Finding a builder
You need to make sure you pick the right builder for your specific requirements.
When you buy a pool, there are lots of factors to consider, like pool size, shell type and your budget. But you also need to know how a pool is built. Why? Because it helps you understand what’s going to happen, how your property is going to be affected, where your money is being spent and whether you need to make adjustments during the construction phase.
To prepare you, we’ve put together a guide to take you through all the stages of building a pool, from getting permissions and finding a builder, to excavating the pool and installing fencing. We also cover site preparation challenges for different types of pools, and how to insure yourself if something goes wrong. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to expect and you’ll feel a lot more confident about the pool-building process. Let’s get stuck in!
This is the fun and preliminary stage of pool building. It’s when you look at pool designs and figure out what kind of pool is best for your needs. To do this, consider your garden space, budget, lifestyle and personal preferences. Do you have a lot of space or little? Who will use the pool? What kind of pool type do you want? How much can you spend? It’s also useful to consider the slope of your block, wind exposure, sun exposure and what pipes or connections might lie beneath your property.
Check out a few pool websites or showrooms to see what’s out there. This will help you understand what’s available and the costs involved. For instance, an integrated spa could add $10,000–$15,000 to your pool cost, while an above-ground pool could save you thousands in excavation costs. Remember, an in-ground swimming pool will become a permanent feature of your home, so if you’re not completely happy with it, removing or altering it can be expensive, so do your research beforehand.
Pro tip: If you want to start swimming in late spring or summer, start planning your pool between March and June. This should give your supplier plenty of time to plan, build and set up your pool before summer. However, issues like rain, supply issues or high demand may slow things down, so ask your builder about realistic delivery times.
Now that you know what kind of pool you want, it’s time to find the right pool builder. Not all pool companies are made equal and there are plenty of shoddy operators out there, which is why we recommend qualified builders who are Swimming Pool and Spa Association (SPASA) members. That’s because they have a successful history of ethical trading and professionalism, and they abide by the association’s code of ethics. To find a member in your area, check out this directory.
Once you’ve shortlisted a few builders, check their reviews and ask for examples of past work. Discuss your ideas and budget. Some builders offer a full service, with equipment and landscaping included. Others only supply and install the pool. If that’s the case, you may need to get separate quotes from other contractors.
Pro tip: Like most jobs, get three quotes so you can compare them and go with the one that best meets your budget and needs. Make sure the quote is itemised and that exclusions are clearly marked. Plus, it’s a good idea to add an extra ten per cent to your pool budget in case unforeseen issues or expenses arise.
This is when the builder comes to your house to inspect your property. A site inspection helps them understand challenges such as access issues, soil problems, a sloping block or pipes running underneath your property. They’ll also know how close a pool needs to be to a boundary fence and what distance you need to allow for security fencing.
Once they’ve inspected the site, they’ll discuss whether your plans are achievable and what you need to do to adjust to the site challenges. Be open to suggestions and recommendations. After all, you want to make sure that your pool meets your needs as well as safety and council regulations.
After the inspection, the builder will go away and put together a proposal that includes your design requirements, the scope of the work, sketches and a final quote. If you’re happy with it, sign the contract and pay your deposit. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions, including the warranty period. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification.
Once your deposit has been received, the builder will lodge the plans with your council to get Development Application (DA) approval and a Construction Certificate. This process can take up to eight weeks. In New South Wales, you can get faster approval with a Complying Development Certificate, but only if your pool meets certain criteria. Your pool builder will advise how long this whole process will take in your state or territory.
As soon as your proposal has been approved, your builder will send you copies of those documents and a proposed start date.
Pro Tip: Before signing a contract, make sure your builder has insurance in case something goes wrong. If you’re in NSW and the build exceeds $20,0000, it’s worth checking if they have Home Building Compensation Fund (HBCF) cover. This will ensure you can make a claim if your builder dies, disappears or has their license suspended.
On the first day, a surveyor or builder will mark out the area for your pool. Once this is done, the excavators will use earth-moving equipment as well as shovels and pickaxes to dig out the pool. Earth that’s removed can be reused elsewhere on your property or removed from the site.
This process can take a few days or a few weeks, depending on the size of the pool, access difficulties, soil type and weather conditions. Digging into rock will usually cost more and take longer, but this is usually factored into the quote. Also, be prepared for unforeseen issues that may arise, like hitting unexpected pipes or disturbing existing landscaping.
If you’re getting a fibreglass or vinyl liner pool, the excavated hole will be slightly bigger so it can be backfilled with sand or earth to secure the shell. For a concrete pool, the hole is usually the same size as the pool.
Pro tip: If you have building or DIY experience, you may be tempted to tackle the build on your own. While many have done this successfully, there are factors that could derail (or ruin!) the project if you don’t know what you’re doing. We recommend leaving the planning, building, plumbing and electrical work of your pool to the professionals. If you want to save money or you’ve got a knack for tiling or laying down boards, you could probably tackle the landscaping or decking!
The next stage is reinforcing your pool shell with steel fixings or a steel cage. These also mark out steps or slopes in the pool. This process can take a few days and ensures the durability of your pool. Make sure you keep children or pets away from this area as the steel fittings can be sharp and cause injury. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to keep your garden out of bounds during the building phase, at least until your security fencing is in place.
If you’re installing a fibreglass or vinyl liner pool, the steel fixing won’t be required. The shell itself will be lowered into the hole after pre-plumbing using a crane, and backfilled with sand or gravel to maintain the right internal and external pressure in your pool.
After the steel fixing is finished or just before your fibreglass or vinyl liner pool is installed, professionals will pre-plumb and wire your pool interior. This means connecting pipes, drainage, spa jets and electrical lines. To prevent contamination, pipes will be capped until they’re ready to be connected. If you’re getting a concrete pool, move on to Pouring the concrete. If you’re getting a fibreglass or vinyl pool, jump to Fencing the Pool.
Now it’s time for the concrete to be poured into the frame. This is usually done with shotcrete, a high-pressure hose that applies concrete quickly and thickly over the entire pool area. Edges and curves are often shaped with special tools to achieve the right angles.
Once this process is finished, the concrete needs to be cured to ensure its structural integrity and prevent cracks. This involves keeping the shell moist by spraying it with a hose twice a day for about two weeks or more. This can be done by you or the builder, depending on your prior arrangements. In general, rain shouldn’t affect the curing process.
To prepare the interior, any sharp edges should be smoothed and a waterproofing membrane applied to the surface. This should make your pool watertight and prevent leaks. After letting the membrane dry for a few days, contractors will paint, tile or pebblecrete your pool. This can take a couple of weeks, depending on the size of your pool and the complexity of the job.
Pool fences are mandatory in Australia and ensure the safety of your family and pets. Each state and territory has different recommendations, so check the requirements carefully. There are specific rules about fence height, gaps, hinges and climbable objects. Your builder will know what the fencing regulations are and make suitable recommendations. If you’re hiring a fencer, make sure they know the specifications before they start building.
Fencing works may take 1–2 days. After they’re completed, they’ll need to pass an inspection, which is usually booked by your builder. If any issues arise, you’re given a list of problems and have time to fix them before getting approval. Remember, a certificate of compliance is needed before you can fill a pool.
At this stage, your tilers will install the coping and waterline tiles. Coping is the tiling that surrounds the pool’s edge – it’s where you walk or sit when you’re using the pool. Not only is coping decorative, but it also stops water from penetrating behind the pool wall. Coping is usually made from tiles, concrete or stone. You may have chosen this with your pool builder or bought it separately before construction.
Next, it’s time to add the waterline tiles. These are usually made from porcelain or glass and sit between the waterline and the coping. They provide a border around your pool and protect the shell from erosion. Plus, they can prevent the build-up of environmental debris, sunscreen or body oils, which can stain the edges of the pool.
Before installing pool equipment, your plumber will check all plumbing lines to make sure they haven’t been damaged during the build. Once you’ve got the all-clear, they’ll connect the pool pump, pool filter, heat pump, automation unit and salt chlorinator (if used). If you’ve chosen water features and pool lighting, these will be installed too.
Now it’s time to fill the pool! This can take a day or two, depending on the size of the pool. Don’t worry if the water appears murky at first. Once your filtration equipment kicks in and the water is sanitised and balanced, this will clear. Your technician will check for leaks or malfunctions and correct these before handover.
A site clean-up will take place before your pool is finally handed over. A technician will then take you through your entire system and show you how it works, from operating your pump to backwashing/cleaning your filter. Make sure you ask as many questions as possible and raise any workmanship issues. Keep any equipment guides, manuals or warranties in a safe place.
You’ll also be given strategies for maintaining the pool, like using a cover (if not included in the installation), buying a pool cleaner and checking the water balance. When this is complete, you’ll pay the outstanding balance and receive a certificate of completion with warranty information. Congratulations, you now have a fully fledged backyard pool!
As you might expect, building an above-ground pool is faster and cheaper than building an in-ground pool. However, council approval, site assessment and fencing are still required. Make sure these are covered off before anything else happens.
Once you’ve chosen a design and it’s ready, an installer will prepare the site and set up the pool. This will either arrive in one piece or get built onsite. The installer/s will also do the pre-plumbing and electrical work before attaching the pump and filter. In some states, you’ll need a pool and fencing inspection before the pool can be filled.
Decking or other landscaping (this can be provided by your installer or a separate contractor) can also be added. While it increases your overall costs and installation time, it can make your pool look more attractive, protect the shell of your pool and make pool access easy.
While it’s best to get an above-ground pool professionally installed, some are designed for DIY installation. If the pool is fairly small or you have a level block, it won’t be too difficult. You just follow the written or video instructions that come with the pool. However, if you want a larger pool with additional features or you’re not handy with a spanner, it’s best to leave installation to the professionals.
Building a pool is never a fast or easy process. Many stages need to be completed and approved before another can begin. But if you’re prepared for the noise and disruption (warn your neighbours!) and know the order in which everything is going to happen, there won’t be any surprises. What’s more, you can tick off each stage on your calendar as you inch closer to pool completion.
But there are four main things you need to remember: choose a reputable builder, make sure your pool and fencing are compliant, follow your builder’s maintenance advice and be prepared for delays. Events like storms, pandemics and supply issues can slow down progress, so make sure you book early or wait out the delays patiently (it’s hard, but you’ll get there!).