Last Updated: August 10, 2021

Concrete vs. Fiberglass Pools (Pros & Cons)

Written By: Pool Care Guide

Approximately 8% of American homes have swimming pools. They are an excellent form of leisure and fitness that improves your home’s resale value, so many people look to install them.

When most people decide to install an in-ground swimming pool, they choose between concrete and fiberglass. Depending on your needs, one might be better than the other.

Whether you want to float on a raft or swim laps, you will want a cost-effective, durable, and easily maintained pool for your backyard.

Let’s compare concrete vs. fiberglass pools to see which option is best for you. We will cover the following topics and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of each material:

  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Maintenance
  • Surface texture
  • Appearance
  • Installation

All About Concrete Pools

large concrete swimming pool

Concrete pools are often selected for competition pools because of their durability and customizable appearance, but they are generally costlier.

Cost

Constructing a concrete pool may cost you between $50,000 and $60,000 for a 12’ x 24’ size. The costs vary based on the concrete’s composition, as some concrete mixtures have higher yield strengths (or the amount of stress applied that leads to permanent deformation) than others.

Concrete usually features a combination of cement, sand, stones, and gravel. Many builders will integrate a steel framework to improve the tensile and flexural strengths of concrete. Concrete has high compressive strength, but it has trouble withstanding tension and bending. 

Steel reinforcement drives up the price, but it helps the pool handle contraction, swelling, weather changes, and ground shifting.

Cast concrete has the lowest price, and gunite has the highest. $60,000 covers preparation, excavation, material costs, tubing, pump, sealant, paint, and ladders. If you want a heating system, lamp, fence, pool cover, or walkway, you can expect to spend at least $10,000 more.

Your costs are unlikely to exceed $100,000 upfront, but you will need to spend about $25,000 in maintenance costs every decade. Concrete pools require acid washes, pool cleaning services, tile replacements, electricity, and chemicals that exceed the standard fiberglass cost.

Durability

Concrete is extraordinarily durable when reinforced with steel. The interior finishes of concrete pools will withstand most regular wear and tear, but they do need maintenance every 10-15 years. You may also need to replace the waterline tiles that frequently. Also, salt-generated chlorine can break down plaster finishes, so you will want a tile interior if you want a salt pool.

Nevertheless, a concrete pool can last for around 20 years when maintained correctly. There’s a reason people use it for competitive swimming.

Maintenance

One of the biggest drawbacks of concrete pools is their maintenance needs. They need weekly scrubbing and cleaning with a steel brush to prevent algae accumulation on the porous surface. 

Concrete’s alkalinity affects the pH of water, so ensure you test the levels frequently and rebalance the chemicals as necessary. Furthermore, you will need to resurface them every 10-15 years to seal the walls from moisture.

Surface Texture

Concrete needs a chemical sealant due to its high porosity. Bacteria can get caught on the surface and develop algae, and you may scrape yourself if you are not careful while swimming. You will need to get a surface finish to keep concrete pools safe.

Most concrete pools use small pebbles and gravel as the coarse aggregate to give it a smoother texture. Exposed pebbles may hurt to walk on, but they should not scrape your skin. A polished aggregate surface can create a smooth texture affordably.

If you opt for a plaster interior finish, you will find the surface painful to touch. A tile finish costs a lot, but it provides a smooth and aesthetically appealing texture.

Appearance

One of the primary reasons homeowners go for concrete is its customizability. You can get any shape or size and add interesting features like grottos, rocks, and fountains. If you like natural appearances, you would love a concrete pool.

Installation

Concrete pools take a long time to install. You need mesh, formwork, and reinforcing bars inside an excavated site. It requires a lot of labor to mix the concrete on the property and to pour it correctly. Overall, installing a durable concrete pool can take months of work.

Pros & Cons of Concrete Pools

Now that you know more about concrete pools, let’s summarize their benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Incredible durability and longevity when dry-mixed and maintained
  • Customizable appearance regarding shape, size, depth, texture, and added features
  • Increases household resale value

Cons

  • High capital, operating, and maintenance costs
  • Requires daily to weekly maintenance
  • The porous natural surface texture needs a sealant and finish
  • Takes a long time to install

All About Fiberglass Pools

What about fiberglass? These ready-made pools are rising in popularity from their affordability and ease of installation.

Cost

Fiberglass pools have a lower labor cost than concrete because they are made in factories before going to your house. A 12’x24’ pool shell will cost around $60,000 when accounting for preparation, excavation, tubing, pump, ladder, lamp, privacy fence, walkway, heating system, and pool cover.

If you install the pool yourself, you will pay between $12,000 and $30,000. The standard project cost ranges from $45,000 to $85,000, depending on the size and added features.

Since fiberglass pools come with a smooth gel surface, you do not need to get another sealant. They also have lower maintenance costs of around $4,000 each decade. You primarily need to pay for chemicals and electricity unless you have other features that require more upkeep.

Durability

Fiberglass pools have a durable gel finish and pool structure. You can use salt-generated chlorine without needing additional chemical maintenance as it does not impact the pool shell.

While the shell itself lasts about 20-25 years, you might need to reapply the gel finish every decade. Also, fiberglass does not have heavy reinforcement like concrete. The pool shell lies on top of sand or concrete and is prone to cracking.

Fiberglass pools employ glass fibers that add strength and shape to the shell. Polyester resin holds the fibers together, and vinyl ester resin keeps the glass between the gel and polyester. The inner shell surface is a polymerized Gelcoat that waterproofs and smooths the pool.

The layered glass fibers have a high tensile strength that leads to a higher strength-to-weight ratio than concrete. They also have advantages in load transfer. Since companies manufacture them in controlled environments, they can manipulate how they perform before selling them.

Maintenance

You do not need to complete much maintenance on fiberglass pools. Their smooth surface naturally resists bacteria and algae, and they require fewer chemicals to rebalance the water. Nevertheless, you should perform water chemistry tests weekly to guarantee your pool’s safety.

Surface Texture

The Gelcoat on a fiberglass pool has a smooth texture. If you opt for one with stairs, look for ones with anti-slip surfaces to avoid injury, as you may fall if the steps have a gel finish. You could compare a fiberglass pool to a bathtub in texture because of its low porosity.

Appearance

Since companies manufacture fiberglass pools and sell them as-is, you do not get to customize them much. You have to choose between preset sizes and shapes, so you may not be able to get one if your backyard requires a specific pool shape. Features like rocks and trees may prohibit you from installing a fiberglass pool.

Also, you will have trouble finding these pools larger than 16 feet as they need shipment via a truck.

Installation

Installing a fiberglass pool requires much less labor, and some people do it themselves. You simply order the pool shell, get it shipped to your house, excavate the site, lay in some concrete or sand, and input the fiberglass. It takes about 3-5 weeks, compared to the months required for concrete pools.

Pros & Cons of Fiberglass Pools

Let’s compare the positive and negative aspects of fiberglass pools.

Pros

  • Moderate capital and low operating and maintenance costs
  • Relatively strong durability for most applications
  • Requires minimal cleaning and chemical rebalancing
  • Smooth surface texture
  • Takes a few weeks to install
  • Improves home resale value

Cons

  • Slippery steps and ledges can lead to injury
  • You cannot customize the appearance and will be stuck with a shallower depth

Final Verdict: Should I Choose a Concrete or Fiberglass Pool?

Both concrete and fiberglass pools have their advantages, but one may suit your needs more than the other.

You should look into concrete pools if:

  • You have an unusually shaped backyard or many trees and rocks.
  • You want a unique pool shape.
  • You plan on diving into the pool.
  • You wish to use the pool for competition-style swimming.
  • You have a budget of over $50,000.
  • You prefer the natural look of concrete.
  • You enjoy taking care of pools or can afford to hire a professional.

You would benefit from a fiberglass pool if:

  • You have minimal natural features in your backyard.
  • You do not plan on diving into the pool.
  • You want to use the pool for more leisurely purposes.
  • You have a smaller backyard.
  • Your budget is over $45,000.
  • You do not want to work or pay to maintain it.
  • You want your pool ASAP.

Whichever option you go for, your pool will boost your house’s value and provide hours of enjoyment for years to come for your family.

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