Sun Fiberglass Products has two manufacturing plants: one in Kentucky and one in Florida. At one time, a lot of the pools that rolled off the line from the Brookfield, Fla., facility stayed close to home.
Things have certainly changed. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, sales of fiberglass pools in the state of Florida dropped by 95 percent, according to company president and founder Curt Prystupa.
"That's from a lack of financing, the erosion in the real estate market and the unemployment and economic woes here," he says.
Adding to the problem for fiberglass in particular is the low cost of installing gunite pools there. He cites an example: "Somebody in Nashville looking to put in a poured-in-place concrete pool is looking at $50,000, on average. Come down to Florida and that exact same pool is going to cost $20,000 or $25,000."
Fiberglass pools can't compete with that, he says, with one notable exception.
"The concrete builders are starting to inquire more about fiberglass because they realize when you do a concrete pool, you have a certain minimum size that you have to build, given the way labor is structured in that industry.
"You pay for what they call a layout, dig and steel. Then they have a flat rate to shoot the shell. So they really can't build a small pool for any less money. They are kind of stuck at a 12-by-24 breakeven point.
"These builders see fiberglass as an attractive alternative. 'Hey, I can get this job done quickly and I can use my own crew!'
"So now they're looking at the bottom line at the end of the day and they're realizing the gap between what it would cost to do a gunite vs. a fiberglass pool is closed. At least on a smaller pool."
Barrett Kilmer, has been on the editorial staff of AQUA magazine since 2000. He has a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and currently lives in Madison, Wisc.