by Rob Cox April 30, 2015
When building a swimming pool, there's a lot to keep track of, and a lot of decisions are made in a short time, with a salesman looking at his watch. In competitive pool markets, pool builders often compete on price, and may look for ways to bring the cost of the overall project down. Underbidding and then asking for more money later (for more stone, or gravel or rebar) is not a classy move, and any good pool contract should lock in prices, per square foot or linear foot, not by volume of material used or labor hours. A good pool contract will cover all uncertainties, including hitting water or rock.
But those issues I just mentioned are not the subject of today's blog post - our topic today is about those unmentionable things - extra costs or burdens that you will bear down the road, long after construction. These are the things your pool builder forgot to mention...
That joint between the pool deck and the back edge of the pool coping, it shouldn't be caulked for 30 days after the concrete has been laid, to allow the concrete to cure but also in case a slab should slip or slide in any direction. The expansion joint should be filled with outdoor caulking, to keep the joint from filling with debris, and also to prevent water from flowing into the joint, which causes erosion problems, frost heave and damage to the pool beam. Fortunately, pool caulk is not overly expensive, and costs about $7 per linear foot if done by a company, or for a few hundred bucks and a few hours time, you can DIY caulk your own pool.
If your pool is located in the northern half of the union, you likely get snow and freezing temps during the winter. In that case, you will want to winterize the pool each fall, which can cost $400+ per year, to have a service company close your pool, plus another $400 if you have them open it in the spring. You'll also need a pool cover, pool chemicals, pool plugs and other winterizing paraphernalia. This will cost $500 every 5 years or so - unless you go with a safety cover - which will cost 3x as much, but will last 3x longer, and perform much better as well. Fortunately, with sites like poolcenter.com, you can buy your own winter pool supplies, and with blogs like this - who needs a pool service company?
The 3 ft deck apron is a standard inclusion with many pools, and it's meant to just be a starting point. It's not much more expensive to double the size of your pool deck, unless you are laying down expensive flagstone or pavers. A builder may offer you more decking , but they may not tell you that 3 feet of pool deck is not enough. At least increase it to 4 feet on the sides and 6 feet on the ends - you'll thank me later.
It may just be a personal preference, but if you're like me, pool water is perfect in the 82-84° range. For many people, there's about 4 weeks of perfect water temperature, naturally heated by the sun, and then there's the rest of the season, less than 80°. Doesn't bother some people, but if you like warm water, decide on which is best for you - solar, electric or gas pool heat, and have it installed when the pool is built. A pool heater can be added later on, and many parts of pool heater installation is DIY friendly. If you have a suitable sun exposure for solar heating, installing a solar pool heater is an easy Saturday job for any handy homeowner.
The best type of pool cleaner, for most pools - is a booster pump driven "pressure cleaner", like a Polaris. This type of cleaner however, requires a dedicated plumbing line, or a pipe that is plumbed from the pool equipment pad, to a point midway down the pool wall, and about 6" below water level. The dedicated pipe can be plumbed on either side of the pump, for suction cleaners, or pressure cleaners. If you are trying to save costs, and are considering cutting out the pool cleaner, have them lay the dedicated pipe anyway, and stub it up above ground. With the pipe in place underground, you can install your own Polaris cleaner or suction cleaner down the road - or you can use the line for a fountain.
A salt system, aka salt chlorinator, makes it's own chlorine by converting salt water into hypochlorous acid. You'll (almost) never need to buy chlorine tablets again, and (usually) wont' need to use pool shock. It's a great hands-free way to chlorinate the pool, produces soft and silky water, and is a great conversation piece / gadget. But it won't save you money over buying chlorine tablets and pool shock. In the long run, 5 years, 10 years, the cost of using a salt chlorinator works out to be about the same as using tablets and granular.
That's all for now! Do you have anything to add to the list? Send me an email!