DIY vs professionally built swimming pools

For most people, investing in a swimming pool is a reasonably big deal and it is natural to think about ways to keep the over-all project cost as low as possible. Of course one of the options is to consider a DIY pool installation. The obvious benefit of going down the DIY path is that you could make initial cash savings. But before you start what else do you need to consider?

Are you biting off more than you can chew?

Installing your own swimming pool is not for the faint hearted. In fact, it requires technical thinking, plenty of foresight not to mention trade skills like plumbing and building. For example, if your excavation is slightly over dimension, you may find that you require significantly more backfill material and time to correct the issue. Without intimate knowledge of the installation process you are far more likely to run into issues which have the potential to quickly off-set any savings you were set to gain.

To ensure your pool is installed correctly, plumbed safely and property drained to prevent structural damage, the following steps are critical:

  1. Free-draining bedding material under the floor of the pool shell
  2. Efficient filtration plumbing to minimise system pressures, and fully compliant with AS1926.3:2010 Water Recirculation Safety Standards.
  3. Cement-stabilised backfill (to minimum specifications) compacted and washed in around the walls and steps
  4. Sub-soil drainage around the full perimeter of the pool, in addition to a compliant stand-pipe system
  5. An engineered concrete bond beam, with re-enforcement properly tied to the fibreglass coping to suit soil reactivity outside.

The skills you need to build your own pool

Compass Pools Australia DIY pool - plumbing can be pretty demading

Confident setting up plumbing for your pool?

Installing a swimming pool is a major construction project which requires a great deal of management, it involves excavation, ground preparation, plumbing, concrete laying and electrical work. It is essential that you have a good understanding of the engineering principals used to determine the best location to build your pool and the best practices for installation. Remember, it is important that you install your pool in compliance with all engineering requirements and the Australia and New Zealand standards, if you don’t, you may find your warranty is null and void and that your insurance company is not willing to come to the party either! Many people who embark on a DIY installation end up outsourcing to professionals for this reasons alone.

One of the unknowns when it comes to building a new pool in your backyard is what you’ll find when you start digging the hole for your pool. DIY’ers often become overwhelmed and budgets get blown when soil conditions are outside of ‘normal’. What will you do if you hit rock or discover that you have a high water table in your backyard? Do you have the right equipment and the confidence to deal with these situations effectively?

And don’t forget to consider the time and effort it will require to install your pool. It may only take a professional team a week or two, but how long is it likely to take you?

Will you save money?

The answer is possibly; it depends on how much work you end up being able to do yourself vs how much help you will inevitably outsource to other contractors. If you account for your own time, you may also find it costs you more than having an experienced person on site who can do the job quickly.

The truth is that most pool companies make little-to-no-margin off the installation component of your pool. And the cost that they charge you is a direct reflection of the costs that they are likely to incur during the installation process. When you engage a professional pool installer, the key difference is that you know that your pool will be installed by someone who has plenty of experience in the industry, and you can rest easy knowing that they will understand all of the potential risk factors for your site.

If not installed correctly (or in the best location) in your backyard, your pool may be impacted by unforeseen issues in the future such as high ground water pressure or excessive loading on the pool walls.

What happens if something goes wrong?

One of the good things about having your pool professionally installed is that you obtain a certain peace of mind that it has been installed properly and that if anything does go wrong you have someone to fall back on. If you choose to go down the DIY path you need to be prepared to stand behind your own work. And if you decide to sell your property within 6-7 years, you’ll likely need to provide Home Owners Warranty Insurance.  Manufacturers warranties may protect you should your pool shell prove to be defective however, you as the builder have to ensure that your pool is built with strict adherence to the AUS/NZ pool standards and the manufacturers engineering specifications.

What ongoing support will you get from your pool supplier?

The installation of your new pool is really only the beginning of your story as a swimming pool owner. In theory, your pool should be a feature of your backyard for decades to come.  One of the great things about buying from a professional installer is that you tend to have someone close by that you can call on for help and advice in the future. If you buy a DIY pool kit you may want to ask the following questions:

  • Where is the seller from? Are they close enough to provide you onsite support should you end up needing it?
  • How long have they been in business and what are people saying about them and their product online? Do they have a reputation for being helpful or do they leave you to fend for yourself if the going gets tough?
  • What happens if you need help with any of the equipment on your pool in the future?
  • What does their warranty cover and how protected are you as a consumer if you install the pool yourself?

Ultimately, if you are a practically minded person and have a reasonable level of experience in construction projects, you may find that installing your own swimming pool is a viable option that can help you save money. However, it is fair to say that installing your own pool is a risky decision for the average “weekend warrior” and there is real potential that you can end up costing yourself more than you set out to save in the first place.

So what other ways can you save money if you are not keen to install your own pool?

Just because installing your own pool may not be a good idea, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make savings with a bit of DIY in other areas. There are plenty of elements of the project that you can still safely do yourself including fencing, landscaping, decking and paving to name a few.

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