Want a pool? Read this before you take the plunge.

Whether you are considering installing a swimming pool or want to buy a house that already has one, there are some things you need to know about the costs and responsibilities involved.

Swimming pools are an integral part of South African culture. Part of our idea of home ownership is picturing ourselves braaing by the pool on hot summer days with children giggling and leaping onto lilos. These are lovely aspirations, but like any other aspect of home ownership, they should be considered carefully.

“The average increase in your property value when you put in a pool is around 15%,” says Marius Crook, Western Cape regional sales manager at ooba, South Africa’s biggest bond originator. “Obviously, this depends on the type and quality of pool that you put in.”

So, for instance, if you dig up your whole back garden to install an Olympic-sized swimming pool, you may have added a feature to your property, but you’ve also taken away significant garden space. “Always consider aesthetics and functionality,” advises Crook. “Do you want the pool for cooling down or exercise? And then consider whether the space you have can realistically support your intention.”

The quality of workmanship is very important when you are installing a pool. You should opt for a reputable pool company that is registered with the National Pool and Spa Institute (NSPI), and don’t just snap up the cheapest quote. “Ask friends for referrals, and ask the pool company to show you examples of their previous work – in person, not photographs.”

The costs of running a pool

In any event, from the moment you’ve finished the tile work, the pool will start costing you money. A pool pump consumes vast amounts of electricity each month and  you have to run your pool pump every day to keep the pool water in decent condition. A smaller pool might not require you to run a pump for as many hours each day compared to a larger one.

“There are cost-effective solutions – like a salt water chlorinator – but remember to discuss this at the outset with your pool company, because the system will need to be built differently to accommodate this,” says Crook. “It may also cost slightly more at the outset, but offset it against the long-term costs of electricity and chemicals and calculate the savings in that way.”

Then, be sure to always follow the pump operating instructions and to test the pool chemical levels regularly. “If you notice that the water level is dropping off quickly, call a pool company as soon as possible to prevent underground pipe leakage from damaging tiling or paving in the pool area,” says Crook.

If you’re considering buying a property with a pool, ask specific questions about the age of the equipment and whether the owner has noticed any kind of a leak. If you have asked these kinds of questions, the seller may be liable for any repairs necessary if it turns out that he failed to disclose a defect.

Pool safety first

A final but vital caution about pool ownership is to be aware of safety concerns. Although swimming pools generally require minor building work, they are still considered to be structures that must meet set construction conditions. For instance, in Gauteng, the City of Joburg takes into consideration the legislative provisions of the national building regulations, which state that the swimming pool owner must ensure that access to the pool is controlled, and that any owner who fails to comply with this requirement of the regulations will be held liable.

In the Cape, common law still applies. This means that should a drowning occur, if the pool owner is found to be negligent, the person suffering loss may claim from the home owner. You should also check the extent of your liability cover with your household insurance provider.

“It is advisable to take all the necessary measures to make your pool a safe addition to your property, in order to comply with the laws that are currently in place,” says Crook.