Cheap Swimming Pools: The Right and Wrong Ways to Save
Buying a Swimming Pool? Here are Some Tips You Can't Afford to Ignore
Sticker shock! If you're contemplating a backyard pool, you'd best prepare yourself for it. It may not come when you first begin your research, but as you zero in on the design, the lighting, the fence, the pool cover, the heater, and on and on - the ever-growing tally can really take a toll on your psyche. At some point, you may find yourself despairing that you simply can't afford the pool you want.
The good news is, you can probably afford some sort of pool. You just need to take a step back, open your mind to new possibilities, and yes, make some compromises. There are a lot of opportunities to save money if you do a little research and get creative.
You don't have to cut corners, either. Cheap swimming pools don't have to be low quality swimming pools. Here's some of the best advice I've picked up in my research.
Tip #1: Consider a Different Type of Pool
Inground pools are what people typically envision when they think of a backyard swimming pool. Unfortunately, they're also super expensive compared to the other options. Choosing an above ground or semi-inground pool instead of an inground one instantly shaves thousands of dollars off your price.
Of course, if you're looking for a yard feature, there's really no substitute for an inground swimming pool. However, you can come close by building a deck around an above ground pool, so that it blends nicely and looks sharp.
Above ground swimming pools have advantages other than the lower cost, too. The biggest one is that you're not making a huge commitment. An above ground pool can be disassembled and sold if you decide that you don't want it anymore. An inground pool can't be removed without major expense.
Tip #2: Shop Around
Whether you're getting an above ground pool or inground, it pays to look high and low for the best price. You can often find the same above ground pool at vastly different prices depending on where you look. You may also want to think about buying a used pool, provided you can find one in excellent condition.
When it comes to inground pools, "shopping around" means getting quotes from different builders. Again, these can vary a lot. However, just as you wouldn't buy a worn out above ground pool (no matter how low the price), you wouldn't want to entrust an inexperienced or otherwise sketchy contractor with a major project like pool installation. Keep your options limited to reputable pool companies.
Tip #3: Do It Yourself
If you're up to it and have the time, you can do some or even all of the pool installation yourself and save tons of money. In fact, while some of them are more challenging than others, most above ground pools can be set up by the average homeowner (note the word "most").
Inground pools are much more complicated. Still, you may be able to do some of the digging or other work - provided you have the know-how and can arrange for other contractors to fill in the gaps. To help you along, you could purchase a pool kit that has most of the materials you need to install a basic pool (including, in many cases, detailed instructions and phone support).
Just don't fool yourself into thinking it's going to be easy. Simply managing a project of this scope can be a huge job - never mind the extra labor you have to do. The last thing you want is to get halfway into a pool project and have to quit.
Building a Pool Yourself
Tip #4: Scale Down
Let's not ignore the obvious. If your project is too expensive, it's possible you don't have the wrong type of pool - but simply too much pool. Consider whether a more modest (and therefore more affordable) pool will work for you.
Actual physical size is the biggest factor. Smaller pools are not only much cheaper initially, but are cheaper to maintain going forward. They also take up less room, so you have more space in your backyard for other things - landscaping, a deck, outdoor kitchen, whatever you like.
Besides the size of the pool, think about whether you have too many extra features. Diving boards and slides are fun, but they're expensive and can really complicate the project. Fancy pool lights or decking, spas, tanning ledges - these things also add a lot to the final bill. If you need to trim costs, take a close look at all these features and try to separate the must-haves from the kinda-wants.
What NOT to Do
These tips are all perfectly reasonable, but if you follow them all you could wind up with a swimming pool you're not crazy about. This is bad news, because people's interest in their pools tends to wane over time. If you're not really into your pool when it's new, then the odds are that later on, you're going to be regretting making the purchase at all.
The bigger danger is to do something that's not part of these tips at all - and that is, use substandard materials or a bad contractor. This will almost always cost you more money in the long run, as you have to repair or replace things sooner than you expected. Worse, you could end up with a pool that's structurally unsound or even unsafe.
In summary, a swimming pool is a huge commitment. You should put a lot of thought into what you can afford, whether it's something you really want, and if it's high enough quality to last for years to come.