Installing an inground pool is a huge job. Obviously, you want your pool to be finished as quickly as possible – and for your backyard to be a construction site for as little time as possible.
But how long does it take to install an inground pool? As a general rule, depending on the type of pool, you can expect it to take at least 2 to 8 weeks. However, this is only for the installation – and there are a number of issues that can delay completion. It could end up taking as long as 9 months.
While your builder is probably going to give you the best estimate of how long the installation will actually take, they also tend to gloss over these issues. Not only that, but there’s a long process that has to take place before the actual pool can eventually be put into place. You need to decide on a design, for one, and get the necessary permits. Only then can you start digging – the penultimate step.
This may sound like a headache, but if you’ve ever had a residential pool before, you know it’s going to be worth the wait. Here’s what you can expect.
The Lengthy Process of Pool Installations
Step 1: The Designer
Your first step in the rather lengthy process of pool installations is deciding on a design. This could be as simple as looking at different precast fiberglass models or flipping through your favorite home design magazine. But if you want a pool that’s going to fit perfectly with your yard’s landscaping, you’re going to need a designer.
Once you’ve found a professional pool designer whose portfolio and demeanor is compatible with your vision, he or she needs to visit your property. This allows them to better work on your design, taking both your vision and your available plot into consideration. Naturally, this is going to have to happen at a time that works for both of you – which means you may have to wait as long as a week for your schedules to overlap.
After you give your pool designer the go-ahead, he or she ought to have a pool design ready for confirmation within a fortnight. For the rest of the process, they’ll continue to be your contact point, coordinating the pool installation from start to finish.
Step 2: The Permit
This is one of the trickiest parts of installing an inground pool – or any other pool, for that matter. After all, before you can make any structural changes to your property, you need to secure a building permit from your municipality. And as we all know, government bodies aren’t always the quickest.
Of course, some municipalities are more efficient than others, and your local officials can approve your permit within a few weeks.
But many areas have additional requirements that need to be met. You may be asked to attend a planning board meeting, get an engineer involved, and go through several different approval steps. Depending on your local building regulations and the type (and design) of your pool, this can take as long as 6 months.
Step 3: The Excavation
Once your pool contractor has all the necessary permits approved, confirm your chosen builder’s availability.
Any decent pool builder is likely to have a busy schedule. As construction season comes up and goes into full swing, the waiting time is going to increase accordingly. Your builder is going to be working on a “first come, first serve” basis – so the sooner you can confirm dates, the better.
Your pool builder is also going to have to work around the availability of their subcontractors, though. There’s a high possibility that they may be working to finish other projects too, which will affect how soon after your permits are approved they can get started on the excavation.
As a general rule-of-thumb, expect to wait up to 4 weeks from the time of booking to the day the bulldozer starts tearing up your yard.
Thankfully, the actual digging process shouldn’t take very long: a few hours typically, 2 days at most – unless there are unexpected complications. These complications can prolong the excavation by a couple more hours, or as long as a week.
Step 4: The Actual Installation
After several weeks or even months of waiting, your pool is finally ready to be installed.
As mentioned earlier, this can last anywhere from a fortnight to 8 weeks – and that’s if there aren’t any further issues that come up, causing a delay in completion. For the most part however, the length of time the actual installation will depend on the type of pool.
Here’s how long you can expect each pool type to take on average:
Vinyl Liner Pools – 2 Weeks (Plus Time for the Accompanying Patio – 2 weeks to 9 months)
Vinyl liner pools are easily the quickest installation. You can generally look forward to having water in your pool within 2 weeks of the excavation. This is especially true if you’re having preassembled parts installed, or using a complete pool tool kit.
But the accompanying patio can make the process a lot longer. How much so largely depends on which of the two popular routes you decide to go: reusing the excavated dirt or bringing in gravel.
When excavating for a vinyl liner pool, your pool construction team is going to have to dig a hole with an extra 3 feet all around the sides of the actual pool. Once they’ve set the pool’s body in place, this extra space needs to be refilled in order to construct the accompanying patio.
Simply reusing the excavated dirt is a much cheaper option, as you won’t have to pay for the gravel they bring in otherwise. However, this can end up costing you time, as the dirt should be left to settle.
This should ideally take 3 seasons – fall, winter, and spring. Doing so allows the dirt go through a full freeze and thaw cycle before the patio construction can begin. So while opting for gravel filler can add initial expenses, it’ll save you up to 9 months of waiting. Using gravel, your construction team can start building your patio right away.
And before you think you can simply skip the settling period, this can end up costing you a lot more money when you find yourself having to do repairs. Cave-ins don’t only occur when there’s a body of ground water that hasn’t been properly taken care of, after all. Additionally, as the soil freezes and thaws, the expansion and contraction can cause structural damage to the vinyl liner.
The type of patio you want will also affect how much time is needed to properly complete your pool installation. Concrete patios only take about 2 days, while pavers will take a week, and natural stone about 2 weeks. If you’re also having additional features installed, these will similarly prolong the construction process. We’ll look into this in a later section, though.
Concrete/Gunite – 6 to 8 Weeks
Concrete pools (also known as “gunite” or “shotcrete” pools) take the longest in terms of pure installation.
It takes about 2 weeks to properly prime the excavation area before the construction company can begin working on the concrete shell that will become your pool. Putting it into place shouldn’t take more than a few days, but it will take at least another 4 weeks for it to set properly.
During those 28+ days, your pool builder and their subcontractors will keep busy with the necessary electrical, tile, and patio work, as far as possible.
The great news is that, unlike vinyl liner pools, concrete designs don’t require any extra excavation space that needs to be backfilled after the pool has been put in. Your patio will almost certainly be finished by the time the concrete is ready for plastering, no matter what type of patio you opt for. Obviously, the more features you want included (or if you want a full entertainment area as part of your patio), the higher the chances that it’ll still take extra time to complete.
Once the concrete is set and the plastering is finished, you can start filling your pool with water. All told, this process takes between 6 and 8 weeks to complete on average.
Fiberglass Pools – 2 Weeks (Sometimes Less)
Chances are, you’ve heard rumors of pools being installed in a day.
Of course, that’s all they are – rumors. But those rumors are focused around fiberglass pools, which are certainly the quickest type of pool to put in.
Fiberglass pools are cast off-site and transported to your property. Your pool builder then needs to lift and position the prefabricated shell into the excavated space. This alone typically take about a day and a half to get right – assuming there aren’t any other complications that arise.
Once the shell is fitted in, making sure that it’s properly set and your accompanying patio can begin. Your patio could end up being the longest part of the process, depending on the type you decided on.
From the time excavation is complete to you waving goodbye to the building team while filling your pool, you’re looking at about 2 weeks of construction time – sometimes less.
When Complications Arise…
Even though putting your pool in should only take up to 8 weeks from excavation to enjoyment, there are a number of complications that can arise. These can delay completion for a considerable amount of time, depending on which ones your pool builder encounters – and how many of them.
Here’s a list of the most common issues that can put your pool installation on hold.
Size and Features
While not exactly a complication, strictly speaking, the size of your pool will obviously affect how long it takes to put in.
The above estimates are for “average” sized pools – if you’ve got a massive backyard and are putting in a pool to rival your local gym’s (or even the Olympics’), excavation as well as installation is going to take extra time to complete. “Average” here means a pool water capacity within the 15,000 to 30,000 gallon range.
Even if your pool is relatively “average” in size, your design might include extra features. Things like a miniature waterfall look amazing and can add a natural, zen atmosphere to your pool area.
But it also adds to construction time. As a general rule, you can expect feature installation to take place while your accompanying patio is being built. Even if you’re having a gunite pool put it and the construction team (or, more likely, specialized subcontractors) are able to work on it while waiting for the concrete to set, count on at least a few more days.
This will be especially true if you’re taking the vinyl liner route and letting the backfill dirt settle before working on your patio. And even if you’ve opted for a fiberglass pool and the installation process only takes a week, fancy features can push the time frame up to 2 weeks or longer.
After all, depending on the feature, you don’t only have to factor in the actual construction. There may be extra plumbing and electrical work involved.
And if you’re tiling your concrete pool, the tiling process alone can add an extra week or even a fortnight to complete.
The Construction Site (AKA Your Backyard)
Let’s face it – not everyone has a backyard that can easily be accessed by the necessary construction equipment. Adequate pathways can be a major issue in this case. Working around them can add days, if not weeks, to your building schedule.
But access isn’t the only (potential) issue. If your property has a natural slope, it’s going to take extra time to level the construction site. While this is an easy solution on paper, it can not only be time-consuming, but add significant expense to the project. Not only will you have to carve the pool area from the slope (adding to excavation time), but a retainer wall will need to be put up.
Other complications with the construction site can become apparent either before construction work begins, or crop up in the process. For example, even with a retainer wall in place, you need to make sure that the newly leveled-out area isn’t too low-lying, as this can lead to flooding.
Windy areas will result in excessive water evaporation, necessitating the additional construction of a wind-breaker barrier. This could simply be an extra wall, or be worked into the list of features you want added, such as an artificial rock outcropping.
Even the actual ground can become an issue. Unless you’ve had proper soils test done, you could end up finding that the soil grade will compromise your pool’s structural integrity. Additionally, during excavation, you might hit an unexpected bedrock or ground water. We’ll be looking into these issues in more detail in a later section.
Even worse, you could stumble upon utility lines.
While there are ways around most of these issues, they all take extra time (sometimes several weeks, depending on the solution) and a whole lot of extra money to resolve.
No one trusts the weatherman very much, especially if you live in an area where you can experience all 4 seasons in a single day.
Bad weather conditions – rain and snow especially – will waylay construction for days at a time. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this: you’ll just have to wait for the weather to improve sufficiently for work to resume. This will include waiting for the excavation site to become adequately dry. It may even necessitate additional work to repair any inadvertent damage caused, such as compromised soil density.
Even worse, the delay might not be caused by weather during your construction period. There’s a domino effect, after all. If your building team is sidelined while working on another client’s pool before yours, the delay in completing that project also affects when they can start on yours.
Pool builders and their subcontractors aren’t superhuman. Your pool installation may be delayed at any time because a crucial member of the team falls ill or has a family emergency that pulls them off-site for a few days at a time.
Worst case scenarios, the team you’ve contracted are plain flaky – or their personal or business issues end up postponing your pool’s construction indefinitely.
Inspectors fulfill an important role in making sure all construction sites and projects comply with local regulations.
While the actual inspection shouldn’t delay installation for more than a few hours at a time – and ideally, this will have been accounted for during planning – their prognosis can be far more damaging. If your pool construction doesn’t pass the inspector’s standards, your builder will have to backtrack their progress up to that point in order to correct the identified issues.
Depending on how many of these issues there are and how long the adjustments take to complete, this can easily set you back by several weeks.
4 Questions You Need to Ask Your Pool Builder
It’s easy for pool builders to succumb to “the curse of knowledge.” When this happens, they tend to forget that most of their customers don’t know as much about pool installations as what they do. They end up omitting important information that most clients wouldn’t think to ask about.
Of course, sometimes this omission is deliberate. After all, it can lead to “hidden” costs – expenses which, if mentioned as a possibility upfront, might scare off some customers. If you’ve hired a reputable pool builder, this shouldn’t be the case though.
To make sure you don’t accidentally or intentionally become a victim of omitted information, here are the 4 questions you need to ask your pool builder before you hire them.
Regarding Rock and Ground Water
In the previous section, we mentioned that hitting rock or groundwater can be an unexpected complication in the excavation process. Unless you’ve had soil testing done (and only an estimated 0.1% of clients do), it can easily become a “hidden” expense.
Be prepared, not only by having a soils test performed, but by asking your pool builder what their plan is for handling such situations if and when they arise.
Typically, if you hit a lot of rock during the excavation, you have 4 options:
- Move your pool site to a section with less rock. This is, admittedly, going to involve some guesswork. The best way to go about finding a less rocky pool site is to dig several test holes in your backyard and hope for the best.
- Elevate the pool. A less-than-ideal solution, especially if you had your heart set on an inground pool specifically. Nevertheless, one of the easiest options. This will definitely involve extra cost, as you’ll have to install elevation walls, pay for extra fill, etc. On the plus side, you get to stick with your original pool site.
- Hammer or blast the rock. This also allows you to keep the original location, but expect to pay at least an extra $2k for the hammer or blasting materials. You’ll also need to cover costs for the added labor, especially if a specialist needs to be brought in as a subcontractor.
- Wait until you move again. The least ideal solution by far, but if you can’t afford the extra costs incurred with the first 3 options, your best choice is probably going to be to fill up the hole, pay the contractor for their time, and postpone your pool plans for your next house.
Here, you only have 2 options:
- Install a dewatering system and pump the water out. You’ll have to wait until the area is completely dry before your pool construction can continue. This method works best with fiberglass pools, as installation is a lot quicker. Just be aware that you may have to pay for extra fill to help prevent cave-ins – gravel typically works a lot better than reusing the excavated dirt.
- Elevate the pool. This is the same as with hitting bedrock. You might have to pay for some extra fill too, depending on the soil quality.
How Much Dirt Are You Expecting?
Customers always underestimate how much dirt needs to be excavated for a pool.
As a general rule-of-thumb, for the average pool size, picture how dirt much you expect there to be. Now multiply that by 5, or even 10.
You’re looking at about 5 garden sheds worth of dirt.
Arrange for the dirt to be reused as filler if possible, and for your pool builder to remove the excess. Otherwise you’re going to end up spending a number of weekends with a wheelbarrow.
What Will Happen to My Yard?
Unless you’re spending thousands (possibly millions) extra on some hitherto unknown pool builder who uses a helicopter to remove excavated dirt and bring construction materials on-site, your yard is going to become a full-blown construction site.
This means you can kiss all the grass around the pool goodbye. Same goes for a roughly 20-foot by 20-foot area for all the materials.
The access lane might also incur some damages after having heavy construction vehicles using it.
Will I Save Money by Doing the Excavation Myself?
Best case scenario, your pool builder won’t charge you double for having dug your own hole. Many of them do. After all, they’re going to have to spend time making sure you got the dimensions right. They may even have to fix mistakes you didn’t realize you’d made.
Even if you’re lucky and they don’t charge you extra, you’ll only save $500 to $1,000 at most.
That’s because the construction company needs to bring their machines on-site regardless. Instead of spending weeks with a shovel, you’ll be better off letting your builder spend a day (2 days at most) taking care of the excavation to their specifications.
What’s the best time of year to build a pool?
Fall is generally considered the best time to buy and install a new pool. Even though you’ll need to wait until spring to start enjoying your pool, you’ll likely get a better price by hiring contractor’s during their off-season.
How much will a new pool cost?
The cost of a new pool depends on a number of factors: pool type, time of year, area, special features, etc. An inground pool will typically cost $33.8k to $57.8k: as a rule-of-thumb, expect to pay $50 per square foot in base expenses. Natural pools range from $90k to $135k.
How much does it cost to fill my pool with water?
Depending on the size of your swimming pool, the capacity is likely to be between 15,000 and 30,000 gallons. You can expect to pay an extra $80 to $160 on your water bill using your garden hose. Alternatively, bulk water deliveries typically cost about $225 for a half-tanker.