Backyard Swimming Pools

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Are you ready to take the plunge?

A backyard swimming pool can be a homeowner's greatest luxury. Whether you want a place to entertain friends or family, a gathering spot for your kids to enjoy, a private place where you can swim anytime of the day or night, or you just want to beautify your backyard, consider installing a pool either now or sometime in the near future.

In-ground pools are increasingly popular. The U.S. National Spa and Pool Institute, a trade organization in Virginia, reports that pool construction in the U.S. has increased annually by 5 to 6 percent since 1998.

The cost to install a pool averages about $20,000 at the low end and can easily top $50,000 depending on shape and pool materials. Other costs can quickly drive the total price above $80,000, and include such amenities as landscaping, surrounding deck, tile work, accessories, and filters, heaters, lighting, and pumps.

Because the investment can be so significant, explore your financing options ahead of time. Some builders offer credit terms, but you should certainly explore a range of choices including tapping a home equity line of credit. Interest on such loans may be tax deductible. Further, you may be able to claim your pool as a tax deduction if a doctor recommends swimming or another form of water therapy for a medical condition such as arthritis.

Image removed.Photo courtesy of Blue Pacific Pools

Look Around
If you are seriously considering putting a pool in your backyard, your very first step should be to look at a half dozen other backyard pool sites in your town or city. Talk to friends (or friends of friends) who have gone through the experience of installing a pool. Local people are the best source for contractor referrals, ideas on what works and doesn't work, and for real information about what things actually cost. Once you find a contractor that you like, get references and visit at least three pools that he has built.

Image removed.Photo courtesy of Antlers at Vail

Things to Consider
In-ground pools can be built with different liners such as vinyl, fiberglass and concrete. Vinyl is the most commonly used material and is almost always the choice for homes in colder climates. Fiberglass liners—composed of reinforced plastic—look like giant bathtubs. Concrete is popular for custom-shaped pools since it is adaptable to any size or shape. Concrete and fiberglass definitely have longer life spans than vinyl liners.

Weather conditions and seasonal temperatures can affect when your pool can be installed and how long it might take to complete. But in any season, be prepared for a huge mess in your backyard and a lot of workmen on your property. "Earth disturbance can be surprising and scary, as a major construction job will look like a war zone before it is finished," says Tom Griffiths, author of The Swimming Pool (Simon & Schuster). Remember that installing a pool is major construction and requires permits and inspections by city officials.

Image removed.Photo courtesy of Blue Pacific Pools

To Infinity and Beyond
Gone are the days when pools came in a few basic shapes such as rectangular or kidney. Today, almost any shape is possible from elongated lap pools to vanishing edge pool (a.k.a. infinity pool) where the water seems to tumble off the edge of the earth. In fact, most pools are modified to meet the needs of the homeowner to include amenities such as a kid's pool, Jacuzzi, or a counter-current machine for exercise. All you really need to design your own pool is a spark of creativity and a contractor with engineering savvy.

The same holds true for lighting your pool. It used to be that an underwater light mounted in the pool wall passed for custom lighting. Today, all kinds of low-voltage lights and fiber-optic cables are reinventing the way pools are illuminated and used to highlight waterfalls, pathways, trees, statues, ponds, sitting areas and more. Landscaping around the pool and surrounding areas is also an important element in your whole backyard design, so you might want to consult a landscape architect in the early planning stages for help with such elements as curved walkways, surrounding shrubs and flower beds.

Image removed. Photo courtesy of Pool Supplies for Less

All swimming pools require a certain amount of maintenance to keep the water clean and chemically balanced. Standard equipment on pools now includes automatic cleaners and chlorinators; maintaining it yourself is an option, though it will likely require learning a bit of chemistry and storing some toxic chemicals at your home. Many homeowners opt for a pool service to keep their pools sparkling clean; add this to the cost of heating your pool as you budget what the true cost of ownership is likely to be.

Image removed. Know your Warranties
Make sure that your warranty covers not only the pool but also all ancillary systems like filtration, plumbing, heating and lighting.

For more information click on swimming pools 101, a comprehensive Web site featuring information to help you make informed decisions while searching for pools and related products. Not affiliated with any manufacturer or supplier, the site includes many helpful articles from various newspapers and magazines.

Image removed. Will a Pool Increase the Value of my House?
In terms of investing in your home, most real estate professionals say that adding a pool will not add significant value to your house, however recouping 50% of the original cost upon selling is not uncommon. Still, whether or not to install a pool is more than just a financial decision.

Image removed.Photo courtesy of Blue Pacific Pools

A pool is an investment in enjoyment for your family and friends. Pools can provide pleasure, relaxation and a reason to invite friends over. Over time, these can all outweigh resale value. For some, the greatest pleasure will come from floating on a tube on a summer afternoon and being able to shout, "Everybody into the pool!"

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