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What to Consider When Installing a Backyard Pool

Jun 3, 2022
12 min read

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Tending the garden, firing up the barbecue, and lounging in the sun all top the list of backyard activities so many of us wait in anticipation for in Canada.

But perhaps some more ambitious outdoor renovations come to mind for the summer months. Given their immense popularity throughout the pandemic so far, you may be wondering: can I build a swimming pool in my backyard? Adding a pool to your home is a big decision. Knowing what type of pool would best suit your space, features and materials to consider, as well as the pool installation process, maintenance requirements and financing options are all essential for making a well-informed decision that you and your family can be confident and happy about for many years to come.

So if you’re asking yourself, should I get a pool?, read on for everything you need to consider when planning a backyard pool installation. You’re almost ready to slap on those shades and float into paradise!

The effect of COVID-19 on the pool industry 

It probably comes as no surprise that COVID-19 has had a pretty major impact on the pool industry. As soon as homeowners realized they’d be spending more time than ever at home, thoughts immediately turned to renovations. One of the biggest areas of increased demand? Backyard pools.

In 2021, Statistics Canada tallied over 22,000 residential in-ground pool permits across the country, which was approximately 20% more than 2020 and a whopping 75% more than 2019. Many pool builders say they are struggling to meet demand and some are booking installations up to a year or more in advance.

More than ever, it’s important to plan ahead for installing a pool in your backyard — including for both in-ground swimming pools or elevated swimming pool construction – as wait times can be longer and costs for in-demand materials higher. 

Nice pool

Canadian pool design trends

In 2022 and beyond, several new pool design trends are becoming prominent in Canada. Here are just a few ideas to consider so you can avoid any pool design regrets:

  • Energy-efficient pools make use of innovations like a variable-speed pump to keep your pool clean, or solar panels for heating. Many of these options will cost more upfront but save money (and the environment, go you) in the long run.
  • Smart pools allow you to make adjustments to things like lighting and temperature from your phone. A pretty awesome feature that’ll wow all your visitors. Smart filters and pool-cleaning robots can help ease the burden of maintenance too, but many of these technologies come with a higher price tag.
  • Single-depth pools are a uniform depth all over, unlike the traditional deep and shallow ended pools. These can be cheaper to build and maintain and good for beginner swimmers and laps, but won’t be deep enough for diving.

For more ideas about how to design your outdoor space, check out these 8 outdoor reno trends to consider for your own backyard.

How much does a swimming pool installation cost in Canada?

One of the biggest questions you probably have is how much is a built-in pool in my backyard going to cost? The cost of installing a backyard pool in Canada varies widely by pool type, size, materials and features.

While it’s possible to spend as little as $1,000-$5,000 on an above ground pool, in-ground swimming pools will cost closer to $20,000 at a minimum, and will often involve cheaper materials like a vinyl pool liner. A typical installation for a fibreglass pool package might actually run between $40,000-$80,000, depending on the included features, while concrete pools can range from $50,000-100,000. The average cost of pool maintenance each year will range from $1,000-$3,000, and any fencing, decking, a seating area or a pool shed will add to the cost. 

Be sure to get a detailed breakdown of exactly what you’ll need and what’s included when getting quotes from different companies. Nobody wants to be surprised by that invoice later on!

Choosing the right pool for your needs

One of the most important steps in planning your backyard oasis is choosing the right pool for your needs. Consider how you might use the pool, who would be using it, and how often you’d be using it.

Above-ground or in-ground

What are the pros and cons of above ground pools?

Above-ground pools are a great option for those on a budget. At a cost of $1,000-$5,000, an above ground pool is significantly cheaper than an in-ground pool. It’s also much faster and easier to install, and the maintenance is easier and cheaper. 

An above-ground pool can often be a safer option if you have younger children as they’re a bit harder to enter, and suitable for smaller spaces or backyards where digging into the ground isn’t feasible. However, they are less durable and won’t last as long as an inground pool. Also, rather than enhancing the aesthetics of your backyard they can often be a bit of an eyesore (unless you’re a master of disguises…?) and they won’t increase a home’s value.

What are the pros and cons of in-ground pools?

An in-ground pool installation is significantly more expensive, even for the most basic DIY packages, than an above ground pool. It can range from $20,000-$100,000 or more depending on the materials used, the size, design, and features, and maintenance will cost $1,000-$3,000 each year. Your water and electricity bills will also—surprise—go up a bit for heating and filtering the pool. 

The versatility of an in-ground pool, however, is endless in terms of styles, shapes and sizes so you can create your dream oasis in the backyard. It can also add value to your home and enhance your landscaping in a very attractive way. Keep in mind the wait time for installing an in-ground pool has been lengthened due to the pandemic, so you may be waiting six months to a year in some cases.

Choosing the best type of material for your pool

Types of above ground pools

The simplest and cheapest above-ground pool type is one we’re all familiar with: the inflatable pool! Though as we all know from experience, they are very fragile and probably won’t last more than a season or two – or a week or two depending on how many dogs you have. 

More durable options include metal (steel or aluminium) or resin frame pools either with an integrated or separate pool liner, which are easy and quick to install in about a day either by a professional or you can do it yourself. While these options are a more permanent form of elevated swimming pool construction, they can be dismantled and taken with you if you move homes

Types of in-ground pools

In-ground pools typically use three different types of materials: 

  • Vinyl pools are the cheapest option because they often allow for DIY installation, but are not as durable as fibreglass or concrete and are incompatible with salt water which will erode it.
  • Fibreglass pools come cast in fixed shapes and sizes and are quite durable, though more expensive than vinyl. Because these pools come fully formed they can be easier and quicker to install than concrete pools. 
  • Concrete pools allow for the most versatility in style and design, as they can be poured in any shape or size; The only limit is your imagination, which may or may not be a good thing. They are more expensive than vinyl and also last much longer, but they require an experienced installation crew which often costs more and can take more time both in waiting for the availability of the crew and in completing the installation.

Another type of pool that’s gaining in popularity is the resistance pool, also sometimes called an endless pool or there’s a variation called a swim spa, which are popular for exercise and physiotherapy. These can range from above ground to in-ground installations but are generally much smaller than a typical in-ground pool, making them very suitable for smaller backyards and those looking to get functionality beyond recreation out of a pool.

Saltwater vs chlorine pools

You have two different options for the water in your pool: saltwater or chlorine. Both work to keep your pool clean and free of germs and bacteria. Chlorine is the traditional choice, though it is a bit more expensive on a day-to-day basis than salt. It also has a stronger smell and can contribute to dry skin, red eyes, bleached swimwear and irritated airways. One advantage of chlorine is that it still works in cooler temperatures, whereas a saltwater pool won’t function to keep water clean below 15.5C. 

While a saltwater pool is cheaper, it can also speed up the erosion of the pool and the generator is an additional mechanical part that needs to be checked regularly. But saltwater is kinder on the skin, eyes, airways and hair and doesn’t have the same strong chemical smell as chlorine.

Must-have features for your swimming pool

The top must-haves for pool owners largely depend on how you’ll be using your pool and who will be using it. It’s good to brainstorm and do some research on some of these features ahead of time so you can better plan your budget and optimize your enjoyment of your new pool. Here are some key features to consider:

  • Lighting: As with any landscape design, lighting can make or break the mood of your new oasis. Integrated LED lighting can be both an aesthetic and a safety feature for your pool, especially at night. Ask your pool company about the electrical work needed for pool lighting and the range of options including smart lighting you can control from your phone.
  • Jets and waterfalls: Another fun addition to a backyard pool are jets or waterfalls that offer a bit of magic and perhaps a back massage or two while you’re swimming. They can also help to keep the water moving which discourages any bacteria growth.
  • Spillover spa: One luxurious addition to a pool is a spillover spa which is essentially a hot tub built into the footprint of the pool that spills over into the pool so you can have both a hot tub and a pool in one. Yes, please!
  • Automatic cover: An automatic cover can be immensely useful for keeping the pool clean and safe when not in use. These are typically designed for rectangular pools but can work with some other regular shapes as well. An automatic cover saves the manual effort of covering the pool by opening and closing at the touch of a button.
  • Decking or patio areas: The surrounding areas of your pool can be almost as important as the pool itself. Whether you opt for a deck or a patio, you probably want a nice hardscaped place to sit or lounge by the pool; an area that’s suitable for some pool furniture like lounge chairs or a table. To get some inspiration, check out these backyard patio ideas for every budget.
  • Pool house or cabana: Inevitably your new pool will come with a range of paraphernalia for care and maintenance that will need to be stored somewhere alongside all those pool noodles and inflatable unicorns. A dedicated pool house can tidy it all away in one place that’s easily accessible. A cabana can offer a bit of an architectural element to admire and shade from the sun on hot summer days.
  • Slide: A definite must-have for all the kids in your family, a slide can be a fun addition to a pool for younger users. If you go this route make sure you’re buying a product with a good safety reputation and it gets installed properly as slides can often be a hazard.

The importance of pool safety

There are many important safety aspects to keep in mind when installing and enjoying a backyard pool. In most parts of Canada, pools require a building permit to be submitted to the municipality for approval before work can begin. In most areas of the country, pools are required to be fully fenced in, and rules on the material used for the fence, its height and distance from the edge of the pool need to be followed. Many jurisdictions also suggest creating your own pool rules for safe pool use by you, your family and any guests, and full adult supervision of children at all times.

Features that used to be common to backyard pools such as diving boards are being installed less and less due to the danger of their use. These days, having one may even increase your home insurance costs.

Be sure to review your municipality and provincial bylaws when it comes to installing a pool, and check with your pool company that they adhere to these rules.

The best time to install a pool in Canada

The best times of year to install a pool in Canada are spring, summer and fall when the ground isn’t frozen or snow-covered making digging impossible and impractical. In 2021, Statistics Canada recorded that the most pool permits were submitted in April through July. 

Keep in mind the long lead times on pool installation projects. To target an installation in June, you should begin planning and reaching out to contractors at least 6-8 months in advance of that, and longer if you can.

How long does it take to install a pool in Canada?

The length of time it takes to install a pool in Canada varies by the type of pool. While an above ground version can be a one day pool installation, a custom-designed concrete in-ground pool may take 8-12 weeks or more depending on complexity (and wait times).

Always keep in mind the longer lead times for pool installations following the pandemic when planning your pool installation.

Pool maintenance

One of the most overlooked elements of cost and effort in owning a pool is the ongoing maintenance. The average maintenance cost per year is around $1,000-$3,000 which covers keeping your pool’s chemicals (chlorine or salt, as well as several other balancing elements) in check, keeping the pool clean and free of debris like leaves and sediment, maintaining the mechanical and electrical elements like the pump and any lighting or jets, checking the filter is working properly, and addressing any fixes to the lining and surrounding surfaces and structures. 

Anyone with a pool when quizzed on what to know about pools will tell you they can often be a labour of love when it comes to the amount of maintenance required. Make sure you’re prepared to put in the work of owning one before taking the plunge!

Pool financing options

There’s no way around it: backyard pools are expensive! You may not have the cash on hand to pay for your pool outright, but there are several ways you can finance a pool and pay it back over a longer period of time, such as getting a line of credit or a personal loan. If in doubt, consult a financial advisor about the best way forward to make your backyard pool dreams a reality.

How to find experienced pool installation contractors

Once you’ve decided a backyard pool is right for you, it’s important to connect with an experienced pool installation contractor or company to discuss your budget, timelines, ideas, and get an idea of the pool installation steps you’ll need to go through. Not all pool installers are up to the task, but Smart Reno can help you find landscaping and pool contractors with strong reputations and trusted experience in your area. Ready to talk numbers? Check our cost estimator for pool installations to help you gauge a ballpark figure for your backyard oasis.

Planning the installation of a backyard pool involves the consideration of a multitude of important factors, but many pool owners will tell you it was worth the effort in the end. Just think, soon the only question you’ll be asking yourself is which swimsuit to wear. 

Smart Reno helps you find trusted contractors

With so much to think about when it comes to installing a pool in your backyard, it’s important to find a contractor you can trust. Get 3 free renovation quotes, and learn more about landscape renovations and talk to an expert about renovation financing.

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