To me, summertime is synonymous with swimming. Growing up, I spent most of July and August at my town’s community pool, perfecting my strokes and working up the nerve to attempt a backflip from the high dive. Beating the heat, grabbing lunch at the snack bar, and spending time with friends while getting a little fresh air and exercise—what’s not to love?
I’ve carried on this tradition with my children. While my teenage kids have outgrown the thrill of attending a community pool with their middle-aged mother, my 12-year-old, who I’m convinced is part dolphin, is always ready and willing to accompany me. This kid eats breakfast in his bathing suit.
But, this year, as COVID-19 threatens to delay the opening of swim clubs and close beaches and lakes to the public, I’m concerned that we may be in for the longest, hottest summer of our lives. With that in mind, I’m considering getting a backyard swimming pool.
And as I’ve quickly learned, I’m far from alone.
Why COVID-19 has people snapping up swimming pools
It’s not exactly surprising that I’m not the only one who’s hoping to set up my own wonderful watering hole as this pandemic drags on. In fact, according to an Amazon.com spokesperson, April pool unit sales nearly doubled compared with last April.
“The market right now has been tremendous,” says Dick Covert, executive director of the Master Pools Guild, an international group of about 100 pool builders, in a recent interview with MarketWatch.
This makes total sense, adds Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the trade group Pool and Hot Tub Alliance: “With COVID-19, and the trepidation with travel, people are taking that money and investing it in a backyard pool.”
Like bicycles and other summer-saving products in this season of the pandemic, pools aren’t easy to find these days. But it may be worthwhile to start looking at your options now.
How much does a swimming pool cost?
Of course, a custom, in-ground pool would be a dream come true, but it doesn’t come cheap. The average pool installation costs $22,000—and that’s for a 32-by-16-foot, in-ground pool.
Because that’s too steep for me, I’m focusing on quick-install, above-ground pools that won’t break the bank. And since shopping in an actual store is risky in terms of COVID-19 transmission, ordering online seems to be the safer bet. Sites such as the Pool Factory will deliver above-ground and partly above-ground pools right to your doorstep.
There will also be additional expenses. Derek Lenze, founder of Floating Authority, notes that in-ground pool maintenance costs can average anywhere from $70 to $160 per month.
Stewart Vernon, founder and chief operating officer of America’s Swimming Pool Co., says ongoing maintenance is a must for ensuring satisfactory water chemistry, sanitation, and overall appearance of your pool.
“If left untreated, your pool water could grow algae blooms or become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and serious bacteria like E. coli,” says Vernon.
Yikes. So how do you keep your pool water crystal-clear and free of potential hazards? Before you start, grab yourself a water testing kit, says Lenze.
“This will be crucial for when you are testing the three most important parts: pH levels, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels,” he explains. “The pH level measures how basic or acidic the water is. Adding alkalinity acts as a buffer to the pool to prevent spikes in the pH of the water being too basic or too acidic. The right level is usually in the range of 80 ppm (parts per million) to 140 ppm. The last is sanitizer levels, or in most cases the amount of chlorine in your pool comes down to the size of your new pool.”
Lenze suggests consulting this table for guidance on chlorine levels.
“Don’t forget to use shock (a powdered form of chlorine) after a downpour of rain,” he says. “This helps maintain the ongoing sanitation of your pool.”
Circulation is key to the health of your pool, says Lenze, who recommends using a pool pump and running it for a minimum of 10 hours a day.
Of course, you’ll also need to skim the surface to remove leaves and debris. Additionally, on a weekly basis, you’ll want to have a pool brush and/or a vacuum hose and vacuum head for vinyl pools to loosen film or dirt, which can then be filtered out.
Ready to begin? Here are some relatively inexpensive and easy-to-install pools to help you beat the heat this summer.
The best swimming pool for cheap
“Intex is a good above-ground pool manufacturer to go with,” suggests Lenze. “Their prices range from $100 to $700.”
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could have this Intex Easy Set (Walmart.com, $173.99) set up in less time than it would take me to drive to the local swim club.
In fact, all you need to do is inflate the top ring, fill the 8-by-30-foot pool with water, and you’re good to go. It comes with a filter pump and hoses to keep your water clear. Made from puncture-resistant, three-ply material, this small but mighty pool can withstand some serious splashing.
The best large DIY swimming pool
At 32 feet by 16 feet (and over 4 feet deep), this above-ground pool (Amazon.com, $2,599.99) offers plenty of space. Plus, the pieces snap together without tools. Add the liner and filter, and it should be ready for some Marco Polo in 90 minutes. That’s impressive as far at DIY pools go, plus it comes with a two-year warrantee.
Best swimming treadmill
Can’t imagine spending the summer without swimming laps? This lap swimming pool (Hammacher Schlemmer, $2,000) is so compact, it takes no more space than your average SUV. A harness system wraps around your waist with a flexible tether that suspends you above the water, so you can practice your strokes while staying in one place. The pool comes with a filter, works with chlorine or saltwater, and requires no tools or plumbing supplies to set up.
Best inflatable hot tub
Not ready to take the plunge and purchase a large pool? You can still relax and enjoy a low-level commitment with an inflatable hot tub (Lowes.com, $575.81). With seating for up to four and 140(!) bubble jets, this hot tub can be ready with just 25 minutes of setup. And this DIY spa doesn’t require much maintenance, as it comes with two easy-to-replace filter cartridges, which keep your water clean while the built-in, hard-water treatment system ensures it’s gentle on your skin.
A wading pool for your pup
Don’t leave Fido out of the fun! This portable pool for your pooch (Chewy.com, $59.95) is perfect for letting Rover take a relaxing dip or giving him a bath. This canine cooling center is made of high-grade, industrial-strength PVC material so it can withstand any pup’s most vigorous doggy paddles. No inflating is require—just fill with water, then remove the twist-off cap once done to drain.
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