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10 decisions for planning your in ground swimming pool: part 1 of 2

First of two parts

In-ground swimming pools are a huge step for homeowners. Here are ten tips to guide your research.

  1. Why? Will children be the primary users, or do you intend to make a big splash entertaining adults. If the latter, you may want a more sophisticated, and, therefore, more expensive design and landscaping. If you plan to swim laps, you'll need a minimum length of thirty-five feet so you won't spend all of your time doing flip turns.
  2. Where? Unless you live in an unbearably hot climate, you want your swimming pool in the sun. Does your lot and house allow this?
  3. Size matters. Construction costs grow dramatically as pool size increases, both in depth and area. The same is true for maintenance cost and time spent cleaning it.
  4. Annual cost. The cost of a swimming pool includes much more than purchase price. Heating and water treatment can cost thousands of dollars a year. Talk to local experts to find out what you can expect to pay annually. Explore the possibility of solar water heating -- it could save you a bundle over time.
  5. Frills. Pool frills can cost as much as the basic pool itself -- waterfalls, tanning edges, retractable covers, etc. Who doesn't want an attached hot tub with a cascading warm waterfall? You can fly to Tahiti more cheaply!
  6. Dive? Typically, a home swimming pool's deep end is eight to nine feet, and that is only in a small area. It rapidly rises to a much shallower depth. Diving boards in these pools are inherently life threatening. Don't forget the possibility of increasing your liability insurance.
  7. Type. There are two materials typically used for in-ground pools: fiberglass and gunite. (Vinyl liners are on the decline.) Fiberglass is quicker to install, cheaper, and easier to maintain. But it is limited in design, because the units are trucked to the site; hence, there are limits on size and shape. Gunite swimming pools (concrete) have the advantage of variety and unique design.
  8. Setting. Excavation drives up costs. If you are moving a hillside or leveling trees to accommodate a pool, it will be pricey. You also may have to fence the area according to local codes --  probably a six-foot fence with spring-loaded, self-closing gates. And then there's decking -- usually concrete, though maybe stone -- and all sorts of entertainment amenities.
  9. Landscape. You may love trees, but you don't want them around your pool. Same with anything else that sheds substantial foliage.
  10. Outbuildings. Will you have easy access to a bathroom/changing area/shower, so swimmers are not dripping their way through your living room to reach the accommodations? Or will you construct an outbuilding with plumbing and perhaps electricity?

Until you've experienced swimming pool ownership, you're probably a little wet behind the ears on all that is involved. You need to do careful research and planning before you take the plunge. In Part 2 we look at the pros and cons of the two materials used for in-ground swimming pools -- gunite and fiberglass.