What to Consider When Building a Pool
by Sandy Cisney, Cisney & O’Donnell Builders & Remodelers, Pool Division
Summertime is a time for relaxing, enjoying family and friends, and hanging out at the pool — even better, your family pool. If you’re considering building a pool, this article gives practical advice on how to select a contractor and build a pool that is safe, easy to maintain and realizes your vision.
Safety should be the primary focus with any pool. The pool area must be surrounded by a barrier or fence, and you may want to limit access to it by providing entrance only through your home. Teach all pool users all rules including use of locked gates, covers and alarms. Easy-to-use automatic pool covers encourage pool users to keep the pool covered when not in use. Complete pool safety guidelines are available from The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals® (APSP) at www.apsp.org.
Aesthetically, you’ll want to work with your pool contractor on how the pool will sit on your property, keeping in mind applicable zoning ordinances, such as fencing and set-back requirements. Your contractor should talk with you about the need to move any current plants or trees, and how the excavation might affect rain run-off or erosion.
Types of Pools
Pools fall into three main categories: above ground, inground and on-ground. Above ground pools are often the least expensive because they can be purchased in kits and typically involve limited ground excavation or electrical work. While they are sized to fit in small spaces, they may not tie in well to landscaped surroundings and have limited long-term use.
Inground pools can be designed in any shape, size or depth. Pools can be made from pre-formed fiberglass, poured concrete, or built with steel walls and vinyl lining. We recommend pools constructed with steel walls and liner because they tend to hold up better in our local climate where constant freezing and thawing can damage some materials. An important consideration with inground pool construction is the excavation process, which involves heavy equipment and can take several weeks to complete. Inground pools often add to a home’s value and should last many decades when maintained properly.
On-ground pools fall somewhere between the other two. It usually comes as a complete kit including code-approved fencing. And, although this pool technically sits on the ground, it is available with a deep-end option where the pool is placed partially in the ground.
From an energy standpoint, pools can be heated by gas, electric or, the least expensive, solar panels. You’ll want to research local regulations for water usage and conservation, which can vary by municipality.
Selecting a Contractor
Not all general contractors have experience building pools. You’ll want to talk with pool contractors who have built many pools and also know how to maintain them. Find out if the contractor is a member of the APSP and is fully licensed and insured. It is also important to call some of their references for first-hand information.
If you are getting several estimates, make sure each estimate includes the same line items so you can compare apples to apples. Look for the types of materials specified; extras like water features and decks; warranties on equipment; timelines; and pool equipment included, such as pump, pool filter, swimming pool vacuum, and others.
Determine a payment schedule of incremental payments with the final payment due only after you have signed off on substantial completion of the project. Keep accurate records of all papers relating to the pool, including meeting notes with the contractor and any change orders. When the pool is finished, ask for a complete orientation on the use and maintenance of pool equipment, including pool chemicals.
Circulation and sanitation are the two top concerns for maintaining a safe and healthy pool. Pool filters are designed to provide adequate circulation and are easy to maintain. Pool chemicals, however, can be tricky to balance correctly. First, make sure you know the total gallons of water in your pool so you can properly calculate the amount of chemicals needed. Chlorine and non-chlorine products like Softswim from Bioguard®, are used to kill contaminants. You may also want to take a sample of your pool water to a pool testing professional for advice on how to balance your pool chemicals. With some patience and practice, most pool owners can maintain their pools themselves.
Finally, building a pool is a great way to add value to your home and provide your family with long-term enjoyment. If you research pool types, costs and pool contractors, you’re sure to be happy with the final result.
About the Author: Sandy Cisney is the pool manager at Cisney & O’Donnell Builders & Remodelers, a general contractor that has been in business since 1969 and serves clients in the counties of Huntingdon, Centre, Blair, and Mifflin, Pa. The company has extensive experience building pools and also has a retail pool store in Huntingdon that sells above- ground-pool kits, pool chemicals and supplies and other pool equipment.