April 1, 2012

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Taking the Plunge

Is a Backyard Pool Worth the Price?

Peri Kinder

April 1, 2012

As a luxury item, a home swimming pool is a classic status symbol. With prices ranging from $45,000 to $500,000, a pool can be a fun time for the kids or an elaborate backdrop for social gatherings. And today’s technology makes owning a pool easier, more convenient and pretty much maintenance free.

But before the backhoe comes to dig up the yard, decisions need to be made about the use, design and safety of the pool.

The first step to sunbathing by your private pool is to contact a consultant with years of experience. Brad Bjorndal, president of Intermountain Aquatech, has been in the pool business since the early ‘70s, and the company has been around since 1952. He suggests customers do an in-depth investigation on pool companies to ensure the job is done right, on time and that the business will be around to help with any maintenance or repairs.

“Really research who you are hiring,” Bjorndal advises. “Be thorough in checking references. Ask for the last year’s job list and randomly call clients. That way, the company doesn’t choose who you talk to—you do.”

After choosing a pool company, sit down with the designers (consider including a landscaper) and decide what the pool will be used for. Will it be for the family, a place to entertain clients and friends, or just a beautiful addition to the backyard?

The majority of pools built by Aquatech are basic 20 x 40 pools with a nine-foot-deep diving end. But other selections include a freeform pool, which integrates a specific shape, or an aesthetic pool with waterfalls, fountains and elaborate lighting. Other options include hot tubs, waterslides or an exercise pool that uses a strong current so you can swim in place.

Outdoor Living
Salt Lake attorney Jason Hardin built a home two years ago and decided to add a pool to take up some of the landscaping space in the backyard. Last spring, the family added a recreational pool with a diving board, basketball standard and slide. Hardin worked with the landscaper and pool architect to incorporate the pool into their lives.

Now, the pool is considered a natural extension of the Hardin home. A nice decking area allows for lounge chairs, tables, grilling and entertaining and the Hardin’s pool became the go-to place for neighborhood kids and get-togethers. “If you’ve got the pool connected to your home, you’re going to use it more,” Hardin says. “From the moment we opened it, until winter, we probably used it every day.”

Once the design is completed, make sure to go over every detail of the blueprints, signing off on every page to make sure the pool will meet your requirements.

Construction usually takes five or six weeks, and Bjorndal says the best time to start a pool is in the fall when the weather is temperate and the ground isn’t wet. All the hard work can be done in the autumn and, come spring, it takes just a few days to finish it up so the pool can be used all season long.

Beyond the Basics
Safety is a big concern when it comes to neighborhood pools, so be sure to check local regulations to determine the type of fencing and safety precautions needed to obtain a permit.

Using an automatic pool cover is one of the best assurances of safety, plus it’s essential for keeping a pool clean and warm. Utah sells the highest number of auto covers in the country, and Bjorndal says the extra expense (averaging $7,000) is well worth the cost. When closed, an auto cover helps retain heat and chemicals and adds the highest level of safety to a pool. It takes less than a minute to uncover the pool and it opens quickly when it’s time to swim again.

With the auto cover helping retain heat, Hardin’s pool was open from April until mid-October, adding at least an extra month of swimming time.

As for maintenance, technology has enhanced the pool industry. Pentair’s IntelliChem is an affordable, hands-free system that monitors chemical levels automatically, delivering the right amount of chemicals when necessary. Precision application minimizes chemical costs and assures water safety conditions by preventing the excess use of chemicals.

Salt water pools are gaining in popularity, too. With products like Pentair’s IntelliChlor salt chlorine generator, customers get perfectly chlorinated water utilizing common salt. Through a chemical process, the chlorine is generated using salt, killing bacteria in the water and making the water feel like silk. Plus, there is never any itching or burning eyes from excess chlorine.

“I learned fairly quickly that everyone does salt water because of the ease of maintenance and it’s better for your skin,” Hardin says. “It’s almost like it’s been treated with a water softener. I was shocked at how easy maintenance was. The whole summer, we never had to add chlorine.”

So, before taking the plunge, research pool companies, plan on dropping at least $50,000, decide which pool works best for you and, maybe, take some swimming lessons.

“We build fun,” Bjorndal says. “Each pool quickly becomes a favorite toy. Today’s technology is amazing and the pools are virtually maintenance free.” 

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