The cost of pool building
If you’ve ever looked into building a pool you’ll know that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about swimming pool cost.
Some sources tell you that building a pool starts at £20k and others suggest that it can’t be done for less than £75k. So which source is correct? (If any). There are so many variables when building a pool that cost estimation can be problematic.
There are a wide range of swimming pool construction methods, all with their own positive and negative elements. For example, a resin or fibreglass pool can be fast to install, but is inflexible in design options, finishes and specifications. A poured or sprayed concrete pool can take 2 to 4 months to install but can – within the bounds of physics – be any shape or design you like. But there’s also stainless steel, panel systems and traditional blockwork to consider as well.
There are also many different finishing methods: PVC liners, tiled pools, heated pools and non-heated pools. Some come with covers, others without.
So understanding the context of your project cost can be extremely difficult. Do you need £50,000 or £250,000? And how do you know if you’re getting value for money at your chosen price point?
The Secret Shopping Challenge
To try to solve this problem I went undercover posing as a swimming pool buyer with a project and asked for prices from 10 of the UK’s leading pool companies to find out what they actually quote you. I put the same project parameters to all of them because I wanted to ensure the quotes were all on the same basis.
To represent the majority of pool buyers, our mystery project was an 11 x 5 metre heated pool with a cover. The reasoning behind this choice is that an 11-metre pool is long enough to feel like you’ve completed a meaningful length, but not so long as to be outside the bounds of what can be considered a reasonable average family pool size.
The first thing worth noting is what was included in the quotes. Most companies generally quoted for tanking (creating the watertight shell), installation of the liner or tiles, filtration and specialist pool items like heating, fittings and pipework.
Companies rarely quote for ground works (Digging the hole and getting rid of the soil) beyond giving a rough guide. We found this a reasonable approach, given the complexities that ground works can entail – depth, soil make up, spoil removal and drainage conditions. Also it can be the case that the pool company will sub-contract ground works to a local builder to help keep costs down, but without plans they can’t get a price for the works. Hence they will give you a provisional budgetary cost until they can go to market and get a fixed price themselves.
Any shell build estimate should be influenced by detailed design (construction drawings) based on ground conditions and survey data. Beware of any company that gives you a fixed cost without exploring your ground conditions first.
So what did they quote me? Here’s a graph with the different quotes I received plotted in yellow. All costs exclude VAT:
I was surprised at the results for several reasons. When you google pool building costs you find a multitude of articles and pages suggesting a family pool build costs between £20,000 to £50,000 – none of the companies we contacted could deliver a family pool at that price point. Even at the lower end of the market the lowest quote we received was £78,061 + vat and as mentioned this cost excluded the ground works.
Also surprising was the range of prices I received considering I asked each company for exactly the same thing. The majority of the quotes I received were between £90,000 and £110,000 + vat without the ground works. Of the 3 companies who did include a ground works estimate, their figures ranged between £92,000 and £143,000.
Each company had their own methods and specialities, some would only install liners, some only tiles, some would construct using a pre-fabricated shell, and others would cast the shell from concrete – getting real parity for any consumer must be practically impossible because no quote will be for exactly the same thing.
What we learnt
There are several lessons learnt from the exercise.
- Swimming pools are expensive in the UK. Due to the fact that the cost of labour is high and because pool builders simply don’t build as many pools in the UK as they do in warmer countries, they can’t achieve the same quantities of scale. (Sorry)
- The range of quotes you will receive is wide so make sure you ring around. I got quoted from £78k to £143k for an 11x5m pool – so ensure you know what the quote covers and whether your supplier can justify any above market rate costs.
- Make sure to factor ground works into your budgeting. A lot of pool companies won’t quote for this and will expect a local builder to do it. Ground works include:
- Digging the hole for the pool
- Digging trenches for pipework
- Levelling the site (if required)
- Any surrounding hard landscaping
- Sometimes includes building of the pool shell
- Not all companies will offer the same construction method. Some companies offer any method or design, but many have a specialism e.g. pre-fabricated shell construction. Again, make sure you assess which construction method will fit both your aspirations as well as the constraints of your site.
- Some pools are a better investment than others.
As an extra bit of research, I phoned a range of estate agents to get some advice on the effect a pool can have on house value. We will go into more detail on this point in our next blog, but the general feedback suggested pools will only add value to a house in the middle to the top of the market as the prospective buyer will be more likely to be able to afford the maintenance and running costs.
But, this depends entirely on the type of pool you build. The classic ‘bright blue box’ (a cheap blue liner with low end coping stones and tiles) in most cases will never add value; this is because they are seen as un-slightly, and perceived as having high running costs.
On the other hand, a more stylish stylish pool with well thought-out design features such as slate tiling or high-end stone paving can add value to a house. The key is to build a well insulated pool which is aesthetically in-keeping with the architectural surroundings of your house and garden using technology that is proven to have a low energy demand.
Also worth noting: When I asked, I was told that chemical-free swimming pools were probably more likely to add value to a house than chlorinated pools due to the decreased running costs and maintenance, as well as the improved swimming experience.
In summary, it’s clear that pools in the UK are a significant investment so it’s vital for you to ensure your money is being spent in the right place. An experienced pool builder will be able to advise you on how to achieve the best results for the budget you specify and if you’re going to be spending between £70k £150k on a project you need to fully trust the expertise of your chosen supplier.
Make sure you do plenty of research and get a wide range of quotes to get a feel for what’s on offer. Also, do let us know if you find a company quoting less than the lowest price we received – we’d be interested to know what was being offered.