Swimming pools are certainly expensive to install, maintain, and operate.
But what makes swimming pools so expensive?
Several factors contribute to the cost of installing and maintaining a swimming pool. These include the materials used in construction, the labor costs associated with installation, and the ongoing maintenance required to keep the pool clean and safe.
In addition, there are expenses related to operating a swimming pool. These expenses include the chemicals needed to sanitize the water, the electricity to power the pumps, filters, lights, and heaters, and the insurance premiums necessary to cover potential liability issues.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors, so you can become a more educated pool buyer – and maybe save a few grand in the process.
1. Materials Used in Construction
When building a swimming pool, you’ll need to decide what materials you will use to install it – the most common materials include concrete, steel, fiberglass, vinyl liner, tile, and sand.
Concrete is typically poured into a form and then allowed to dry and cure before installation. Pouring a custom concrete or gunite pool is very labor intensive and requires specialized equipment.
As such, it is much more expensive than purchasing a pre-made/pre-fabricated fiberglass pool.
Steel structures are usually either welded or bolted together to form the frame of the pool. In a concrete pool, the steel is often rebar embedded into the wall of the pool. For above-ground pools, steel support structures are frequently used.
Fiberglass is often used to line the inside of the pool walls. Usually, pre-made shells are used but if the shell will be custom-installed it can get very expensive due to the labor involved.
Vinyl liners are made of polyurethane plastic and are placed over the top of the fiberglass or concrete structure. These are typically not that expensive, normally $1,000-$3,000 for a replacement.
Tile is often used to decorate the floor, sides, and steps of the pool. Tile varies widely in price depending on the source of the stone.
Finally, sand is often used as an infill for in-ground pools and as a foundation for surrounding decking. If you need a lot of land grading, the cost of sand can surprise you.
2. Labor Costs Associated With Installation
Installing a swimming pool often requires skilled workers.
The installation process for most inground pools involves pouring concrete, welding metal frames together, laying down liners, placing tiles, and in-filling the ground with sand.
The labor costs associated with installing a swimming pool depending on the pool’s size and the number of people involved in the project.
For example, installing a small backyard pool may require two or three laborers for a week, whereas an Olympic-sized custom pool may require 10 or 12 for a month.
3. Maintenance Costs
Maintaining a swimming pool requires regular cleaning and upkeep. This includes keeping the pool free of algae, debris, and dirt.
It also means monitoring the pH level of the water and ensuring that the pool is properly chlorinated.
In addition, you’ll want to check the pump and filter regularly to ensure that it is working properly. If it isn’t, you’ll have to replace it.
4. Pool Safety
Swimming pools can be dangerous if they aren’t maintained correctly. Many accidents occur when homeowners fail to inspect their swimming pools for leaks and other hazards adequately.
For example, a leaky bottom drain could allow ground water or even raw sewage to enter the pool. A cracked liner could cause water to seep through the cracks and damage the pool’s structural integrity.
And, if your pool has been improperly chlorinated, it could lead to chemical burns.
5. Insurance Premiums
Insurance companies charge different rates depending on how dangerous your property is. Usually, they provide discounts for adding safety features to your pool.
Another issue that impacts insurance costs is whether you live in a flood plain or near natural hazards. Is your home prone to flooding? Is it located near a body of water? Has it ever flooded? Is your home prone to earthquakes? Does it sit on unstable soil?
All of these issues can drive your home insurance costs up after adding a pool.
6. Financing Options
You can finance the construction of a new swimming pool by taking out a loan from a bank.
However, this option will likely cost more money than buying a pre-built pool because banks typically offer higher interest rates on loans for expensive items like swimming pools.
You can also finance the construction of a swimming pool by using a credit card. Many credit cards offer zero-percent financing on certain purchases, including swimming pools.
However, most credit cards only provide funding up to $10,000-$20,000.
7. Cost Per Square Foot
A swimming pool is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your home. Because of this, it makes sense to buy the best possible pool for your budget.
To figure out what type of pool would work best for your needs, you can use a cost-per-square-foot calculator found on many pool installer sites. This is often how installers will prove an initial quote.
8. Size Matters
A swimming pool’s size affects its overall value. For instance, larger pools are more expensive than smaller ones.
However, large pools don’t always mean better quality. Some manufacturers produce cheap, low-quality products that look good but perform poorly.
When planning for a swimming pool, you need to think about the quality of materials used. Poorly made parts can break down quickly, which increases maintenance costs.
10. Safety Standards
Swimming pools must comply with safety standards established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These regulations ensure that your pool won’t danger children or pets.
11. Water Features
Swimming pools have built-in features such as spas, whirlpool tubs, and hot tubs. If you want to add additional features to your pool, you can do so without breaking the bank.
The design of your pool determines how many people can fit inside at once. It also influences the amount of time it takes to clean the pool.
Your swimming pool shape depends on several factors, including where you live and your preferences. For example, some homeowners prefer rectangular pools while others prefer circular ones.
Where you place your pool matters. Placing a pool in an area with high temperatures and humidity could cause it to crack or rust over time.
How to Save Money on Your Swimming Pools
Here are some tips on saving money on your swimming pools:
1. Buy a Pre-Built Pool
Pre-built pools are cheaper than building them yourself. They include all of the necessary components needed to build a pool, making it easy to install.
2. Build a DIY Swimming Pool
If you have experience working with concrete, wood, and other materials, you may build a swimming pool yourself. This will save you money compared to hiring professionals.
3. Use Wood Siding & Decking
Redwood decks are surprisingly strong and durable and stand up to pool water quite well. They are also also affordable, meaning you can afford to replace it if it gets damaged.
4. Install a Solar Pool Heater
Solar pool heaters and covers help keep your pool warm during cold nights and cold weather months by trapping heat in your pool overnight. Installing one will reduce energy bills and increase your savings.
5. Do You Really Need That Spa?
Adding a spa to your pool adds luxury and comfort to your backyard, but it can easily add 25% to the cost of your project. And how many times will you actually use it?
6. Consider Financing Options
Financing options are available through banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. Home equity loans are less expensive and the interest is tax-deductible.
If you can pay the pool off in less than a year, consider taking a couple of zero-interest credit cards to cover the cost.
7. DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Building a pool yourself is not a minor project for most. That said, installing a smaller above-ground pool is a pretty straightforward two-weekend project – so go for it if you have the tools and a little skill.
If you have to use a professional, make sure they have a LOT of experience building pools and have GREAT references.
Hiring a professional to build an inground pool can often cost less than doing it yourself. But you must hire someone who has experience installing pools and knows what they are doing.
8. Choose a Material That Fits Your Budget
You can choose between vinyl and fiberglass when building your pool to reduce the cost of an inground pool. Your design options will be more limited – but there is a lot more choice today.
Make sure you shop online if you want custom steps, et al. There’s probably a good shell that will meet your needs.
9. Buy From Quality Brands
A well-made pool can provide years of enjoyment. Investing in a good pool can pay off in the long run. Cheap Chinese knock-offs will not last nearly as long.
10. Don't Skimp on Maintenance
Regular maintenance helps extend the life of your pool. Maintaining your pool regularly will help it stay safe and free from leaks.
11. Make Sure Your Pool Is Safe for Kids
Don’t get sued because you didn’t take safety more seriously. Children need to learn about water safety before using a pool.
Teach kids not to get into the pool until they can swim properly. Always chaperone children when swimming, and make sure proper safety fencing is in place.
12. Keep The Water Clean
Keeping your pool clean and in-balance reduces bacteria’s chances in your pool and minimizes leaching and damage to the pool’s surfaces. If you don’t want to use as many chemicals, purchase a salt water system.
13. Avoid Leaks
Leaking pipes can lead to mold growth and damage your pool. Check your plumbing system and fix any problems as soon as possible.
14. Consider Adding a Pool House Or Dedicated Storage for Pool Equipment
Pool houses add convenience and value to your pool. They can be used for storage, lounges, and even sleeping quarters.
If your budget isn’t that high, at least invest in a quality storage bin or cabinet that won’t trap chemicals together with plastic pool cleaning equipment.
Q: How Do I Know When My Pool Needs Repairs?
A: The best way to tell whether your pool needs repairs is by checking its condition.
Look at the pool’s surface, check the pump, and make sure everything looks normal. If your pool level keeps dropping, you may have a leak in one of your water lines or in the pool’s lining.
Q: What Should I Do If I See Mold Growing In My Pool?
A: If you see signs of mold growing in your pool, you likely are suffering from very low chlorine levels. Shock the pool by adding chlorine, then brush the pool’s surface with a strong-bristled brush.
In some cases, what you are seeing is not mold but black algae. To remove black algae, you will need to use a special algaecide and a metal brush.
Q: Can I Save Money By Building My Own Pool?
A: Yes, you can build your own pool. However, it will take time and effort to complete the project.