by Marcus Pickett
Think owning a swimming pool is complicated and prohibitively expensive? Well, here's a rundown of the most important components of maintaining a residential pool and some of the common mistakes homeowners make. It's not easy, but it's not nearly as frustrating as many people imagine. If you've always wanted or currently own a pool, here's what you need to know to minimize the headaches from maintaining chlorine levels to installing a new pool for your home.
Quoted cost estimates are provided by ServiceMagic - the leading online resource connecting homeowners to home improvement contractors - from data collected from homeowners who actually completed pool service through professionals from across the country.
New pool owners frequently underestimate how much time it takes to properly open or close a residential swimming pool. Between filling and treating the water, flushing filter systems, and cleaning pool walls and floors in the spring, and draining water, preventing ice formation, and disassembling filters in the fall, opening and closing services generally take homeowners a full weekend to complete. Even pool professionals take an average of eight hours for proper pool opening and closing. Meanwhile, the average cost for professional opening and closing services is $334. Many homeowners also struggle with choosing the right weekend to open their pools.
Few people with pools need to be told about balancing chlorine and pH levels, but common mistakes and myths do arise from homeowner practices. Many people fail to maintain sufficiently high chlorine levels. Compounding the problem, the smell of "chlorine" may not mean you're using too much, but rather that your pool has begun to form chloramines, chemical compounds that use up the available chlorine in your water. Also, many people backwash their filters too often, reducing the filter's capacity and efficiency. Until the pressure gauge begins to rise, don't backwash your filter. And these are just a few of the potential problems that frequently result in cloudy or algae-filled pool water. The average cost of pool cleaning and maintenance services is $294. This average likely includes both one-time and ongoing service offerings, as this price translates into about 20 to 25 hours worth of service.
Repairs: Pool problems can range from a loose hose clamp to an improperly-sized filter system that needs to be completely replaced, or even cracked or damaged pool walls that are in a different league altogether. Naturally, the trick is accurately diagnosing the problem. If you can't discern the cause from a quick inspection, online search, or reading the pool's manual, you probably need to call a pool professional. These professionals may be able to give some tips over the phone or confirm a serious problem that requires the attention of a skilled pool repairman. The average cost of professional pool repair is $956, but there are scores of repairs that cost $300 or less, as well as several repairs that hit the $5,000 mark.
Installation: In terms of pool installation, homeowners need to know, first and foremost, how much the project is going to cost. After all, few people are ideologically opposed to having a backyard pool for their home. Obviously no pool is cheap, but there are more design and cost options than most people realize. The following numbers reflect the average cost of various pool designs: above-ground pool ($5,857), vinyl-lined pool ($13,553), fiberglass pool ($24,364), and concrete pool ($40,431). That said, along with design, your soil consistency is one of the hidden and huge factors that influence your final installation costs.
Accessories: Too many homeowners spend their entire pool budget on the cost of installation to the detriment of the overall enjoyment of their pool. Why spend $40,000 on a new pool without installing a pool heater that can double the length of your swimming pool season? In terms of property value, a smaller, more visually appealing pool is usually a better choice. You'll have lower maintenance costs and a more idyllic setting. Here are the average costs for pool accessories and improvements: remodel pool surrounds ($10,150), pool heater ($2,316), and pool cover ($757).
-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.