How can I accurately estimate the cost of an inground swimming pool?

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Are you tempted by offers of a gunite pool that costs $50,000 or less? Understanding the actual cost of putting in a swimming pool—that means factoring in all the extras—is a must. Needed items (without even counting the bells and whistles) can easily double the price of the pool itself. 

“As a consumer, you should always try to have the cost of the total project prior to construction,” explains Tim Meehan of MeehanRamosPools in Fairfield County, CT and Westchester County, NY. “Every contractor is less when they are bidding and more afterwords, regardless of how honest they are—it’s just human nature. Even if some costs are not known, an allowance must be created to develop a working budget. Pools have many components that make up their cost.” Some contractors include many of them in their estimate while others add them in at the end—at great cost and great surprise to the homeowner.

Here is Tim’s 25-point hit list. Some items, like a spa and an automatic cover, are optional; others, like fencing, are required; and a few, like the surrounding patio and rock walls, can quickly escalate if you decide to get more elaborate as the work is done.

Pool Costs: A La Carte

  1. Pool
  2. Spa
  3. Surveys 
  4. Permit fees beyond customary (conservation/coastal/historic)
  5. Automatic cover
  6. Coping and stone upgrades
  7. Construction roads if the site can’t be accessed through your existing driveway
  8. Excavation
  9. Gravel beyond the 4” under the pool that should be included
  10. Backfill of pool
  11. Removal/moving of fill
  12. Forming due to poor soil
  13. Hammer work to remove ledge for pools and trenching 
  14. Trenching for water, pool lines, electrical and gas
  15. Electrical
  16. Upgraded electrical service to house
  17. Buried propane tank and gas service if the pool is to be heated
  18. Ozone and alternative sanitizers
  19. Water to fill the pool
  20. Winter cover
  21. Venting of heaters inside structures
  22. Patios—you need a plan with the actual square footage; this can drive the budget more than any other single item
  23. Walls—you need a plan with the actual square footage; this can drive the budget more than any single item other than the patio
  24. Fencing
  25. Landscaping

Once you have every item accounted for in your swimming pool design, you can get a better idea of whether a backyard showpiece is in your future.