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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

So You Want to Build a Swimming Pool

If you’ve dreamed of having an in-ground pool just a cannonball leap from your backdoor, you may have an idealized image of what constructing a pool takes. Before you take the plunge and build a swimming pool, take a look at this inventory of what you need to consider.

A complex project

Building a swimming pool is a major project that requires lots of planning and permits, sophisticated construction and, once you’re done, ongoing maintenance.

Planning and preparing to build a swimming pool

Let’s look first at planning. Begin by determining the best place to build a swimming pool on your property. Survey and measure your yard space to make sure there’s truly room for a pool. Keep in mind that your deed restrictions or local rules may require a certain setback distance from the property line for any structure, including a pool. This may restrict you from placing a pool where its deck will run right up to a property line fence. Likewise, an oddly shaped lot may limit your choices about where to build a swimming pool.

Your site must also have room for the pump and filtration system as well as their enclosure. Sketch out everything on graph paper or ask if your contractor can provide a drawing using computer-assisted design software. When it’s time for construction, you and your contractor can use stakes and string to mark off the pool’s location as well as the shape and size of the surrounding pool deck.

Other planning considerations include:

  • Fencing. Local building codes will likely require you to have a fence with a self-locking gate surrounding the pool to protect small children.

  • Electricity. You will have to provide electricity to the pump and to any lighting you want around the pool. Do you want the pool heated?

  • Accessories. Do you want to add a hot tub when you build a swimming pool? How about a pool slide for the kids? Will you need a shed for storing chemicals and pool toys and for sheltering outdoor furniture in the off-season?

Paying for a pool

The ultimate planning step is figuring how much it will cost to build a swimming pool. In-ground pools start at about $40,000 and can top $100,000, depending on how ambitious your pool project is and on construction costs in your region. Don’t forget that there’ll be ongoing costs for maintaining the pool.

Assess how much cash you can put into the project. If you will need to finance, contact a bank or credit union to determine if you qualify for a home equity loan.

Finding a pool contractor

Carefully research pool builders in your area. Search online sites such as Home Advisor, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. Look for a contractor with a great reputation that has a lot of experience constructing pools. Contact at least three candidates and have them meet you at home to discuss your plans to build a swimming pool.

Find out if your contractor candidates will design the pool as well as build it. How long has each been in business? How many pools have they built? Ask for customer referrals, then ask those referrals for the names of any other customers they know.

Request bids and get proof from each candidate that he has liability insurance. Ask about warranty terms. Ask to visit homes where the contractor has done work to see the quality for yourself. The contractor will walk you through the details of planning, placement, construction and maintenance afterward.

At the end of the project, request proof of release of liens from the contractor and any subcontractors he may have used.

Permits and permissions

Don’t forget to get preapproval from your homeowners association and the local building code enforcement office before construction begins. An unauthorized pool project can be legally stopped and reversed, which will cost you thousands. Your contractor may file for the required building permits as a service, but remember that ultimately they are your responsibility.


Building a pool can take from a few weeks to several months, depending on the size of the project.

If you’re building a swimming pool within an area that is already fenced, keep in mind that the contractor will have to remove fence panels to allow access for large equipment such as a backhoe. Your yard will be torn up for a while if you build a swimming pool. Contact your neighbors in advance and let them know about the temporary noise and mess coming.


Get referrals from your contractor on maintenance services for your new pool, or learn how to maintain it yourself.

Chemicals to keep your pool clean will cost between $50 and $100 per month. Expect an increase in your electricity and water bill and perhaps your homeowners insurance.

Maintaining the sides of the pool interior is the biggest periodic expense. Painted concrete needs to be repainted about every five years; plaster walls can last 10. The lifespan of a vinyl wall lies somewhere in between. Brand and quality determine how long equipment such as the pump will last.

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