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Want to install a swimming pool? Read this before you do

Whether you’re considering installing a swimming pool or want to buy a house that already has one, these are some things you need to know.

Want to install a swimming pool? Read this before you do

Article summary

  • Swimming pools are an integral part of South African culture but, like any other aspect of home ownership, they should be considered carefully.
  • In the drought-stricken Cape, a pool may be seen as more of a liability than an asset. A borehole may be a better bet.
  • In provinces where water is plentiful, a pool could increase your property value by 15%, depending on its type and quality.
  • Always choose a reputable pool company that is registered with the National Pool and Spa Institute (NSPI).

Swimming pools are an integral part of South African culture. Included in our idea of home ownership is a picture of braaing by the pool on hot summer days with giggling children 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 Rhys Dyer, CEO of ooba, South Africa’s biggest bond originator.

However, Dyer notes, in the Cape, where ongoing drought has escalated the water crisis, a pool may be seen as more of a liability than an asset.

“Given that, in South Africa, for every square metre of pool water, an average of 6.4 litres of water is lost per day, a borehole may be a better option in this province,” he says.

But, at a cost of R1 000 to R1 300 per metre drilled (with typical depths in Cape Town ranging from 20 to 40 metres), plus the expense of pumps, pipes and tanks, how much of an investment is a borehole?

One study, published in the Journal of the Borehole Water Association of South Africa, puts the cost saving of using 1 619 kilolitres of borehole water over a three-year period at just over R19 500, when compared to standard (level-1) municipal tariffs.

But it’s independence from the grid that is the biggest draw-card, says Dyer. “The inevitability of water outages and the escalating costs of municipal water make it essential for homeowners to become as self-reliant as they possibly can,” he insists.

Consider aesthetics and functionality

For homebuyers and owners outside of the Cape, where water issues are less of a concern, the value a pool depends significantly on its type and quality, Dyer says.

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,” he advises. “Do you want the pool for cooling down or for 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, he adds. 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 ensure the pool company shows 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 pump every day to keep the water in decent condition. A smaller pool might not require the pump to run 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 it,” Dyer advises. “It may also cost slightly more at the outset, but this can be offset against the long-term costs of electricity and chemicals.”

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 damaged tiling or paving in the pool area,” he says.

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 if it turns out that he failed to disclose a defect,” he adds.

Safety first

A final but vital caution about pool ownership is to be aware of safety concerns, says Dyer. “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 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 homeowner.

“You should also check the extent of your liability cover with your household insurance provider,” Dyer says, adding, “It’s advisable to take all the necessary measures to make your pool a safe – and valuable – addition to your property.”

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