I was a competitive swimmer, lifeguard, swim instructor, and swim coach for more than 20 years. If you are looking for someone to advocate for people learning to swim and safely enjoy their time around the water – you’ve found the right person! But as a homeowner with a pool, I want to share what we have learned over the last 11 years. My hope is that if you are considering purchasing or installing a pool, or if you are looking to buy a house with a pool – that our experiences will help you make a smarter decision.
If you are a pool owner, don’t leave yet! I know I have missed things – and your experiences in different locations and with different kinds of pools will also help any reader who is ready to “jump in” to pool ownership! Or maybe you just have a funny story or poolside drink recipe to share! Feel free to join in the fun!
Let’s jump in to what we’ve learned in the last 11 years!
1) Costs – This may seem like a no-brainer, but creating a list of costs related to pool ownership will really open your eyes. I’m not going to give specific figures on costs because they will vary based on the type of pool, and your location and situation. Here is a list of every item we have spent money on related to our pool:
A new pool liner, goggles, chemicals, test kits, ladders, goggles, filters, pumps, hoses, vacuums, electrical lines/power, goggles, brushes, skimmers, covers – solar and winter, toys, goggles, floats, lights, fences, storage units, goggles, new concrete deck, swim suits and a ridiculous amounts of beach towels (and did I mention goggles?)
And some people get slides or diving boards, heaters or enclosures, or they spring for new deck furniture and build fancy pool houses with tiki bars and TV’s.
And let’s not forget the cost of the water (and adding water occasionally) and for many – the cost of the pool itself (and installation). And then there is liability insurance to consider too…
Some of these items only cost a few dollars, but some cost thousands of dollars (or more!) We love our pool, but don’t go into pool ownership only thinking about pool parties and lazy summer days in the sun.
Pools are expensive and if someone tells you different, they probably have a boat they’d like to sell you too.
2) Safety – This is more important than anything else I can write. With a pool, you will have kids, neighbors, families, and friends visiting to have fun. You may be labeled the “big jerk” but HAVE RULES and ENFORCE THEM – 100% of the time. And have someone who can swim (preferably trained as a lifeguard) watching the pool at all times. No phones – no other distractions – no exceptions. I could have drowned when I was 2 if it wasn’t for the fast action of my brother and a lifeguard. It happens much faster than you think.
Safety first. Always. Enough said.
3) Maintenance – Don’t confuse your pool with a lake or pond. They both have water, but pools do not take care of themselves (and if you don’t put the time in to properly maintaining your pool, it will look like a pond before you know it!) If you don’t understand the difference between chlorine or bromine, and you don’t know how to lower the pH, or control algae growth – you will spend a lot of time (and loads of money) at the local pool store.
Of course you could pay someone to maintain it too – and I should probably add that to the list of potential costs above! Just remember you’ll probably need to monitor the maintenance person too. They won’t show up every day (or even every week) in many cases, so you will need to learn something about pool maintenance.
Having a big birthday party next to a slimy green pool is no fun. And neither is swimming in a pool where the chemicals will eat through your suit. It takes WORK to maintain a pool.
4) Purpose – Why do you want a pool? If you consider all the costs, it is certainly worth the time to write out some reasons (deeper thinking you know) as to why you want a pool or think you need a pool. Is it so the kids can have fun? And how often could they use it? Or are you going to use it to teach them to swim? Can you swim? Maybe you will use it for exercising? Will your family, friends, and neighbors come visit? Or do they have their own pools?
Having clarity around why you want a pool will help you make a smarter decision about getting one (or buying a house with one).
You can’t easily “undo” a pool (or the purchase of a house with one).
5) Location – Where you live and the “days of possible use” is really important when considering a pool. We live in the Northeast where we can use our pool (without a heater) about 100 days a year. That’s less than 1/3 of the year for all of the expenses related to the pool. If you live in a warm climate, you will likely have more expenses related to chemicals/maintenance but you will probably get more use out of it too. Be realistic – our 100 days are often nowhere near 100 days of usable pool time.
We had friends who calculated the cost per use of their boat one summer. Then they sold their boat. Your pool may turn into a big boat docked in your back yard. Have you heard the joke about what BOAT stands for – Bring Out Another Thousand! POOL could have its own joke. Haven’t come up with that yet…
6) Lifestyle – What are your weeks like? Weekends? Do you work all week or are your kids in school? Are you off at activities in the evening or at family events on the weekend? Do you enjoy traveling? What will you do with the pool when you aren’t around? Does your lifestyle and interest in all kinds of activities align with having and using a pool?
We know people who own a camper, a boat, who go on vacation for a few weeks each summer, and they have a pool.
Pools are a lot like cats. They can go a little while without a lot of attention – but ignore a cat and they might rebel. Your pool will rebel – and it will take a lot longer to repair the damage than it will take to win back over your cat…
7) Future – Think about what your life will be like in ten years. When we bought our house the kids were 9 and 6. The kids were in the pool a lot when they were young and we hosted fun swim parties for their soccer and baseball teams.
But eleven years later, the kids are busy with jobs and their friends and they enjoy the pool only a few times each summer. And this is normal. We still enjoy the pool because we are home a lot in the summer, but it definitely doesn’t get the use it did years ago. Your time with your pool will probably have a life cycle. Know where you are in the cycle and figure out if it still makes sense for you.
Pools can provide a place to make great memories! But you can make great memories at other places and doing other things too.
So are we happy we bought a house with a pool? We sure are. Did we know all the costs? Not at all – and we ended up spending thousands (and thousands) of dollars to rehab the pool a couple of years after we moved in to the house. We had to use a lot of savings to do this because we didn’t have a good plan at all. And we ended up replacing the filter and pump a few years later. And then the winter cover.
If you have a pool, it’s always something – and you need to budget for it.
POOL – Pull Out Our Line (of credit)?
I’ll post a follow-up next week to explain how we save money maintaining our pool. Mr. MSD gets most of the credit for the sparkling pool, but I take care of the chemical testing. I have the easy job 😉
Do you have a pool or did you have one growing up? Can you add to the list of costs or any of the lessons I shared? Have you looked at houses with pools and decided against them? How does a pool affect property values or limiting the pool of potential buyers for a house? Any other ideas for what POOL could mean?
Goggles Photo Credit: Julia Reinikka www.freeimages.com