How much does it really cost to install a pool in your backyard? The price depends on much more than choosing an above or in-ground pool.
The thought of diving into the cool, pristine waters of your very own swimming pool on a sweltering summer’s day is enticing to say the least. A swimming pool can be a great addition to your home, as it provides an outlet for leisure and fitness activities while increasing the overall value of your property.
However, there are several costs and considerations you need to take into account before installing a pool. From purchasing costs and safety regulations to ongoing running expenses, it’s important to know exactly how deep the water is before you dive in headfirst.
Choosing a pool
Before we can take a closer look at the ins and outs of installing a pool, we first need to look at the types of pools available and decide which one is right for you. There are three types of pools you can choose from:
- Above-ground pools. These are the cheapest and easiest option to install. They start from just a few hundred dollars for basic “splasher” pools, but will set you back roughly $3,000–$8,000 for more advanced models. You’ll also need to budget for the additional costs of filtration, landscaping, decking and the like. Above-ground pools in the US are typically vinyl-liner pools, although these are also available as in-ground pools.
- Fiberglass pools. Fiberglass pools are made using a pre-cast mold that is then dropped into a hole in your backyard. Prices average roughly $30,000 to $45,000, but more expensive fiberglass pool projects can cost upwards of $50,000.
- Concrete pools. Concrete pools are the most expensive option if you want to be able to take a dip at home, with prices starting at around $40,000 and heading up as far as $100,000-plus. One of the main advantages of concrete pools is that they allow you to create custom or semi-custom shapes to suit your space.
Which pool is right for me?
There are several factors you need to consider before deciding on the right pool for your home, including:
- Your budget. This is the most important consideration and will play a huge role in determining your final decision. Remember that factors such as the ease of access to the site, the style of pool you choose, any slope to the site, the accessories you select and more can all affect the total cost.
- How you will use the pool. Do you want a lap pool to get fit, a stylish design to act as an outdoor feature, a kid-friendly pool to help the whole family cool off, or some other configuration?
- The available space. How much space do you have for a pool in your backyard? Do you want to eliminate grass from the area entirely, or do you want to leave a grassy area untouched? Will you need a uniquely shaped pool to fit into the area available?
- The local regulations. Before installing a pool in your backyard, you’ll need to contact your local council and find out what you must do to comply with relevant safety and building regulations, for example, fencing laws.
Do some research about potentially using a home equity loan if you’re planning on going all out for your pool renovation. You’ll have to factor in costs for labor, fencing, pool toys, proper filtration and much more, especially for a fiberglass or concrete in-ground pool.
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Factors to consider when installing a pool
Once you’ve decided on the type of pool you want, there are still a number of decisions that need to be made to ensure that your addition is safe, affordable to maintain and suitable for your lifestyle. You’ll need to consider a wide range of factors before your pool project is complete, including all of the below.
While some countries have very strict safety guidelines surrounding pool fencing, it’s not mandatory in the US. However, Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas all have their own laws regarding pool fencing, and you’ll need to ensure you comply with all the relevant regulations.
While pool fencing isn’t required in the US, the International Code Council outlines strong safety standards for swimming pool fences:
- Fences must be a minimum of 48 inches tall
- The middle horizontal rail must be at least 45 inches above the bottom horizontal rail
- The spacing between pickets must be less than 4 inches.
- The space between the bottom horizontal rail and the ground must be less than 2 inches.
- The gate(s) must be self-closing and self-latching.
- The gate(s) need to open outward (away from the pool area).
- The operating mechanism of the latch must be at least 54 inches from the bottom of the gate or it shall be on the pool side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top AND shall not have any opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.
There are two main types of pool fencing options:
- Metal. Powder-coated aluminum and marine-grade steel fences are the most popular options and are chosen for their durability. They usually feature upright bars joined by horizontal rails at the top and bottom.
- Glass. Glass is usually seen as a more stylish option as it allows you to enjoy clear views of the water. Safety glass panels are attached to stainless-steel or aluminum posts using spigots and come in 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm sizes. Framed, semi-frameless and frameless glass fencing options are available.
Glass pool fencing often tends to be more expensive than metal fencing, especially if you want the frameless look. To give you a rough idea of costs, wrought iron fencing will set you back around $25 to $30 per linear foot, while semi-frameless glass fencing could be anywhere from $100 to $150 per linear foot.
If you want your pool to be ready for you to dive in at any moment, you’ll need to put some hard work to keep it clean. Beyond regularly removing leaves and other debris, you’ll need to consider the following cleaning system options:
- Hand vacuums. These attach to your pool’s skimmer box and can be maneuvered around the bottom and sides of your pool with a pole. While this is an affordable option with prices starting as low as $40 or $50, it can be a time-consuming chore.
- Mechanical cleaners. There are three general varieties of mechanical pool cleaners available:
- Suction cleaners. The cheapest of the three and are connected to your skimmer box with a hose, sucking up dirt and debris using the power of your pool’s filtration system. Prices range from $120 up to $1,000.
- Pressure cleaners. These cleaners boast more power but also a higher price tag. Some connect to your pool pump, but others also require an additional booster pump to function properly. Pressure cleaners range in price from roughly $500 to $1,000.
- Robotic cleaners. This method can make pool maintenance less of a back-breaking chore. They run on mains power and you can “set and forget” as they clean your pool. Prices for robotic cleaners range from $900 up to about $1,500.
- Professional pool cleaners. You can hire a professional pool cleaning company to clean your pool whenever you need, but you’ll probably pay at least $60 for each visit. Of course, this will also include things like water testing and the use of chemicals to maintain water quality.
There’s a lot more to keeping your pool in perfect swimming condition than just running the vacuum over it once a week. You’ll also need a filtration system to remove pollutants and other debris, as well as chemicals to kill off bacteria and maintain an acceptable level of water quality.
There are three main types of filtration systems to choose from:
- Sand. Sand filters use sand to trap dirt passing through the filter; the sand is then backwashed to remove the captured dirt. These filters are easy to clean and the sand will need to be replaced every five years or so. Expect to pay $250 to $750 for a sand filter, or more for a filter/pump combo.
- Diatomaceous earth (DE). DE filters pass your pool water through the porous fossilized remains of tiny shells and are very effective at filtering out tiny particles. These are widely considered to be the most effective option, but they’re also the most expensive and require regular maintenance. Expect to pay $500 and up.
- Cartridge. Typically used on small and above-ground pools, cartridge filters are the cheapest option but also do the least effective job. They also need cleaning regularly and sometimes struggle to filter out the smallest of particles. Expect to pay between $250 and $750 for a cartridge filter.
You will most likely need housing for the filtration equipment to protect it from the elements.
The best way to control bacteria levels in your pool is to add chlorine, but there are a few options available for chlorination:
- Do it manually. This option requires the most work and means you need to regularly test water quality and add chlorine every couple of days or so.
- Use a salt chlorinator. Even if you have a saltwater pool it still needs chlorine, so a salt chlorinator is used to convert salt crystals into chlorine gas. These units operate automatically to maintain water quality, and there are self-cleaning products available. Expect to pay between $500 and $800.
- Use a liquid chemical feeder. These are fitted to your pool’s filtration system and automatically feed liquid chlorine into the water. You can choose a basic unit (starting from $600) that injects the amount of chlorine you program into it whenever you want, or choose an advanced model ($2,000) that regularly tests chlorine and pH levels and injects chlorine or acid accordingly.
Chlorine is sold in granular, liquid or tablet varieties, and prices vary depending on the option you choose.
Finally, invest in a pool testing kit ($30 to $50 for good entry-level kits) so that you can check things such as the pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness of the water.
If you want to heat your pool so that it’s suitable for swimming all year round, you have three options to choose from: solar, electric or gas heating. Each system has its own advantages, but the best option depends on your climate and budget.
Solar heating. Definitely worth your consideration if you live in a region that’s warm and sunny for most of the year. Just remember that you’ll need suitable roof space for solar panels, and you could be looking at installation costs of around $5,000. However, once installed, solar heating can effectively heat your pool for 10 or more months of the year.
Electric heating. Involves the use of a heat pump to maintain the water temperature at the right level all year long. Water is taken from your pool and then cycled through a heat exchanger, and you can expect to pay around $10,000 for an electric heating system.
Gas heating. Allows you to easily regulate the temperature of your pool water to the level you want at any time of year. These systems start at around $6,000, but you’ll also need to factor ongoing gas running costs into your equations.
If you want to protect your pool from the elements, a pool cover is an essential investment.
There is a wide range of solar and thermal blankets available that trap heat in your pool, lowering your heating costs and minimizing water evaporation.
Prices start at $70 or $80 for basic leaf-blocker covers and range up to $500 for more advanced solar and thermal blankets. Expensive safety covers are also available, but you’ll need to pay well over $1,000 if you want a cover that can be deployed automatically.
There’s nothing like taking a dip to cool off on a hot summer’s night, but to do that you’ll need a lighting system in place. The right lighting will not only provide essential safety for those night-time swims, but it can also turn the pool into an attractive feature of your home.
Underwater lights can either be the traditional halogen or the more energy-efficient LED. They can be flush-mounted, meaning they’re in line with the surface of your pool, or surface-mounted, with the latter providing the benefits of easier and cheaper installation.
Then you need to consider lighting options for the surrounding garden and outdoor area, as well as feature lighting if you want to give your pool some night-time “wow factor”.
Expect underwater lights to start from around $300, but total costs vary substantially depending on the size of your pool and the lighting options you choose.
For less expensive items like lights and pool covers, consider applying for a low or no interest credit card.
Pool tiles and paving
If you install an in-ground swimming pool, you’ll need paving around the perimeter. The paving will obviously need to be slip-resistant and you’ll also need to take care of the pool coping.
Pool coping is available in a square-edged or bull-nosed finish, and could be limestone, sandstone, slate, granite, concrete, brick or even clay.
The cost of completing the coping and the paving to the wider pool area varies substantially depending on the size of the job and the materials chosen. The coping itself could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000, but it’s best to compare quotes to find out how much paving the rest of the pool area will set you back.
Finally, for an above-ground pool you may need timber decking, which could add $1,500–$2,000 or potentially more to your total bill.
While pools undoubtedly have their benefits, there are several costs and maintenance factors you need to take into account before you can choose the right swimming pool for your home.
Having a pool is a surefire way to beat those hot summer days, however, you should look into financing for your backyard oasis before you start digging. While a home renovation can add value to your home, carefully consider how even a minor remodel could affect your family financially. If you’ve done the calculations and it’s feasible within your budget, then by all means, jump right in.