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    DIY Fiberglass Pools - Buyer Beware!

    January 30, 2014


    SPP vinyl liner pool kits are one option for the DIY pool builder, another option is to use a fiberglass pool shell. This type of pool installation requires different skills from a DIY inground pool builder.

    crane-timeThe most obvious difference between a fiberglass and a vinyl pool is the material used. A fiberglass pool is a one-piece pool that’s trucked to your property, lifted by a large crane or excavator into a precisely dug hole and a bed of sand. Because of this there is only a small range of shapes and sizes to choose from. This may allow for the installation to move more quickly than with a vinyl liner pool. You may save a day or two by eliminating the wall assembly, concrete collar and liner installation.

    On the flip side, you may add a day or two, in frustrating snags that hold up the process, and it's not unusual to place the pool several times before getting the level correct. You may get to know the crane operator on a first name basis. Or you may have placed the pool perfectly, only to have it lilting and tilting after you fill it with water. Because of the difficulty in leveling a fiberglass pool, it's important to have prior experience with balancing the shell perfectly on soil and sand.

    concrete-collar-vinyl-poolRemember, there's no concrete collar, or foundation around the pool, like there is on a vinyl pool. Set a fiberglass pool even slightly off level over the length of your pool and it puts stress on the pool shell and gelcoat surface…while sticking out like a sore thumb.

    Let’s back up a second. Before dropping in a fiberglass pool and working on the level, the soil conditions must be known and a 2-3" base must be laid over the precisely dug pool hole. Certain soils are expansive, compact poorly or drain poorly. Some soils shift slowly over time, especially if your backyard is sloped in any direction. Knowledge of soil conditions, excellent 100-year storm drainage planning around the pool, and a properly integrated pool deck are all important balancing elements in keeping a fiberglass pool from tilting or cracking over time.

    big-ol-pile-o-sandThe base material underneath a fiberglass pool is usually sand, not a cement mixture, and the spaces around the walls are filled in with earth or gravel. This will make a large difference in the longevity of your investment because sand will move over time in nearly all conditions. The shell of a fiberglass pool is essentially floating in the earth, being held down by the weight of the water.

    Vinyl pool kits by contrast, are encased in a collar of concrete, 12" deep x 30" wide, poured around the outside of the pool wall, locking the pool in place, deep in the earth.

    OK, so the pool design options are limited, the installation process requires you to precisely level a massive object, and there is a lot of homework to be done regarding how the pool will react over time to the base materials and the surrounding water table. Whoa, let’s talk about some positives please! Sure thing. it is been said that fiberglass pools require the least amount of maintenance - there’s definitely no liner to ever replace! And these days bathtub white is not the only color choice available. There are more sizes and shapes available now than ever before. Fiberglass pools can be swiftly installed by an experienced installer, and extreme complications are rare.


    That said; the possibility of future maintenance to your inground pool is a reality even if there is no liner involved. The main thing to consider is the coating on the fiberglass shell. It will eventually fade, especially at the water line. The probability of spider cracks developing in the gel coat is about as reasonable as it is that a vinyl liner will someday have to be replaced. But, you've already installed your original liner, and replacing an inground liner will be an easy weekend job. Applying a new gel coat is a lot more technical, and very expensive.  

    do-not-drainAnother problem with future maintenance of a fiberglass pool is that draining the pool is discouraged, as the pool can shift when drained. Heavy rains can even pop an empty shell out of the ground. The weight of the water holds a fiberglass pool into the ground, and draining the pool for even a day is risky. Even draining the pool for adverse water conditions is discouraged.

    The best choice for a DIY in-ground pool project is a vinyl liner pool kit, and for many good reasons. If you are in the market for a pool and are considering your options please give us a call and we’ll be glad to spend some time working out the best options for your specific needs. We offer the most comprehensive inground pool packages out there at a price that’s hard to beat.

    SPP caters to the Do-It-Yourself inground swimming pool installer and we do it best because SPP is at your service before, during and after installation.  

    Zach Livingstone
    SPP Pool Expert

    Blog Author
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