Fiberglass pools have come a long way.
While exact numbers are difficult to come by, anecdotal evidence
from industry insiders shows fiberglass pools continue to gain
market share, even in a down cycle for builders.
Here, Pool & Spa News examines some of the key
factors behind the rise of fiberglass, as well as the trends that
are expected to drive future growth.
From appealing to an increasingly savvy buying public to pushing
the limits of color and shape, the industry continues raising the
More out of less
Lot sizes for new homes, beginning in the mid-1990s, have steadily
gotten smaller. In fact, the average American homestead has shrunk
by nearly 1,000 square feet over the past six years, according to
Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.
The dwindling yards have helped diminish the traditional diving
pool in favor of smaller vessels built for parties and play.
“You see much more demand for fiberglass pools from
customers today,” says Bruce L. Holmes, CEO of Pools of Fun, a Pool & Spa
News Top Builder based in Plainfield, Ind. “They want
more patio pools and fun pools, so fiberglass complements that
because of the size.”
Indeed, versatility has become a hallmark of fiberglass. Today,
consumers can choose from models in the $25,000 range, or opt for
more intricate designs that run $50,000 and above.
But with more complexity comes added cost. The response? Some
manufacturers, such as Leisure Pools USA in San Antonio, simply carry
fewer options. The company offers five styles in four sizes and a
variety of colors.
“The advantage in offering a limited style selection is
that our styles are designed to stack together, so we can transport
efficiently,” says Ashley Gill, CEO of Leisure Pools.
“Given that transport is often the second-biggest cost in a
fiberglass-pool installation, reducing this cost is
Color, cut and creativity
The evolution away from plain, white fiberglass has been gradual,
but the movement appears to have taken hold.
It began approximately five years ago, Gill says, around the
time Australia-based Leisure Pools hit the U.S. market with color
varieties and finishes that revolutionized the category in
Before then, he recalls, few stateside manufacturers offered much
in way of color.
“The homeowners are driving this change,” Gill says.
“They are discovering the benefits of fiberglass plus the
attraction of color. With the development of color, fiberglass
pools emerged from their slumber by homeowners demanding an
alternative to the traditional white pools.”
Today, customers can choose from a virtual crayon-box worth of
colors thanks to manufacturers who mix pigment in with their
Juan offers more than a dozen custom colors to go along with
more than 60 molds. Leisure Pools USA has introduced the term
“color theory” into its company lexicon. Viking Pools,
LLC, and Trilogy also offer their own patented finishes.
The result is a product that is more exciting and appealing to
consumers — and the future style of fiberglass, experts say,
seems constrained only by a designer’s imagination.
“I think there have been three or four leading
manufacturers who have excelled at thinking outside the box,”
says Scott Pearce, owner and president of Blue Water
Luxury Pools & Design Co. in Bettendorf, Iowa.
“Fifteen years ago, you’d see the identical mold from
one manufacturer to another.”
Besides common templates such as the kidney, Roman-style and
rectangle, manufacturers now are experimenting with their own
designs, producing vessels that can be called free-form expressions
“The trend for us is a pool that has a natural shape with
few of the abrupt lines that defined the one-piece pool since its
inception,” says John Anderson, owner of Anderson
Concrete & Pools in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “In other
words, shapes that cannot be distinguished from the gunite pools
that have been the icon of the industry.”
It’s been a similar course for contours beneath the
pool’s surface. Manufacturers are incorporating built-in
benches and seating into fiberglass installations, taking a comfort
cue from, among other sources, inground hot tubs.
“The leading manufacturers are offering more pool models
to choose from, more features and colors that compete directly with
other types of pools,” says Roger Erdelac, president of
Blue Hawaiian Fiberglass Pools in Largo, Fla.
“All that is increasing demand for fiberglass
Point, click and research
Consumers are privy to more facts and figures on fiberglass pools
than ever before. One main reason: the Internet.
“Twenty years ago, potential customers didn’t have
computers to look at, so they didn’t have anything to look at
as far as pools go,” Holmes says. “Customers now have
access to so much more information and products than they did
Second- and third-time pool buyers account for a significant
percentage of these Web-savvy consumers, according to the experts.
Many previously owned gunite and vinyl versions, and are turning to
fiberglass for easier care and greater durability.
“More than 60 percent of our sales are to homeowners who
are installing a new pool for the second or third time,” Gill
says. “‘We just want a fiberglass pool — it makes
so much sense’ is a statement we hear all the
And customers are discovering that fiberglass pools can look
every bit as refined as gunite. For instance, some of the latest
finishes resemble pebbles, minus the mottling that can be
problematic in gunite pools.
Plus, fiberglass has become easier to work with. Now designers
are able to integrate waterfeatures, such as spillovers and
fountains. Vertical surfaces at the tile line simplify tile
installation. And stone coping completes a durable, colorful
product that frequently opens much faster than a gunite or
“We try to look at what the customer’s vision is,
and figure out which product works best,” Pearce says.
“If we can give them waterfeatures, we’ll try to
accommodate that. It takes the pool to the next level
(financially), but clients who are willing to do that are seeing
great return on the value of their homes.”
Despite the long-held belief that concrete is king, fiberglass
pools are making steady inroads as a cost-effective, versatile and
visually striking alternative.
“Composite fiberglass pools are here to stay,” says
Jay Tucker, owner of Swim World Pools in Gallatin, Tenn. “If
you are not installing them now, you may want to take a closer
Fiberglass on the rise
The future of fiberglass pools, according to several experts, will
hinge on the integration of nontraditional features such as beach
entries, colored lighting, varied depths and innovative design.
“As dealers’ and homeowners’ creativeness
grows with the materials used, the possibilities are
endless,” Tucker says.
More builders are using custom tile lines, with even a few made
of natural pebble. In-floor cleaning systems also are primed to
become more popular, along with fiberglass molds that include
seating — especially in smaller pools made for lounging.
A fiberglass configuration that previously seemed far-fetched
— the negative edge — recently has entered the
marketplace. Though it requires precise site conditions and an
optimal setting, the negative-edge installation sits atop many
dealers’ wish lists. (For more information, go to Spilling
“The negative edge and gutter systems are unique
advancements that I would like to see some more of with fiberglass
pool manufacturing,” Tucker says.
Indeed, manufacturers are currently devising ways to combine
shells for larger applications and multiple bodies of water.
“What hurt the popularity of fiberglass many years ago was
that they didn’t have many options to offer,” Pools of
Fun’s Holmes says. “Now look at it.”