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Family Living

10 things you should know before buying a swimming pool

Dreaming of an in-ground pool is fun. The reality comes with some considerations about costs and safety.

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I associate my childhood with the in-ground swimming pool in my mom’s Connecticut backyard. Some of my happiest memories are of pool parties, barbecues, and the trophies my dad gave to the first neighborhood kid who plunged into the still-freezing water every spring. I recall the rogue lawnmower that landed in the deep end, and the bear that enjoyed a dip that one cool summer night. But I’ve also seen the significant time and money my family put into it over the years — my mom still calls it “the money pit.” While it was the source of endless enjoyment for our family, owning a pool is a big undertaking and a big responsibility. Here are some important things to keep in mind if you’re considering one:

1. There are a lot to choose from. There are three main types of regular sized, in-ground swimming pools. If you’re looking for one with serious depth or unusual customizations, a concrete option is the best choice, though they tend to take the most time to install and be most expensive. A fiberglass pool comes in factory-molded shapes, and arrives in one piece to be directly put into the ground. A vinyl-lined pool has a heavy metal or plastic frame underneath. Recently, demand has also been very high for smaller plunge pools, which come in custom and pre-cast varieties.

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2. Be prepared to wait. When the pandemic hit last spring, many staycationing New Englanders considered putting in pools. One pool company noticed a 25 percent to 35 percent spike in demand, the Globe recently reported. This echoes the national trend: The number of residential in-ground pools installed increased 24 percent, from 78,000 in 2019 to 96,000 in 2020, according to the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. That was a historic high — the previous record had been a 16 percent increase in 1983. And the demand has yet to slow down, creating a backlog of homeowners waiting to break ground. If you order a pool today, estimates suggest you can expect to have it completed next spring.

3. You’ll want to save up for installation … Whether you’ve got money to burn or are just loading up your credit card, putting in a pool is a big investment. Swimming pools tend to vary widely in cost, from around $50,000 to $70,000 or more. But that doesn’t always include everything else involved, from the excavation to permits. And then there’s completing the space around it. Vinyl-lined pools are the cheapest up-front of the three, though vinyl liners need to be replaced every 10 years or so.

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4. … and maintenance: Whether you hire someone to come every week or do it yourself, a pool requires constant upkeep — and money. They need to be vacuumed about once a week so dirt and debris don’t collect on the bottom, and the skimmers need to be emptied regularly. You will need to add or remove water since levels that are too high or too low can negatively affect water quality, plus frequently test pH and alkalinity, making periodic adjustments with chemicals. The website HomeAdvisor reports that bills for repairs, maintenance, electricity, and water can reach as high as $5,000 a year.

5. Chemicals can be hard to come by. Throughout the pandemic, buying pool chemicals became more challenging. This year, a chlorine shortage exacerbated difficulty, sending prices skyrocketing. More than half of pool suppliers surveyed by Goldman Sachs reported having “uncertainty or doubt when asked about whether they will have enough chlorine for pool season.” While you can pay a premium at top-of-the-line pool supply stores, consider bargain spots like Ocean State Job Lot for chemicals. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars per summer on chlorine alone.

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6. Days of use in New England are limited. Most swimming pools in this region open around Memorial Day weekend and close around Labor Day. That gives you about four solid months of use each year. Of course, as this summer proves, there’s no guarantee you’ll get four solid months of sun. Some people find an automatic cover can help extend the season, by making the pool easier to keep clean and by keeping the water warmer.

7. A heater can extend the season, at a cost. If you balk at the idea of swimming in water that’s less than 80 degrees, be prepared to spend several thousand dollars to install a heater. In addition to its initial installation price, your electric bills will increase while you have it on — think of it like heating a giant hot tub. On the bright side, most kids don’t seem to care if the water is frigid.

8. Be prepared for new friends. Pools make it pretty likely you’ll need to get used to the idea that your neighbors will want to come over and swim . . . even if you don’t want them to. From local children to that one neighbor you cross paths with in the supermarket, a pool will make borderline strangers eager for an invitation.

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9. Think of wild animals. Until you’re a pool owner, you may not consider the number of dead animals you will find in the water. From frogs and moles to skunks and voles, you’ll have to fish out some creatures. Wild animals and pets can also threaten a vinyl liner, which they can shred with their claws. Mini floating “escape ramps” can greatly minimize the number of smaller creatures that drown.

10. Pools are dangerous. A pool requires constant vigilance, especially any time there are kids on the premises (which is why having a pool may increase your insurance bills). This goes for when you’re indoors, too, because kids could sneak outside to take an unsupervised dip. Every pool owner should have safety equipment within reach at all times. For parties, consider hiring a certified lifeguard for the day, and remember that alcohol and swimming don’t mix. No one — child or adult — should ever swim alone. Having a pool is a tremendous responsibility. From door alarms to an impenetrable fence around the pool — required by law in many places — it means investing the money and time to keep your friends and family safe.


Megan Johnson is a writer in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @megansarahj. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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