Pool Plan

By Nancy Moffett

Owning a backyard pool was one of the best parts of summer I’ve ever enjoyed. On sunny days I swam for exercise, and then joined my husband on warm evenings to float away the day’s cares. We left our pool behind years ago, but I still have fond memories of that blue oasis.

Adding an in-ground pool to your property is a major investment, so the more information you have, the better your decision-making will be. There are three common types of in-ground pools: vinyl liner, fiberglass and concrete. Costs average $10,000 to $25,000 for a vinyl-lined pool; $15,000 to $30,000 for a fiberglass pool and $20,000 to $50,000 for a concrete pool. It really depends on size, whether or not you choose a custom design, add waterfalls, spas, swim-up bars, sun shelves or other features. When figuring cost, you also need to add the price of decking, landscaping and fencing to the project.

Tom Casey, Vice President of Sales at Anthony & Sylvan Pools (A&S), recommends talking to people you know who have a pool as your first step. “It’s not like buying a car, where you can do internet research,” he says. What you need is referrals for reputable pool installers. “The industry is not regulated, so you need to investigate companies for stability before you deal with them,” he advises. Check to make sure they’re insured, credible with the Better Business Bureau and ask for referrals. “You only get one shot to get it right, so it’s better to pay more to deal with someone who will be around to provide service later.” It’s critical to avoid fly-by-night installers or contractors who are not expert at pool installation.

Frank Bast, owner of Aqua Pool & Spa Supply, says vinyl-lined pools have come a long way since their introduction. “Liners now can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years,” he explains, “depending on conditions, before they need replacing.” They’re popular with homeowners because the initial cost is lower than fiberglass or concrete, and they can be installed fairly quickly. There are also many liner patterns and colors to choose from. Liners are finished to inhibit growth of algae making pool maintenance easier as well. When liners do need replacement, the process is relatively easy and fast. A steel-walled vinyl-liner pool can cost about half of concrete, Bast says.

A&S installs either concrete or fiberglass pools. The process begins with a no-obligation site visit, during which the pool can be designed on a laptop. Every pool is different, depending on the site and the owner’s budget and desires. “We can review every aspect through the interview and give an estimate on the spot,” Casey explains. Concrete pools are, of course, built on site, while fiberglass pools are pre-formed, shipped to the site, then lowered by crane into a pre-dug opening. The advantages of fiberglass over concrete are speed and price. They can be installed in as little as two weeks, and come in many shapes and sizes and can include tanning ledges, spas and fountains.

One advantage of a concrete pool is that it can be built in any shape, size and with many extra features. After excavation, the pool is formed with reinforced steel rebar, and then sprayed with a concrete mixture to form a shell. A top finish is applied to the shell for waterproof durability. A concrete pool can have many interior finishes, including ones that resemble Caribbean greens, Mediterranean blues or mineral finishes that sparkle when the sun hits them. Tile designs can also be applied to the floor of the pool for a custom look.

Both these local pool companies handle the installation process from start to finish, including coping and landscaping. And, both provide maintenance service – opening and closing, cleaning and vacuuming, equipment installation and repair.

Maintenance is important when deciding to take the plunge into pool ownership. Casey says, however, that pools today are much easier to operate because many tasks have been automated. “This is not your parents’ pool,” he explains. “Automatic cleaners and chlorination run with the filtration system,” and there are wireless remotes that can control pool equipment, such as heaters, water features and lighting.

Russell Kasperkoski, co-owner of Kasper’s Pool Supplies & Spas, says pool chemistry is subject to the environment – organic material, wind, rain and algae spores – and that each pool is different. He recommends having water tested at the beginning of each season after running the filter for several days so the water is thoroughly mixed. Kasper’s has a computerized testing system that will produce a prescription for the pool for bringing it into balance. Then it should be re-tested for reaction.

During swimming season, pools should be checked for chemicals once a week and professionally tested at least once a month. “Eighty percent of water quality is filtration,” Kasperkoski says, “and 20 percent is chemicals.” These must be balanced for the best results. Have the water tested about a week before closing the pool as well, he recommends. Kasper’s provides maintenance services, does liner replacements and sells pool equipment. They hold a “Pool School” every June for pool owners who want to learn to ins and outs of maintaining their backyard oasis. “We don’t do pool installations. We concentrate on helping owners get the most out of their pools,” Kasperkoski says.

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