Do It Yourself Pools: A Case For and Against
Pool shoppers often ask me, "Can I put that pool in myself?" Answering this question can be a slippery slope, but the short answer is yes.
But the real question is do you want to put the pool in yourself?
There are several reasons that homeowners want to put in their own pools. For some it is the challenge and the reward with knowing that they have accomplished such a task. For others, it is the fact that they want to save money. And then there are those who are in the construction business or have friends that are in the construction business that can help with the process.
Is it easy?
It is a common belief that putting in a fiberglass pool is easy and anyone can do it. This has some truth to it, but there is also a reason you've likely heard of fiberglass pool installation disasters.
Like anything that's "easy" to build, you can make many, many mistakes. If a fiberglass pool was so easy to install, there would be many more factory-direct fiberglass pool companies.
The truth: very few factory-direct fiberglass pool companies exist, and they are often viewed by many industry experts as a lower-quality product.
Should I go factory direct?
Almost any fiberglass pool manufacturer will sell the consumer a fiberglass pool if they do not have a dealer in the area, but there is a reason that over 95% of fiberglass pool consumers have a professional install their pool.
There is also a reason that most fiberglass pool manufactures want dealers installing their pools—it comes with the fact that they will not have to worry so much about the warranty of the pool when it is installed professionally.
So let's address the pros and the cons of a do-it-yourself fiberglass pool.
The first question and the most important question is do I still have a warranty? Often, the answer is no.
This is because if your pool has not been installed by a trained factory installer, the manufacturer will usually not honor any warranties. But this is understandable, as they do not know if you have installed everything properly, and many things can go wrong during an installation that could damage the pool.
How much money can I save if I install my fiberglass pool?
This is a tough question to answer, but the answer is usually $5,000–$10,000. This is under the best of conditions—no mistakes are made and the hole is dug exactly.
If you dig too much, you will lose money on the stone and have to compensate with additional materials. More than once, I've seen homeowners waste over $1,000 in additional fill materials just to offset improper excavation.
Other expenses to keep in mind:
- crane rentals
- backfill materials
- patio materials
- water for the pool
We have had people start out with a do-it-yourself fiberglass pool that they bought from us and then hire us to come out and take it over because they realized the risk was not worth the savings.
People have bought factory-direct fiberglass pools and then had to have us come out to fix the problems of their self-install. Not only did they lose the money they'd saved, but they spent more than if they had just hired someone to begin with.
Not everyone can put in a pool, but some can, and I have seen some nice jobs done by the homeowner. This is the exception, not the rule.
Installing the pool means getting all the permits.
This also means you are the general contractor. You will be responsible for any sub contractors having workman's compensation and if you don't 1099 them, you could be responsible for any taxes and penalties that the IRS imposes on them if they don't claim it and get caught.
You are also the first person in the line of fire for any lawsuits that may happen due to any type of injury that may happen with the use of your pool, even with an uninvited guest. I have seen people hurt on jobs, and when it happens, someone must pay the bills.
As you can see, the cons can far outweigh the pros, so buyer beware.
I want to touch on one more thing about factory-direct fiberglass pool companies.
Many of these companies are not concerned with how well your job goes, which is why they try to make a fiberglass pool seem like a cash-and-carry item.
These same companies will post what appears to be low prices on their websites to entice you to either install the pool yourself or give you the option of them supplying you with a couple of their factory installers to come out and install your pool for just a couple thousand dollars.
By the time you add up the cost of the excavator, crane, gravel, plumbing, concrete, and many other things that are needed for the project, you have likely not saved much money at all. Instead, you just managed to be fooled into buying a cheap pool at a high price.
Sadly, I've recently seen some fiberglass companies that I thought were reputable manufacturers stooping to these types of selling practices. It's likely a result of difficult economic times, but it's misleading and I don't like it.
The other big question mark for your pool project is the patio and coping (typically cantilever concrete, a topic we've spoken much about). This will make or break the look of your pool.
Some companies out there will try to convince you that pouring to the lip of the pool is fine. I agree with such a statement if the pool's aesthetics are of no concern to you. But as we have mentioned here many times on this blog, the most common problem with fiberglass swimming pool installations is finding someone that can pour your cantilevered concrete without doing a terrible job.
If I had a dollar for every do-it-yourself cantilever disaster we've seen, I'd be on a beach writing this article, and not in my office. So again, make sure you know how you're going to handle your patio and coping. Don't just allow any ‘concrete Joe' to come in and take care of the most important aesthetic component of your swimming pool.
It is important that you do your research before you make that $30,000+ mistake.
I know you may have seen factory-direct pools on the internet for $12,000, but as I've stressed here, that number is just a part of the total expense. So be clear on your expenses.
Get a list from the manufacturer and other pool builders as to what the entire project should cost. And talk to your friends that have had a pool installed, as they'll likely point out components of the project you might be missing or didn't account for.
Good luck and may your pool purchase be fun and exciting.
Questions about self install pools? Please leave them below!
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Editor's note: This blog article was updated on August 1, 2020.