What could be better than long summer days spent in your own backyard swimming pool? Building a pool is a big investment, but it will provide years of enjoyment. Here, local experts take us on a deep dive into everything homeowners should consider before becoming pool owners.
The cost of building an in-ground pool varies, depending on size, materials, and features such as waterfalls, tanning shelves, swim-up bars, and spas. A custom concrete pool with a pebble finish can run anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000. Fiberglass and vinyl liner pools are less costly but offer less customization.
In addition to construction, consider the long-term costs of maintaining a pool. “As soon as the pool kicks on, the electricity to run it and the gas to heat it changes your bill,” says pool owner Kirsten Timmerman Sturdy of Kirkwood.
Like most industries, pool construction has been affected by the pandemic. With more people investing in home improvements, the number of homeowners building pools has skyrocketed. Rob Warren, director of design and estimating for Baker Pool Construction, says his company’s sales have increased by about 40 percent during the pandemic. The increase has most pool builders working on a backlog of projects, which, combined with labor shortages, means you will wait longer than usual for your pool build. Patience is key: Most companies are already booking into 2023.
“Be prepared to play the long game,” says Warren. “Take advantage of the time that you have to do your due diligence to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.”
If you can dream a pool, it can be built; it all just comes down to what fits your budget and your space. Start by considering how you’ll use the pool. Will you entertain large groups, or enjoy it with just a few family members or friends? Will you be active in the water, or mostly relax on the side? Various design elements can be added to suit your lifestyle.
It’s also important to look at the architecture of your home and the scale of the home and lot.
“Make sure the pool is in keeping with the value and aesthetics of the home,” says Warren. “Ideally, the pool looks like the architect designed it when they designed the house.”
The selection of materials—from the interior surface to the waterline tile to the coping and decking—affect the cost. Your project budget will determine what materials are within your price range. For finishes and hardscaping, take cues from the home’s exterior architecture and materials to ensure continuity.
Concrete pools are typically finished in traditional Marcite (a blend of white cement and marble dust), or a pebble finish like PebbleTec, an aggregate that comes in varying levels of smoothness in a wide variety of colors, offering more customization and a longer pool life.
Dave Schilli, president and CEO of Schilli Plastering, the only authorized PebbleTec applicator in the Midwest area, explains the long-term value of these finishes.
“Marcite lasts eight to 10 years and has a one-year warranty because water chemicals can readily attack and damage the cement. With the aggregate finish, the chemicals aren’t going to affect the aggregate as easily. A pebble finish can be warranted for five years and has life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.”
If you opt for an aggregate finish, or one of the new glass/aggregate hybrid finishes, Schilli recommends having several color choices; recent supply chain issues have affected availability, resulting in longer wait times.
Saltwater, or chlorine? Saltwater and traditional chlorine systems work similarly; the choice mostly comes down to preference. LJ Sansone, vice president of construction for Pool Tron, recommends salt filtration systems because they require less maintenance. Although salt can be corrosive over the long term, Sansone says damage is minimal.
In early 2020, Tom Diven of Ballwin installed a fiberglass pool with a saltwater filter. He says it was a question of safety. Having five kids, two of them with autism, he wanted to reduce the amount of chemicals lying around, as well as to cut down on the time he spent maintaining the water balance. Though it’s still important to regularly test pH, saltwater filters generate their own chlorine and help prevent high pH, keeping the chemicals more stable and reducing the time and expense of adding chemicals to hold the right balance.
Timmerman Sturdy chose an eco-friendly Nature2 mineral pool sanitizer that works in conjunction with her pool’s filtration system to help destroy bacteria and fight algae. “It’s still a chlorine base, but it takes out some of the harshness of the chlorine,” she says.
Time is required to keep a pool clean and the water balanced. Though some owners opt to use a pool service, others maintain their pools themselves. It’s not difficult, but it can be time consuming. “Don’t hire a service because you think you can’t do it; have it serviced because you don’t want to do it,” Warren says.
If you plan to keep the pool open just for the season, there are specific processes for opening and closing it, and those are often better left to professionals. Appointments fill up quickly, so make yours early if you want to go this route.
Our experts offer a few additional tips before the pool building process begins.
“No. 1, try to make a good determination of what your budget is,” says Warren. “This will help when approaching contractors and creating an initial design.”
Sansone recommends contacting your municipality to learn the requirements for code and permitting. “Some municipalities are easier than others, and some are very difficult,” he says.
Know where your power lines run and whether your neighborhood offers a supply pole. Buried lines may affect where you can dig.
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, a national industry association, offers a helpful consumer guide at splashfacts.org. Look for the pool building guide, builder checklist, maintenance checklist, and pro locator.
POOL BUILDERS & SERVICE COMPANIES
Offering same-day pool services in the St. Louis area, AACE Pools does maintenance, repairs, liner installation and repair, pool painting, and opening and closings.
Collinsville-based Accurate Pool and Landscape has been providing pool maintenance, opening and closing assistance, equipment repair, and more since 2012. The company also builds vinyl in-ground pools, and landscaping services such as waterscapes, waterfalls, and ponds.
APS has provided pool and spa maintenance and repair to the St. Louis-area for more than 16 years. They specialize in leak detection and repair, pumps, motors, filters, heaters, lights, timers, and cleaning systems. In need of pool cleaning or chemistry service, opening and closing? They offer that as well in weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedules.
The Baker Pool family has been serving St. Louis since 1968, building more than 2,500 fully customized in-ground swimming pools. They also offer pool service and equipment repair, custom covers, and salt pool systems and care.
Serving St. Louis since 2002, Caribbean Clear offers pool opening and closing, as well as regular maintenance service and repairs. Acid wash, heater checkups and filter maintenance are also available.
With retail locations in St. Charles and Wentzville, Mo., Four Seasons provides spring cleaning, pool opening, weekly service, equipment and repair services including step replacement, leak detection, and underwater repairs.
Located in Arnold, Just Pools designs custom, in-ground pools, as well as pool and spa enclosures. They also offer full-service pool care and maintenance, including servicing pumps, filters, and heaters.
A second-generation, family-owned business with more than 50 years of combined experience, LaBarge specializes in all aspects of pool service, maintenance, refurbishing and repairs, including openings and closings, water testing, full renovations, vinyl liner replacements, painting, resurfacing and more.
Kirkwood-based Liquid Assets Pools is one of only two PebbleTec® elite pool builders in the St. Louis area. They build new custom pools as well as handle minor and major renovations, including repair and replacement of plaster, tile, coping or concrete in and around the pool area.
Headquartered in Swansea, Ill., Munie Leisure Center sells and installs in-ground vinyl liner and fiberglass pools, as well as in-ground and above-ground pools and spas. They also provide regular pool maintenance, openings and closing.
Based in Troy, Mo., The Pool Guys are a family-owned business that has installed pools for 40 years. They specialize in custom gunite in-ground pools with a range of options, including hot tubs, swim-up bars, infinity edges, jump rocks, water features and more.
Started by brothers Dave and Mike Harrison in 1989, The Pools Specialists are a leading St. Louis pool builder and service company. Their designers work with clients through every step of the design process, using CAD drawings and 3-D models to create their client’s dream pool.
Serving Eastern Missouri and Illinois, PoolTron designs custom in-ground concrete pools, and specializes in renovations. Their service department offers regular maintenance, pool inspections, openings and closings, vacation services and repairs.
Prestige has more than 35-years’ experience as one of the region’s premium vinyl pool dealers. They also install fiberglass pools and traditional custom gunite pools. Prestige’s service department offers pool openings and closings, maintenance, parts and repair services, saltwater filter conversions and more.
R&S, in Maryland Heights, sells a wide selection of parts and accessories for both pools and spas. The company’s service department also repairs, installs, and provides opening/closing services in the St. Louis area.
Savannah is a full-service maintenance and pool cleaning company serving the entire St. Louis region. Their certified technicians also do repair and renovation services, including leak detection.
An authorized PebbleTec® applicator, Schilli offers swimming pool plastering and remodeling with more than 60 years and three generations of plastering experience. They offer a range of exposed aggregate finishes as well as a traditional marcite plaster finish.
In business for more than 20 years, St. Louis Pool Installers offers a range of design, installation, and pricing options for in-ground concrete, vinyl liner and fiberglass pools to fit any yard or budget.
Suntan pools is a premier builder of affordable, custom, vinyl-lined, in-ground pools in the St. Louis area, offering a wide selection of liners in a variety of colors and patterns. They also handle maintenance service, renovations, and pool repairs.