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Pricing the costs of a home swimming pool construction project

Independent Tips for the professional at Leisure

January 2008


Many professionals want to have a custom swimming pool built on their property, but there are many risks associated with in-ground custom swimming pools:

  • Leaks can be catastrophic - A leak in an in-ground pool is a major problem, and sometimes the entire pool must be scrapped and re-built from scratch.  A pool is not the place to try to save money.  Make sure to use a state licensed general contractor.

  • Wide variation in prices - The costs of an in-ground swimming pool range widely.  Some pool installers consider themselves artists, and charge accordingly.

In sum, always use a licensed general contractor and carefully verify their reputation.  Let's take a closer look at how to evaluate estimates for a custom in-ground swimming pool.



The costs of custom swimming pools


When pricing a swimming pool, it is possible to develop a rule-of-thumb for the costs of a at-home pool. 

  • Get a bare bones estimate - First, remember that the "extras" (fountains, tanning ledges, custom lighting, waterfalls, infinity edges) can cost more then the pool itself, so always get a price for a no-frills pool before adding customizations.

  • Get a sketch - For a few hundred dollars, an independent architect can sketch-out your dream pool, and you can use this drawing to get apples-to-apples cost estimates for your home pool construction.

  • Check for reputation - Your architect and project manager can get you pool construction forms with a good track record and reasonable prices.  You should pick 3-4 recommended pool vendors and get their estimates.

  • Get average costs in your area - A nationwide average for swimming pools costs is approximately $50 per square foot (as of 2008), but there can be +- 20% variance in your area.

Here are some ideas that I received from pool contractors:


Always have an architect sketch out your pool so that you can get apples-to-apples price estimates.  For example, this pool is about 1,000 square feet, or about $50,000 without frills.

Also, compute the total square footage for your pool so that you can make an intelligent evaluation of costs, and always keep the frills as a separate project.




Estimating the costs for an in-ground pool


If your costing estimates are an apples-to-apples comparison, it's relatively easy to estimate the square footage for your custom pool, even for oblong and odd-shaped pools.


While the $50 sq-ft. can server as a rule-of-thumb, there are variables:

  • Size - An Olympic sized pool is 165 feet by 82 feet (13,530 sq. ft.) and would cost approximately a half million dollars (about $41 per sq ft.) to build with gunite (cement).

  • Water Depth - If your pool has shallow areas (kiddie pool, tanning ledges) the costs will be lower because there is less excavation and less concrete required to support the weight of the water.  The cutoffs for pool depth pricing is 5 feet or less, 5 to 13 feet deep, and greater then 13 feet deep.

  • Frills - As we noted, frills like waterfalls, infinity edges and fountains can double the cost of your swimming pool.


For a detailed example see, this document titled pool construction cost estimating.  This web page shows a chart with the costs of various sizes of swimming pools, and you can see a general downward price trend as the size increases.  Here are some general costing guidelines for a custom in-ground home swimming pool, using high-quality gunite cement:


Swimming Pool Size Gunite (Cement) Cost per square foot
16 x 32 $27,000 27/(16 x 32) = $52
18 x 36 $31,000  31/(18 x 36) = $48
20 x 40 $35,000 35/(20 x 40) = $44
165 x 82 $560,000 560/(165/82) = $41


In sum, always follow these guidelines when estimating the costs of your home pool:

  • Expect to pay about $50 per square foot

  • Shallower areas are less expensive than deep areas

  • Use a reputable licensed general contractor

  • Get an architects sketch and us it for all cost estimates

  • Price the frills as add-ons, to get an apples to apples comparison





Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.