Last Updated: August 8, 2021

Building A Pool (Full Costs Breakdown)

Written By: Pool Care Guide

If you’re considering building a swimming pool, you probably have a lot of questions. The biggest might be how much does it cost to build a pool?

Before you can get your head wrapped around the costs involved, it’s important to understand the factors that determine the price. When it comes to designing a pool, there are a great many options that will determine the cost of the total project.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different models and styles of pools you might be considering. Understanding the fundamentals of pool construction using vinyl, fiberglass, or concrete will give you the foundation you need to start budgeting.

And then, you can figure out the best course of action when it comes to add-ons and features.  This approach will help you decide what is right for you, your budget, your home, and how to get the most out of your hard-earned dollars.

Above-Ground Versus Inground

Above-ground pools cost considerably less than an inground pool. A typical above-ground pool may only cost you a few thousand dollars in total, and setting it up is something you can accomplish in a long weekend. 

You can probably even do it on your own with some DIY skills, but a helper might be necessary.

An inground pool is a much more complicated undertaking. It involves excavation, perhaps pouring a concrete foundation, installing the shell, plumbing, electric, and filtration systems. The scale of the work is largely determined by the complexity of the design.

Custom pool upgrades like exotic landscaping, lighting, a deck, fence, hot tub, safety cover, and other features all add to the costs.

Inground Pools

Inground pools can cost anywhere from about $15,000 for a small vinyl pool to well over $100,000 for a custom concrete design. The total amount you end up spending depends heavily on the design and the features incorporated into the project.

A typical build ends up costing the homeowner between $35,000 and $60,000.

Much of the cost of building an inground pool is attributed to the excavation of the site and the labor cost. Anticipate that this will be about one-third of the total cost of the project.

There is also considerable variance in the total price, principally determined by your selection of the type of material you use to build your pool. Inground pools can be constructed with a vinyl liner, a fiberglass shell, or out of concrete or Gunite.

Vinyl Pools

Vinyl liner pools usually cost less than $45,000. Vinyl is usually the least expensive option for an inground pool. Vinyl liners tend to need replacement approximately every ten years. They are a middle-of-the-road option. 

Fiberglass Pools

Fiberglass pools can range anywhere from $20,000-$75,000. They are performed and set into an excavated site after having plumbing attached on-site. 

Concrete/Gunite

Simple concrete inground pools usually end up costing between $30,000 and $60,000. But exotic designs with many fancy features end up costing significantly more. And that is true regardless of the type of material you select.

A custom concrete pool with many add-ons and amenities can push the costs over $100,000. 

Above-Ground Pools

Above-ground pools are usually prefabricated and installed from a kit you can buy locally or online. Building an above-ground pool is going to run between $1500-$5000, depending mostly on its size and shape. 

Most often, you’ll see a selection of round pools in a range of diameters and a couple of larger ovals. Much of the labor to build an above-ground pool will involve simply standing the panels and posts in place. 

But you will also have to fill the perimeter of the pool with sand or another aggregate product specified by the manufacturer to create a supportive form between the structure of the border and the liner that holds the water.

The pricing of a pool frame is pretty straightforward, even across multiple brands like Intex, Concord, and Aquarion.

Approximate Above-Ground Prices by Size (All 48” Depth)

  • 15 Foot Diameter - $900
  • 18 Foot Diameter - $1,000
  • 24 Foot Diameter - $1,300
  • 27 Foot Diameter - $1500
  • 30 Foot Diameter - $2100
  • 33 Foot Diameter - $2300

At current pricing, with a bit of DIY work, a typical above-ground pool is going to cost around $3500. That will include the cost of the frame you select, a liner, filter, the construction materials, and the hoses you need for plumbing. 

You can often fill an above-ground pool with a hose, so you probably don’t need to factor in the price of trucking in water. But, if you get a very large one or a custom shape (instead of a standard round version), you will end up paying a bit more for the materials. 

And if you need a truckload of water, you should expect to spend a few hundred dollars. If you are also going to add a deck, lighting, or other features, the price will go up accordingly.

Preparing the Site

The total cost of your swimming pool project will also depend on the amount of work you need to do to prepare your yard for your pool construction. For instance, if you already have electrical access and a level plot, you won’t end up having to pay as much money.

On the other side of that same coin, if your yard is very rocky and it needs to be leveled with a backhoe, or you have to install water and electrical access, additional lighting, or a deck, the costs can go up quickly.

A typical above-ground pool can be installed by a homeowner on a long weekend. If you need to trench out an electrical run from the house, that will take some time and slow you down a bit. You might even need to bring in a professional.

If you do have to trench, you might even consider running an additional conduit for any future needs. You can stub out the conduit run and cap it so that you have ready access should the need for more power arise in the future.

That sort of forward-thinking can save you a lot of money in the longer term.

If you’re installing an inground pool, the time-frame for completion will be much longer. A standard rectangle fiberglass pool will take a couple of weeks to install. A concrete pool will often take more time and require more labor.

Cost-Contributing Pool Features

Saltwater Conversions

A saltwater system is not tied to a particular type of pool construction. Many people are confused about salt cells, saltwater pools, and chlorine generation.

When it comes to the addition of a salt system, it’s fair to say that there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there. Despite this, saltwater systems are prevalent. The process starts with installing a salt cell or generator.

The cell itself only costs about $1,000, but it needs to be plumbed into the system, and you must pay to add a few hundred pounds of salt to the water as well.

Pure swimming pool salt is added until your pool reaches an ideal level of approximately 3400 ppm. For reference, the ocean is about 35,000 ppm salt.

A saltwater chlorine generator system can be installed on any type of pool. A salt cell is integrated into the plumbing of the return run back to the pool. It uses electrolysis to create chlorine by splitting the salt (NaCl) compounds in the water. This way, there’s always a steady supply of chlorine generated.

So your saltwater swimming pool will have about 1/10 of the salt content of the ocean. You should expect to have a little bit of a salty taste in the water, along with increased buoyancy.

But although you won’t have to use quite as much raw chlorine and you won’t typically be able to smell it or feel it on your skin, you will have to periodically supplement the Corine generated by your saltwater generator with raw chlorine.

Salt systems are a good way to save money on chlorine in the long run, but they have a higher initial cost.

Fencing

You may also have to put in a fence due to the local building code. Even if a fence isn’t required, it’s probably best to install one. A simple chain link fence is relatively inexpensive and can prevent accidents from occurring. Or, you can spend a bit more money and buy a vinyl fence or metal railings.

If the fence is required by code, make sure that you follow it closely. Also, It’s good practice to check to ensure that any contractors you use are well aware of the building codes in your area.

Filters

Swimming pool filters are designed to handle the load of cleaning the water. They are sized to match the volume of water in your pool. Some pools even have multiple tanks, pumps, and valves to handle all of the filtration.

DE filters are most common on the above-ground and small liner pools. They are probably the least expensive option. Sand filters are ubiquitous and can handle the needs of huge pools. They are moderately expensive.

Cartridge filters are the newest design, using a drop-in nylon cartridge to filter the fine debris out of the water. They have the highest cost because the cartridges need to be replaced periodically. But, they also tend to be the most efficient and are easily cleaned. Sand filters can require significant labor when it is time to change the sand.

The complex filter system, plumbing, and electrical support are needed to determine the total cost. If you have a simple design with one or two skimmers, the cost is negligible.

If you have a multi-filter system with automated electric valves, a remote display with Wi-Fi, and a built-in booster line for a cleaning system, the costs will go up accordingly.

Heater

A heater can help extend your swimming season beyond the warmest month. That means that you can get more time with your pool.

A heater can run on propane or natural gas. If you already have a supply of one or the other, stick with that to keep costs down. You may have to increase the size of your tank, but that is a lot cheaper than installing a whole new system.

If you don’t have a preexisting propane or gas setup, be prepared to pay more initially. Or, you can defray some of the startup cost by installing an electrically powered heat pump. What you save upfront will be lost to your electric bill in the coming years.

It really is a toss-up between all three systems in terms of their costs in the long run. Convenience and reliable service are bigger limiting factors.

Spas

Standalone spas or hot tubs are relatively inexpensive. You can buy a prefabricated one for a few thousand dollars.

Integrating one into your swimming pool construction is pretty simple. It’s sort of just a mini-pool. Most applications like this will be seen on concrete pools.

Even a complicated design with a raised spa, automatic valves, and a waterfall overflow are inexpensive compared to the total cost of building a pool. At the low end, expect to pay less than $5,000.

Lighting

Adding a simple, switched the light to a pool doesn’t cost much money. A light system controlled by the pool’s hardware is a bit more complicated.

The convenience of a remote panel to control a series of color-changing LED lights in the pool and the additional overhead and landscape lights may pale in comparison to the additional costs. The sky's the limit, but electricians aren’t cheap.

Deck

If you’re building an inground pool, you might want it to be surrounded by concrete or a paving stone deck. This is a nice feature, but it can cost thousands of dollars. You can cut down on costs a bit by keeping one side of the pool’s design with natural dirt and grass and creating a smaller deck as a patio on the other side.

Or, if you’re building an above-ground pool, you might want to surround it with a wood or composite deck. The cost of something like this can vary. Lumber is quite expensive right now, but if you’re pretty handy as a carpenter, it won’t cost more than a few thousand dollars in pressure-treated lumber.

If you’re building something more expansive and bringing in a professional, it could easily cost $10,000 or more.

Just make sure that whoever does the work is well aware of the requirements of your local building code.

Other Pool Options

There are some non-traditional pool building options. Let’s look at a few.

Cocktail Pools

Some owners cut down on costs by constructing a very small pool. Often referred to as a cocktail pool or a plunging pool, these pools are usually quite small.

Instead of a large-scale design, a typical plunger or cocktail pool is shallow, not for diving in or for serious swimming. But they are great for cooling off, relaxing, or enjoying a cocktail with friends.

And, as you might expect, their small scale translates to minimal costs.

Indoor pools

Building a pool inside the frame of your house is a tremendous undertaking. An entry-level build is probably going to cost at least $100,000. You should expect to pay at least $200-$350 per square foot for your indoor pool.

At the lower end of the budget spectrum, your design will typically feature a vinyl liner pool. If you’re building a larger 18 x 34 ‘pool out of concrete, you’re going to end up paying as much as $300,000.

And that sum may not even include all of the costs needed to integrate the pool into your home. You may need additional roofing, walls, and excavation to make it work.

Perhaps the most essential feature of an indoor pool is a dehumidifier system.

An indoor pool might seem ideal. It offers year-round access, debris can’t get into the pool as easily, and it is protected from the sunlight and the elements, all of which can cut down on maintenance costs.

But an indoor pool uses a significant amount of energy, and it has a very high initial construction cost. Don’t forget about the dehumidifying system.

An indoor pool needs a robust and heavy-duty dehumidifying system. Otherwise, the moisture from the pool will begin to deteriorate the structure of your home. This is going to cost many thousands of dollars.

Questions To Consider When Designing A Pool

These questions can help inform your decisions about construction and your overall budget. Consider talking them over with a pool builder.

What will be the purpose of your pool?

Will you be using your pool to simply relax by the water’s edge and cool off with an occasional dip? Or do you have significant recreational demands like exercising, swimming laps, and playing games with friends?

You will need to choose a pool that is designed and sized appropriately based on your intended uses. For instance, if you’re going to be swimming a lot of laps and doing Olympic-style turns, you need a long lap pool that is also fairly deep.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of diving from an integrated diving board (another $1,000 add-on), your pool is going to need to be much deeper than one where there will be no diving.

What’s Your Ideal Budget?

When adding features to a pool of any type, the costs go up dramatically. An inground pool will be much more expensive than the above-ground pool, and an indoor pool will be more expensive than almost any other option. There is a design for every budget.

What Do You Want Your Pool To Be Made Out Of?

Concrete pools tend to last much longer than vinyl or above-ground pools. Fiberglass also tends to last for a long period of time but is easily stained, and cracks are difficult to repair if they do appear.

Another factor in your design choice is permanency. If you want a pool for your small children to play in, but you’re not sure about your long-term commitment, you can install a simple above-ground pool inexpensively. And if it sees less use as the kids grow, you can easily remove it.

The same can’t be said for inground designs.

How Much Landscaping Will You Have To Do?

For a truly integrated swimming pool experience that is the centerpiece of your backyard, it is likely that you were going to need to change some design elements.

For instance, if you have a sloped yard, you’re going to need to do some grading and drainage work. But, that natural layout might lend itself to a waterfall or infinity-edge design.

Or, if you have a vast, flat, open space, your pool may look out of place, and you’ll have no relief from the sun. So you may end up having to do some planting and landscaping to integrate it into the yard and provide a few shady spots for relaxing.

How Much Are You Willing To Spend On Maintenance?

If you’re going to try to maintain your pool yourself, you will be able to save some money, but you’re going to need to understand plumbing, electrical swimming pool troubleshooting filtration, and how to adjust and balance the water.

If you’re going to be hiring a maintenance company, will they be handling the opening and closing only,  or all of the weekly maintenance visits?

As well as determining how much you’re willing to spend on yearly professional maintenance, it is essential to understand how the construction of your pool will drive your ongoing costs.

A simple fiberglass pool will typically have the lowest maintenance costs. You can drain it, and power wash it to remove stains. That is much harder to do on a vinyl pool, where it’s more likely you will need to replace the liner every eight to twelve years.

You can cut down on long-term costs by adding a saltwater generator to your pool, but you need to make sure you or your service company knows how it works and how to troubleshoot it as needed.

Whatever your budget is, you can strategize to cut costs where necessary and get the most out of your pool and your money.

What Features Will You Be Adding?

Features added to your pool can make it an ideal recreational destination. There’s no limit to what you can include. Before you start discussing options with your pool builder, you should determine what is essential to you.

For instance, if you live in a very warm climate, you may not need a pool heater. Instead, you might want an integrated sprinkler or misting system to help cool your pool off.  Or perhaps you’ll need a built-in sundeck with an attachment for an umbrella so you can stay in the water but keep cooler in the shade.

Some other features you may consider include a swim-up bench, a wading area, a raised spa with an alcove underneath, a waterfall, or an infinity edge.

Will You Need A Fence And A Deck?

Depending on the building code, you may need to install a fence around your pool. That can add thousands of dollars to the cost, but it is really an essential safety measure.

Adding a deck can make it much more appealing to hang out by your pool. You can even use some landscaping and thoughtful design features to bring a theme to your overall pool design. You may also want to integrate the design of your pool with other major features of your backyard, like a barbecue patio or an outdoor kitchen.

Do Swimming Pools Add Value To The Rest Of Your Home?

Constructing a swimming pool costs a significant amount of money. But, it is a rare case where that upgrade boosts the value of a home far enough for the owner to receive a return on their initial investment.

Typically a homeowner who builds a pool should see anywhere from a five to ten percent increase in the value of their property. So building a pool is not going to significantly increase the value of your home, but it’s guaranteed to increase your enjoyment and entertainment.

Will You Be Bringing In A Pro?

Building a pool is a serious undertaking. Even at the low end of the budget spectrum, an above-ground pool takes a bit of know-how to build properly.

You will need to understand how to provide the proper drainage grading and base layer for your new pool as well as basic plumbing, electrical, and filtration.

As you might expect, building an inground pool takes even more know-how and labor, as there is certainly more work to be done to ensure adequate drainage, grading, proper excavation, backfilling, hardscaping and landscaping.

You may be able to defray some of the costs of installing an inground pool by doing the excavation yourself. Or, if you have the skills, you may be able to do the plumbing or electrical work on your own. But if you’re looking for a turnkey solution, it’s probably best to stick with a builder and let them do most of the work.

Prepare for the Unexpected

When you’re building a pool, you have to be prepared for unexpected costs. Whether you’ve hired someone to do the job for you or if you’re doing it yourself, it is more likely than not that you will end up paying for something you didn’t anticipate.

One of the most common additional costs homeowners face is related to either drainage or the quality of the soil around their pool. If you encounter a lot of rocks in the substrate or a significant issue with groundwater, you have to address them. Otherwise, the long-term quality of your pool will be compromised. 

With such a considerable expense, it makes little sense to cut corners initially. You’ll be setting yourself up for failure in the future.

If you were doing anything DIY, there is no warranty. There’s nowhere to turn to for help either. Swimming pools aren’t that complicated. But you need to understand a lot about how they work and how to maintain them to enjoy them without a professional’s assistance.

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