A home swimming pool can bring years of enjoyment; an in-ground pool can represent a permanent improvement to your property. But plan carefully before you build a swimming pool. Following is basic information about swimming pools and guidelines to help you with the important decisions you'll be making when you decide to buy a pool of your own.
Before buying, prospective pool owners should consider these questions: Why do you want a pool? What is it for?
The reasons for wanting a pool can be many: personal recreation, family recreation, exercise, physical therapy, entertaining, water safety instruction, etc. Once you have decided the "why," then you can decide what type of pool you want.
There are two basic types of swimming pools: above-ground pools and in-ground. In general, above-ground pools are less expensive to install because of the materials and construction methods involved. Usually a special, heavy-duty vinyl lining is laid over a supporting structure built of steel, aluminum, wood or other material. There is a wide range of pool sizes and models.
Some above-ground pools can be taken down and stored or moved to new locations. Maintenance is relatively simple and small cuts or tears in the vinyl can be repaired with inexpensive patching materials. Above-ground pools usually are available in round, oval or rectangular shapes. In many communities above-ground pools are not taxed as property improvements.
In-ground swimming pools can be built using vinyl liners reinforced below ground by a supporting framework. Other in-ground pools are constructed either of fiberglass, poured concrete, or concrete called gunite that is sprayed over a basket framework of steel reinforcing rods and wire mesh. A white plaster compound is then applied over the concrete or gunite for a smooth surface and can be painted.
Depending upon the space available, in-ground pools can take a variety of sizes and shapes: round, oval, kidney, free-form, etc. However, because of the installation costs for excavation, supplies and labor, in-ground pools are more expensive to build than above-ground pools. Unlike above-ground pools, in-ground pools usually are taxable as property improvements.
Swimming pools require certain basic equipment: a filter system to insure clean water, steps or ladders, and skimmers for surface cleaning are considered essential. Many pool owners install heating equipment and poolside decking of concrete or wood. Pool covers are often used to keep water clean and retain heat when the pool is not in use. If used properly, these covers can be a wise investment.
A wide range of accessories is available for pools including pool and outdoor lights, diving boards, slides and hand rails for steps. While some accessories, such as outdoor lights, can be added after construction, it is more economical to have fixed pool equipment installed at the time of construction.
Keep in mind that local laws usually require security fences. A self-closing gate with a latch accessible only to older children and adults is a wise safety precaution.
For filter and heating equipment most pool owners decide on some kind of housing structure to protect the machinery from weather. In some climates, pool builders may recommend screening in the pool area to keep out summer insects such as mosquitoes and flies. And you may want to consider landscaping the pool area both for wind protection and privacy as well as appearance.
Before building, pool buyers should talk to their insurance agent to find out about additional home-owner coverage for the new pool. Information about possible property tax assessment increases also should be obtained from local taxing authorities so you will know what to expect when property taxes are due.
Some swimming pools are considered a good property investment by many banks, and prospective buyers would do well to ask about financing arrangements. Many pool builders offer financing but it is wise to shop carefully because interest rates can vary.
Regardless of the pool requirements of your own family, keep in mind that you may one day want to sell your property, and a swimming pool suitable for all ages can be a favorable selling factor. Remember that very young children and many older persons are not able to use ladders to enter and leave a pool. Walk-out steps in the shallow end are helpful.
Many prospective pool owners turn to neighbors and friends who have swimming pools for information and recommendations about pool companies and builders. You should, of course, talk with more than one builder and inspect and compare swimming pools the builders have installed. You may want to contact home builders or architects for references to pool companies. You want to be sure, too, that your builder is properly licensed and can make any necessary site and soil evaluations of your property. The builder also should know about existing zoning, building and grading requirements. Be sure to ask the builder about any liability and compensation insurance he may carry to protect you in the event of an accident during construction of the pool.
Before you make a final decision, check with Better Business Bureau to learn of the reliability of the builders you are considering.
In warm climates, any time is a good time to build a pool. In colder climates it might be better to order your pool in late summer; the weather is best for construction and contractors are less busy. You'll then have a pool ready for the first warm day the next spring.
Once you have decided to build a swimming pool there is a natural desire to have it installed as soon as possible. This is often the point at which unwary buyers can get into hot water because dishonest salespersons and builders will be quick to take advantage of the situation. Keep in mind that the late spring and early summer months can bring these unscrupulous people into communities where home swimming pools are popular. Attractive advertisements can turn up, offering deals that seem too good to turn down. Here are some warning signs:
• Salespersons who tell you advertised pools they offer "on sale" are not worth having and then try to switch you to a more expensive model.
• Salespersons who use the ploy of offering a reduced price on the basis your pool will be used as a model.
• Salespersons who pressure you into signing a contract. Remember: no reputable builder and no authorized representative of a reputable builder will rush you into signing any agreement or contract at any time.
From your first planning meeting until your pool is completed there will be day-to-day decisions to make. When any questions arise be sure to discuss them with your contractor.
Local building regulations should be thoroughly reviewed and understood in advance. You should know what lot grading may be necessary and the height and cost of any required fencing. Utility lines (water and electric) may have to be installed or changed, and hook-up charges should be known before the start of construction.
Discuss any necessary or possible removal of shrubs or trees to allow equipment and supplies to be brought to the site and any possible damage to driveways, walks or lawns because of heavy equipment or supply storage. Your discussions should be frank and a clear understanding reached before work begins so that you know what repairs will be made and who will pay for them.
Finally, take time to be sure about all construction details as well as the size, shape and materials you want for your pool. Once work begins, changes could mean increased costs to you.
The contract you sign with your builder can be the most important step in building a swimming pool. It should provide specific information about the pool you are going to have built.
The National Swimming Pool Institute points out that every item of expense for materials and labor, including optional equipment, should be covered in the contract. You should have, in writing, the date the work will start and when work is to be completed, as well as the total cost and the financing arrangements. Make certain that all promises and representations made to you orally are included IN WRITING in your contract.
By working with a reliable contractor, you will know the terms and conditions of all warranties, who is responsible in the event repairs or replacements are needed, who will do the work, and who will pay for it.
There are several ways to help keep pool heating costs to a minimum while enjoying a comfortable water temperature. First, locate your pool in the sunniest part of the available property and, where possible, use existing structures such as a house or garage to help screen wind. A solidly built fence for the pool area will help shut off cooling winds, and a pool cover can help retain water temperature. Remember that over-hanging tree limbs can mean leaves and twigs in the pool, and grass planted too close to the pool can mean cuttings in the water. Keeping the pool clear of such debris can avoid filter clogs or damage and mean efficient use of the filtering system and less use of pool chemicals.
You may want to look into solar heating units for your pool. Various types are available and your builder should have information about them. A solar unit, used in conjunction with a back-up heating system, can save on operational costs. Keep in mind, however, that because of the initial cost of the solar unit, this savings may not be realized for several years, depending on the climate and geographic location of the pool.
Wise pool owners keep safety in mind when planning and using a swimming pool. Here are a few examples of good safety practices:
• Pool decks should be constructed or treated with slip-resistant materials and made "off limits" for running.
• Children should be supervised in the pool area and in the water at all times.
• Pool lifesaving equipment and a first aid kit should be kept at the pool.
• Glass and other materials that can break or shatter should not be permitted in or around the pool.
• Water depths should be clearly marked.
• Hand rails on ladders should be installed.
• Ask your builder for pool safety information and be sure to read it.
Your builder should supply you with a booklet that tells you how to keep pool water clean, how to use pool cleaning equipment and how to maintain the filter and heating equipment as well as the pool surfaces. If a problem arises, call a pool service specialist. Many builders have their own service staff; other companies specialize in service. They can advise you how to correct problems and maintain your pool with minimum effort.