How to Build a Pool: Complete Guide

When you first start planning your backyard pool, the process can seem overwhelming. Before you start digging, you need to consider your obligations, requirements, and options so your inground pool installation can move forward without a hitch. A backyard swimming pool can transform your plain, boring backyard into a summer oasis for the whole family. Pools do require a significant investment, but that hasn’t decreased their popularity. If you are ready to take the plunge into building your own inground swimming pool, there are some key steps to ensure you have the perfect pool for your family.

How to Build a Pool

Types of Pools

There are three primary types of inground pools: concrete, vinyl-lined, and fiberglass. Some climates are suited to a fourth type: steel or aluminum walled pools.

Concrete pools are the easiest to customize and are therefore the most popular. They can be formed to be any size, depth, or shape. These pools are often referred to as Gunite pools because the concrete is poured within steel-reinforced pool walls. After the concrete has cured, it is plastered over, painted, and either textured or tiled.

The downside of concrete pools is the amount of time they take to build, ranging between 3 and 12 weeks. Having said this, they have the best durability of any type of inground pool. Concrete pools can last well over 50 years before they need repairs, so it may be worth the initial wait.

Vinyl pools have pre-formed flexible liners that drop into an excavated hole. They are secured to a steel frame. Most vinyl pools are rectangular, but there are some that are L-shaped. Some manufacturers offer free-form liners to give you added flexibility with regard to pool shape. It takes about 1 to 3 weeks to install a vinyl pool.

It’s important to note that vinyl pools are easy to puncture. Pets, sharp objects, and even some pool toys can cause a break in the liner. It is possible to repair them, but it’s best to choose the thickest vinyl liner possible to avoid this issue.

Fiberglass pools are pre-molded into a giant bowl to be dropped into the hole in your backyard. These are the fastest types of pools to install, taking as little as 3 days. There is a super-smooth gel finish to fiberglass pools that is durable and resistant to stains. Fiberglass is non-porous, so unlike concrete pools, fiberglass pools require fewer pool chemicals and have fewer algae problems.

Your options for size and shape with a fiberglass pool are limited. The transportation process for fiberglass pools can sometimes be difficult due to state regulations. It’s not uncommon for haulers to have to take long, circuitous routes to deliver fiberglass pools.

The other downside is that your yard must be able to accommodate the crane that’s required to maneuver the shell into your excavated hole. It’s important to check with the manufacturer or transportation company before committing to a fiberglass pool to ensure it’s possible to install it in your location.

All three of these pool types – concrete, vinyl, and fiberglass, are available across the United States. However, there are some types that will be more prevalent in certain regions than others.

Fiberglass and vinyl liners are preferable in regions with cold climates and frequent freeze and thaw cycles that can damage concrete pools. Fiberglass seems to be most popular in the south, whereas the flexibility of vinyl makes it ideal for northern areas.

Discuss the best type of pool for your region with a local pool contractor to help you determine which one is best. It’s likely they install one type of pool most often, and there’s probably a reason why. Once you have decided on the type of pool you want, hire a pool contractor with experience installing that type of pool.

Cost Comparison

It’s not possible to give an exact price estimate on how much a pool costs since the prices of pool installation vary so much across different regions.

Where you live, the type of soil you have, your water system, and the type and size of the pool will all have a significant influence on the price. The time of year is also a factor. Many contractors will offer discounts during the off-season.

As a general rule, concrete pools are the most expensive, then vinyl-lined, then fiberglass. This is only a guideline, however. You could certainly have a high-end, customized fiberglass pool that costs more than a simple concrete one. It is reasonable to expect to spend about $50,000 on installing your pool.

Zoning Rules

Any inground pool is subject to building and zoning regulations. You will have to apply for a building permit and get approval before commencing work.

The rules vary in different municipalities, counties, and states, but it’s standard to have to comply with setback rules. These distances apply to property lines, septic tanks, wells, sewer lines, and waterways. There are also usually building codes that apply to pool barriers and gates.

Usually, you must have a perimeter wall or fence at least 4 feet tall that is equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates. Fence boards cannot be more than 4 inches apart, and chain-link fences must have openings smaller than one ¼”.

If you have children or grandchildren that frequent your backyard, you might consider placing alarms on your pool gates and installing safety covers over your pool. Safety covers can provide an additional benefit of keeping your pool clean and free from leaves and debris. For more specific regulations for your local area, you should contact your zoning board.

How to Build a Pool

Choosing your Pool Site

Choosing the best location for your pool is almost as important as choosing the type of pool. Consider the following tips when choosing your pool placement:

  • Sunny areas – Take advantage of solar energy by choosing a location that’s sunny and away from trees. This will reduce the amount of energy required to keep the water heated and reduce leaves falling into the pool.
  • Wind – If you build your pool in a windy location, you will lose more water through evaporation than you would otherwise. It can also be uncomfortable to swim in the wind. You can use shrub rows or solid fencing to act as a windbreak.
  • High and dry – Try not to put your pool in a low-lying area of your yard, as this can cause it to become flooded with mud and debris during periods of heavy rain.
  • Wires – Your pool should be clear of telephone and electrical wires both above and below it. This also applies to sewer lines, septic systems, and underground cables.
  • Visibility – Ideally, you want your pool to be within sight of your house so that you can keep an eye on swimmers from indoors.

Circulation Systems

Pool circulation systems are required for filtration and sanitation to keep your pool water sparkling clean. Your filtration pump will draw water through the pool drains and filter it through a skimmer and a filter before circulating the water back into the pool. There are three types of filtration systems you can choose for your pool:

  • Sand filters are the most common method of filtering pool water. They have sand embedded within the filter to trap any dirt and debris. These filters are cleaned by “backwashing” your water flows and flushing dirty water into your waste line.
  • Cartridge filters are large cylinder-shaped cartridges used to filter out dirt. These filters don’t require backwashing. You can remove them and rinse them off with a garden hose, which requires much less effort and water to clean them.
  • Diatomaceous earth filtering involves a porous powder with small openings, similar to a sponge. Dirt particles are trapped as water filters through. DE filters are able to filter out dust, algae, dirt, and bacteria. Diatomaceous earth filters are cleaned through backwashing but use less water than sand filters. Fresh DE can be added to the filter after cleaning.

Once you’ve decided on a filter system to remove excess debris, you will need to add a chemical sanitizer to kill bacterial contaminants and prevent algal growth. Oxidizers (also called Shock) are used to kill contaminants. The three sanitizers you can choose from to keep your pool clean are bromine, chlorine, and PHMB.

Chlorine is the most popular choice for pool sanitizer as it’s also effective as an oxidizer. Upon dissolution, chlorine breaks down into free chlorine or hypochlorous acid. This sanitizes and oxidizes your pool at the same time.

Bromine tablets also sanitize your pool. The tablets are designed to dissolve slowly to produce available bromine.

The other option is PHMB or polyhexamethylene biguanide. This sanitizer is used in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide and algaecide to complete the oxidation process.

Salt chlorine methods of sanitization have gained popularity recently. This type of system turns regular table salt into chlorine, reducing costs for sanitizer. They don’t, however, create a saltwater pool.

Pool Budget Considerations

There’s a lot more to building an inground pool than digging a hole and filling it with water. The final cost of an inground pool is usually about twice the cost of the pool itself. There are several items that aren’t included in the price of the pool. These can include:

  • Landscaping
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Pathways
  • Decks
  • Fencing
  • Patios
  • Gates
  • Privacy screens
  • Spas or hot tubs
  • Outdoor sound systems
  • Pool cover
  • Water testing equipment and chemical
  • Patio furniture
  • Shade structure
  • Windbreaks or retaining walls
  • Equipment sheds
  • Storage cabinet
  • Pool toys
  • Outdoor electrical outlets

Most likely, you won’t need all of the items on this list, but it’s important to keep in mind that your dream backyard poolscape probably involves more than just the pool itself. Keep these things in mind when you are budgeting for or financing your pool project.

Steps to Building a Pool

We’ve already discussed some of the initial decisions you need to make before installing your inground pool.  These include

  • Choosing your pool type
  • Choosing the accessories you wish to build in conjunction with your pool

Now let’s discuss the next steps in your pool building project.

  • Finding a reputable contractor
  • You need to find a contractor in your area who is experienced with building pools. Check their reviews, get references, and ask what past projects they have done. Most pool contractors will happily give you a list.
  • Don’t be afraid to get multiple quotes from multiple contractors. Get your quotes written out on paper rather than obtaining verbal quotes. Some contractors will give you a good feeling about your project, and some won’t. It’s important to go with your gut on which contractor is best for you.
  • Obtain all the necessary permits
  • If you’ve found a contractor, they can often help you with obtaining the necessary permits. As we discussed earlier, you will need a building permit at a minimum. Most likely, you will also need to obtain plumbing and electrical permits. The sooner you send in your permit applications, the sooner they will be approved, and you can start building. Make sure to know what stages of the project require inspections to keep your permits valid.
  • The majority of permits are valid for one year from the time they are obtained. It’s usually relatively easy to apply for permit extensions, but you do need a valid reason for why there was a construction delay.
  • Excavating and building your pool
  • If you have a plan, a contractor, and all of your permits in order, it’s time to start digging!  There are several steps to pool construction:
  • Excavation or digging a hole in the ground where your pool is going.
  • Steel reinforcement for pool walls (if you’re building a concrete or vinyl-lined pool), installing power, and mapping water lines.
  • Installing the concrete, vinyl lining, or fiberglass pool shell.
  • Building any decks, landscaping features, fencing, and gates.
  • Filling your pool, testing water, and adding chemicals.

While this sounds like a simple task, it’s not Each of these steps will take several weeks and is very labor intensive.

Conclusion

Building an inground pool is a lot of work, but it’s worth the time and effort to make sure your pool will be enjoyed by your family for many years to come.

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