Don’t Slip! Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Building a Pool

Slippery When Wet sign by a swimming pool

You’ve heard the horror stories. Someone hires a shady pool contractor, and a nightmarish ordeal begins. The contract is a scam. The construction is shoddy. The project gets delayed for all sorts of reasons, leaving the homeowner’s backyard in an unusable state for months on end.

It’s enough to scare anyone away from building a swimming pool, right?

Fortunately, the nightmare scenarios don’t happen too often. However, people do make costly mistakes when building a pool. Which isn’t surprising, considering it’s something most folks only do once in a lifetime. Here are some of the biggest mistakes to watch out for.

1. Not looking hard enough for a pool builder

You can head off most problems by hiring an experienced and trustworthy builder. Granted, it can be a lot of work to track down pool companies, check references, compare offers, and everything else that’s part of doing your due diligence. But finding the right people for the job makes your life so much easier that it’s well worth the effort.

2. Bargain hunting

There’s a fine line between sticking to a budget and cutting corners. Hiring the cheapest builder and settling for subpar materials often costs you more money in the long run. Rather than falling for too-good-to-be-true offers, be realistic and build the highest quality pool you can afford.

3. Micromanaging

If you’ve hired a reputable builder, you shouldn’t have to look over their shoulder while they do their work. It’s okay to ask questions, especially if you have concerns about how things are going. But nitpicking is just going to stress you out and strain your relationship with your builder.

4. Assuming the pool builder knows best

On the other hand, don’t automatically defer to the builder’s opinion all the time, especially when it comes to your pool’s design. The builder knows about building pools, but only you know what kind of pool you want. Even a good builder can have biases toward particular products and features, and many will try to sell you upgrades and add-ons you don’t need.

5. Not reading the fine print

It’s not fun, but there are a couple of cases where you really need to read and understand some fine print. One is with the contract you sign with the builder, particularly the part about the payment schedule (don’t pay for work before it’s done). The second is with the warranties that come with the products you’re considering for your pool.

6. Getting a diving board

It sounds like a great idea, but getting a diving board is a mistake for many people. A diving board requires you to have a deep end to your pool, which costs more, is less safe, and probably won’t get nearly as much use as the shallow end. On top of all that, a diving board can also cause your homeowners insurance to go up.

Closeup of a swimming pool diving board
For many, a diving board isn’t worth the extra cost.

7. Building the pool too far away from the house

It may not be apparent in the planning stage, but once you start using your pool, you quickly realize the benefits of having it close to your house. For one thing, it’s much easier to keep an eye on it. But that’s not the only reason.

8. Not getting a large enough pool deck

You’re paying so much for the pool itself that it might be tempting to skimp on the size of your pool deck, or the materials. However, most people spend far more time on the deck than in the water. If you don’t recognize how important the pool deck is going to be for your family, you could be facing a sooner-than-expected renovation.

9. Focusing too much on looks

Looking at pictures of swimming pools, it’s natural to be dazzled by trendy designs. But remember that your pool will outlive many of the fads that are popular today. Your future self will probably be happier if you spend more time thinking about how the pool operates, and how easy it is to maintain.

10. Underestimating the size of the project

Those horror stories may be uncommon, but building a pool is always an adventure. With all the choices available these days, just getting your pool on paper is a big project. Then there’s the construction phase, which can bring delays and other surprises. Understanding that it’s normal to have some ups and downs can help you handle them better.