Why Fiberglass is Growing

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In the last decade, fiberglass pools have seen their share of the market steadily increase as homeowners across the country have come to appreciate the unique benefits of having a shell made of this smooth, low-maintenance material. AQUA decided to dig a little deeper into the phenomenon with two fiberglass industry veterans from Latham Pools: Tom Straub, senior vice president of sales and marketing, and Mike Fox, product director for fiberglass pools.

What’s driving the increasing popularity of fiberglass pools?

Tom Straub: I think the growth is driven both by the builders and the consumers. From the builders’ perspective, the fiberglass pool is something that’s easier to brand and market effectively. You can use digital media or local advertising, billboards, home shows, every different medium you can think of to market fiberglass pools, which is somewhat different from other products in the marketplace.

For other pool products, companies have to primarily market their company name because they’re building something in the backyard from scratch. But if a consumer goes online and types in, say, “swimming pools Charlotte NC,” what they’re likely to find is the first several pages will have a lot of fiberglass pool companies, and there will be a smattering of package pool/vinyl liner companies or gunite builders.

So when consumers begin to research pools online they find all the benefits of a fiberglass pool — its cleanliness, lower chemical usage, ease of maintenance, non-abrasive surface, warranties up to 35 years or even lifetime warranties, which is different from other pool products.

And when they look at return on investment, they consider that fiberglass is really a once and done product, and they like that.

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Mike Fox: It’s a finished product. So folks can come in with a picture from the manufacturer’s site and say, “This is the pool I want.”

How has the product been able to sustain that momentum?

MF: As more fiberglass pools have gone into the ground, and the installations have been good installations, the momentum has continued to grow because the pool business grows on referrals. The more pools you get into the ground installed correctly, the more referrals you get. I think that’s played a big role in the growth and momentum.

Another thing we’ve heard in a lot of markets from consumers: People are looking for advanced composites. It’s cool. It’s new technology. Folks are out there saying, “We know a lot of recreational products and products the government uses are made of advanced composites,” and that’s attractive to a lot of homeowners out there.

So consumers find assurance in the product?

MF: When we ask people why they like fiberglass, they may say many different things like, “Non-abrasive surface – I had a concrete pool and now I have this non-abrasive surface and it’s fantastic.” There are a lot of benefits that homeowners reference, but more than anything I’ve heard, folks like fiberglass because they can research it, it’s a modern composite and people want that modern, low-maintenance composite product.

TS: One thing consumers find reassuring about these products is that they are built to a specification. For example, we use an ICC certification. So that dictates the way we build the pool. It’s done in a controlled environment, it’s complete when it comes out, the tile can already be on it with the spectacular colors that the manufacturers offer — all those kinds of things instill confidence in the consumer. It’s kind of like an automobile — you can specify what you want on it.

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Why do you think vinyl and gunite builders are taking on fiberglass as well?

TS: One thing builders really like is ease of installation — the short amount of time it takes to put a fiberglass pool in the ground. Builders, once they learn how to do it well, can get in and out of the backyard quickly, which improves their cash flow.

It’s a very simple installation from a time standpoint, and their customers can be swimming in a few days. We live in a “everybody wants it now” kind of society.

And one of the things fiberglass pool manufacturers pay careful attention to is the trends in swimming pools. Things like tanning ledges, water features, benches, all of that is designed into a fiberglass model. And you can do add-ons with a pool, spa and tanning ledge combo. The packages that are sold to the builders reflect what consumers are looking for in a pool.

Sometimes a builder will come to us for the first time to buy product, and we’ll ask him, “Why did you suddenly decide to go into the fiberglass business?” And he’ll say, “I’m tired of telling people I don’t do fiberglass.” 

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