What’s Better? Fiberglass Pool vs Gunite

fiberglass pool vs gunite pool comparison

When considering a pool in your backyard it’s not uncommon to have it narrowed down to a few builders. In some markets around the country it’s not uncommon to also be considering two different methods of construction. Before you choose a builder, you’ll need to know, which is better, fiberglass pool vs gunite pool?

What’s Better? Fiberglass Pool vs Gunite + Bias Disclosure

First, let me start by saying I’m biased. I’ve never installed fiberglass pools nor have I ever been involved with their sale or service. I do have an extensive background in gunite pool sales and design. However, I do know a few things and I’ll share them here anyhow. Just keep in mind that I have a bias and it’ll probably come out in this article.

Fiberglass Pools Important Details

Fiberglass pools have their allure. You can see the finished shape and surface sitting in a pool yard or on a truck before starting construction. Fiberglass pools arrive at your home fully constructed. They require some plumbing and electrical work to be done on the day of installation. I say ‘day of installation’ because that’s what it takes for the initial install. Fiberglass pools are the quickest installation method you can ask for. They are a little tricky to install though.

fiberglass pool vs gunite construction

How Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Differ In Installation

Fiberglass pools may appear to have a simpler installation than gunite pools, but there are still plenty of things to consider. It’s not “easy” to install a fiberglass pool and you should only trust professionals.

For starters, you need the pool to be able to travel on the road. This limits the size of the pool to 16 feet in width. So to start with, fiberglass pools are a bit skinnier than your typical gunite pool. Once the hole is excavated and the bed of crushed stone or sand is placed in the bottom of the hole, the pool can be craned into place. This requires a large crane to lift the pool from the truck, often over the house, and into the prepared hole for the pool.

How Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Differ After Installation

Once you have the pool in the hole, the pool needs to be leveled and not go out of level during your backfill process. It’s possible to float the pool during the backfill process and you need to fill the pool with water as you backfill to hold the pool in place. Unfortunately, you can’t use a compactor right next to the pool so you need to use crushed stone or flowable fill to backfill if you don’t want your deck to sink. However, a good fiberglass installer will know all the in’s and out’s of installing a fiberglass pool and should have no problem putting your pool in assuming it’s not the first one they install.

Once the fiberglass pool goes in, the plumbing is run to the equipment, the final backfill is completed. Then the deck can be poured. Viola, you have a completed pool. This whole process often takes a week or two, from excavation to completed pool. Whereas, when compared to gunite, which can take 6 months to build sometimes, it’s easy to imagine fiberglass is better.

fiberglass pool vs gunite in different home styles

Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Pool Strengths And Weaknesses

I’m not going to go through the gunite pool construction process here, but there are some highlights I’ll point out. First, you can backfill and compact right next to a gunite pool. It’s not uncommon with fiberglass pools and vinyl pools for that matter to have issues with decks collapsing around the pool. This is due to the fact you really cannot compact the fill you use around the pool properly. This may seem like a minor issue, but over time it’s really frustrating to have a beautiful pool and a dangerous deck that’s out of level.

Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Price

When comparing the prices of fiberglass vs gunite, comparing the same size pools, it’s not uncommon for the price to be close to the same. Now you can spend far more on a gunite pool than a fiberglass pool, due to their fully custom nature, but I’m talking about the basic bare bones gunite versus the bare bones basic fiberglass.

Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Texture

Next is the texture. Some people like the smooth plastic-like texture of the fiberglass pool interior. Others find the texture to be too synthetic and feel a bit cheap. Gunite can feel a bit rougher to some people and ages quicker, too. After 10-15 years, gunite pools require resurfacing.

Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Chemical Balancing

One advantage to fiberglass is chemical balancing. You can let your fiberglass pool go way out of balance, with a low PH for example and nothing will happen to the interior finish. Imagine you have a plaster gunite pool and you run a low PH for a long period of time, and you can actually damage the interior finish of the pool irreparably. Now, we don’t recommend ignoring your water chemistry ever. However, if you’re not planning to regularly maintain your pool, you may want a fiberglass pool or a vinyl pool.

Fiberglass Pool Vs. Gunite Bottom Line

Ultimately, I would recommend choosing gunite for the full customization and predictable installation method. You can confidently plan the backfill and say the deck will not sink. You can also install finishes like tile and pebble interiors which give you the luxury look and feel that only a gunite pool can provide.

Fiberglass has its market segment and it makes sense for some, but you can’t beat the longevity and aesthetic of a gunite pool in my opinion. If you don’t want to be concerned with pool maintenance and want to install a pool as soon as possible, fiberglass could make sense for you.