With so many options and decisions to make, constructing or installing a pool can feel overwhelming. Here are the most important pool considerations to help you make the best choice for your backyard.

By Jessica Bennett
Updated March 10, 2021
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A pool is a major investment in many ways. The pool construction or installation can be costly, of course, but you'll also need to invest a sizeable amount of time, energy, and yard space to build and maintain a pool. Ensuring this project is successful requires a lot of planning, and you'll have many decisions to make along the way regarding the type and size of the pool, who to hire as your contractor, and more.

The first step in the process is often deciding how much pool you can afford. Setting a realistic budget upfront will help you make important decisions around the size, materials, and pool features. You should also consider whether your yard is suited for a pool. Certain conditions, including steep slopes or an awkwardly shaped space, can make it more difficult or expensive to build a pool. This guide to building a pool will cover the key considerations you'll need to think through before embarking on this backyard project.

colonial style home in east hampton back exterior with in ground pool
Credit: Tria Giovan

Cost to Build a Pool

The total cost of building a pool will depend on several factors, including the size, design, and type of pool. Use the following figures as a rough estimate, and check with your local professionals for exact quotes.

Above-Ground Pool Cost

Because above-ground pools are installed rather than built, they are generally more economical than in-ground pools. The most basic above-ground pools, which require no filtration equipment (also called splasher pools), will run as little as a few hundred dollars to $1,000 for more substantial models. Larger, more elaborate above-ground pools with filtration equipment generally cost between $1,000-$8,000.  Extras like pool decking, landscaping, and accessories will add to that cost.

In-Ground Pool Cost

Design and construction costs make in-ground pools more expensive to build. In-ground pools with minimal patio surrounding and basic fencing start around $20,000. More elaborate designs will run between $50,000 to $100,000+. Your choices for pool design and building materials, patio materials, landscaping, lighting, and extra features such as spas or fountains will determine the cost.

back yard built-in pool and hot tub
Credit: Edward Gohlich

Ongoing Swimming Pool Costs

The expenses associated with a backyard pool continue after construction. Consider these ongoing costs before you build a pool.

Chemicals: The cost for pool chemicals averages between $50 and $100 per month depending on your climate, pool size, and frequency of use. Chemicals for above-ground pools will cost about the same as those for in-ground pools of a similar size.

Opening and Closing a Pool: Although this can be a DIY project, hiring a professional to open and close your pool each season will run approximately $100-$350. Cleaning and storing your pool cover is usually additional.

Maintenance: The largest maintenance expense is a pool's interior finish. Vinyl liners last approximately 6-10 years, and painted concrete needs a new coat approximately every five years. A plaster finish could last 10-15 years. Many of the new cement-coated products such as Pebble Tec are meant to last a lifetime.

Equipment: Equipment life spans vary tremendously by brand and quality. Other elements such as proper water chemistry and location of equipment can affect the material's life span. Because pumps are made to push water rather than draw water, pumps placed at pool level often last longer than those that sit higher and have to pump harder.

Utilities: Note that utility bills tend to increase during a pool's open season because of the electricity needed to power the pump. Heated pools require even more energy.

pool house and pool
Credit: Victoria Pearson

Yard Conditions for Building a Pool

Besides determining the best fit for your yard's dimensions, consider the area's slope, soil type, and accessibility for construction equipment. Pools are generally easier to build or install when a yard is level. However, new technology makes it possible to install a pool in virtually any yard. Severe conditions, such as steeply sloping lots, rocky soil, and limited access, require special construction and installation considerations. These issues typically add to the overall cost and duration of the project.

outdoor swimming pool with arbor over half wall
Credit: Kip Dawkin

Pool Size Considerations

Pool size is primarily a personal choice. Some prefer to eliminate grass entirely and fill the space with a pool and patio, while others want to include grassy areas in the new landscape. Be sure you and your contractor have the most up-to-date zoning and building restrictions for swimming pools and spas, and ask your contractor how the permit process is handled. Zoning is primarily handled on a local level and typically covers such issues as fencing and barriers, pool depth requirements for diving boards, set-backs, and proximity to utility lines. Other issues might also be covered, so check your local ordinances.

large home with curved pool and hot tub
Credit: John Bessler

How to Choose a Contractor for a New Pool

A dependable contractor can make the process of building a pool run much more smoothly. When searching for contractors, get referrals from friends and neighbors, and talk to at least three builders before making a decision. Gather the following information to help vet potential contractors:

  • Determine the number of years in business under their present name and ownership.
  • Ensure contractor is bonded and insured. Get proof.
  • Visit their work firsthand and talk with the homeowners about their experience with this contractor.
  • Talk with suppliers about the contractor's status.
  • Inquire whether they subcontract work or use their own staff.
  • Ask if they have design experience or offer design services.

You should also note that it is not customary to pay the full amount up front, so beware of contractors who require this. Be sure to get lien waivers for all work completed.

Pool Building Timeline

Anticipate a little dirt in your life during the construction of an in-ground pool. Your contractor can estimate a project completion date, but remember Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate. An in-ground pool takes anywhere from three to twelve weeks, depending on the complexity of the project. Above-ground pools can usually be installed in a matter of hours or a few days.

back yard with stone patio and pool
Credit: Bob Stefko

Pool Safety Considerations

Safety is a number one concern for pool and spa owners. Proper enclosures and supervision are a must at all times to ensure the safety of children, pets, and wildlife that might wander near the pool. Many specialty products are available on the market to help ensure pool safety. Consider adding water alarms, high-tech laser technologies, safety covers, and personal safety accessories like life jackets and pool floats for extra peace of mind.

Pool Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage for swimming pools is part of homeowner's insurance. Some insurance companies raise premiums for owning a swimming pool and others do not. Speak with your insurance agent prior to purchasing or building your pool.

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