An Expert Comparison of Concrete and Fiberglass Pools
Concrete (or gunite) swimming pools are custom-built to your design specifications. Because of this, the size and design options are nearly limitless. Concrete pools do not come pre-assembled; all of the work is completed on site.
If you want a pool shaped like a palm tree, a pool with beach entry or an Olympic-size infinity pool, you can have that. If you want a pool that is 12 feet deep, that’s fine, too. You can leave the concrete surface as is, or you can cover it with tiles.
Concrete pools have been around a lot longer than fiberglass, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better. The choice is very personal – some people prefer concrete while others prefer fiberglass. We’ll touch on the pros and cons of each later on in this guide.
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How Much Does a Concrete Swimming Pool Cost?
Concrete swimming pools are the most expensive type of in-ground pool because of all the custom work that is required. You might need to hire not just a single contractor, but several subcontractors as well.
Most concrete swimming pools cost $20,000 to $45,000, not any including decking or patio you add. Optional features such as heaters, lights, slides and automatic pool covers will also add to the total purchase price.
- An average-size pool that is 30 to 35 feet in length and 4 or 5 feet deep might cost $25,000 to $30,000. That does not include any extra features or decking.
- A pool that is the same length but 6 feet deep with standard concrete decking, upgraded lighting and a diving board might cost $30,000 to $35,000.
- A large pool – say 40 inches long and 6 feet deep – with a spa and heater, upgraded stamped concrete decking, upgraded lighting and a diving board might cost $50,000 or more.
The more custom features you add, the more expensive your pool will be. You could spend $100,000 on an Olympic-sized infinity pool with all the bells and whistles, although that price is certainly not standard.
Concrete Pool Installation
Building a concrete pool involves excavating the pool area, installing the plumbing and laying a framework grid made of steel. Next, the wet concrete is sprayed around the framework and allowed to dry for up to a week. The concrete is a mixture of gunite (sand and cement) and water, which explains why concrete pools are often referred to as gunite pools. Once the concrete is dry, a finish is applied to the surface of the pool. In total, the process often takes two or three months.
Concrete Pool Maintenance
Concrete pools need to be resurfaced about every 10 to 20 years, which can cost $5,000 to $10,000. The frequency may be higher in very cold climates. Many people who purchase concrete pools are not aware of this initially.
Concrete pools also require more daily and weekly maintenance. They are more susceptible to algae growth than other types of pools, so they need to be brushed more often. And the pH balance must be more closely monitored.
Concrete Pool Pros
- Unlimited design options – With concrete, the design options are limited only by your budget. If you want a unique design or a very large pool, concrete is the clear choice over fiberglass.
- Long-lasting – A properly maintained concrete swimming pool can last for a generation or more. Fiberglass is a newer material, so the lifespan is not as well understood.
- Greater depths – A concrete pool can be as deep as you want it to be, while fiberglass pools usually max out at about eight feet.
Concrete Pool Cons
- Price – Concrete swimming pools are more expensive upfront because of the custom work that is required. The maintenance is more costly, too.
- Maintenance – Concrete pools require significantly more maintenance.
- Complex installation – The installation process usually takes anywhere from two to three months, significantly longer than with fiberglass pools.
- Rough on feet – Concrete is not a smooth surface, so it can be rough on your feet, causing scrapes and cuts.
Fiberglass swimming pools are pre-assembled in a factory. The pool is delivered to your home by truck and installed in one piece, meaning there’s less work to do when the pool arrives, particularly if the ground has been excavated ahead of time.
Fiberglass pools are sold in a variety of sizes and shapes, but there are some design limitations. Due to trucking requirements, fiberglass pools max out at about 16 feet by 40 feet. This is still a large pool, but it’s on the small side of large. Typically, fiberglass pools are no deeper than 8 feet. Like prefabricated hot tubs, fiberglass pools usually have built-in steps and/or seating.
Compare How Much a Fiberglass Swimming Pool Costs?
Fiberglass swimming pools are slightly less expensive than concrete pools, usually ranging from $20,000 to $40,000, not including decking or patio. Again, optional features such as heaters, lights, slides and automatic pool covers will add to the total purchase price.
Fiberglass Pool Installation
Installation of a fiberglass pool is much faster than with concrete. The process usually takes a matter of weeks, rather than several months. Often, installers will give you two options: complete installation or just a drop off. With complete installation, the company will handle everything from excavation to filling the pool. When they’re done, you’ll be ready to swim. If you opt for a drop off, you’re in charge of installation – whether you do it yourself or act as a general contractor by hiring a variety of subcontractors to do the work.
Fiberglass Pool Pros
- Low maintenance – Fiberglass pools are nonporous, so they’re not susceptible to algae growth and require fewer chemicals. Unlike concrete pools, they never require resurfacing.
- Easy to install – Because fiberglass pools are shipped in one piece, less site work is required. You can be swimming in your pool in a matter of weeks.
- Shock resistant – Fiberglass is better able to absorb fluctuations in the earth’s surface. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, fiberglass in generally a better option.
Fiberglass Pool Cons
- Limited design options – Fiberglass pools are sold in standard shapes and sizes. You can opt for round, oval or rectangular. But custom shapes and designs are not available.
- Not ideal for diving – Because fiberglass pools are usually no deeper than eight feet, they’re not designed for diving.
- Slippery – The surface of fiberglass pools is slippery, which creates a potential hazard, particularly on the stairs. You can avoid this by paying extra for a non-slip coating.