June 23, 2014
Think before dipping into the pool market
Type, cost and maintenance just a few factors to consider before taking the plunge
Source: Beth Behrendt, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Summer is here! And it is getting hot.
You have a house full of kids who’ve been in front of the Xbox way too long. You blew $85 taking them all to a movie yesterday. You can’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a pool?”
No driving them anywhere, no entry fees, no snack-bar money, no giant bags of pool stuff to load in the car – just shout: “Get your suits on, kids! Pool time!”
Then pour yourself a cool drink, pull up a deck chair and relax while the kids wear themselves out jumping off the diving board and playing Marco Polo.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, getting to that poolside nirvana requires some big decisions, no small amount of planning, and, needless to say, money.
Before you jump into installing a pool, here are questions to ask yourself and facts to consider, based on information from local pool installers, pool manufacturers and pool industry associations.
What type of pool do you want?
First – above-ground or in-ground?
Above-ground pools have certain advantages. Though shapes and sizes are limited, they are much cheaper to build and are easier to winterize than in-ground pools. They can cost as little as $400.
But experts suggest that one that costs you less than $2,500 could suffer from quality issues like mismatched pump and filter equipment, problems maintaining water quality, and flimsy accessories.
When you shop around, ask about what comes with the pool and about its life expectancy – including how long you can expect to use it without any problems arising. Remember to account for landscaping, decking and ongoing maintenance in your budget, along with some of the hidden costs outlined below.
One important factor: They have little impact on your home’s resale because they can be relatively easily removed by the new owner.
The commitment to an in-ground pool is more complicated.
The two most popular types of in-ground pools in this area are concrete or vinyl liner.
Concrete pools can be formed to virtually any size or shape. It typically takes longer to install a concrete pool – around 12 weeks, depending on the weather.
After the space is excavated, the concrete is applied to an insulated, reinforced wall frame. Once the concrete has cured, the interior of the pool can be plastered smooth, painted, finished with a textured aggregate surface or tiled.
Concrete is a very durable type of pool – many concrete pools still in use today are well over 50 years old – but the interior will likely need to be refinished at some point.
Vinyl pools are made from a preformed flexible liner that fits into the excavated hole and attaches to a reinforced wall frame. Vinyl pools come in a wide variety of rectangular, L and free-form shapes. Vinyl liners also come in hundreds of patterns and colors.
Pool toys, pets and sharp objects can puncture the liner, but repairs are typically quick and inexpensive. Construction time for a vinyl-lined pool is generally three weeks, depending on weather. Eventually the liner will need to be replaced.
John Denny, owner of Tredway Pools Plus in Fort Wayne, says they install 35 to 38 pools each year in the area. This number has held pretty steady in the 15 years that he has owned the business.
Denny estimates that, including the work of other local pool contractors, 60-80 new pools are installed each year around Allen County. Denny says Tredway also offers fiberglass pools but vinyl pools are significantly more popular with customers because “with vinyl we can build pretty much any size, and many are fairly large – we can build more pool for the price.”
Who will install your pool?
As you choose your pool contractor, Rod Robrock, owner of the local firm Hakes and Robrock Design-Build, suggests you ask for things including references, the cost of mechanical work and completion date.
He also advises homeowners to find out specifically who will be their main contact during construction and, after completion, who to contact in case of an emergency, “like when the pool water has turned green right before your Labor Day party.”
Local homeowner Jill Schlabach, who is overseeing the installation of a pool at her family’s home in southwest Fort Wayne, suggests visiting a few of the contractor’s completed pool projects.
“We chose our contractor after talking with a few of the pool companies in town, and also we have seen this contractor’s work, and they do a great job,” Schlabach said.
How much do you want to spend?
Costs can vary widely for an in-ground pool depending on the type of pool, the size and shape, and the circulation and heating systems.
Generally speaking, concrete pools are the more expensive, starting around $40,000. A vinyl pool runs closer to $25,000. However, a vinyl pool with all the options could come in at a similar price to a bare-bones concrete pool.
Be aware of ‘hidden’ costs
The true cost of a pool installation can sometimes run to twice the cost of the pool itself. There’s much more to an in-ground pool than a hole filled with water. You are not likely to need all of the following, but keep them in mind as you formulate your budget.
Robrock says the cost of landscaping after the pool is completed is one of the main things that homeowners don’t give enough thought to before the pool process begins.
Depending on how much landscaping you do – and how much you hire out or do yourself – landscaping costs can vary widely.
Landscaping could be as basic as spending a few hundred dollars to reseed the grass around the construction area. However, Denny of Tredway Pools says homeowners often underestimate the amount of access that the contractor will need to their yard.
It’s not a job “that can be done with just a wheelbarrow going back and forth through the gate in your fence,” he said. “Dump trucks and cement mixers will need to get back there.” That could lead to a lot of grass reseeding.
You may need to budget into the tens of thousands of dollars if you are looking at a complete backyard makeover. You will need to consider the cost of bushes and trees for privacy screening, outdoor lighting and electrical outlets, an outdoor sound system, pathways, patios, decks, shade structures, fencing and maybe an equipment shed.
Don’t forget about additional outdoor furniture – maybe even an outdoor spa or hot tub?
Basic safety items such as a life preserver, a long-handled safety hook and a safety rope with floats will run you around $100.
For an extra level of protection, especially if you have young children or grandchildren, consider mounting alarms on all house doors and gates leading to the pool and installing a power safety cover over the pool.
Automatic safety covers start at around $5,000. But it will save you the cost of putting up a fence – in Fort Wayne, a pool with an automatic locked cover is sufficient to meet safety codes.
Expect your utility bills to go up at least a couple of hundred dollars a month when the pool is open.
Water levels need to be maintained; gas and electricity power the heating; filtration systems and lighting will be on.
Accessories for a pool include water test kits, pool chemicals and components to clean your pool (or a robot vacuum to do it for you). Pool chemicals for a season can run from $300 to up to $1,000 depending on the size of your pool.
Remember that you probably will want pool toys and nonbreakable glasses and dishes.
And, as Robrock tells all of his clients, “Don’t forget the cost of buying additional towels, swimsuits, and food and beverages for the increased number of friends and family that suddenly just drop by!”
Don’t forget about maintenance
Outdoor pools don’t take care of themselves.
You can hire someone to do it for you, which is of course more costly than doing it yourself.
Even if you decide to maintain your pool yourself, there are ongoing expenses and time commitments to consider: cleaning the pool and regularly monitoring the water’s chemical balance, purchasing chemicals and servicing the systems (filtration, heater, pool cover and other electrical).
In this part of the country, there is the regular additional cost of “opening” the pool in the spring and “closing” it in the fall.
Denny says Tredway staff spend at least 21/2 hours on a maintenance education session with the homeowner at the end of every pool installation. That time investment and education will save the pool owner money in the long run.
A well-maintained pool will prevent any expensive problems from developing.
Don’t expect to get your money back
What about a pool’s effect on a home’s resale value?
Dave McDaniel, business development manager for RE/MAX Results in northeast Indiana, suggests that installing a pool purely for your family’s enjoyment is great, but don’t do it because you think you will regain the cost when you sell your home.
Unless the buyer is specifically looking for a home with a pool, McDaniel says three things about a pool send up red flags to a new buyer: not knowing how to take care of it, uncertainty of ongoing maintenance costs, and concerns about safety issues and liability.
Realtors generally consider a home with an in-ground pool to be harder to sell.
In 2013, McDaniel said Allen County homes in the $150,000 to $250,000 range with a pool took an average of 17 days longer to sell than homes without a pool. The homes with pools generated an average of only $2,782 more on the sale price.
Still considering it?
For the homeowners who make the jump, putting in a pool comes down to a quality-of-life choice rather than a financial decision.
The health benefits of swimming or other in-water exercising are numerous, but most pool owners cite socializing and relaxing with family and friends as the main plus. Once the pool is in, it’s a fun and easy way to bring people together all summer long.
“We decided to put in a pool because we are a family that likes to be outside,” Schlabach says.
“Our kids are a great age to enjoy it, and it will provide a lot of great family time.”
After all the decision-making, planning and check writing, that idyllic day really will come: you relaxing poolside with a tall, cool drink, just watching the kids wear themselves out.
Sources: Tredway Pools Plus, www.tredwaypools.com; Fort Wayne Pools, http://fortwaynepools.com; National Swimming Pool Foundation, www.nspf.org; and Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, https://apsp.org.
Local pool installation companies
* Backyard Pools by Design, 6021 Goshen Road, 489-7895 or www.backyardpoolfun.com
* Nierman Brothers Pools and Spas, 4003-C Fourier Drive, 490-2080 or www.niermanpoolandspa.com
* Olympia Pools and Spas, 801 Coliseum Blvd. W., 482-7665 or http://olympiapoolsandspas.com
* Tredway Pools Plus, 8301 Lima Road, 489-5596 or www.tredwaypools.com