Home & Garden

Swimming Into the Pool Season

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Nothing beats a backyard oasis, and there’s no better way to create one than by installing a custom pool. Learn from the experts what it takes to install a new pool this season.

Let’s face it: After a long, brutal winter, we’re ready for some fun in the sun. And what better way to enjoy a relaxing summer than by adding a new swimming pool to your backyard escape? Recently, Northwest Quarterly Magazine sat down with northwest Chicagoland’s leading custom pool builders, to see what’s popular for this year’s swim season.

Whether they’re above-ground or in-ground, pools can add value to your home and provide a welcome oasis where friends and family gather.

Whether they’re above-ground or in-ground, pools can add value to your home and provide a welcome oasis where friends and family gather.

Dennis Marunde, president of Arvidson Pools & Spas, Crystal Lake

Are we starting to see a resurgence in the pool industry?
Like most of the housing industry, our business was really impacted in the last seven years by the economy. There wasn’t much we could do except be there for people when they again felt more confident and ready to invest in their homes. Owning a pool is the perfect alternative to vacations and other luxury goods, whether it’s recreational vehicles, boats or camping. Whenever I see advertising regarding vacations, there’s almost always a swimming pool in the picture. Pools are easier to own and maintain than people realize.

What’s the mindset of potential pool owners this year?
They’re more empowered now. People don’t want to be told what to buy. They’ve already done a ton of research; they want to work with a good company that’s the right fit for them. The biggest thing for our company is trying to figure out how to get customers more relevant information. We’re focused on helping them make good decisions when it comes to buying a pool or hot tub, based on decades of experience and up-to-date awareness of technology trends and user preferences.

What’s the biggest issue that concerns pool owners?
The biggest issue is maintenance. No one buys a pool because they want to spend weekends taking care of it. The sanitation of pool water is evolving quite a bit. Machines like UV sanitizers, salt generators and ozone producers are taking the inconsistency out of maintenance. Automatic cleaning options are also very advanced now, and have eliminated most of the manual labor that used to be associated with owning a pool. Whenever we can utilize new technology, it makes it easier on the pool owner. No one wants to add one more chore to their weekly to-do list.

How does one choose between installing an in-ground or above-ground swimming pool?
We ask homeowners to think about what kind of pool they really want and how they intend to use it. Will it be used for physical fitness, family entertaining, creation of a private backyard oasis, or a combination of several of these aspects? Are you going to have the pool forever, or just while the kids are living at home? An in-ground pool is really an extension of your home, while above-ground pools offer a different type of experience. An above-ground pool is always going to be more affordable and can be just as entertaining for a family as an in-ground pool.

Above-ground pools tend to be more limited on size and shape. We’re seeing a growing trend toward smaller pools – some can be as small as 8 feet by 10 feet. Above-ground pools are faster to install, and there are fewer permits to deal with. Nationally, it’s probably a 50/50 split between people buying in-ground versus above-ground. In Chicago, there are more above-ground, but our company is the opposite. We tend to custom-build more in-ground than above-ground. It’s all a matter of preference.

What’s the best way to research a pool company?
Start by researching different companies online. Ask around, and remember to ask friends, family and coworkers for referrals. Are they happy with their pool company? Would they do anything differently? The most common answer people give us is they would have done it sooner. I haven’t met too many people who have regretted buying a pool.

What’s the best way to approach landscaping around your pool?
In my opinion, it’s best to bite the bullet and do the entire project at once. To have a master plan from the start is extremely beneficial. We specialize in planning the entire project – including irrigation, hardscape, outdoor living spaces and low-voltage LED lighting. If you do everything at once, you’re only dealing with the inconvenience of a torn-up backyard one time.

Does a pool add to the value of your home?
I believe it does, but it depends on who you ask. You’ll always hear the argument that owning a pool limits the market of the house, because some potential homeowners don’t want a pool. You invest in a pool just like you would a master bedroom or kitchen. Depending on where you live in the country, it’s almost a requirement to own a pool. Almost every home in the Sun Belt, for example, has one. In our market, they’re great for family entertainment, which adds to the value of the home. We find that people who previously owned a pool really enjoy having another one. Millennials and baby boomers make up our clientele. Many of them had pools as kids, and now they can afford to have their own as adults.

What’s the greatest satisfaction you receive in working with potential pool owners?
I get so much joy watching people get excited over their new pool. They love it. It’s the best thing a family can do. They get to know their children better and their children’s friends as well. There’s nothing like owning a pool.

Custom pools, like this one from Barrington Pools, can be decked out with a variety of technologies and fun add-ons.

Custom pools, like this one from Barrington Pools, can be decked out with a variety of technologies and fun add-ons.

Mike Murillo, sales/marketing director, Barrington Pools, Barrington

Why should I own a pool?
Owning a pool is like creating a backyard oasis. When people go on vacation to Hawaii, Cancun or some other resort, they come home with ideas of ways to create their own backyard paradise. People are looking to incorporate features in their pool that they’d find at big resorts – tiki huts, swim-up bars, pergolas.

What’s new in the pool industry?
There’s always something new when it comes to features, whether it’s hot tubs, bubblers, jets, LED lighting or something else. It’s my job to create a visual of what you want to see in your backyard paradise. Like anything else, however, just because it’s new doesn’t mean you should always buy it. Take your time, do your homework and consider your budget when it comes to thinking about add-ons.

What’s the designer’s biggest responsibility?
The designer’s job is to listen to what the customer wants in terms of functionality. We’re creating dreams, remember.

We train our staff to pay particular attention to what the customer is asking for. If they love to play basketball or volleyball, or they want to dive in their pool, I have to factor all of that into the design. During my home visit, I pay attention to how the customer lives. I can pick up something subtle just by a quick walkthrough. After that first meeting, we’ll continue to tweak the plan to get it to where you’re happy. There’s a balance between sophistication and fun when it comes to building a pool. Not everyone wants a playground in their pool, but pools are supposed to be fun.

What’s your advice when it comes to budget?
You probably already have a number you’re willing to spend on a new swimming pool, but it’s important to talk to your builder to get an idea of what your project will cost. Factor in how much water it will take to keep your swimming pool full, cleaning and water maintenance costs, and any accessories [pool covers, filters, toys] you’ll need to buy. But don’t settle. Retrofitting a swimming pool is never as easy as the initial install. So if you really want to have a slide or a cascading waterfall, go for it. You never want the swimming pool that’s ‘almost perfect.’

What’s the best part about owning a pool?
To me, owning a pool is a good way to keep the family together. So many people lack quality time together because of our hectic lifestyles. People enjoy staying home, and when you’re working five or six days a week, that time at home becomes even more important. You want to enjoy a day off and not have to drive three hours to relax somewhere.

I frequently hear from homeowners who want their kids and their kids’ friends to spend more time at their home. As they get older, they want their children and grandchildren to come over. A pool becomes their escape or vacation. A pool can be the glue that keeps a family together.

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