“How much is it going to cost?” This by far is the most common question we get from clients that are considering a swimming pool. Second most common question: “How long will it take to build?” Here is where it gets frustrating – both for the client asking and us the contractor trying to answer. To give an honest answer requires a good amount of explanation, because the simple (and frustrating) answer is “It Depends.”
There have probably been hundreds of articles written on the topic of pool costs. We’ve read many ourselves and found the information confusing and misleading. However, we recently came across an article that in our opinion did a very good job of answering the questions – or at least highlighting some of the variables that expand upon the “It Depends” answer.
We pulled some of the main topics from the article into this post (full link to the original article at the end). The article’s introduction is about real estate agents using the term ‘room for a pool’ when advertising a property – but it expands from there into budgets and timelines.
Google’s top results are going to lead you astray here. An inground pool is not $10,000 or even $20,000 as a starting point, let alone an average cost.
“I’d say the bare minimum for a pool, assuming that everything’s perfect and you want a really stripped-down product, is $50,000, but it usually gets up to $100,000 and beyond,” says Jon Hutchings, owner of Bikini Pools and Spas from Los Angeles.
So, what about all those enticing search engine results, which show “average cost” of $10,000 or $20,000? “That’s just a way to get the salesman’s foot in the door.”
Bob Tait, a mortgage banker in the NorthEast Tri-Cities area, confirms: “A basic pool is $45,000—and that does not include deck, fence, landscape, patio, lighting. All those elements take it up to $100,000,” he says.
Certainly there are ways to lower the cost. For example, installing a fiberglass pool instead of gunite will save 20-30%. And creative designers can think of ways to reduce material costs.
When you’re dealing with a pool salesperson on a high-end item, “there are all sort of ways to bump the price up” according to Hutchings. Especially for something that is not built yet, it’s easy to pad the initial estimate. And buyers should certainly be cautious. Also, however, be aware that certain elements seem extra, but simply cannot be eliminated—by law. For example, a fence is typically not optional.
“Fence rules may vary, but in general, there’s always a requirement for a fence outside the property to make sure a kid can’t come in—and it has to have self-closing gates,” says Hutchings. “Some areas have gone beyond that, requiring a fence in between your own house and pool.”
Other potential extra costs that may be optional or mandatory, depending on the area and the home, start with an automatic pool cover, special alarms on the home’s doors and windows, underwater pool lights, and a heater. Then there are the pre-existing variables, like trees that need to be cleared, or hidden utilities that need to be rerouted.
Clearly this isn’t a one-person job. It’s also not a single-contractor job. If you’re getting a small, simple fiberglass or vinyl liner sport pool, you’ll likely work with a contractor who has a small, tight-knit network of specialty subcontractors like plumbing and electrical. Even the most hands-on contractors have their favorite specialists—plaster guy or rebar expert or artificial stone fabricator—that they strongly prefer using for that part of the job. If you have faith in your contractor, trust that their purpose in bringing in subs is to get top-quality work, not to make the job more complicated.
If you want something customized—small or large—with special features like a waterfall, or a paver deck, it will involve the main contractor bringing in additional specialty trade subcontractors, and also necessitate you hire a designer from the start.
Which brings up another important distinction: Pool designer and contractor are two different things. In many cases, the person who comes out to survey your yard and discuss your design preferences is not the person who will oversee the construction. They work together closely, though. If your main contractor does not work closely with all his subs, that’s a major red flag.
That’s why established, well reputed, hands-on contractors that personally oversee projects are in high demand.
People in the industry recommend physically going to the pool contractor’s office and/or to a couple finished projects, and asking questions until you’re certain the contractor you’re talking to will be overseeing the job personally—and have spoken with happy customers who vouch for the work quality.
According to mortgage banker Bob Tait, no matter what kind of financing he and his clients decide upon, it usually takes about 30 days to go through. And the timeframe for permitting once plans are in place is about four to six weeks. So, if a customer begins applying for financing at the same time as they begin working with a designer/contractor to create plans, they should be able to see construction commence six weeks after committing to the project.
Construction time for a pool, according to experts, should be three to four months. There are not many reasons why a homeowner would need to live with a giant unfilled hole in the backyard for any longer. Possible reasons for additional delay? Excessively rainy weather, or perhaps bad soil, leading to unforeseen engineering work.