Koi Pond Construction – Upgrade To Concrete or Fiberglass

A recent comment on my website asked my opinion on making a liner koi pond a more permanent structure. That question started me thinking about the different materials and techniques available to upgrade a pond. I have a pond with about five years on the liner and it is a good possibility that it may have to be replaced eventually. That leads to a decision about what to replace it with. There are basically three choices in an upgrade. Replace the vinyl liner, or replace it with concrete or fiberglass.

Putting in another vinyl liner is by far the cheapest and the fastest. The downside is that the liner will not be permanent. Concrete or fiberglass is by far a more permanent solution but this type of upgrade is more suited to the DIY enthusiast.

Having worked in the construction industry for many years, I have had an opportunity to observe construction with the two most popular materials, concrete and fiberglass. There are advantages to both and some disadvantages as well.

Before you start an upgrade that significantly changes the construction of your pool, it might be a good idea to check with your local zoning board to get the current requirements for installing a pool. Hopefully, your in-ground pool was installed with all the required permits in place, but rules have a way of changing.

The cost of the upgrade is an important consideration. People who want to upgrade a liner pool need to decide how much money they want to spend on the project. It’s important to take some time to think through this project, since upgrading to concrete or fiberglass will be a permanent change and not easily undone.

Making a realistic budget will help determine the type of materials to be used in the construction of the pool upgrade. If you are changing the liner material, you will have the opportunity to make changes in the pool size, shape and design extras. After doing all the preparation you can to upgrade your pond, do not forget the final rule of thumb. Any project you start will take more time and money than you thought. Plan on it and you might avoid sticker shock.

Concrete can come as a dry mix called gunite, or pre-mixed (sometimes called shotcrete). The terms Gunite and Shotcrete are sometimes used interchangeably but there is a significant technical difference between the two. Gunite is a dry-mix process while shotcrete refers to the wet-mix process that most people are familiar with.

Both types of concrete can be sprayed on to make a seamless finish. The big difference between the two is that the gunite mixture has water added to it at the construction site by the nozzle operator while it is being sprayed while premixed concrete has the water added at the plant before it is delivered to the pool site.

Several considerations about concrete could be called disadvantages:

1. The concrete has to be sprayed in thickness of six to eight inches over steel rebar to get the structural strength needed for the pool. This increases the total cost and time to construct the pool and you might end up with a pool that is smaller than you start with.

2. Concrete is subject to cracking while it is curing. The only way around this is to keep the surface wet while it is curing. This puts an extra step in the process.

3. It is more difficult to make a non-porous surface that algae and other materials will not cling to. The surface may have to be polished or troweled until it is smooth to apply a finish coat of plaster.

Fiberglass is a plastic resin sprayed with what is called a chopper gun that also applies small fiberglass strands to add structural strength to the liner. The fiberglass surface is non-porous and a gel coat of any color can be applied.

The big advantage that fiberglass that there appears to be less prep work required. Fiberglass can be sprayed on the existing pool wall that is smooth and the cure time is much shorter. The finished liner will be on the order of one to two inches thick.

In my (non-expert) opinion, there is not much difference in the durability of concrete and fiberglass pools. Which one is better and how long either will last depends upon whom you are asking, so the choice comes down to one of price and availability of contractors to do the work. Both concrete and fiberglass require some expertise and experience to get it done right.

NO-ONE should have to go to a lot of trouble alone just to build or upgrade a simple koi pond. There are tons of information available online through forums and commercial websites. Just ask and you will receive, I have learned that anyone with a koi pond or aquarium is more than willing to talk about it.

The hard part of any change to your koi pond is making the decision. Do your research, make your budget and a plan and enjoy your new pond.

Source by Marshall Crum
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