If you're lucky enough to own a swimming pool, or hope to own one someday, it's a relief to know you can leave the dirty work up to the "pool guy." But times being what they are, cutbacks in the family budget may require taking over the pool duties yourself.
Before launching out to do your own pool cleaning and maintenance (which is a summer-long job, so be ready to commit), you need to know what's involved in terms of time, effort, tools and supplies. If you've got the time and energy, you might find pool cleaning to be a fun and meditative practice rather than a dreaded exercise, this could be a good way to save money.
THE HIRE-IT-OUT METHOD
Weekly pool maintenance typically involves skimming the surface with a net for leaves and debris, brushing and/or vacuuming the pool sides, steps and bottom, cleaning and replacing filters, and adjusting the chemicals. Pool professionals can accomplish these tasks with the speed and grace that come with experience. Balancing a pool's chemical makeup likewise takes experience and finesse.
Depending on your location, once-a-week pool maintenance runs from $75 to $200 a month
. Of course, if you live in a Beverly Hills mansion with an enormous pool, spa and waterfall, expect your costs to be higher. And if you have a neglected pool that needs a deep cleaning, expect to pay at least $100 or more per hour.
THE DO-IT-YOURSELF METHOD
When you take on this job yourself, you need "tool up" first. After than, your main expenses will be in pool chemicals and filters. Here are some of the tools you'll need:
Tools and Supplies
(clockwise from top) Pool testing kit; Algae brush; Leaf skimmer; Robot pool vacuum. Photos: Amazon; The Home Depot
: This tool gently skims leaves and other debris from the surface of the water. Leaf skimmers are typically made of an aluminum frame and a mesh screen. Prices range from $25 for the homeowner version to $50 and up for the pro model
. For such a minimal difference in price, and considering the time you'll spend with this in your hands, the better-quality tool makes sense.
: You'll need one of these to brush, about $30
, the algae from the sides, bottom and steps of your pool so it can be swooped up by the filter. The more you physically dislodge the algae, the fewer chemicals you'll need to add to the water.
Robot Pool Vacuum
: One of these robot vacuums could make your job a lot easier. Imagine one of these little fellows roaming the bottom and sides of the pool, vacuuming up algae, bacteria, dirt and sand as you sleep. Manufacturers claim you can save wear and tear on your whole-pool filter system, and you save money on electricity and pool chemicals. They cost from $500 to $800
Pool Test Kit
: The quality of water in your pool depends on frequent testing for pH, acid demand, total alkalinity, total chlorine and total bromine. A kit, $20 and up
, may include dropper bottles, test strips, instructions and other items.
: To control bacteria and algae in your pool, you'll have to master the fine art of chlorine balancing. Too little of this chemical and the algae will flourish. Too much chlorine and your family will suffer. How much you need depends on the size of the pool, the season and the weather. Chlorinating solution costs about $5 a gallon
. Chlorinating tablets, which are slow to release their chemicals, cost about $100 for a 40-pound bucket.
Swimming Pool Paint
: There may come a time when you decided to drain the water from your pool
, do some repairs, then fill it back up. If you decide to paint the pool bottom during this time, high-quality pool paint will cost from $40 to $50 a gallon
. You can change the whole look of your pool with colors, from white and black, to aquamarine, ocean blue and royal blue. Can you imagine a giant mural down there of fish and mermaids?
: This last item is not exactly part of the maintenance schedule, but is a reward for all your hard work. Cost: $200 to $240