In-ground pool: great fun or money drain?
Are you considering installing an in-ground pool? Before you dive into this house- and life-altering experience, there is much to consider so that you can be sure to enjoy your investment rather than regret a burdening financial decision.
A pool is a warm-weather oasis and unbeatable recreational experience for family and friends. It is also costly to build and maintain, in terms of both time and money. Before jumping in with both feet, think it through.
3 types of in-ground pools
First, look at the types of in-ground pools:
- Vinyl liner: Though the cheapest of your options, pools made with vinyl liners are losing their popularity. They don't have the aesthetic appeal of concrete or fiberglass, and they are subject to tears and punctures that require repair or liner replacement. Liners come in various colors and patterns, but like all types of pool surfaces, they can fade from sun and bleach. Another downside: size and shape options are limited.
- Fiberglass: Fiberglass pools are made off-site, trucked to your house and dropped by crane into an excavation. They cost a little more than a comparable vinyl pool. The old rap against fiberglass pools was that you were limited to just a few size-and-shape options: this is no longer the case. Major manufacturers, such as San Juan and Viking offer dozens of selections in various colors and shapes, some as long as 45 feet. Because of the smooth, impermeable coating of fiberglass, it is the easiest type to maintain. However, improper chemicals can bleach and erode the gel-coat surface. Resurfacing fiberglass is always a possibility, but it can be costly.
- Gunite: Gunite pools, the most expensive of the options, are traditional cement-and-plaster. Gunite pools can be built in any size and shape. Because of the porous surface, which can react when water is out of balance, gunite pools are maintenance-intensive. They can crack and leak, and they may need an expensive resurfacing after several years.
If you begin including some luxuries, be prepared to stretch your budget, or abandon it altogether. Adding a little waterfall coming off a rock ledge into the pool, possibly attached to a hot tub sounds like a good idea. Maybe you'd like a tanning ledge, or a retractable cover, or some specialty lighting? And, of course, what good is a pool without an outdoor kitchen/barbecue? Just keep in mind, it all adds up.
Costs for a backyard pool
Pricing pools is a little like bobbing for apples--hard to get your teeth around. You might put in a bare-bones, 12-foot-by-18-foot vinyl pool for around $15,000, maybe less. Fiberglass might be around $5,000 more. And there is almost no limit to the cost of a gunite pool: You can put in a simple one for $25,000 to $30,000, and you can easily splurge for $50,000 or more.
Many factors affect the cost, such as excavation, which can vary widely depending on the lay of the land and requirements of the pool. You may also need an electrician to bring a 220-volt circuit from your service panel to the pool area.
It is also wise to increase your liability insurance.
When you are floating in your inflatable chair with a cool beverage in hand, a pool is the most relaxing place in the world. Other times it is pure work, and somebody's got to do it--either you, your family or a pool service. Pools need regular vacuuming, water balancing and repairs.
Tending to any landscaping is important so that you are not flooding the pool with leaves; trees near pools often mean much more maintenance.
Additionally, chemicals and heating can run thousands of dollars per year, depending on your location.
Going ahead with your pool project
Now that you are aware of the scope of an in-ground pool and have decided to green light your plans, you should not go it alone. This is not a recommended do-it-yourself project. To get started, fill out the form on this page for contractors in your area who can guide you through your decision-making.