Making the right investment: Fiberglass versus Gunite Pools
When making an investment, it's crucial to asses how that the long-term decision will affect you. Is this decision going to benefit you in the long-run or is it going to cost you? When evaluating purchasing a pool, the real question is: how much is this going to cost me in the long run? That’s the exact question that we are going to dive into now.
In order to understand the cost difference between Fiberglass Pools and your more traditional Gunite Pools, we have to look at how it's first made. We also included a handy diagram below to explain the differences.
Why Fiberglass is cheaper than Gunite Pools
Reason #1) Faster Excavation
Fiberglass Pools are faster to excavate because you are literally removing earth to place a fiberglass shell. There is no rebar or additional excavation required to backfill with extra concrete.
Fiberglass shells are also typically slightly smaller than a gunite pool so this process can sometimes be quicker and fit in smaller spaces.
Reason #2) Fiberglass Pools Require NO Rebar
Gunite Pools are constructed of concrete and, therefore, require rebar (either ⅜” or ¾” thickness) to be interwoven throughout the structure to maintain the integrity of the shell. This helps to prevent the shell from cracking due to ground movement.
This is where fiberglass has the advantage. Because a gunite shell is so heavy and woven into the ground, it is more resistant to movement and can therefore crack more easily. You can image how costly a cracked shell can be to repair and there is no long-term bandaid to fix it other than to jackhammer out the old material and re-create the old shell.
1 Point is now awarded to Team Fiberglass!
Reason #3) Plumbing & Electrical
Both pools require the same process of running plumbing & electrical to the pool. However, because Fiberglass Shells are typically smaller you can typically decrease the size of the plumbing from 2” PVC (standard on most Gunites) down to 1-½” (due to less water needing to be circulated).
Smaller Lights are also installed on Fiberglass Pools (1-½” diameter) which is now more prevalent on Gunite Pools due to newer LED Technology.
That being said, most gunite builders will try to maximize the number of lights in your pool to turn more profits whereas most Fiberglass Dealers will prefer less lighting because of the reflectivity of the gel coating.
Still a pretty close draw, but we will show favoritism and aware another point to Team Fiberglass!
Reason #4) No need for plaster
This is entirely a gunite cost (one that you will not find on a fiberglass pool). A little back story on our friend “Plaster” (and no we are not referring to our college days); plaster is expensive.
The cost to re-plaster a pool can range from $3000-$8000 depending on the SQFT of your pool. Plaster typically lasts anywhere between 5-10 years before needing to be replaced. At that rate, it gets expensive real quick.
One more point to Team Fiberglass! Today is a good day!
Phase #5) Startup Time
This is another achilles heel to a gunite pool. The time to startup a pool is a painful pill to swallow for a parent who just had their pool completed in May and their kids are eager to swim. Not for another 3-6 weeks kiddos!
Plaster is a very delicate material that requires optimal PH levels during its curing phase and lots of regular brushing. The pool must be brushed 3-5 times a day rigorously at first and then lighter and less often during the curing phase. I don’t know about you, but brushing my pool rigorously after a long day at the office in and not being able to swim in it is not my idea of a good time.
One final point to team Fiberglass!
Fiberglass isn't always better, but pretty much always is
Okay, okay - I’ve beaten up on gunite pools enough for one day. It’s easy to be partial and say that Fiberglass is the way to go, but it's important to weigh your options prior to buying. Gunite does have some perks and it typically relates to its durability and customization.
Because Fiberglass Pools are manufactured in the factory, there is no changing the shape once it leaves the factory. However, this fallback is not stopping San Juan Pools (our favorite manufacturer) from making some great headway.
Many of his pools are now produced with swim-up bars, beach entries, waterfalls, deck jets, bar stool, raised spas, and much more! At that rate, it’s hard to not take a very, very close look at this much cheaper and simpler solution.
Therefore, like most things in this life, it typically comes down to cost and time. Cost wise, Fiberglass is the much cheaper alternative to gunite pools while offering relatively the same benefits and strengths.
Time wise, a Fiberglass Pool can be ordered, installed and started up in as little as four weeks. Any complaints there? I thought not.