Updated: Mar 12
Which Type is Better?
There has been a lot of talks recently about Hand Laid Fiberglass Pools being the best of the fiberglass world. Some manufacturers that use this process go so far as to say a hand-laid fiberglass pool is similar to a finely tailored suit and a Chopped Fiberglass Pool is like a suit you find at a discount store. However, it's just not that cut and dry. The entire process of manufacturing fiberglass pools cant be broken down into Hand Laid VS Chopped. While there are many facets to manufacturing a fiberglass pool today we will focus on Hand Laid Fiberglass and Chopped Fiberglas. In actuality, there are instances where the application of one or both products may be the best scenario for a specific pool model and or different areas of a pool during production. Both types can have their pros and cons, however, if used correctly, both can lead to a quality pool. Let's jump into the differences between Hand Laid Fiberglass and Chopped Fiberglass.
WHAT IS HAND-LAID FIBERGLASS?
What is hand-laid fiberglass? Well, it's basically what it says. It is fiberglass applied to a pool in large sheets of preformed fiberglass, then its sprayed with fiberglass resin and rolled out. In some cases, this is done in several layers to build up the entire bulk of the pool.
WHY WOULD A FIBERGLASS POOL MANUFACTURER USE THE HAND-LAID METHOD?
Ease of Application: One reason Fiberglass Pool Manufacturers may choose to use Hand Laid Fiberglass for a pool would be that it is easy to apply and requires o lower skill level to master. Hand Laid Fiberglass comes in large sheets that are applied to the mold and sprayed with fiberglass resin and then rolled out to remove excess resin and to remove air pockets. It is the least technical of all types of fiberglass to install on a pool.
Lower Production Cost: This allows manufacturers to use lower-skilled laborers that cost less to employ, in turn, keeping pool shell manufacturing costs down. It also requires less specialized equipment to install. Hand Laid Fiberglass applications don't require expensive chop guns, feed systems, and maintenance to keep those tools operating.
Disadvantages of Hand Laid Fiberglass Pools: Hand Laid Fiberglass leads to a pool that is much more flexible than its counterpart. While flexibility is an ideal reason to choose a fiberglass pool over vinyl or gunite, too much flexibility in a fiberglass pool can be bad. A fiberglass pool needs to be flexible yet stiff enough to retain its shape and withstand being shipped across the country. An overly flexible pool is also more challenging to install as well. Pool Pros knows this first hand. as we have installed a fair amount of hand-laid fiberglass pools. An overly flexible pool may also lead to hairline cracks in the gel coat as well. If a pool flexes beyond the ability of the gel coat its a recipe for potential spider cracking. This isn't the end of the world though, as they can be repaired with relative ease depending on the type of gel coat.
INSTALLATION PROCESS: Pool Pros has installed hand-laid fiberglass pools in the past and it took a bit more work to install the pools. We found this to be the case on free-form pools that we installed. Especially on the longer-length pools. The long sides of those pools tended to want to sag out and away from the inside of the pool due to the increased flexibility of hand-laid fiberglass. This was remedied with the use of up to 20 bottle jacks and timbers on some pools. The pools have held up very well but there is a bit of a learning curve when installing a pool that is manufactured of hand-laid fiberglass. As you can see in the photo above we needed to use quite a few bottle jacks and timbers to keep this hand-laid fiberglass pool from flexing out during the installation. Which isn't bad but it wasn't ideal for us.
So generally speaking in my opinion hand laid pools are lower cost to manufacture due to the reduced need for complicated or expensive tools, equipment, and skilled laborers to manufacture the pools. They are also very flexible and may be at a higher risk for potential gel coat spider cracking from the increased flexibility.
WHAT IS A CHOPPED FIBERGLASS POOL?
A chopped fiberglass pool is a fiberglass pool that is manufactured using a specialized gun that shoots chopped fiberglass and resin onto the pool mold to build up the bulk of the pool?
WHY WOULD A FIBERGLASS POOL MANUFACTURER USE CHOPPED FIBERGLASS?
Chopped fiberglass pools strike the perfect balance between flexibility and strength. Fiberglass pools need to be flexible and yet rigid enough to be transported and handled multiple times prior to being installed.
A chopped fiberglass pool is more rigid than a hand-laid fiberglass pool which in theory leads to less potential of spider cracking of the gel coat due to possible over-flexing.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
Chopped Fiberglass Pools are generally easier and more efficient to install. Since a chopped fiberglass pool is more rigid it does not require bottle jacks and timbers to hold the pool into its correct shape. This saves hours in the field and hundreds in costs of timbers and bottle jacks.
DISADVANTAGES OF CHOPPED FIBERGLASS POOLS
- Chopped Fiberglass Pool Manufacturing requires an experienced chop gun operator to create consistently uniformly thick pools. This adds to higher production costs.
- Chopped Fiberglass Pools also require the use of expensive chop guns and the routine maintenance needed to keep them running in condition.
- Higher Production Cost. Having higher skilled chop gun technicians costs more than what it does to create a hand-laid fiberglass pool. Expensive equipment (chop gun) adds to the cost of produced goods.
- If a pool is made with only chopped fiberglass it can result in structural concerns down the road. Most manufacturers use a blend of chopped fiberglass and woven roven or large sheets of woven fiberglass in strategic areas that require more strength like steps, radiuses, etc. So a 100% chopped fiberglass pool is not a great thing either.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Both Hand -Laid Fiberglass and Chopped Fiberglass can create a quality pool on their own. We are big fans of a combined approach of using chop and hand-laid woven roven to truly create a better fiberglass pool. Both sides of this heated debate will say theirs is the best and it's a matter of personal opinion and in my humble opinion a pool using a combination of chopped fiberglass & woven roven will strike the perfect balance of flexibility and strength. These pools require an experienced technician and engineer to create. While this type of pool will have an increased cost the finished product in my opinion is superior to a "hand-laid fiberglass pool". This is part of the reason we chose to sell River Pools Fiberglass Pools. Check out the video below for more details on their manufacturing process. Clearly, I am biased since the pools we sell are manufactured using this process. However, I have sold and installed both types and prefer the manufacturing methods used by our current fiberglass pool vendor. So please take my experience and bias into consideration when researching your new fiberglass pool. Next up we will discuss the types of resins used in manufacturing fiberglass pools.