Hi, my name is Keri and my family recently went through the process of buying a fiberglass swimming pool for our home.

I would like to reflect on my decision-making process to help other would-be pool owners across the U.S. – but particularly in my home state of North Carolina.

Getting Started

My family’s hometown is in Weddington – a small suburb just outside of Charlotte in Union County. I started thinking about buying a swimming pool for our property when we first moved in, which was around three years ago. After putting the project on hold for a couple of years, my husband and I decided Spring 2021 was an ideal time. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to encourage you to re-evaluate what’s important, right?

To give you a bit of background on us, my husband Bert and I have four children – all girls – who range in ages from 11 to 17. And my parents are set to move in with us in a matter of weeks. As part of an additional project on our two-acre property, we are giving our back yard an extreme makeover, with a swimming pool being the focal point of our very own personal oasis.

The first step took a couple of months and involved a great deal of online research around the myriad of options: swimming pool types, colors, dealers and the installation process. At first it was a bit overwhelming, but thanks to internet resources, I found my way rather quickly and made some key decisions. Swimming pools are an expensive investment, so it’s important to get as much information as possible before taking the BIG plunge.

There are three main types of swimming pools – fiberglass swimming pools, gunite swimming pools and vinyl swimming pools.

The first thing I considered was my swimming pool budget. If you’re planning on paying for your pool with existing resources, this should be straightforward. It’s worth outlining a budget and sticking to it. If you choose to buy a fiberglass swimming pool, you may pay for the pool and delivery separately from the installation and set-up costs. And beyond installation, it’s crucial to consider the resources (yes, your time!) needed to maintain your new swimming pool, which can vary quite a bit depending on the type of pool you choose.

Some people may use credit or even consider taking out a loan to finance a swimming pool. I offer a word of caution – if you decide to go down this route, choose a reputable company. Read the fine print carefully, choose payment options and interest that is affordable and read as many online reviews about the company as you can find. Remember, that while a swimming pool can add value to your home, this is dependent on many factors. A new pool may or may not increase the value of your property over time — there are a lot of factors that can go into that —  so have realistic expectations. If you need to calculate how much pool you can afford with your budget, Leisure Pools has a great swimming pool affordability calculator, which helps you estimate the potential cost for your swimming pool.

Planning for the Pool

I thought about which type of pool would be most appropriate for my family’s needs. Since we live near in a part of the country where it tends to be pretty warm and humid for nine months out of the year, I decided to buy a fiberglass swimming pool. The main reason this seemed the best option for North Carolina is that I wanted an eco-friendly pool that would be algae resistant. Because fiberglass is a very smooth material and non-porous, you get very little algae, which minimizes the chemicals needed to keep the pool clean.

Fiberglass pools are also great value, both for the initial purchase and subsequent maintenance. While you can be more creative with the design of a gunite swimming pool, fiberglass pools come in a wide range of sizes and styles.

Before you buy a pool, you must be aware of the topography of your property. Ideally, swimming pools should be constructed on a flat surface, unless you want to pay potentially considerable excavation costs. I also consulted a previous land survey of my property and called 8-1-1 to locate any existing utility wires.

The next step is to make sure my swimming pool construction follows state and local ordinances relating to residential pools. This meant applying for a building permit before pool construction could begin (my swimming pool contractor filled that out). There is also health and safety legislation to consider. In my county, that means having a fence installed around the pool. State and county rules on swimming pools vary, so make sure you contact your local authority for accurate information.

Decide on the best place for your fiberglass pool

Deciding on a Pool Dealer

As with any significant purchase, it’s always a good idea to ask neighbors and friends for recommendations before deciding on a swimming pool company. I knew Leisure Pools came highly recommended, with detailed online reviews. I searched for a dealer of these particular swimming pools alongside other pool manufacturers.

One of the things that appealed to me about buying a fiberglass pool was finding a manufacturer with a lifetime warranty. This security of having a warranty in place in the unlikely event of a structural issue with the pool was very appealing to me. Fiberglass pools can be more expensive than gunite or vinyl equivalents, so this peace of mind played a significant role in my decision.

But why choose a more expensive option? A swimming pool can last for decades, so I thought when weighing the options that the reduction in maintenance costs, especially since I live in a warmer climate, made fiberglass the best option. Vinyl swimming pools need their lining replaced periodically. Gunite swimming pools also need to be resealed every few years. Those maintenance costs can add up in the long run.

Another key factor for me was the time it would take the pool installers to complete their work. Fiberglass swimming pools only take a few weeks to install – mine is only projected to take a week from start to finish. I was concerned that a gunite swimming pool could take several months to complete. When the labor costs were calculated that made a concrete swimming pool much more expensive than a fiberglass option.

Let the Fun Begin!

When planning a major home renovation like a swimming pool, all of the planning involved can mean it sometimes takes a while before you get to the fun part! But it’s worth the wait.

And for our family, that fun part was browsing the selection of Leisure Pools. There are so many fabulous shapes and colors to choose from when it comes to their fiberglass swimming pools. I went for a rectangular design with a splash deck and built-in spa, but there are so many styles and types of pools to choose from, you’re sure to find an option that will be perfect for your home’s outdoor space.

You even get to choose the perfect color for your new pool, and you have seven different options. I fell in love with Silver Grey, because it replicates the beautiful reflective colors of the sea.

One of the other major benefits to buying a fiberglass swimming pool is that you can take your pick of filtration systems – because of the robustness of Composite Armour material. Saltwater systems can cause problems with vinyl pools and even damage concrete in gunite pools over time, which is something to bear in mind when picking a pool material.

For those looking to reduce chemical use, saltwater is a great option. I prefer that the pool does not have a chlorine “taste” or “smell”, although a saltwater system does use chlorine. However, with a fiberglass pool, you have both saltwater and chlorine system options to choose from. Chlorine filtration systems tend to be better value, although upkeep costs can be a little higher.

Finally, I needed to decide about heating options. If you are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, your heating costs can, of course, be minimized. One of the fantastic benefits of a fiberglass swimming pool is because it’s a naturally insulating material, it takes less energy to heat the water and maintain the temperature than a concrete equivalent. This makes fiberglass a much more sustainable option; and as energy costs can make up a big chunk of your maintenance, it’s great news for your monthly budget.

The major options for heating your pool are propane, a natural gas heater, an electric heat pump or solar panels. Many people decide to go for the natural gas or propane heater, because they are affordable, easy to use and fast. Heat pumps are a more expensive option but cost less to run over time because they’re powered by electricity.

If you live in a warm climate, it is worth considering solar panels – even as a supplementary power source to a propane heater or heat pump. Not only do they generate sustainable energy, but they eventually will pay for themselves.

(Ed. note: Leisure Pools partners with Hayward Pool Products for filtration and heating options, as well as other pool products. See all they have to offer here.)

Finalizing the Deal

Unfortunately, there are sharks out there. So, what can you do to minimize your risk when approaching a major investment like buying a fiberglass swimming pool?

To summarize my process, I’ve provided a quick checklist of what you should do, the amount of time it took and the questions you should ask. Remember, these are all of equal importance and need to happen before you sign a contract or exchange money for your new swimming pool.

  • Ask For References

Experienced dealers with a great reputation will have plenty of references and be happy to share. Reach out to previous customers to learn more about their experiences if you don’t know anyone with first-hand knowledge of the company you have chosen. Ask them about the pool they bought, how long installation took and if there were any problems. A good pool dealer and contractor will leave a clean site and remain in good communication throughout the process. This took me a few days communicating with three customers via text.

  • Check Online Reviews

Remember, no company has a 100% approval rating, but you can judge a company on how they deal with issues when they come up. Are they responsive to criticism and professional in how they deal with customers? This took me about a week of researching in between other daily activities. However, it was extremely helpful.

  • Arrange a Visit

It is highly recommended to arrange an in-person visit if you are serious about a pool installation. A great dealer will explain the process and can point out any potential issues, such as distances needed for planning purposes away from other buildings which can affect the size of the pool. The dealer visited me three times and I visited a completed project of theirs.

  • Review the Contract Carefully

Remember, signing and entering into a swimming pool contract means it’s a legally binding agreement, so make sure you have read it and read it carefully. Make sure the agreed-upon payment terms are clearly stated, as well as the timeframe for the pool builders to be at work and complete the project. If there is anything you don’t understand – ask for an explanation before you sign.

The Best Advice — Get Everyone Involved

A swimming pool is something the whole family will enjoy.  I think it was helpful to get everyone in the family involved from the kids to the grandparents.  After all, we will all be enjoying this swimming pool for many years and it’s a great way to for the family to spend time together.

Talk about what you like and don’t like. The designs, the styles and the colors.  Will you really use a spa in the winter?  How much water do you really want in the splash deck?  A little or a lot?  Do you want to do a lot of swimming or have a flat bottom pool for more fun and games.  It is really best to be honest with yourself, and others, so that you end up making a decision that you are truly happy with.  After all, you will want every glance out your back window from now on to bring a smile to your face.

This is Only the Beginning

We know that our swimming pool experience has only just begun.  The planning is a big part, of course, but now comes the really hard part, and that is waiting for our pool.  I plan on keeping everyone up to date on my experience, which now moves to preparing for our pool to arrive and what we need to do to be ready for our new pool.  Then we plan on showing you what happens when the pool arrives and the installation process.  Finally, we’ll show you the results!

Be sure to check back for regular updates on our project and more tips on the pool buying and installation process. Looking forward to sharing a great summer with you!