By TEDDYE SNELL
The dog days of summer have set in, and one of the best places to spend time is poolside.
A generation ago, a swimming pool in the back yard was a luxury reserved primarily for the wealthy. But today, thanks to inexpensive materials and easy assembly, an above-ground pool - either hard-sided or soft-sided, complete with pump – can fit into most budgets.
Local resident Joanna Walkingstick has an in-ground pool with a liner that was built just in time for Mother’s Day 2006.
“In late 2005, early 2006, we knew we were going to invest in recreation in some way, shape or form,” said Walkingstick. “On the list [were] a recreation vehicle, boat or swimming pool.”
The Walkingsticks chose a pool because they thought they would use it more than the other items on the list.
“We were right,” said Walkingstick. “I don’t have to go out to the storage facility to pick up the swimming pool. Now, our house is essentially a full-service recreation area unto itself, and we travel much less [opting to take shorter] day trips.”
Walkingstick said her family now places a heavier emphasis on one big annual vacation, and they stay at home more on weekends.
“We grill more, entertain more, host kids’ parties more and spend more time outside lounging.”
Walkingstick said the pool was a serious investment, but advises those looking to put one in the ground to get exactly what they want.
“The cost was about $30,000 for the pool, fence and deck,” said Walkingstick. “For the pool itself, don’t scrimp! Get what you want, put it where you want. You can landscape and embellish later.”
Walkingstick advises getting multiple bids on the construction, too.
“Get three, at a minimum, and ask the pool guys what they would do if it was their own back yards,” she said. “You might hear some great suggestions that you hadn’t considered, especially if you have an odd-shaped back yard or lot layout.”
Once the pool is installed, maintenance and other costs become factors.
“The electricity [cost] is difficult to quantify, because they have risen overall, it may cost an additional $20 per month for electric for the pump, and roughly $300 a year for chemicals,” said Walkingstick. “Our [insurance premiums] increased, too, but not by a large amount, maybe 10 to 15 percent. We reassessed the house and policy value entirely, so the increase is not solely attributable to the addition of the pool, but more of a five-year adjustment.”
The Walkingsticks clean and maintain the pool themselves.
“A pool is something else to maintain; it is an additional chore,” said Walkingstick. “Sean says it’s something else to mow around. We spend about two hours per week in the swimming season. It takes a full day to close in the fall, and a weekend to open in the spring.”
Mark Sweeney, owner of Hearth and Pool Services, said most people in this area prefer above-ground pools.
“The more popular option around here is above-ground, for sure,” said Sweeney. “In-ground pools are a lot easier to care for, though. If you don’t have decking built around the above-ground pool, cleaning it can be really hard. The equipment is smaller for the in-ground pools, and you have to pay more attention to pH levels.”
Sweeney said he and his staff opened about 150 pools in the area this spring, and care for anywhere between 60-75 of those per week. He said copper ionization is great technology, when it works.
“For sanitation and clean water, it’s a good option,” said “But the fact remains, if you have a high acid content in your water, it will burn your eyes and eat up your pump. It’s important to maintain proper pH levels.”
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