A Homeowner’s Guide to In-Ground Pools

An in-ground pool is a major home investment. Before you take the plunge, learn the basics of in-ground pool types, costs and maintenance.

An in-ground pool is the dream of many homeowners — a backyard beauty spot to cool off and spend quality time with family and friends. But for all that dreaming of a hot weather haven, many would-be pool owners run up against the weighty realities of an in-ground pool — practicality, price and maintenance.

To help you decide whether you’re ready to take the plunge, read our homeowner’s guide to in-ground pools for answers to basic questions about planning, installation, costs and care.

Why Choose an In-ground Pool?

Whether you’re upgrading from a permanent or seasonal above-ground pool, or you finally decided to devote a chunk of your backyard to the project, an in-ground pool is an investment for your home and lifestyle. For cooling off on hot summer days, teaching the little ones to swim, and establishing a neighborhood gathering point for your older kids and their friends who know how to swim, nothing compares to an in-ground pool.

As strictly a monetary investment, in-ground pools are a mixed bag. It’s widely accepted that in-ground pools do not add to the resale value of your home. But for the right homebuyer, a beautifully-landscaped, well-maintained outdoor area with a pool could easily set your home apart from other comparable listings and get you into escrow faster.

What Are the Types of In-ground Pools?

The three main types of in-ground pools are fiberglass, concrete and vinyl.

Fiberglass pools are the simplest to install, as the prefabricated pool shell is dropped into a hole excavated in your backyard. They are easier and cheaper to maintain than other pool types with fewer possible complications, because the fiberglass form is durable and absolutely waterproof. The biggest downside to fiberglass pools is the existing shape. You can’t change the design or depth of a premade pool.

Concrete pools are formed by spraying or spreading a cement mixture onto a reinforced concrete shell. The big advantage is flexible design — they can be customized to practically any size, depth and shape. However, concrete pools are more expensive to install and maintain, and installation takes longer than with fiberglass pools. Their durability, however, is comparable with fiberglass.

Vinyl pools are made by inserting a heavy-duty vinyl liner into a plastic or metal in-ground frame. They are customizable, although not to the same degree as concrete pools. Vinyl pools are the least expensive in-ground pool option, although the trade-off is in durability. The vinyl liner can tear, and replacement costs are expensive. Vinyl pools are considered the least durable in-ground pool type.

How Much Room Do I Need for an In-ground Pool?

When determining how much space you need for an in-ground pool, experts recommend that the pool itself take up roughly 25 percent of your backyard or outdoor recreation area. You need to allow space for a pool patio or deck, a lawn area, and a covered patio or barbecue area if you’re considering one. You may want to save space for a shed for storing pool equipment and, in cold weather, your lounge chairs and umbrellas.

If you’re tight on backyard space, the 25 percent rule is not hard and fast. But a narrow backyard might mean a long, narrow pool with little to no surrounding yard space. So just be sure you’re ready to give up that outdoor space, especially if you live in a part of the country where you can’t use the pool for much of the year.

How Much Does an In-ground Pool Cost?

Prices for in-ground pools range from about $25,000 for a basic one to whatever your imagination can dream up. The average price for a cement in-ground pool is about $50,000. The more bells and whistles you add — such as a zero-entry feature, extra steps or sitting areas in the pool, or a waterfall — the higher the costs. An in-ground hot tub can easily add $10,000 or more to the cost of the pool.

Remember that the pool deck or patio, a pool enclosure such as a screened-in pool cage, fencing and a pool cover are all additional costs. If you live in warmer states like Florida and Texas, you’re in luck. Because there are more pool contractors in these hot southern states, in-ground pools tend to cost about 20 percent less than other states.

What Maintenance Is Required for an In-ground Pool?

Depending on the size and the material used, expect to spend around $1,000 a year on routine pool maintenance, including chemicals and cleaning tools — if you do the work yourself. Any repairs would be extra.

Concrete pools require the most attention, as they need more chemicals and more frequent cleanings to keep algae at bay and the pH balanced. For this reason, many homeowners hire a pool service. These services run $100 and up per monthly visit, with extra charges for closing and opening a seasonal pool. Vinyl pools can also harbor algae and are subject to tearing, which means they’re more prone to unexpected repair expenses. Fiberglass pools are generally considered the easiest to maintain and the least prone to algae.