fiberglass manufacturers only offer white or charge extra for colors thereby convincing you white is a better (cheaper) option. Simply because they have found it difficult to build a colored pool that will not fade. Now barrier reef which I liked above had some interesting language in their warranty.
“Barrier Reef Pools finish coat or gelcoat is warranted against blistering for a total of 15 years. This Warranty excludes discoloration, staining, fading, hairline cracks, blistering, surface yellowing or roughness after manufacture , where the cause is algae infestation, calcium scale or other mineral or vegetation deposits or faults arising from misuse or abuse of the surface or the maintenance of incorrect water balances.”
Now right there they excluded just about everything that can happen to a surface of a pool. Read that again, The first sentence warrants blisters and the second takes it away. That’s pretty fancy wording if you ask me. They go on to say that this applies only if your water balance is off. Well folks I have never tested pool water from a homeowner that maintained it themselves and had it come out “perfect” every single time.
This is where Leisure Pools has really set the pace so to speak. Industry standard is to build a fiberglass pool mold on a wood frame. The problem with this type of manufacturer is that wood warps, plain and simple. For instance here in the Hudson Valley, NY we have weather extremes and I see decks all the time that look good one year and look like crap the next. The handrails don’t look straight anymore, the floor looks uneven etc. This is because the wood warped from month to month. A real good deck builder can help prevent this by placing the “cupping” in a certain direction but that’s some next level stuff, and I don’t build decks. This guy does build decks and he does a great job. Back on track, you can see how a wood frame will warp. Leisure Pools uses only steel frames on all of their fiberglass pool molds, it costs more but you end up with a perfect pool.
Now we are getting into the science of things here. This is the stuff that gets me excited. Well that and riding my Harley. But seriously - resin is extremely important. Except for the gel coat layer of the pool every other layer will contain resin. Some companies use multiple types of resin depending on the layer. The key thing to remember is that Vinyl Ester resins do not absorb water and most other resins do. That being said Leisure Pools is the only company that uses Vinyl Ester resins in every layer of their pool. The reason you want a resin that does not absorb water is simple. If your pool shell absorbs water the surface will probably blister. Knowing this some companies will use Vinyl Ester resin on the first inside layer but polyester resin on the subsequent layers. In theory that’s great, this stops the pool water from getting in the other layers. The problem is if you have ground water. If the back of the pool is not protected as well, then you have the risk of groundwater entering the shell and causing a blister.
So now that that’s done. Are Fiberglass Swimming Pools any Good? As you can see, it depends on the manufacturer. While some like Leisure Pools are excellent some others are not as good. Leave your comments and sign up for our blog.