With summer coming up and more people than ever spending time in their backyards, a backyard swimming pool starts to look very appealing. But doing some research into pools might start to make you question the wisdom of such a choice—maintenance, repairs, and the investment can be big expenses. How do you decide if it’s worth it or not?
We’ve compiled some of the most important information you need to know to help you decide if a home swimming pool is right for you. We’ll cover types of pools, costs, pros and cons, and questions you should ask yourself and your swimming pool contractor before you decide to buy.
Should I Get a Home Swimming Pool?
“Should I get a home swimming pool” is a complicated question. A swimming pool is a large investment with ongoing costs, but it’s also a source of great family memories, an excellent source of exercise, and even potentially an increase on your home’s value.
Like any investment, you should do some research into pool ownership before you take the dive. Look into common complaints and positive stories. There are plenty of both—many people love their pools and many people loathe them. Having all this information in hand can help you make a better decision.
So what should you know before booking your swimming pool contractor?
Types of Home Swimming Pools
If you’re looking for a place to swim at home, you have options that vary in cost, size, portability, and use. Considering each style will help you make a better decision and help prevent the dreaded swimming pool buyer’s remorse.
An above-ground pool with a deck built around it.
Above Ground Pools
Above ground pools are one of the most flexible options for backyard swimming pools. As their name suggests, these are the kinds of pools that sit on top of the ground, ranging from very small in size to several feet deep. Many above ground pools can be installed by owners, though having a professional installation can add an additional warranty to your pools’ lifespan.
These pools come in several materials, with the most popular being vinyl, fiberglass, resin, aluminum, and steel. Vinyl and steel are generally the most affordable, with resin and aluminum tending to cost more. They’re also available in many sizes, which has an impact on cost.
Above ground pools can also be integrated into decks and other backyard features. Though this does add to the labor cost, it can also make these pools feel more luxurious and appealing to homeowners.
Modern above ground pools can have lots of features like lighting and heating. However, their lifespan tends to be shorter, and they are generally not considered as attractive as an inground pool. If you’re looking for something long-term and luxurious, an inground pool may be a better option.
When you think of a backyard swimming pool, the image that most likely comes to mind is that of an inground pool. Not only are they great for swimming, but they also create a central hang-out spot in the backyard. Inground pools have a connotation of family togetherness, backyard barbecues, and fond memories, making them an attractive option for home renovations.
But—and there is a large “but” when it comes to home swimming pools—they can be costly. Swimming pools aren’t a one-and-done project; they require frequent upkeep and occasional repairs, and sometimes have a reputation for being infrequently used despite the investment.
Of course, that doesn’t have to be true for you. While the upkeep and potential for repairs are inescapable, that’s true of any large home renovation. How much you use the pool is up to you; though many people may make the purchase on a whim and therefore not use it as much as planned, you can do research and make a wise decision about whether or not an inground pool is right for you.
Concrete, vinyl, and fiberglass are the three most popular options for inground swimming pool materials. Vinyl-lined pools cost the least up-front, but require a replacement liner roughly every 10 years. Fiberglass tends to be the easiest to maintain, lasting over 25 years in most cases and requiring less constant upkeep. Concrete is the most expensive, but can last up to 100 years with proper upkeep, making it a good long-term investment.
Inground pools are also easier to customize. If you have a grand vision for your pool incorporating custom features like waterfalls, a hot tub, and so on, a custom inground pool is likely a better option than an above ground pool, though the cost will be higher.
How Much Do Home Swimming Pools Cost?
Cost is one of the biggest concerns people have about installing a home swimming pool. And they can be quite expensive between materials and labor, not to mention ongoing expenses.
Prices vary depending on size, materials, and location. It’s hard to estimate how much a swimming pool will cost without all of that specific information, so take any online calculator with a grain of salt.
For above ground pools, costs can be as low as the cost of the pool itself (typically ranging from under $100 to upwards of $4,500, depending on size and materials) to somewhere between $700 and $5,000, according to Home Advisor.
Inground pools are definitely more of an immediate investment, costing between $36,000 and $67,000 on average according to Home Advisor. Additional features—waterfalls, decks, hot tubs, and so on—incur additional costs.
Both above ground and inground pools require some maintenance. Standing water can allow insect reproduction, algae growth, and other issues, which requires regular agitation and/or chemical treatment to address. Natural wear and tear or environmental damage requires repairs, whether that’s a simple patch or a total overhaul.
Owners of above-ground pools can handle much of the maintenance—skimming, pump cleaning, and so on—themselves. However, maintenance can still cost around $100 for chemicals and other equipment.
Inground pools run a bit more expensive, particularly if they are heated. Depending on the material used to build the pool, you may be looking at an additional $40 – $350 per month, with fiberglass generally having the lowest upkeep cost and concrete or gunite having the highest.
When shopping for home swimming pools, get a few quotes and compare models and reviews. Don’t accept the lowest quote just to save money—you may end up paying for it in the long term with frequent repairs or other problems. Do your homework and check out a contractor’s past work, previous clients, and so on to be sure that you’re getting quality service.
Pros and Cons of Home Swimming Pools
Once you have a realistic idea of what a swimming pool is going to cost you, it’s easier to start weighing the pros and cons since you’re not basing your plan on a dream rather than reality. Don’t feel like pros and cons are firm “yes” or “no”s on whether you should get a home pool or not; they’re just guidelines, and the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks if you really want one.
Home Swimming Pool Pros
One of the biggest benefits of a home swimming pool is the potential for exercise, swimming, and family time. You don’t have to lug all your towels and picnic supplies to a beach that you’ll have to share with other people—you can have that fun at home, instead!
Having a home pool can also add to your enjoyment of your home. If you plan on staying in your home long-term, a pool adds an additional thing to love about your living space.
Backyard swimming pools are also great for entertaining guests. If you have a home pool, expect your home to become the center for family and friend gatherings; even if not every party is a pool party, people are going to want to hang out at your house.
Swimming pools may also increase your home’s value, but keep in mind that not all buyers will want to purchase a home with additional maintenance requirements. While your home may go up in value, it may be more difficult to find a buyer depending on a variety of factors, such as how common pools are in your region and the overall cost of your home. Keep that in mind if you are planning on adding a pool but may want to sell your home in the near future.
Home Swimming Pool Cons
Pool ownership is not without its cons. One of the most prominent is the cost—not only will a home pool cost you a good chunk of money to install, but it will also require regular upkeep. Repairs can be both unpredictable and expensive as well, meaning there is some element of risk in owning a pool.
Some people feel swimming pool buyer’s remorse—they pay a lot of money and then find they don’t really use the pool, making it feel like a wasted expense. That’s why it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time thinking about the decision and doing lots of research before making the investment; taking that extra time eliminates some of the impulse, which lets you evaluate whether a swimming pool is something you want or something you just want right now.
An often overlooked con of swimming pools is the potential for safety issues. Though they can be great for family gatherings, a pool without fences is also a drowning hazard. If you have young children, it’s wise to not only fence the backyard, but also the pool itself. Insurance companies know this as well—having a swimming pool may drive up your homeowner’s insurance costs, but those costs can be mitigated in some cases by installing a gate and fence.
Lastly, home swimming pools don’t have a guaranteed return on their investment. Pools are often a symbol of home luxury, but they also come with all the cons outlined above. Some potential home buyers are not interested in the added costs or safety hazards, and may therefore pass on any homes that have swimming pools. That said, in places where pools are particularly common—California and other warm climates, for example—not having a backyard pool may work against you when it comes to selling your home, and for people that do want a backyard pool, it may increase your home’s value in their eyes.
In short, the decision to install a home pool should be based on a full understanding of the risks, costs, and potential benefits (or lack thereof) of home value—not just a whim during a heatwave.
So—Should I Get a Home Swimming Pool?
Now you’re armed with information about swimming pools, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. How do you decide, knowing the risks and benefits, whether a home swimming pool is right for you? And if you do decide to go ahead, how do you make sure that you’re getting the right pool from the right swimming pool contractor?
Ask questions. Ask lots of questions. Here are a few to get you started!
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you’re trying to decide whether a home swimming pool is a good choice for you, ask yourself a few questions to help you make a sound decision.
Am I Ready for a Long-Term Commitment?
Home pools—above ground or inground—are expensive enough that if you want to get your money’s worth, you’ll need to use them in the long-term, not just for a weekend or single get-together. That means not only the initial investment, which may run you tens of thousands of dollars, but also the monthly maintenance. While you can conceivably drain your pool and put it away if it’s above ground, or simply drain it and fill it in if it’s inground, that’s additional time, cost, and labor you may want to spend. If you don’t see yourself using it frequently, it may be better to rent out a public pool for an afternoon than to have it installed.
How Often Will I Use the Pool?
Having a pool can be great. But if you prefer to spend your time indoors and you don’t like swimming or having pool parties, it may not be a great investment. If you have the money to burn on a swimming pool as a status symbol but you don’t actually plan to use it, go for it! But if you’re not a big swimmer or party host, the long-term maintenance likely will make pool ownership feel like more of a burden than a blessing.
Do I Plan on Selling My Home Soon?
Pools may or may not be a good investment if you plan on selling your home soon. It depends on many factors—how popular pools are in your region, what the local climate is, and the actual specifics of the pool, such as size, style, and additional features. Pools can run up to tens of thousands of dollars, and Investopedia suggests that pools will only boost your home value by a maximum of 7%. If you plan on moving soon—within a year or two—you may have just dumped an average of $21,000 into your pool while increasing your home’s value by a mere $1,500, if you’re lucky. For this reason, you want to be sure that you’re really going to enjoy your use of the pool!
Questions to Ask Your Pool Contractor
Pools are a big investment. If they’re improperly installed, they can be an even bigger investment thanks to repairs. Not all pool contractors are the same, so do some research and ask a lot of questions to be sure you’re getting the best service you can.
Do These Contractors Have Pool Experience?
Installing an inground pool isn’t a layperson’s task. You want a contractor with experience, and it’s worth investigating their portfolio, reviews, and client lists to see whether the work they’ve done is any good. Even if they’re great at installing fireplaces, that doesn’t necessarily translate to being great at installing pools. Check for experience, ask for information, and you’re more likely to end up with a contractor who is going to do a great job.
What Work Does Your Contractor’s Contract Cover?
Installing a pool includes quite a few tasks—digging, installing concrete, liners, and so on. You should know exactly what tasks your contractor performs to avoid being surprised at any point in the process.
Does Your Contractor Offer Warranties?
There are lifespan averages for all kinds of pools, but accidents and mistakes happen. How will your contractor cover any issues that arise with your pool, and for how long? What types of things are covered? Warranties for pools do exist, so be sure you get all the information you can so if anything goes wrong, you’ll know what is and isn’t covered.
Installing a home swimming pool, whether above ground or inground, is a big decision. Do some research and really think about the commitment before signing any contracts or beginning the work, and you’re more likely to end up with a pool that suits your needs rather than an expensive investment you don’t use.