Anyone have experience installing an in-ground pool?
June 26, 2010 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience installing an in-ground pool? Any stories you could share?

It looks like my husband and I will have to leave the city I love and move to the suburbs (we're in the Northeast). We made a deal that if we had to move out of the city, we would buy a house with a pool. After plenty of househunting, we found two homes we think could work for us. One has a pool but is at the high end of our budget and needs a lot of work. The other is priced 100k lower, needs some work but not as much, but has no pool (plenty of land for one though, and no major trees to cut down). I am leaning toward getting the lower-priced house and installing our own pool - but what does that really entail? Is the construction process grueling? Are there hidden costs or hassles we should know in advance? Fiberglass vs. vinyl liner vs. concrete?

thanks in advance
posted by Mchelly to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Well, for one thing there may be zoning issues.

You likely will have to enclose the pool with a fence.

You probably have to connect the pool's drain to the town's sewer system.

posted by dfriedman at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2010

We have owned several pools, two of which we built. Here are a number of issues you might want to consider. First and foremost, pool construction is the province of some of the most unskilled and shady people I have ever met. So, if you can, before you entertain the notion of building a pool, ask all of the new neighbors you can find who have pools, who they would recommend to build it. Then check out any "finalists" with the local building department and the Better Business Bureau. When you get to the point of signing a contract, consider an escrow account with an inspection service or your bank with mutually agreeable benchmarks for the release of funds. Do not give a deposit of more than 5% of the job before work starts and always stay well ahead of the job before releasing money. This gives the contractor an incentive to keep coming back to get the job done. I would hold the last 10% payment until the pool is completed, running, holding water and accepted by the appropriate permitting agencies. Any contractor unwilling to accommodate this is either too small to do the job or possibly not reliable when it comes to finishing the job.

The first physical issues you need to consider are soil type and condition. Is the soil clay and likely expansive? This may introduce design requirements that will affect the construction cost and the ability of the pool to resist ground heaving and movement. Is there a lot of rock visible at or near the surface of the ground on the property? This could affect the cost of digging the pool. Have a clear understanding of how any rock will be dealt with and what the potential cost of jackhammering or blasting of rock might be. What are most of the pools in the neighborhood made from? If they are predominantly gunite or concrete, go with that. Vinyl? Must be a reason. Likewise with fibreglass. Learn from what has succeeded in the area.

Do you plan to put lights and/or music in the garden around the pool area? Consider having the electrician who runs the pool wiring run wiring for these issues while he is there. It will be more economical now than it will be later.

Be sure the location you choose for the pool drains away from the house for obvious reasons. At the same time, be sure that it is close enough to an entrance to the house that people will want to run into the house to use the bathroom and, on chilly nights people will not be too cold going from the pool to the house. Consider having an entrance from the pool area lead into a room with a hard-surface floor and direct access to a shower/changing room. You and your guests will appreciate their being able to shower off and change without dripping all over the house.

There is a lot more. but this is enough for now.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:53 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

As I am in Australia, I can't speak to specific details for your area, but I can give you a few pointers:

1) Any quote that you do get will almost certainly not be final. There will always be a clause which states that if, when excavating, they hit "rock" the cost will be higher. They have no way of estimating how much higher it will be, so it is kind of open. In my case I was lucky, no rock! But be aware that will most likely be in the contract. I would ask them about it before I signed.

2) It helps if you have a plan of the sewer/water lines for your block. Not sure where you would get this. We already had one (as the house was only about 2 years old when we bought it, and it was included in the documents). This means that when excavating they know where *not* to dig, and even how deep to dig.

3) If you have buried phone or power lines, check these out too. It should be pretty obvious where they are.

4) Local laws here in Australia mean that you must have a pool fence. Your local laws may differ, but I would really urge you to install one. It's just for your peace of mind. It's not just your own kids (you may not even have any) but also the neighbours' kids that you have to worry about!

5) I got concrete. It is more expensive than fibreglass from the point of view of labor to install. It will last longer than fibreglass though. It is also more expensive since you need to line it with something. I chose pebblecrete (which was the cheaper option) although you can choose tiles. A full tile lining of your pool will add maybe $3K or more to the final cost.

6) You also need to think about landscaping "around" the pool. Included in our contract was a line of brick pavers cemented around, which was about 2 feet in width. But that was it! We needed to hire a landscaping contractor who finished lining around the pool with concrete pavers.

7) Finally, consider this - a pool is a lot of ongoing work. It needs to be vacuumed regularly, you need to get the water tested at least once a week in the season, there are dangerous chemicals to handle (chlorine, acid). And you can really only swim in it about 4 months of the year. Of course you can get a pool guy which means that you cut down on the labour, but then it is an even bigger regular expense. Oh and then what happens when you need a new chlorinator? Mine failed last year, and I was able to get it repaired, but it cost $1k!!

Hope all this helps.
posted by humpy at 8:12 PM on June 26, 2010

Just an aside: a salt-water pool is less expensive to maintain (though I think it might be more to install initially?) than a chlorine-water pool and you have the added benefit of not having to use nasty chemicals.
posted by cooker girl at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2010

+1 on "shady people" I had a pool built 15 years ago, and the job was committed to be a 21 day job, and it was -- we had contractors on site actually doing the work for 21 days across the course of 4.5 months.

I suggest reading up and asking questions at the Garden Web pool section, and on the Pool Forum. I learned a lot from those two sites that I wish I'd have known in 1995 when I had it built.
posted by nonliteral at 8:48 PM on June 26, 2010

Hey cooker girl I don't know much about saltwater chlorinators but I'm guessing you still need acid for those as your water will still have to have a balanced pH. I actually use a Nature2 system in my pool, which means that I still have to have chlorine but not nearly as much.

To the OP - yes, pool chemicals are complicated!!
posted by humpy at 12:06 AM on June 27, 2010

Before you jump in, maybe you could get your feet wet on an above ground pool (AGP) for a few years. Less cost up front but all the maintenance issues. You might have fewer zoning problems too.

If you want the pool for exercise purposes, how about an endless spa aka infinity pool? They have a smaller footprint and I know several folks who've either built theirs in an enclosure (or enclosed them later) for year round use.
posted by jaimystery at 4:57 AM on June 27, 2010

My mom put a pool in when I was a teenager. To begin with it took 3 months longer than the original estimate and yes, there were all sorts of hidden costs before it was finished.

Don't underestimate the ongoing maintenance cost. Besides the chemicals, depending on where you live the water itself can be costly. There is also the electricity bill for the running the pump/filter. My mom's pool has the older type of filtration system and those filters have to be replaced periodically which is a couple of hundred dollars. Also depending on the type of finish you have and the acidity of the water, you need to periodically (maybe once every 7 years) drain and refinish the pool. And then there is the added rider to your house insurance.

Yes, you will need to make your pool secure. Depending on local laws, you may need a locked gate as well as a pool fence. My mother also ended up building an outdoor toilet because she got tired of wet swimmers trekking through the living room.

Finally, you may find adding a pool decreases the number of prospective buyers when you resell your house.

My mom put her pool in over 30 years ago and she hardly ever uses it. Thousands of dollars every year go in to maintaining it and it looks great but after we kids moved out, I'll bet it gets swum in less than 20 days of the year. I would say write down the cost of building + maintenance for 10 years and divide that by your estimate of how many hours you would use it and I think you will be shocked. You might choose to travel to Europe every year instead.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:59 AM on June 27, 2010

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