Understanding Gelcoat Surfaces in Fiberglass Pools

For many homeowners looking for a new swimming pool, a fiberglass pool option is among the top available options. Fiberglass is a great choice in part due to its limited maintenance needs, which are largely due to a special gelcoat resin that’s created through waving glass strands into a specific, hardened fabric.

At Packman’s Pools, we offer fiberglass as just one of our high-quality pool material options. What exactly is the gelcoat that will be used in our fiberglass swimming pools, and how does it compare to other similar pool surfaces?

gelcoat surfaces fiberglass pools

Gelcoat Basics

Gelcoat is a broad term used to describe a colored resin that’s used on fiberglass pools and other related surfaces. The gelcoat covers the shell of fiberglass that’s used for the primary material. Gelcoat on its own is actually a liquid, one that’s stored separately in drums until it’s needed for the fiberglass surface, at which time compressed air systems are used to spray it onto the surface for application.

Gelcoat Testing

To test gelcoat and confirm it has the proper qualities and is also safe and healthy, a boiling format is used. Water is boiled in a container, and a piece of fiberglass pool shell complete with gelcoat is placed on top of the water. The steam from the boiling water will then react with the gelcoat. Through this reaction, we can see how much the color of the gelcoat will fade, whether any blisters or other issues form as a result, and other basic responses to stress from the gelcoat surface.

Gelcoat Application

As we noted above, the primary method for applying a gelcoat to a fiberglass pool surface is using a compressed air spray gun. This air has to be kept clean and dry – to accomplish this, it’s first purified in a multi-step process.

Once the air is of the proper quality, the gelcoat will usually be applied in three basic passes. The goal is to create a gelcoat surface that’s about 25 to 30 millimeters thick, and precision is important here: A surface that’s too thick may crack easily, while a surface that’s too thin may not cure well and will be more susceptible to blisters.

Comparisons to Similar Pool Surfaces

Let’s compare gelcoat surfaces to a few related surfaces you’d find on other pool materials. One is concrete pool plaster:

  • Lifespan and maintenance needs: Both gelcoat and concrete plaster are very strong and durable, and you don’t have to worry about premature wear. Plaster requires a bit more maintenance than gelcoat due to possible algae presence, but this isn’t too much of a concern – you just need to steel brush it weekly or so, and acid wash it every few years.
  • Feel: Gelcoat is known for its smooth texture at all points, but also has anti-slip technology that keeps it safe in the pool. Concrete plaster, on the other hand, is very rough and may require some care if small children regularly use it.

Another common pool material is vinyl liner:

  • Lifespan and maintenance: Vinyl liners need to be replaced at least once a decade, and sometimes more often, due to basic wear-and-tear – as we noted, this doesn’t really happen with gelcoat surfaces, which never need to be refinished. Vinyl liners need less maintenance than concrete, but still may have small algae issues in their corners.
  • Feel: Both fiberglass and vinyl surfaces are very smooth and comfortable to walk on.

For more on the gelcoat surface of your fiberglass pool, or to learn about any of our custom swimming pool construction options, speak to the staff at Packman’s Pools.