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Swimming Pool Buyer's Guide Article


So you are ready to have a perfect backyard oasis. Fun in the sun with your family and friends. Sounds great, doesn't it? You bet it does. Well here is some information with useful advice on shopping for a pool, and information on the benefits of pool ownership.

A swimming pool is an engineering feat in many ways. Able to support the weight of hundreds of gallons of water while withstanding the onslaught of sun, chemicals, earthquakes and more, a swimming pool can be as difficult to design and build as any home -- perhaps more so.

Yet, if built properly, a pool can last for decades with little more than routine maintenance. The sturdy materials that make up the supporting structure, smooth surface and decorative finishes of tile (at the water line) and coping (the "lip" of the pool's edge) are rugged enough to keep standing long after the popular style in pool design changes.

But if a pool is poorly constructed, it can be a headache of repeated repairs and lost swimming time. That's why hiring the right person to build your pool is so important. It's the best way to ensure you'll receive a quality design and careful construction at a fair cost.

Here are a few facts you should know.

There are many factors to consider, including: your budget; the size of your lot; how much time and money you want to spend on maintenance; and even what part of the country you live in. Be sure to remember to ask the following key questions for each type of pool you might be interested in:

Key Questions

  1. Price - What's it actually going to cost me, including decking, landscaping and options?
  2. Maintenance Requirements -  How much work do I have to do to keep it clean, and what types and quantities of chemicals do I need to buy?
  3. Installation -  How soon can I really go swimming means how long will it take to install one?
  4. Service -  Do you take care of what you sell?

Pool Facts

Weight And Volume Measurement Of Water

One gallon weighs 8.3 pounds.
One cubic foot weighs 62.4 pounds.
One cubic foot of water contains 7.5 gallons.

Estimating Pool Capacity

Rectangular pool: length x width x average depth x 7.5 = gallons of water
Round pool: diameter x diameter x average depth x 5.9 = gallons of water
Oval pool: length x width x average depth x 5.9 = gallons of water

So if you're ready to take the plunge, read on. And just imagine coming home to your very own vacation hideaway - right in your own back yard!

What kind of pool is right for my family?

There are so many great choices out there: Above-ground and Inground pools of type Aluminum, Concrete, Fiberglass, and Steel.

What’s a poor pool buyer to do?

Well, first of all, a little research. And that’s exactly what we have done. We have put together some valuable information designed to help you make the decision as to what might be the best pool for you and your family.

Above Ground Pools

Above-ground pools are typically the least expensive types you can purchase. They are the summer-fun answer for those who don't want to make the larger commitment of an in-ground pool. If you're ready for a ton of backyard fun, but aren't quite ready for a permanent structure in your yard, then an above-ground may be the way to go.

Points to Consider Description
Inexpensive Above-grounds are great for those looking for a relatively inexpensive way to provide years of backyard family entertainment.
Moveable If you move, you can take your pool with you, give it to a friend or even sell it. Or you can leave it as a benefit for the next owner of your home.
Quick to Install Grab a couple of handy neighbors and you can be hosting a pool party in just a couple of days.
Choices You can choose from aluminum, resin or steel sidings. All three types have various benefits, ranging from rust-resistance to average life-span. Your local dealer can help you weigh the pros and cons of each type.
Variety Above-grounds come in several sizes and shapes, and a variety of decorative wall patterns and decking options.
Good for Small Lots If getting a back-hoe into your yard would be next-to-impossible, an above-ground can generally be carried in a kit to your yard and set up.

Inground Pools

In-ground pools typically come in four varieties

  • Aluminum
  • Concrete
  • Fiberglass
  • Vinyl-liner

In-ground pools are more expensive than above-ground, but they are also a permanent home improvement. They add aesthetic, as well as intrinsic, value to your home. And when it comes time to sell your house, an inground pool is generally more appealing to potential buyers.

Ingrounds range from play pools with depths of 3-to-5 feet to diving pools with deeper depths appropriate for the divers in your family. Before you purchase an inground pool, you need to think about how your family will use it. Do they like to play a lot of water sports? Then maybe a play pool with sports set-ups is the answer. Do they like to swim laps? Perhaps a rectangular design is best for you. Or do you have a combination of swimmers and splashers? How about an L-shaped pool so everyone is happy? Thinking about usage and then designing with those needs in mind is the key to building a pool that your entire family will be happy with for years to come.

Okay, let's assume you've decided how your family will use the pool and what your approximate budget is. Now, let's talk about your primary options in an inground pool.

Aluminum Inground Pools

Aluminum Inground Pools are made of up aluminum material while they are cheap may not long for longer period of time.

Concrete Inground Pools

A concrete pool is custom-built to your specifications by the pool-builder you choose. It is the most common type of in-ground pool, and the initial installation generally costs less than a fiberglass pool. Concrete pools are constructed in stages, including pool layout and excavation; steel installation; plumbing installation; equipment set; gunnite or shotcrete application; tile and coping installation; and interior finish installation. Although they take longer than fiberglass pools to construct, they have the advantage of virtually unlimited shapes, sizes and designs. The construction time on a concrete pool is generally three to 12 weeks.

Points to Consider Description
Price The initial installation of a concrete pool is generally less than a fiberglass inground pool. So, if you want an in-ground, but the total up-front outlay is of concern to you, a concrete pool might best fit your needs.
Variety of Finishes A variety of interior finishes is available, including plaster, paint or pebbles. These provide you with several options to best suit your budget and desired design.
Weather Resistant Some industry specialists believe that concrete pools are well-suited to parts of the country that have extremely high summer-time temperatures. Concrete also is perceived by some to function better in areas where the soil is very expansive.
Strength Both fiberglass and concrete are materials of great strength. Talk to your dealer or builder about the implications of your soil type and weather on both types of materials.

Fiberglass Inground Pools

A fiberglass pool is factory-manufactured and then installed in one piece in your back yard when your excavation is completed. Basically, a fiberglass pool resembles a giant bathtub.

Points to Consider Description
Price Fiberglass pools are generally more expensive to purchase than concrete inground pools, but can save you money over the life of the pool. This is because they typically will require fewer chemicals than concrete pools. You also avoid future replastering and liner replacement costs.
Maintenance Unlike a plaster finish, a fiberglass shell does not change the chemistry of the water, so you often will use less acid. Because of the non-porous surface, you don't need to brush the pool nearly as often as a plaster-finished concrete pool. However, you typically do not need to brush a pebble-finish concrete pool as often as a plaster-finish pool, so when discussing this option with a dealer, be sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Installation Once your yard has been excavated, the pool is delivered in one piece and installed. Construction time is generally about two weeks.
Shock absorbent What happens if the earth moves? Fiberglass has a shock-absorbing ability that allows it to flex up to 2 feet. However, there also are new concrete construction techniques that allow concrete to flex. So, it's important to remember that if you live in an earthquake-prone area, be sure to have your dealer explain the features and benefits of fiberglass and concrete construction.

Vinyl Liner Inground Pools

A vinyl-liner pool is furnished to the installer in kit form. After excavation, the panel walls are bolted or fastened together and supported at the bottom by a concrete footing. The vinyl liner is spread over the interior of the pool and covers the excavated floor and paneled walls. It is connected to the top of the panel walls by a vinyl rib at the outside edge of the liner. Be sure to ask your liners generally have to be replaced in your area of the country. Construction time for vinyl-liner pools is typically one to three weeks.

Points to Consider Description
Weather Vinyl-liner pools are popular in cold-weather areas of the country. These pools can be easily winterized by draining them down and covering them until the spring.
Covers A pool cover can be a wonderful addition to your pool and/or spa area, and one of their main benefits can be increased safety. Covers come in many varieties and can extend the swimming season of your pool by several weeks by retaining the solar heat that is generated each day. Also, if you live in a highly wooded area, they can be used to keep leaves and other debris out of your pool. Many covers come in automatic or manual versions.
Heaters Pool heaters come in many shapes and sizes. In milder climes, you can enjoy year-round swimming by adding a heater to your pool set-up.
Filters There also are many types of pool filters designed to meet the particular needs of your pool. Your dealer or builder can help you choose the one right for you.
Cleaners and Water Levelers From automatic inground cleaning systems that you just "set and forget" to jazzy, high-tech pool vacs that literally climb your pool walls, there are a variety of systems available to help you keep your pool sparkling clean. If you're the type who likes to splash and dash, you'll certainly be interested in learning more about automatic water levelers that keep the water level in your pool at just the right setting.

Steel Inground Pools

These pools are attractive and durable but the high price of the stainless steel makes them a fairly expensive investment. The shells, assembled in panels, tend to be small and are installed in the ground.

Landscape And Design Options

What's Your Pleasure?

Always wanted an oasis-like lagoon in your back yard? Or perhaps an elegant, serene setting is more to your liking. The use of water features and other design enhancements is a perfect way to integrate your pool into your overall design concept.

Water features run the gamut from simple fountains that provide a relaxing environment to intimate, cave-like waterfalls. Rolled bond beam is an oh-so-cool, tuck-and-roll method of edging that allows concrete to be ribboned around your pool to soften the perimeter and give the pool a tropical effect. And for that "how'd they do that?" result, sophisticated negative edges are a state-of-the-art way to incorporate the view beyond the horizon right into your own back yard.

Finally, for a truly dramatic look, fiber optic lighting can be installed using multi-hued color wheels. When the neon-like lights are turned on, you're guaranteed to add drop-dead drama to the nighttime look of your pool. And you can even integrate the lighting into your landscape design for just that much more of a dazzling effect.

So, as you can see, there are nearly as many choices and options for your pool as there are as many types and styles. So take a deep breath and dive right in - you'll be glad you did!

Questions to ask any dealer or builder you visit

  1. What's their percentage of on-time installations?
  2. How do they resolve complaints?
  3. Do they belong to your local Better Business Bureau or the National Spa and Pool Institute? Have they had an excessive number of complaints lodged against them? Have they satisfactorily resolved most of the complaints? (And call the BBB to verify!)
  4. What percentage of their work is done by in-house crews vs. sub-contractors?
  5. How long have their crews been working for them?
  6. What kind of crew turnover do they have?
  7. What kind of financing options (if any) do they provide?
  8. What kind of warranty do they provide and what does it cover?

And of course, ask for references.

Tips for Hiring a Swimming Pool Builder

  1. You should make the first move: Never hire anyone who comes to your door unsolicited. Many fly-by-night pool contractors work out of the back of their pick-up trucks. Rather, choose someone with whom you initiated contact, and schedule at least one meeting at the builder's office.
  2. Talk to no less than three different builders before you select one: Gut feeling is important here. Chose the person you feel most comfortable with, and whose references pan out. Note that the size of a builder's Yellow Pages ad does not always correlate with his or her competence.
  3. Explore the contractor's track record: We recommend that you choose contractors with a minimum of three years' experience building nothing but swimming pools (not driveways or houses). Ask to see a photo album of favorite projects. Ask a contractor for the names and phone numbers of five satisfied customers -- and call them. Ask about the overall experience they had with this company, and don't be shy to ask if anything went wrong. Work habits tend to carry over from one job to another.
    Questions should include:
    Was the project finished on time and within budget?
    Did the price change along the way?
    How easy was it to contact the contractor during the building process?
    Did the workers show up each day?
    You will want to talk to at least one family that has had its pool for three years or more, so you can ask about warranty problems, continuing service and pool quality.
  4. Make sure the paperwork is in order. Ask to see the contractor's license and certificates of insurance. Contractors are required to obtain licenses from state, city and/or county agencies. Once you have it, call the licensing board to authenticate it, and then keep a photocopy. If there is a dispute, you will need it to file a complaint with the licensing agency. If the contractor is not licensed, your only remedy is civil court. Make sure the name of the person who is going to build your pool is on the license. It is illegal for one person to use another person's construction license. Secondly, certificates of insurance for both workers compensation and general liability are critical. Confirm their validity by calling the insurance company they name. You will want the contractor to retain all legal liability if a worker is hurt on your job. If not, your homeowner's policy will have to pay.
  5. Check up on the contractor's business habits. Ask a builder for the names and phone numbers of suppliers. Call them and find out if the contractor pays bills on time. You can ask the same question of the builder's subcontractors. It wouldn't hurt to call your local consumer protection agency, the district attorney's office and the Better Business Bureau and ask about complaints. If someone has gone to the trouble of filing one, you can probably conclude that this is not the contractor for you.
  6. Consider hiring only members of nationally recognized trade associations. Organizations such as the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) require a high degree of professionalism of their members.
  7. Ask contractors if they have received any design awards or industry recognition for their work. NSPI holds design awards every year, and trade magazines such as Pool & Spa News also single out builders whose work merits special attention.
  8. Inquire as to what specialized training the builder has completed. Many swimming pool equipment manufacturers offer specialized training sessions for professionals, and issue certificates to builders who complete a training session.
  9. Ask about who will be doing the actual work -- the contractor's employees or subcontractors. When a pool company uses its own labor, the line of responsibility is clear. If the firm subcontracts out some of the work -- such as to a tile company -- you will need to research both the tile firm's reputation, much as you are doing for the contractor, as well as determining who will be responsible if a tile falls off the pool two years from now. Issues such as these should be resolved before the first patch of earth moves.
  10. Get all your bids in writing, and then compare them. Make sure the bid specifies the materials to be used, including quantity, brand, size, color, etc. Don't forget to include the clean-up costs. Find out why the high bidder is the most costly and why the lowball bid is below the others. Did that company forget something or are they really the most efficient? The lowest bid is not always the best. All warranties offered by the contractor for labor and materials should be in writing as well. Also, request the written warranties from all equipment manufacturers.
  11. Take the time to study and understand the contract. Never let the builder rush you into signing it. If you don't understand it, don't sign it. If you have questions, ask the builder and an attorney. The contract should contain an arbitration or mediation clause. This clause protects you if a dispute arises. And remember -- you have three days to change your mind. Most states have laws that provide for a three-day right of recession. If you contact the contractor in writing or in person during this period, he or she must give you all of your money back, no questions asked.
  12. Use your money to protect you. Never pay in cash. Use checks or money orders only. As far as a down payment, never pay more than 10 percent of the estimated price, or $1,000, whichever amount is lowest. The amount a pool/spa contractor can collect before starting may be even lower in your state -- in California they can collect only $200 down. Then, link all your other payments to completed milestones. Pay only when you are satisfied that each phase has been completed to your satisfaction.
  13. Hold the final 10 percent until you have received and reviewed the contractor's completion notice. A release of lien from each subcontractor and building supplier (You don't want a nasty surprise when you sell your home.) An approval from the local building or safety department.



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