Pool Envy. It hits many of us this time of year, when a visit to those fortunate friends with a watery oasis in their yard kindles fantasies of installing a pool of our own.
The dream can become a reality — if you have patience, and if you’re willing to go through the required steps. That’s what Sam Marino of Washington Township did when his wife, Nina, started talking about a pool, and today, his “chill time” is literally “chill time.” “It’s nice after a long day of work in the hot months to jump in after dinner to unwind,” he says.
The Marinos’ pool is one of some 5.2 million installed residential inground pools in the U.S., says Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, a Virginia-based organization that tracks pools and pool safety. Her organization reported a large jump in pool installations in 2020, likely a consequence of COVID-19 lockdowns. “The pool industry as a whole experienced 24 percent growth in 2020, which is the largest period of growth for the industry since 1983,” she says. “Our members are contracting into 2023 right now.”
The Marinos didn’t have kids when they started thinking about putting in a pool. Now they have two young sons. “Nina said that as a future stay-at-home mom, if we had a pool, then we as a family would stay home more and have a place to entertain during summer months instead of constantly trying to find places to go, like malls or water parks,” says Marino, president of Marino’s Landscape in Shelby Township. He, of course, was deeply involved in designing the pool. As a professional landscaper, he knew what it would take to create a gorgeous design that blended well with their landscaping.
Positioning the pool house at the rear of the site created a beautiful and functional screen, while evergreen plantings block the side road, Marino says. It’s designed so that the shallow end of the pool greets those exiting the home into the yard; the design keeps children closer to the house for safety. The linear lines of the pool, with the backdrop of the pool house, result in a unique and sophisticated backyard paradise.
Before installing a pool, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process that lies ahead of you. Below, we wade into Pool Planning 101.
Don’t (necessarily) fence me in
“Pools have great benefits, like health, wellness, togetherness — definitely. But it is also extremely important to ensure families are taking the necessary precautions to prevent drowning,” says Hickman, of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. Very true, says Marino, who bought an auto-cover (controlled electronically by a special code), which can “close the pool 100 percent, so in the event kids want to play in the back yard without supervision, the pool can be closed with peace of mind that no children are at risk. This is my best investment for safety.”
Be money-smart when installing a pool
“The pool is not the total cost; the pool is a portion of the cost. All the items that go around the pool add up, and the cost often surprises people,” Marino says. Adds Todd Nicholson, co-founder of All Around Pools in Sterling Heights, “Do not lose sight of your main goal of getting a pool; you don’t need to have all the bells and whistles.”
Know your materials
There are three main types of pools: concrete (gunite or shotcrete), vinyl, and fiberglass. Fiberglass offers an attractive alternative to concrete and will continue to see high demand in 2021, thanks to several key factors, including price point, availability, and completion time, Hickman says. Fiberglass is less expensive than concrete. “This makes having a pool more accessible to people who may not have considered having one before. The manufacturing process is faster, too.”
Pack your patience
If you were to order a pool today, it will probably be 2022 by the time you take your first dip. Continued high demand is extending lead times industry-wide, from manufacturers and retailers to builders and service technicians, Hickman says. Adds Marino: “From the time of starting to dig the pool to having the water in the pool, well, it can be several months. We suggest calling the season before you want a pool in, especially as it’s backed up right now.”
Plan your plants
Marino’s favorite pool-area plant is the tall and narrow Degroot’s Spire arborvitae: “It can provide privacy or be decorative, like near a pool corner. The leaf has a nice texture to it, too.”
Who’s the boss?
Every project is different, so it’s good to have one point person overseeing all the different trades. “As the landscaper, we usually will be the one to oversee the job and run all the trades,” Marino says. Sometimes an architect quarterbacks, he adds, and that can be efficient, too.
It’s the law
Don’t forget about city ordinances and homeowners association bylaws, Marino says. “Municipalities can sometimes take eight weeks to review a plan and issue a permit to start construction. And the HOA needs to approve a plan, as they may have bylaws that homeowners do not know about that may require design changes. That can be lost time.