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:
- Price - What's it actually going to cost
me, including decking, landscaping and options?
- 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?
- Installation - How soon can I really
go swimming means how long will it take to install one?
- Service - Do you take care of what
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.
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
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 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.
are great for those looking for a relatively inexpensive way
to provide years of backyard family entertainment.
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.
a couple of handy neighbors and you can be hosting a pool
party in just a couple of days.
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.
come in several sizes and shapes, and a variety of decorative
wall patterns and decking options.
for Small Lots
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.
In-ground pools typically come in four
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 are made of up
aluminum material while they are cheap may not long for longer
period of time.
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.
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.
||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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
||Once your yard
has been excavated, the pool is delivered in one piece and
installed. Construction time is generally about two weeks.
||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.
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.
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.
||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.
come in many shapes and sizes. In milder climes, you can enjoy
year-round swimming by adding a heater to your pool set-up.
||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.
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
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.
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
Questions to ask any dealer or builder you
- What's their percentage of on-time
- How do they resolve complaints?
- 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!)
- What percentage of their work is done by
in-house crews vs. sub-contractors?
- How long have their crews been working for
- What kind of crew turnover do they have?
- What kind of financing options (if any) do
- What kind of warranty do they provide and
what does it cover?
And of course, ask for references.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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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