The Ugly Truths Regarding Gunite or Concrete Pools

There is no doubt that any kind of inground or above ground pool can have its own unique share of issues.  Fiberglass pools are somewhat limited to what the manufacturer offers for sizes, shapes, and depths.  Vinyl liner pools are as well limited for the same reasons PLUS liners require replacing every few years and are subject to punctures by tree limbs, sharp edged toys and pets, or wild life being in the pool.  Gunite or concrete pools definitely have more issues that can occur so please take a moment to make sure that you fully understand the ramifications of the problem list to follow before deciding on which type of swimming pool works best for you.

1. MAINTENANCE:  Positively, absolutely, without a doubt, a gunite and concrete pools require more chemicals and maintenance than any other type of inground pool.  Why?  Since the pool surface is rough, porous, plus has an alkaline bleed from the gunite and plaster for years after the pool is constructed, this equation adds up to an abnormal amount of extra chemicals and maintenance.  Further, if you do not properly keep these chemicals imbalances in check, you should expect the surface roughness to get even worse, watch the plaster start pitting, and eventually see the pool develop black algae and prolific staining.  Lastly, expect to spend a lot of your extra time brushing the pool surface.

2. MONTHS TO INSTALL:  That’s right, I said months.  The average construction time for a gunite or concrete pool is typically 8-10 weeks.  We all have heard about neighbors and friends that waited forever to get their pool finished.  Even under the best circumstances, rain, failed inspections, and workmanship issues you  bring to the pool builder’s attention, can add weeks to the pool’s completion.  I would recommend that you obtain a written start and completion date prior to building a gunite or concrete pool.  This agreement should include concessions for inclement weather of course.

3. AN UNCOMFORTABLE SURFACE: Just try swimming for hours or trying to play volleyball in your bare feet in a concrete or gunite pool.  You probably already have tried this at some time.  Your feet will be chewed up, red, and uncomfortable.  And wait until the pool is a little older; it will be even rougher and in a short amount of time (usually 4-5 years) you will spend $5,000 – $7,500 to resurface it.(If it is a typical backyard pool)

4. RESURFACING: Most people that purchase gunite or concrete pools never take into consideration at the point of sale that the pool will require resurfacing every 4-6 years and to set aside $5,000 – $7,500 for the resurfacing job that will definitely be needed.  Few people grasp that the “Lifetime Structural Warranty” does not include the pool surface. In fact, many major pool companies will not warrant a pool surface at all.

5. SALT SYSTEMS SPEED UP THE POOL SURFACE PROBLEMS: Correct, you read this right the first time.  Many gunite or concrete pool builders no longer will install the most popular option installed on pools, the saltwater generator.  Some tests have been performed that seem to prove that the pool surfaces erode when exposed to the saltwater.  Guess that makes sense when you consider that salt regularly damages concrete driveways and streets up north.

6. TYPICALLY ALL WORK IS SUBCONTRACTED:  In 90% of new gunite or concrete pools constructed around the country, the entire pool building process is subcontracted.  This means in a nutshell that you as the buyer are not involved in the selection process of all the various tradesmen involved in constructing the pool of your dreams.  You don’t know if the A team or the F team of tradesmen are working at your house.  You have to rely completely on the pool builder you chose to pick out the right troops to build the pool properly. In some cases that may be a huge leap of faith.

So let’s sum things up.  Please know that I am not trying to say that concrete or gunite pools are passé.  I am saying that they are more expensive to own than any other type of inground pool.  So consider all the facts, investigate as much as possible, and make the most educated choice of which type of pool you wish to swim in and take care of it.

“Diligence is the Mother of good luck”.  Benjamin Franklin

Any questions or thoughts you wish to share, please reply below.

56 Responses to “The Ugly Truths Regarding Gunite or Concrete Pools”

  1. Mollie says:

    Our gunite pool was built last year by a National pool builder. There were constant delays and of course a barrel full of excuses as to why our dream pool was to take almost 5 monthes to complete. I am sorry we did not investigate fiberglass pools. If we had we would not have lost the whole summer plus an extra couple of monthes while dealing with those clowns.

    I recomend that pool buyers should look seriously at owning a fiberglass pool if you wish to maintain your sanity. Weeks sounds better than monthes don’t you think??

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks for joining us! Sorry to hear about your gunite pool construction experience. You are correct that fiberglass pools take only weeks to complete wth a little cooperation form the weather. Those weeks do sound much better than your 5 month gunite pool experience. As far as getting a fiberglass pool, there is always next time……

  2. Donovan says:

    5 months to build a gunite pool? Are you kidding? My friend in Friendswood went thru a 9 month nightmare!! The pool company, ****** Pools was as slow as Christmas, come to think of it, Christmas has not arrived as yet! The folks are still waiting on some items that they had on their contract but have yet to receive. My brother in law had a pool built by American Pools back in the spring. You guys only took 3 weeks from the excavation to the 1st pool party.

    Now we are ready for our new pool too. Give us a call at 281-***-**** so that you can get our pool started.
    Thanks!

    Donovan G.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks for joining us! Almost everytime we visit with a prospective pool buyer, they tell us horror stories about people they know that went thru a marathon construction project with a gunite pool. Seems like taking a long time to build a gunite pool is the norm rather than the exception. We will be starting your new beautiful, affordable, VERY LOW maintenance American Fiberglass Pool by the 1st of March or once the permits are all in house. Happy swimming soon.

  3. Scot C. says:

    Our pool building business at one time built only gunite pools. We started building f/g pools in 2005 and now that is all we will build for our residential customers.
    The construction process is much faster and easier than gunite. Our customers love us since we finish our f/g pools so fast.
    All the other negatives about gunite pools you listed above are so true. We do still renovate gunite pools, it is a very lucretive business since every gunite pool requires major repair work in 5 years or so.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Glad you joined us and glad you saw the light and joined the ranks of gunite pool companies switching to fiberglass pools. We appreciate your words of wisdom and wish you continued success with fiberglass pools.

  4. Pam says:

    AMEN to the extra maintenance involved with gunite pools.We have owned a fiberglass pool & a gunite pool. The fiberglass pool was very easy to take care of & involved more brushing thatn vacuuming 90% of the time, maybe 5-10 minutes total a week. The gunite pool was a real bear to take care of. Lots of brushing, vacuuming, & constantly tweeking the pool water chemistry.Now that I have read this blog, I know that the pool water chemistry was effected by the actual gunite shell & the plaster. My estimate of the time required to take care of the gunite pool is at least 2 hours a week.

  5. What's in a name says:

    A fiberglass pool is the only way to go.

  6. Naomi says:

    If time of the pool being built is important to you [I assure you that once it begins it will be] than you want a fiberglass pool. If spending more time swimming and less time cleaning the pool is important, than you want a fiberglass pool.

    We have owned both gunite and fiberglass pools. We know the differences first hand.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks for sharing your own experience as a fiberglass and gunite pool owner. Everyone should heed your advice!

  7. Lee G. says:

    Oue good friends just finished 7 monthes of **** waiting for the gunite pool they bought to be completed. We do not want to join that club with them.

    We want a fiberglass pool like your model Pecos. Please contact us as soon as you can for a site visit. Our phone number is 361*******.

    Thank you, Lee

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Hello Lee. 7 months is a lifetime to wait to swim after the gunite pool was started. I hope your friends still have their sanity. As you already know, you are on the schedule for an early March construction date. Happy swimming soon.

  8. R Sarandon says:

    You will regret owning a concrete pool the first time that you get a black algae infestation.
    $856 in chemicals to kill the crap along with 13hrs. of wire brushing.
    Sound like fun? Especially since the pool was only 2YEARS OLD!!!!!!
    Make sure you ask the salesman if the pool they are selling you resist black algae. We did and he said our pool would never get it.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Consider yourself lucky that all you spent was $856 to get rid oif that black algae in your gunite pool. I have heard of so many folks that have spent much more and even have the nasty stuff return in short order.

  9. B. G. Garrego says:

    We don’t have a pool. We swim all the time in our neighbors American Pool that was installed 4 years ago. I remember well how the pool was finished in no time, 2 weeks at the most. If they ever move, we will contact yuo so that you can impress us again.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks for the kind thoughts! We are glad you are having a great time in your neighbor’s beautiful, affordable, VERY LOW maintenance American Fiberglass Pool.

  10. T. Baird says:

    Research the past of the pool companys you interview. Often times they were in business previously in other out of state locations.Seems that the reputation in that previous state of the company and the owner are quite less than sterling more often than not.
    Everyone should buy only from local community owned companys that have been HERE for 10 or more years. Don’t get sucked into that cheaper price trap.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Fantastic advice! All these “carpet bagger” pool guys are flooding the market place. It truly requires some due diligence to avoid their bag of tricks!

  11. Frank Miller says:

    How can some of these gunite pool contractors get away with taking so long to construct their pools?Sure seems that some govermental entity should be on top of this to protect all us consumers out here.
    We live in Dallas,TX.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Unfortunately there is no controlling legal authority in a lot of states regarding pool companies.

  12. Chad Willows says:

    I cannot understand why some buyers do not investigate either the contactor, the company, or try to look at all the options out there.
    Sure seems tome that there are better materials to build pools out of than concrete.
    Fiberglass pools make nothing but sense.

  13. Yancy says:

    Pool buyers have told me forever that they are not in a hurry to get their pools built & for me to take my time. Why is it then that 99% of them freak out When the men & excavation equipment arrive & start putting pressure on me to get finished?
    Gunite pools are going to take lots more time to construct than a fiberglass pool. I rarely have complaints about timing when finishing a fiberglass poll in 2-3 weeks. Bad weather is always a holdup in any type construction but most fiberglass pool buyers know that you are on the downhill slope once the pool shell is in the ground. When a gunite shell is completed, those Buyers know you are not 1/2 finished with the pool project.
    I have more customer issues with gunite pools I build. Wish I could build only fiberglass pools cause the job goes smoother & wraps up so much quicker.

    Yance

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Good thoughts that you are sharing wtih all of us. I wish you only the best with your fiberglass pool biz!

  14. S. Hines says:

    We agree with Yancy, since fg pools are usually biult so quickly, people rarely have beefs with the completion rate of the job.

  15. Ethan says:

    Our concrete pool took 5 1/2 months to complete. I have seen much more elaborate pools built for others finished in 3-4 months. Seems like there were weeks at times between the crews showing up.
    The salesman just shrugged his shoulders when we complained about losing the whole summer’s swimming season.
    So much for a little sympathy………

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Hate to repeat myself but I hear about people like you almost everyday. Now that your gunite builder finally finished up, we trust that your swim season in 2013 will be a good one!

  16. B. Martin says:

    I think that as time goes by,over the next 20 years or so, you will find that almost all gunite pools built wil be commercial pools. The residential pool market will belong to fiberglass pools.
    Why you ask? I believe that people will tire of all the extra chemicals and maintenance required to be a gunite pool owner.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks B. It is already that way in Europe, the Caribbean, and Australia. The USA never lags behind anyone very long.

  17. Franklin Himmler says:

    Keep reading all over the place that I am supposed to get 5-7 yrs. of life out of the plaster on my gunite pool. I am a chemical engineer by proffession yet my 9yr. old pool has already required 3 plasterings. My water chemistry has been monitered correctly since I had the pool constructed in 2003. I take the pool water sample to a pool store monthly and also take it to my office lab to confirm the pool store results. Always the same results, balanced as recomended.
    My pool builder has been NO help. He says some plasterings seem to last longer than others.
    What a rotten deal for me. I fall into the “other” catagory and my plaster jobs cost me $7800 a hit.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      What is happening to you is a lot more common than you know. Plaster is truly the weak link in a concrete / gunite pool.

  18. Ben Freeman says:

    I have owned 7 pools in my life. 5 gunite, 2 fibre glass. I believe that I qualify as a pool care expert.

    The fibre glass pools we a dream to take care of. The gunite pools overall were real bears, period.

  19. Valinda says:

    We have also had several pools thru the years. None of the problems you stated about gunite pools are news to us.We experienced them all several times.

    Our friends in Houston purchased a fiberglass pool 8 years ago and have had nothing but positive things to say about their pool.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thanks for joining us. I strongly suspect that your friends with the 8 year old fiberglass pool have one of ours!

  20. Barton says:

    You are correct that concrete pools require lots of subs.
    As a pool buyer we have no selection as for the subs.
    Frankly, the subs can ignore you since they answer only to the pool builder.
    I ask the subs on my pool last year to clean up after themselves, they let me know that they worked for ******** Pools , not myself and to call the pool builder’s office if I had anything to say. The pool builder insisted that I stop harassing his crews. All I wanted is for them to pick up soda cans and the like.

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Barton, welcome to the world of sub-contractors. Little or no accoutability from them.

  21. Troy E says:

    I am closing on a home in the west Houston area next week. I really want a pool and have researched several pool companies and have read a lot of information. From what I can tell, I think going with a fiberglass pool is the best option. However, I have read a few things saying that Houston’s ground/land is not conducive to fiberglass pools and that they may pop out or shift. Is this accurate? Thanks! Hopefully you will be hearing from me soon! :-)

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Hi Troy. We have exchanged emails and I look forward to meeting you within the next few days. I trust by then you will have time to check out the cracked concrete driveways, streets, and sidewalks within the subdivisions near you. Happy swimming soon.

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  25. Mike Harris says:

    Hi Wayne:

    Not to be critical, but you really did not answer Troy E’s question. I really like the idea of a fiberglass pool; but, I too am concerned about expansive soils in the Houston area. Have you, in your 40+years of experience ever had a fiberglass pool shift or lift from the its installed position? What type of warranty is offered against this type of issue, if any?

    Thanks
    Mike H

    • R. Wayne Stringer says:

      Thank you for joining us! We have over 12,000 American Fiberglass Pools within 120 miles of Houston. I can honestly say that once a pool is completely installed, we have NEVER had a pool shift from its installed position. I think the superior flexural strength of the American Fiberglass Pool is the reason we can say this. On the other hand, I can tell you I have seen so many gunite pools have problems from cracking to floating in our expansive soil conditions. PLease take a look at our blog recently posted “Do Gunite Pools Float….You Bet”!

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