How to buy a house with a swimming pool
So you have decided that you want to buy a house with a swimming pool. Well you have come to the right place. However, buying a property with a pool can be a big responsibility so you need to make sure that your pool is going to add to the quality of you life not detract from it.
In order to decide whether a property’s swimming pool would work for you, you need to think about how you want to use it and how much you want to pay annually in order to run it, it is important to keep a pool in tip top condition. If you want it as family entertainment then a cheap and simple to maintain above ground pool may be a good option. If you want to do a 10km swim every morning at 0500 then you may want to buy a house with a larger indoor swimming pool complex. All swimming pools have their pros and cons, you need to decide what the important factors are for you and this will largely depend on how you intend to use it.
The first thing to do is to see if the seller has maintained the pool well. If the swimming pool is dirty and not well maintained then the chances are the swimming pool is not in good condition and that there may be substantial repair or maintenance costs. You can look for damage to the liner and the quality of the water. If you buy a house with a pool you do not want it to be a burden.
Secondly, ask to see the maintenance and repair records for the pool. Has the pool be regularly serviced? When was the last time that the pool liner was replaced?
Thirdly, if you really like the property and you want to buy the house then you should consider getting a pool inspection report from a local pool maintenance company.
How a pool is constructed, what types of heating, filtration and sanitation systems are installed will determine how costly parts are to maintain and run. What follows is a brief guide to the different types of swimming pool system components that you can get and how they may effect the running costs and usability of the pool. Please read before you decide to buy a house with a swimming pool.
Swimming pool design and placement
In general you want the pool to complement the house, for the design and placement of the pool to have been thought out. If the pool looks like it is a ill thought out bolt on then aesthetically it will look wrong. Not only will a bad design grate against your artistic sensibilities but the chances are that it will make it more difficult to sell on later if you choose to move. Additionally, is the functionality of the pool hampered by its design or situation, does it have easy access. Do you want a 10 minute hike to the swimming pool in the morning? Is there a changing room close to the pool?
Types of swimming pool
The type of swimming pool is an important factor to look at when considering to buy that house with a pool. Whether the pool is inside or outside and how the pool itself is constructed is going to determine how functional the pool is for you, how much it is going to cost to run the swimming pool and also how easy it is to maintain. So when choosing to buy a property with a pool take these factors into consideration first, even before you start your house search. We would suggest that you decide what type of pool you want to own and then try and stick to it when search for a house to buy.
Indoor Vs Outdoor swimming pools
Indoor swimming pools are generally more desirable: there is less evaportion and so also less heat loss; the pool itself is more protected from the elements and so the liner, for instance will last longer; they offer a greater privacy and security in that the environment is enclosed and more controllable. They do however require the maintenance of an extra space and also dehumidifiers which will then require electricity. Additionally, depending on how well designed the pool complex is, you will be swimming in a enclosed space which can feel a bit like a municipal public baths, or be dark. Lots of big windows with lots of natural light is always a plus but it increases the complex’s heat loss.
An alternative is a swimming pool enclosure, these are a half way house between indoor and outdoor pools. Essentially the enclosure is a temporary structure that is placed over the swimming pool. They reduce heat loss and evaporation and corrosion due to the elements and also give you a feeling of swimming outside. But the structure is more prone to degredation itself and requires more maintenance than a indoor swimming pool room or complex.
An outdoor swimming pool is not always the worse option, they can be a great feature, especially if you have the opportunity to buy a property with a natural swimming pool. Natural swimming pools can have some great benefits. Buying a house with an outdoor swimming pool is a good option if you live in a warm climate or if you don’t need that water at a high temperature to swim in it. The other advantage is that you are swimming outside, this generally makes the whole swimming experience much better, depending on the weather. Solar panels can also be used to heat the pool and provide energy for the pump. Outdoor pools do have the greatest rate of heat loss and evaporation and the pool itself is open to the elements.
Above-ground pools Vs in-ground pools
Above-ground pools are the cheapest construction option, as well as the easiest to build therefore they are the cheapest and easiest option when it comes to replacing the liner. The main issue is they don’t generally look very good although there are some nicer wooden versions and a decking area can be built around them to accomodate them in the properties garden design. They also tend to be smaller, more for playing in and less for excersising. The main issue is that as the liner is above ground the liner is more vulnerable to damage, from both the inside and outside. Also the walls of the liner need to be able to support the weight of all the water and any extra pressure that may be generated from, perhaps, someone jumping into the pool. Lastly, the liner is not as insulated from the air as an in-ground pool so that heat loss is faster from an above ground pool.
In-ground pools are generally more costly to maintain and replace but they our considerably less prone to pool liner failure. The additional maintenance cost arises as they are more permanent structures and so are generally associated with more sophisticated environmental control systems e.g. heating. But they are generally much nicer looking, larger and more functional.
types of swimming pool liner
- Metal liners – Metal liners, like the tin bath, are entry level. They are used for outside pools, especially above-ground swimming pools. There advantage is cost, cheap to replace, there disadvantage is that metal corrodes easily. Steel pool liners are the cheapest but most prone to corrosion. You may find a steel liner that is coated that reduces the rate of corrosion but aluminium metal liners are best.
- Fibreglass liners – Fibreglass liners are made from fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which has been molded into a basin shape. The great advantages of buying a house with a fibreglass lined pool is their low maintenance cost, they are easy to repair and the liner will last a long time. The main disadvantages can be size limitation, the initial cost of buying the liner and the fibreglass can suffer from oxidation at the sides where it is exposed to the air. But if the pool is the right size for you and its already fitted then these two disadvantages disappear.
- Vinyl-lined – Vinyl liners have one of the cheapest install costs. Like fibreglass liners they are non-porous and so do not suffer from algal growth on the walls readily and so also use less sanitizing agent. Vinyl pool liners are the nicest on the feet having a very soft almost spongy feel to them. One of the great things about vinyl pool liners is that they can be molded into any shape. The main drawback is that they don’t last long and will have to be replaced a least once every 10 years so there is a significant maintenance cost there. They can also suffer from bleaching from chlorine and so there initial colour can fade.
- Gunite pools & poured concrete pools – Gunite is a sprayed mixture of cement and sand over a mesh grid with an inner surface of plaster or pebbles. There is no real limit to size and shape. The structure is very robust and the lifetime of the liner is good but the inner plaster surface may need attention although it can still last upto 20 years if looked after properly.This is the most permanent type of structure. The disadvantages are that the liner is porous and so can harbour algae more readily so that more sanitizer is needed; the surface is not very soft on the feet; they can be prone to cracking especially in areas with earth movement and so can be prone to leaks. Water sepage through the outer liner can breakdown the underlying concrete mixture.
Generally speaking you will need to maintain and clean your swimming pool once a week but this will depend upon how much use it gets, its construction and the type of pump and sanitising system that you use, temperature. It is of course possible to find a pool maintenance company to do this for you.
How you heat your swimming pool is going to have a big impact in the day to day running costs of owning a pool. The higher the temperature the more costly to heat and this cost will increase with the rate of heat loss; the rate heat loss is going to be determined by the pool construction and your pool cover. If you do choose to by a house with a heated swimming pool then take note of how it is heated, ask to see the relevent utility bills. Sometimes the pool may be running from a seperate meter.
- Gas-fired heaters – Generally, pools are heated using gas-fired pool heaters that work in a similar fashion to your conventional gas fired boiler. They are very good for heating the water quickly and maintaing temperatures for shorter periods. They can get your pool to its desired temperature regardless of ambient conditions, although this won’t necessarily be cheap. They are best for pools that are not used on a regular basis. How well they work is dependent upon the size of the pool they need to heat and how the pool is housed.
- Heat pump heaters – Heat pump pool heaters are more expensive to install but cheaper to run. They draw in warm air from outside and compress it to increase its temperature which is then passed to the water through a heat exchanger as it is drawn from the pool. They will also generally have a longer lifetime than a gas heater. For a heat pump heater to work properly the outside temperature needs to be above 5C, the colder it is outside the more energy they will use.
- Solar powered heaters – Solar powered heating is a very cost effective way to heat your pool. Essentially water is pumped from the pool to circulate around the solar collector where the water is heated. Solar paneled systems can last a very long time depending on the climate and the time of panel you have installed (glazed vs unglazed). Freezing can be an obvious problem so frost protection is a must. How efficient the solar heating system is depends on the houses site’s solar resource, i.e. is it shaded?, does it face south?, do you live in the Sahara desert?
So if you are going to use your pool on a regular basis a heat pump or solar heating system is best and more cost efficient.
Pool covers are a vital addition to prevent water evaporation and heat loss and are a must for an outside pool that will suffer from debris, such as leaves, dropping into the pool. Additionally you may want to consider a safety pool cover which can prevent people and other animals from unintentionally falling in the pool, a very good idea if you have children and the pool is not secured. Basically a pool cover is generally bubble wrap. Transparent bubble wrap is good for an outside pool as this will let solar energy through to heat the pool but prevent that heat from escaping. More commonly the bubble wrap is sandwiched between layers of vinyl which add strength to the pool cover. Safety covers are made from vinyl but are stretched tight across the surface of the pool so that any weight will not collapse the pool cover.
A pool cover is a must. They will have to be replaced every 5-10 years though so check the state of the pool cover. If it is in a bad state then when you buy the property one of the first things you will need to do is buy a new swimming pool cover. The trick to pool cover maintanence is good maintenance of the swimming pool’s water.
Another aspect of pool covers to consider when buying that home with a pool is the delivery system. Pool covers are usually housed on a drum that feeds out the pool cover. This can either be a manual feed, i.e. you pull on some ropes attached to one end of the pool cover and pool it out across the pool; or it can be an automatic pool cover, the cover roles out at the press of a button. Usability is the important issue here, if you would have no problems pulling the cover over the pool yourself then there is not an issue. Automated pool covers generally look more attractive as they are enclosed within a housing but they cost power, although solar powered automatic pool covers are available, and they can be more expensive to maintain if something goes wrong with the motor. Track pool covers are slightly different in construction, their edges are housed in tracks on the edge of the pool. This type of pool cover can, again, be manual or automatic. They are generally a bit easier to use but as they are built in there are additional costs to servicing.
There is an alternative to the classic pool cover, liquid pool covers. They are, as the name suggests, a liquid poured into the pool that forms a film on its surface that prevents evaporation. The effect they have is purely through a reduction in evaporation. They are best suited to an inside pool as when the surface is disturbed, could be through air currents, this breaks the surface layer and evaporation can occur. This dustruption is less likely on an inside pool. Also inside pools have some insulation already dues to ther enclosure. One issue with liquid poool covers is that the pool needs to be continually dosed so they is an ongoing maintenance cost.
So look carefully at the installed pool cover and decide whether its current form is fit for purpose given the pool construction, conditions and your pattern of use. Ask yourself, would you have to replace the pool cover if you bought the house? A replacement solid pool cover is going to cost about £1000, but this will increase with the sophistication of the install.
Swimming pool filteration
Check what type of pool filtration system is installed. A good filtration system will increase the efficiency of the pool water maintanence regime, reducing the use of pool sanitation (chlorination) and the lifetime of the pool pump and heating systems. The type of filtration system will also determine how high maintenance the fitration system is and how costly it will be to maintain.
types of filter are:
- Sand filter – Cheapest option, the filter is easily replaced if it becomes too dirty. Water is forced through sand. As the water perculates through it larger particles are fitered out. Sand filters will let particles less than 20 microns through, back into the pool and are the least efficient filters. A sand filter also requires the most maintenance, needed to be cleaned about once a week.
- Cartridge filter – The intermediate swimming pool filter package. They will filter to greater than 10 microns. They require little maintenance, a hosing down every quarter, and are less prone to clogging than other filters. Cartridge filters can also can be run at lower water pressures than sand or diatomaceous earth filters. The advantage of a lower pressure is that it will put less strain on your pump and so extend its life.
- Diatomaceous earth filter – The most expensive option but with the greatest filtration, down to the 5 micron level. They are constructed by coating grids with earth full of the fossilised exoskeleton of diatoms, unicellular algae. They need to be cleaned by backwashing like sand filters.
Additional to pool filtration systems there are pool skimmers. A pool filters primary function is to clean the water as part of the general pool recirculation cycle, the water is drawn from the bottom of the pool, pool skimmers are designed to quickly remove contaminants from the surface of the pool, the large holes you will see at the side of a pool at water level. As with all types of poll filtration it will increase the life expectancy of your pool, particularly by reducing the use of chemicals which are not friendly to your pool liner, pool cover, skin or your pocket. Not all pools will have a skimmer system, if they do it may consist of a long pole with a net on the end or the pool may come with an automated pool skimmer that move on the surface of the pool cleaning the surface water. These later skimming systems are obviously less efficient and require some degree of manual labour. A built in pool skimmer is much more efficient and will save money in the long run in terms of the life of your pool equipment but if something does go wrong they will be more expensive to maintain. The strainer baskets of the skimmers will need to be cleaned out once a week.
Pool filters and skimmers are great but dont forget you will need to regularly (once a week) skim the surface of the pool with a net to remove debris and also vacuum the pool. This all helps to reduce the amount of chlorine needed.
Swimming pool water quality
A Major component in maintaining the lifetime of a pool is water quality. How well the current occupiers of the house look after their swimming pool is to a large extent going to determine how much you are going to have to spend in replacement costs and how quickly the current pool system and its components degrade.
People most commonly associate chlorine with a swimming pool. Chlorine is typically added to a swimming pool to keep down the presence of bacteria and the pool is usually given chlorine shock treatment (high dose treatment) as much as once every two weeks. The typical noxious smell of a pool is as a result of chlorine reacting with the urea in urine and other nitrogenous waste that produces chloramines that are responsible for that smell. The chlorine shock treatment gets rid of the chloramines. If you can smell high levels of chloramines then the pool is probably not treated with enough chlorine, the home owner is not doing a good job of monitoring their pool. Chlorine tablets also have a tendency to cause a lower water ph, more acidic, which can be bad for your heating systems heat exchanger.
Chlorine can be added to the water with tablets or powder or it can be generated by a salt water pool system that uses electrolysis to generate the chlorine. It is not a chemical free solution to pool sanitisation. The advantage of a salt water system is that you are they are easy to use and chlorine shock is not so much of an issue. The disadvantages is that it is difficult to maintain the chlorine level, salt water can degrade pool infrastructure, especially metal and they are more expensive to install and replace the parts for. So if the property you want to buy has a swimming pool with a salt water system it will be less costly for you to run than the basic chlorine tablet method and will be less hassle.
There are alternatives to chemical sanitisers, UV and Ozone. Ultraviolet (UV) light will kill bacteria. Your pool water would be passed through a UV light source to disinfect it. An ozone system produces ozone gas from the air and dissolves it in the swimming pool water. It is much more short lived than chlorine, but less harmful and is a more powerful sanitiser than chlorine as it has greater oxidation properties. Ozone systems have the same sorts of costs as UV system, it is all in the installation, there is a ongoing electricity cost and UV lamps may need to be replaced. The effects of both systems are local and so depends on the efficiency of the sanitation at the point of contact with the ozone or UV.
If you can buy a house with a non-chemical sanitising system installed the advantage is that they have very low running costs and they will significantly increrase the life of your pool infrastructure. The main cost with these forms of sanitisation is the install. Often these systems are installed as secondary sanitation systems that will reduce the monthly bill of chlorine treatment.
Here is a short piece on natural swimming pools, i have included it in this section as their main distinction is the way in which the water is filtered and sanitised. Natural swimming pools are larger than conventional swimming pools as they require a substantial part of the pool, the regeneration zone, to be used as a natural filtration system, a read bed. The plants of the filtartion system are grown in nutrient poor shingle so that they will take all their required nutrients from the water, so reducing the waters nitrite levels, and the shingle acts as a filter. The Pool still requires a pump to move water from the swimming area and passing it through the filtration system and then back to the swimming zone. There is also a drainage ditch built araoud the circumference of the pool to prevent surface water run off from enetering the system. They can be heated. The advantage of a natural swimming pool, apart from the obvious look and feel of the pool, is that they do not require chemical treatment systems and so are more environmentally friendly and also less harmful to you, in that you are not swimming in water with a high chlorine concentration. They can be constructed in the same way a conventional pool is constructed, the main difference is in the filtration and sanitising system. The one disadvantage is that they do need the water and plant system to be monitored as you need the correct balance of bacteria and plants in the system. In the plants will need to be regularly cut back so that they do not decompose in the water and the skimmer that removes large organic matter will need to be emptied.
Swimming pool problems to look out for
This article is only a guide to some of the basic things to think about when search for a property to buy that has a pool. For piece of mind it may be better to pay for a survey of the swimming pool by a professional pool maintenance and installation company. Many swimming pool companies offer this service and a small outlay at the start may save you a big financial headache later.
Swimming pool leaks
Swimming pool leaks can be difficult to detect and won’t generally be picked up by a swimming pool surveyors report. What you can do though is look at the state of the liner, are there any obvious cracks or holes, have tiles come loose, do the light fittings and the skimmers look in good condition with no cracks in their housings. Don’t forget to check the swimming pool pump room, look for puddles of water underneath the fittings. If the pool is outside you can look for uncharacteristic areas of soggy ground.
If the liner is leaking and its a concrete pool this is a major piece of work, if it is vinyl any tears or holes can potentially be sealed.
Water flow restrictions
If the pool has a flow rate meter this is a bonus as changes in flow rate, particulary decreases, are indictaive of obstructions. This can be useful for reminding you to clean your filters but can also indicate if there is some obstruction in the pipes e.g. calcification. Look at the maintenance records of the pool.