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Here's Everything You Should Consider When Planning for a Pool

A pool is a major investment. The construction or installation can be costly, and you'll also need to invest a sizeable amount of time, energy, and money into maintaining it. For the project to be successful, much planning is required, and you'll have many decisions to make along the way regarding the type and size of the pool, how to hire the best contractor, and more.

The first step in the process is deciding how much pool you can afford. Setting a realistic budget upfront will govern important decisions around the size, materials, and pool features. Is your yard suited for a pool? Certain conditions, including steep slopes, or an awkwardly shaped space, can make construction or installation more difficult and expensive. This guide will cover your key swimming pool planning considerations before embarking on this project.

Cost to Build a Pool

The total cost of building a pool will depend on several factors, including the size, design, and type of pool. Use the following figures as a rough estimate, and check with your local professionals for exact quotes.

Above-Ground Pool Cost

Because above-ground pools are installed rather than built, they're generally more economical than pools built in the ground. The most basic above-ground pools, which require no filtration equipment (also called splasher pools), will run as little as a few hundred dollars to $1,000 for more substantial models. Larger, more elaborate above-ground pools with filtration equipment generally cost between $1,000 to $8,000. Extras, like pool decking, landscaping, and accessories, will add to that cost.

In-Ground Pool Cost

Design and construction costs make in-ground pools more expensive to build. With minimal patio surrounding and basic fencing, these pools start around $20,000. More elaborate designs will run between $50,000 to over $100,000. Your choices of design and building materials, patio materials, landscaping, lighting, and extra features such as spas or fountains, will determine the cost.

Ongoing Swimming Pool Costs

The expenses associated with a pool continue after construction. Consider these ongoing costs before you build a pool.

Chemicals: The cost for pool chemicals averages between $50 and $100 per month, depending on your climate, pool size, and frequency of use. Chemicals for above-ground pools will cost about the same as those for in-ground pools similar in size.

Opening and Closing a Pool: Although this can be a DIY project, hiring a professional to open and close your pool each season will run approximately $100 to $350. Cleaning and storing your pool cover is usually an additional expense.

Maintenance: The largest maintenance expense is a pool's interior finish. Vinyl liners last approximately six to 10 years, and painted concrete needs a new coat approximately every five years. A plaster finish could last 10 to 15 years. Many of the newer cement-coated products, such as Pebble Tec, are meant to last a lifetime.

Equipment: Equipment lifespans vary tremendously by brand and quality. Other elements, such as proper water chemistry and the location of equipment, can affect the material's lifespan. Because pumps are made to push water rather than draw water, pumps placed at pool level often last longer than ones placed higher, which have to pump harder.

Utilities: Note that utility bills tend to increase during a pool's open season, due to the electricity needed to power the pump. Heated pools require even more energy.

Yard Conditions for Building a Pool

Once you've determined the best fit for your property's dimensions, consider the slope, soil type, and accessibility for construction equipment. Pools are generally easier to build or install when a yard is level. However, new technology makes it possible to install a pool virtually anywhere. Severe conditions, such as steeply sloping lots, rocky soil, and limited access, require special construction and installation considerations. These issues typically add to the overall cost and duration of the project.

Pool Size Considerations

Pool size is primarily a personal choice. Some prefer to eliminate a lawn entirely and fill the space with a pool and patio, while others want to include grassy areas in the new landscape. Be sure you and your contractor have the most up-to-date zoning and building restrictions for swimming pools and spas, and ask your contractor how the permit process is handled. Zoning is primarily managed on a local level and typically covers such issues as fencing and barriers, depth requirements for diving boards, set-backs, and proximity to utility lines. Other issues might also be covered, so check your local ordinances.

How to Choose a Contractor for a New Pool

A dependable contractor can make the process run much more smoothly. When searching for one, get referrals from friends and neighbors, and talk to at least three builders before making a decision. Gather the following information to help vet potential contractors:

  • Determine the number of years they've been in business under the present name and ownership.

  • Check that the contractor is bonded and insured. Get proof.

  • Visit their work firsthand and talk with the homeowners about their experiences with this contractor.

  • Talk with suppliers about the contractor's status.

  • Inquire whether they subcontract work or use their own staff.

  • Ask if they have design experience or offer design services.

You should also note that it's not customary to pay the full amount up front, so beware of contractors who require this. Be sure to get lien waivers for all work completed.

Pool Building Timeline

Anticipate a little dirt in your life during the construction of an in-ground pool. Your contractor can estimate a project's completion date, but remember, Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate. An in-ground pool takes anywhere from three to 12 weeks, depending on the complexity of the project. Above-ground pools can usually be installed in a matter of hours or a few days.

Pool Safety Considerations

Safety is a number one concern for pool and spa owners. Proper enclosures and supervision are a must at all times to ensure the safety of children, pets, and wildlife that might wander near the pool. Many specialty products are available for pool safety. For extra peace of mind, consider adding water alarms, high-tech laser technologies, safety covers, and personal safety accessories, like life jackets and pool floats.

Pool Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage for swimming pools is part of homeowner's insurance. Some insurance companies raise premiums for owning a swimming pool, and others do not. Speak with your insurance agent prior to purchasing or building your pool.


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