Costs and considerations when installing a pool

Costs and considerations when installing a pool feature

How much does it cost to install a pool in your backyard and what safety regulations do you need to satisfy? Read on to find out.

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 could be a great addition to your home, not only because of the leisure and fitness benefits it offers but also due to the simple fact that it will add value to 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 cost of filtration, landscaping, decking and the like. Above-ground pools in Australia are typically vinyl-liner pools, although these are also available as in-ground pools.
  • Fibreglass pools. Fibreglass pools are made using a pre-cast mould that is then dropped into a hole in your backyard. Prices average roughly $25,000 to $35,000, but more expensive fibreglass 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.

Factors to consider when installing a pool

Once you’ve decided on the type of pool you want, there are still myriad decisions that need to be made to ensure that your addition is safe, affordable to maintain and the perfect complement to your lifestyle. You’ll need to consider a wide range of factors before your pool project is complete, including all of the below.

Fencing

Legal requirements

There are some very strict safety guidelines surrounding pool fencing in Australia, and you’ll need to ensure you comply with all the relevant regulations. Australian Standard AS 1926.1-2012 outlines all the specifications for pool fencing and gates for all pools deeper than 30cm, including:

  • The fences and gates must be at least 1.2m tall
  • The gap at the bottom of the fence must be no larger than 100mm
  • The gaps between the vertical elements of the fence must be no greater than 100mm
  • Gates must be self-closing and self-latching
  • The fence must have a “non-climbable zone” at least 900mm in height and radius
  • Gates must open outwards (away from the pool)

Glass pool fence

There may be other legislation governing pool fencing that applies in your state or territory. For example, all new pools in NSW must be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the house. Your fence will also need to be inspected by a licensed inspector and registered with the NSW government’s Swimming Pool Register. Check the regulations that apply where you live to make sure your fencing is up to standard:

Fencing options

There are two main types of pool fencing options:

  • Metal. Powdercoated aluminium 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 aluminium 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 $400 to $600 per linear metre, while semi-frameless glass fencing could be anywhere from $250 to $500 per linear metre. Frameless glass fencing can cost up to $1,000 per linear metre.

Cleaning

If you want your pool to be ready for you to dive in at any moment, you’ll need to put in the hard work necessary to keep it clean. As well as regularly using a scoop to remove 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 manoeuvred 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, pressure cleaners and robotic cleaners. Suction cleaners are 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 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 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 engage the services of a professional pool cleaning company to clean your pool whenever you need, for example once a fortnight, 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.

Find out more about maintaining a swimming pool

Filtration and sanitation

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 nasties, as well as chemicals to kill off bacteria and maintain an acceptable level of water quality.

There are three main types of filtration system to choose from:

  • Sand. Sand filters are the most popular option in Australian pools and 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 $400 to $700 for a sand filter, or more for a filter/pump combo.
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE). DE filters pass your pool water through the porous fossilised 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 $650 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 $300 and $500 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.

Heating

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 right one for you will depend on the climate where you live and your budget.

If you live in a region that’s warm and sunny for much of the year, solar heating is definitely worth your consideration. 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.

The final option is gas heating, which can get your pool water to the temperature you want at any time of year. These systems start at around $6,000, while you’ll also need to factor ongoing gas running costs into your equations.

Pool covers

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 also minimising 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, while you’ll need to pay well over $1,000 if you want a cover that can be deployed automatically.

Some councils and state governments also offer rebates to help cover the cost of pool blankets, so check if a similar scheme applies in your area.

Pool lights

There’s nothing like taking a dip to cool off on a hot summer’s night, but to do that you’ll need to spend money on lighting. 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.

Pool tiles and paving

If you install an in-ground swimming pool you will need paving around the pool. 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, while 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.

Images: Shutterstock

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