Start now, and you’ll be cooling off in your very own pool in no time

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At this Civil War-era property in Free Union, a gunite pool helps the homeowners maximize the rolling view. Photo: Abrahamse & Co. At this Civil War-era property in Free Union, a gunite pool helps the homeowners maximize the rolling view. Photo: Abrahamse & Co.

Nobody wants to sit in a backyard, jungle gym-side with a cold beer on a hot Saturday afternoon. Sandbox-side? Forget it.

But poolside? Now we’re talking.

Unfortunately, pools aren’t cheap. And homeowners can’t expect to get much on resale out of their natatory investment. But if you’re willing to sink the upfront coin (maybe with the help of some choice financing), your backyard could be the hottest chill-out spot in the neighborhood in a few short weeks.

“An investment in a swimming pool is a very good investment if you want to have a lot of great family time,” says Jeff Meadows, owner and president of Valley Pool & Spa in Waynesboro. “My family lives by the pool. When my kids were younger they all had their friends over, and I always knew where my kids were.”

Ready to take the plunge (obvious pun intended)? Let’s go.

Match your space

No backyard is a non-starter when it comes to putting in a pool, according to Tim Coleman of Augusta Aquatics.

“Any home or backyard is a good candidate, but we like to take the time to get to know our clients to find out what they really want,” he says. “Do you want a lap pool, something that you can dive into, or maybe just something to cool off in and play volley or basketball?”

Coleman indeed says he’s seen pools as small as 300 square feet tucked into yards.

The biggest impediment, especially at the base of the Blue Ridge, is a yard with steep grading, according to Meadows. But even that can be overcome—at higher homeowner expense—with retaining walls and proper leveling.

Choose your pool type

Meadows says homeowners have three main surface options if they want an in-ground pool: vinyl lined, fiberglass or concrete/gunite. Vinyl and fiberglass are the least expensive and easiest to install. Concrete gives you that luxury hotel feel.

“The fiberglass is going to be the most maintenance-free, and the concrete is the most intensive,” Meadows says. “With fiberglass there is no weekly maintenance, but every 12 to 15 years you have to drain the pool and replace it.”

Chemistry also presents options, from the traditional chlorinated pool to the trendy saltwater-type (which still often includes chlorine). Even trendier non-chemical, eco-friendly sanitation systems are gaining some traction, Meadows says.

Coleman adds hybrid-type and natural pools to the structure list and says Augusta Aquatics starts by asking what size pool customers want, followed by depth and liner-type. “After we have asked those questions, we will follow up with, ‘Are you interested in a salt system? Do you want a UV and ozone system, do you want a pool cleaner? Have you thought about automation? Do you want deck jets?’ The list can go on and on.”

Other options include heaters or solar blankets, features that can lengthen Charlottesville’s five-month swim season up to seven months.

Time is money

Get this: You could have a pool installed in your backyard in less than two weeks for as little as $20,000. But as with any custom, designed-in-place piece of engineering, costs and lead times vary significantly, particularly if you want to start building in peak season. (Read: now.)

“When people ask me, ‘How much does a pool cost?’ I say it’s the same as a car,” Meadows says. “It depends on what you want.”

Roughly speaking, vinyl pools are $20,000 to $60,000 and can go in over one to two weeks. Fiberglass pools, which can be installed in the same amount of time, are about $10,000 more. Concrete pools start around $45,000 and run up over $80,000. They can be installed in three to eight weeks.

“It’s a chunk of change,” Meadows says. “So deal with a reputable company and talk to folks who already have pools.”

Those lucky ducks.

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