Planning for a Pool

Constructing or installing a pool may seem overwhelming with so many options and decisions. Here are the issues to consider to help you make the best choice for you and your family. A pool is a major investment, in many ways. You'll need to invest cash, of course, but also time, energy, and yard space. In this portion of the Pool and Spa Guide, we'll look at the key questions that you'll need to answer before you make these investments.

Things to Consider

  • How much pool can I afford?
  • Is my yard suited to a pool?
  • What zoning restrictions do I face?
  • Who should install my pool and how long will it take?
  • What should I know about safety and insurance?

In-Ground Pools

Design and construction costs make in-ground pools more expensive to build.

In-ground pools with minimal patio surrounding and basic fencing start around $20,000.

More elaborate designs will run between $40,000 to $100,000+. Choice of pool design and building materials, patio materials, landscaping, lighting and extra features such as spas or fountains determine the cost.

Ongoing Expenditures

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

Opening and Closing A Pool
Hiring a professional to open and close your pool each season will run approximately $150-$300. Cleaning and storing your pool cover is usually additional.

The largest maintenance expense is a pool's interior finish. Vinyl liners last approximately 5-7 years, painted concrete needs a new coat approximately every five years; a plaster finish may last 10-15 years. Many of the new cement-coated products such as Pebble Tec are meant to last a lifetime.

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

While utility bills do increase during a pool's open season, experts disagree on how to manage the increase.


Pool size is primarily a personal choice. Some prefer to eliminate grass entirely and fill the space with pool and patio while others want to include yard 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 handled on a local level and typically covers such issues as fencing and barriers, pool depth requirements for diving boards, set-backs and proximity to utility lines. Other issues may also be covered.

Choosing a Contractor

  • Get referrals from friends and neighbors.
  • Talk to at least three builders.
  • Determine number of years in business under present name and ownership.
  • Ensure contractor is bonded and insured. Get proof.
  • Visit their work firsthand and talk with the homeowners about their experience with this contractor.
  • Talk with suppliers about the contractor's status.
  • Do they subcontract work or use their own staff?
  • Do they have design experience? Do they offer design services?
  • It is not customary to pay the full amount up front.
  • Get lien waivers for all work completed.

Construction Times

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


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 may wander near the pool.

Many specialty safety products are available on the market, including water alarms, high-tech laser technologies, safety covers and personal safety accessories like life jackets and pool floats.


Insurance coverage for swimming pools is part of homeowners 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.


Besides determining the best fit for your yard's dimensions consider your yard's slope, soil type and accessibility for construction equipment.

Pools are easier to build or install when a yard is level, however, new technology makes it possible to install a pool in virtually any yard.

Severe conditions such as steeply sloping lots, rocky soil and limited access require special construction and installation considerations and typcially add to the overall cost and duration of the project.