As the temperatures climb in Buffalo, and you’re praying to Mother Nature for snow, you may instead find yourself wishing for a refreshing dip in a pool. Or maybe you just want your own place to sunbathe while the kids splash and dive in.
It’s the perfect summer daydream, right?
But if you’re considering adding your own tropical oasis to your backyard, you need to evaluate the many costs and commitments before digging up the ground. Above-ground pools start at around $1,500 and in-ground pools can cost 10-times as much – or more. Plus there’s landscaping costs, upkeep requirements that will involve both time and money, along with chemical expenses that can easily add hundreds of dollars a year to your pool tab.
It’s not all about the pool structure, said Mark Klosko, one of the store managers and sales representatives at Gary’s Pools & Leisure in Cheektowaga. There’s much more planning and many steps to take before you break out the floating chairs.
First, he said, is to think about the retail end of things. This includes the type of pool (above-ground, in-ground or semi-in-ground) and all the accessories, which include the pump, filter, chemicals, vacuums, covers and more.
An above-ground pool package can cost anywhere from $1,500 for smaller models, but customers typically spend around $2,000 to $2,500 for an average-sized models, Klosko said. Gary’s Pools & Leisure only sells above-ground and semi-in-ground pools, which are buried partially in the ground to keep your yard mostly unobstructed.
Colley’s Pools and Spas in Hamburg has above-ground pools that start at $2,199 for a 15-foot round model, and the price includes the filter, pump, starter chemicals, wall brush, vacuum kit, telescopic hose, safety ladder, pool alarm, winter and solar covers and water test strips for testing pH and alkalinity, according to Bill Fisher, the retail manager at Colley’s.
Colley’s also sells in-ground pools, which start at $14,995 for a 12-foot-by-24-foot “Bahama” pool or a 19-foot octagon. A 16-foot by 32-foot “oasis” model starts at $19,995, which Fisher says is the most common starting point. Colley’s also sells a 16-foot-by-32-foot “lagoon” model, which starts at $22,995.
The prices are only the starting points, Fisher said, and prices vary by how much landscaping work must be done to the yard and what other add-ons the customer wants. A pool can cost anywhere from the starting point to $200,000, depending on the size and other features tacked on, he said.
“I think people go to the website, see it, see the price and say, ‘At least I’ve got an idea,’” Fisher said. “Normally someone will come in and we’ll talk with them, go through our catalog, show them all the different types of features, and then we’ll schedule an appointment and one of our in ground sales guys goes to the home and does the estimate right there for the customer.”
The second step is to consider whether you want to install the pool yourself or hire an installer. Gary’s and Colley’s do not install their above-ground models, and most consumers choose to hire someone to do the work, Klosko said. Both stores contract the work out of the shop with a trusted installer. Installation can cost anywhere from $400 to $700 for an above-ground pool, Klosko said, depending on the size of the pool and how much landscape work must be done in the yard.
Colley’s does install its in-ground models and the fee is included, Fisher said. “We can go right from A to Z – the pool, the concrete, landscaping and fencing. And we can put that whole quote together, so that when we walk away, the customer knows exactly what he’s looking at,” he said.
The third and final step: Make sure you have all the requirements to run electrical to the filter and pump system, Klosko said. This also includes all building and electrical permits issued by your town or city, which most homeowners either are unaware of or forget to do, he said.
Obtaining a permit is as easy as calling your town hall or taking a trip there, though permit requirements and fees vary by locale.
The Town of Amherst, for example, charges either $68 or $250 for building permits – $68 for an “accessory to a one- or two-family dwelling” and $250 for all other types of pools, according to its website. Electrical permit fees are $40 for an above-ground pool and $85 for an in-ground model. Plumbing permit fees are $60 for all pool types.
Pools can be built only in side-yards or backyards, and the town must receive copies of all construction plans before any structure can be erected.
The state also requires every pool built after December 2006 to have an alarm that detects when a person enters the water. These range from $199.99 to $249.99 at Gary’s Pools & Leisure.
All in-ground pools must be enclosed by a fence or a barrier, according to state law, and must be at least 4 feet tall. This is to make the swimming pools inaccessible to small children who may wander into the water unattended. Colley’s sells Protect-A-Child fences and gates. Prices vary depending on the size of the pool, and Fisher says the price would be included in customers’ total package quote.
Once the pool is installed, you need to worry about keeping the pool clean and safe. This doesn’t add up only financially, but in hours, too. Klosko says an average amount of time would be a few hours a week. He said most people choose to dedicate time two to three days out of the week, staying proactive rather than reactive, he said.
“By the time that pool turns green, then you’re fighting it. You do want to make sure you’re staying on top of it,” Fisher stressed.
Chemical prices vary depending on the preferred cleaning method, Klosko said. Colley’s offers a pool-cleaning service, but prices vary, depending on the size of the pool, what services are being done and how long the customer has had a cleaning contract. The best way to find out how much it would cost for services is to ask for a price estimate.
Scott Taylor, a representative for poolsupplies.com, said it’s a myth that pools are expensive to maintain. An opening kit, for example, costs $22.99 through the website, and it includes everything need to get a pool up and running. Twenty-five pounds of 3-inch slow-release chlorine tablets run $59.99, and that could last you from Memorial Day until Labor Day, Taylor said.
He added that you should be “shocking” a pool to destroy bacteria and algae cells once a week, and 30 bags of that would cost $75. He also said you should budget at least $40 for chemicals to balance the pH and alkalinity. All would cost roughly $200 for the summer, Taylor said.
If purchasing a pool from a traditional pool store is out of your price range, other options exist and won’t hurt your budget as much.
A 15-foot-round “pop-up” Intex inflatable pool costs $399.99 at poolsupplies.com. An 18-foot-by-48-inches model by Intex costs $599.99. Alternatively, the 18-foot pool costs $249 on Walmart’s website, which includes free shipping to your local store.
And there’s always the local pool or beach, if you don’t mind leaving your backyard and sharing your water space.
For example, the Town of Cheektowaga has three outdoor public pool locations for use by residents and non-residents. Pool access is free with a resident discount card, which costs $5 for ages 7-15, $7 for ages 18-59 and free for 60 and above. Pool access costs $7 per visit for non-residents or without a resident card.
The Town of Tonawanda also has three outdoor pool locations. Residents must purchase an access card - $7 for kids, $12 for adults or $35 for a family. Additionally, seasonal pool passes are $20 for kids ($30 for a non-resident), $25 for adults ($49 for non-resident) and $100 for a family ($199 for non-residents), which includes four swim lessons. A family pass for just swimming costs $75 or $149 for non-residents. Or you can pay per visit – $2 for residents, $5 for a non-resident who comes with a resident or $10 for a non-resident.
If you’re craving the feel of sand between your toes, Woodlawn Beach in Blasdell offers season passes for $50 or $7 per car per visit. Hamburg Town Beach allows access to town residents with a valid parking sticker, which costs $15 for the year.
If you’re still interested in your own backyard oasis, know what you’re getting into before making a decision.
“Come in earlier than later. Don’t come in when it’s July 4 and it’s 90 degrees out,” Klosko said. “Plan ahead. Come in when there’s still some snow on the ground. Learn everything you can about the pools. Educate yourself, and learn the process involved.”