By Ron Privrasky Jr.
Movable fibreglass bulkheads stand out as the centrepiece in a swimming pool facility. Typically 1.2-m (4-ft) wide, bulkheads span the pool’s width like a bridge and link various activities, from lap swimming at the far end of the pool to water polo or classes when placed in the middle. Pools with bulkheads draw more revenue, as they are used more often and allow for a variety of uses. They also form an attractive element at the surface, carrying lane markings up to targets, timing pads, starting platforms and polo nets. Swimmers and staff can walk out onto the bulkhead to conduct competitions and lifeguards can patrol the very centre of the pool. Fibreglass bulkheads give aquatic facilities versatility, while saving capital costs and contributing to operational profit.
Many common materials were used during the development of pool bulkheads after the Second World War. Wood, metal, concrete, even 208-L (55-gal) drums and chain link fencing were tried.
Eventually, fibreglass became the preferred choice for professionals who wanted corrosion-resistant, lightweight movability, with strength for safety and a competitive edge in racing times.
The fibreglass boat and auto body manufacturing business led to the development of the fibreglass pool, filter and bulkhead industries. Most bulkheads made today are constructed of fibreglass. Aluminum has nearly been abandoned; even high-quality stainless steel (type 316L grade) still proves to corrode and rust at its welds, eventually needing replacement.
When manufacturing bulkheads out of fibreglass, a curing process is used, as opposed to a stamped product. The manufacturing process must take place under exacting and controlled conditions. The inherent strength of a solid cure is much more beneficial to that of the added strength of metal or hardware.
Bulkheads using a double-box monolithic design not only provides high performance for many years, but true one-piece construction means no weak points where failure can occur. This design method also provides one of the industry’s highest live load and safety factor for bearing weight at the centre. This allows more people on the bulkhead with minimal deflection and over applied weight without failure.