Fiberglass and concrete (gunite) swimming pools are very different. They look different. They feel different. And once you look into it closely, you’ll find that they have different strengths and weaknesses. Because they’re so different, there’s generally not much debate over fiberglass vs concrete inground pools. Each has plenty of ardent fans, but no one can claim that one is objectively better than the other. It’s a matter of preference.
Once you understand the differences between fiberglass and concrete, you, too, will probably have no trouble deciding which one you prefer. Here are some of the main areas that distinguish the different types of pools.
Fiberglass and concrete tend to cost about the same initially, with fiberglass being perhaps slightly more expensive on average. However, whatever difference there is usually isn’t very significant in the scheme of things. Because fiberglass features a nonporous surface, it’s more algae resistant and will save you money on chemicals over the life of the pool.
Both types of pool can be beautiful when installed properly and complemented with attractive landscaping and decking. However, you can be more creative with concrete pools because they can be constructed in whatever shape you like. In contrast, fiberglass pool shells are built at the factory and shipped intact to your home, so you have to choose from the available options. Because fiberglass shells come in many different forms, this usually isn’t an issue. However, if you’re building a higher-end pool with a beach entry, grotto, waterfall, or other eye-catching features, you’ll probably need the flexibility of gunite to make your vision a reality.
Fiberglass is smooth to the touch, to the point of even being a little slippery to walk in. On the other hand, concrete is rough and can leave your feet raw. This is especially true for children, who have sensitive feet and tend to do more jumping than swimming while in the pool.
Here’s one huge difference. Fiberglass pools are very quick and easy to install. Because the shell comes prebuilt from the manufacturer, installation is a matter of simply dropping the shell in a hole and connecting the plumbing (OK, there’s more to it than that, but not much). Installation of a gunite pool is much more complicated, as all the work is done onsite. Whereas a fiberglass pool can be installed in a matter of days, concrete pools typically take weeks or even months.
Fiberglass and gunite pools are both more durable than vinyl and can last for decades. Exactly which type of pool is more durable is a matter of debate, though. Some would argue that a gunite pool will need a major renovation at some point, while fiberglass is practically impervious to normal wear and tear. On the other hand, fiberglass pool shells can crack due to earth shifting, especially if you drain the pool. Most pool shells include a long-term (perhaps even lifetime) warranty, but it may not cover everything.
As you can see, there’s no consensus winner in the debate between fiberglass vs concrete inground pools. Concrete pools are probably the most popular, but fiberglass pools seem to be gaining on them year by year. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want to find a pool builder with experience installing that type of pool – in fact, many specialize in only one or the other. If you have an experienced pool contractor on your side, you can’t really go wrong with either choice.