You’ve got your brand-new home in Phoenix. The mountain views are fabulous, the weather is warm.
Well, actually, it’s hot. It’s screaming hot. Jumping in a pool to cool off sounds perfect. But you don’t have a pool. You don’t know where to begin.
- Want a pool? Where do you begin?
- What do you need to know about pools?
- Is there a difference between a low and high-maintenance pool?
- Is there such a thing as an eco-friendly pool?
- What should you consider if you’re going to own a pool in Arizona?
- What about landscaping once the pool is installed?
- How much is it going to cost?
Livabl spoke with Skip Ast III, the new pools sales general manager at Shasta Pools in Phoenix. We talked about the considerations you need to make before building and owning a pool, what you need to think about as a pool owner in Phoenix, the difference between low and high-maintenance pools, if there’s such a thing as an eco-friendly pool, and what comes after your new pool is installed.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity
My family and I are new to Arizona, and we’ve never owned a pool. Where do we begin?
I would say that scenario is the most common for families. Many families I’ve spoken with have a justifiable and understandable fear of the process. Most families will say, “Hey, I just need to find the picture of the design or the pretty cool that I want.”
The big challenge in our industry is the unknown. So much of what a pool costs initially, how it operates, and the cost of ownership has much to do with what’s beneath the surface of the pool.
A family needs to consider what is most important about having a pool. Maybe it’s to escape stress, escape politics, taxes, and their main goal is to relax. So, in that case, we can help point them to specific options, features, and equipment that allows them to relax more than any other type of pool scenario. Or they may say, “We want to be the pool where all the kids want to come and hang out.” Or “We’re going to have family parties and get-togethers.” That could dictate a different set of equipment.
Owners need to know the “why” of getting a pool. Is it the party pool, or will it be for two people? That is important to discover, as well as how much time an owner sees themselves maintaining the pool. People don’t know with pools. Some say, “If I spend more than an hour a week on maintenance, I’ll be disappointed.” That helps guide us to a specific set of equipment that we can show.
When you mention “equipment,” what does that entail?
It covers everything from water sanitation to how the water is removed, and how it filters to get physical dirt out.
It’s kind of like the engine of a car. You can fall in love with the car’s look, but then you find out it’s got a hamster for an engine. It’s going to be nothing but a beautiful, gorgeous headache. A model company will come in and try to make it what you would expect. So, it’s good for families to take their time to feel peace of mind and empowered about what is going on underneath a pool, just as much as they’re excited about a look.
It’s one of those things people don’t dream about when they think about owning a pool. They’re thinking about the Fourth of July parties and how they will use the pool. It’s understandable.
But everything’s about the guts of the engine. I think that’s where families are either extremely disappointed by the result or thrilled because they had a trustworthy individual select the right equipment for them.
What are the differences between a low and high-maintenance pool?
That’s a question most families ask, and it can be intimidating due to how intensely you want to get into detail and different options. During monsoon season, the equipment in the pool matters because you get that mile-high wall of dust, and you can’t see the bottom of your pool in a matter of hours. It takes some effort to fix that. You’ve got to pay an expensive service fee for pool service. If someone has decided to pay for pool service, that’s likely because their pool doesn’t clean itself.
You can go basic to where it’s a beautiful shell that holds water. The water circulates, and you need someone to come back and do the labor once a week. But once a week isn’t enough because pool chemistry needs to be tested at least a couple of times a week, and it can change overnight with one storm.
You can go from there to a system where you can function and operate your pool from out of state. I can be at my son’s football practice and see a big storm on the way. Then I’m pulling out my phone, and I’m turning the cleaning system on to take care of that. I don’t have to worry about coming back to a swamp.
So, the range is significant. You can go with hand cleaning. Or you can have like a little robot that randomly goes through the pool. But that robot is going to miss some spots. It won’t get steps and benches.
Then there are options that Shasta and my grandfather, Skip Sr., were at the forefront of developing. He installed the first one in 1968. A series of heads are mapped in the bottom of the pool and zoned. Those heads come up, pushing filtered, sanitized, and treated water. Then they move dirt toward the drain for you, like a dustpan.
But customers need to be on guard because some come in and say, “I’ve heard wonders about that pop-up system or that in-floor cleaning,” but there are five or six different systems to choose from. So, families must be careful about using generic terminologies when asking for specific systems. That allows some pool companies to choose the cost-effective system for the company to install for that family.
Is there such a thing as an eco-friendly pool?
The pool industry is becoming more eco-friendly, which has a lot to do with the options. There are natural pools, and they tend to be more popular where things are much more humid, such as on the east coast and south, where everything is green. Builders install plants, and the plants naturally filtrate that water.
But Arizona is a desert climate. The plants don’t survive. So, the way that families go more eco-friendly is with the efficiency of the equipment. There’s equipment out today that doesn’t require you to backwash.
That’s the frequency where you drain a little bit of the pool, maybe once or twice a month. You don’t waste the water. There’s the efficiency of equipment, variable speed motors, and things of that nature.
Then there’s the method of sanitizing the water. Many families want to avoid using as many harsh chemicals as possible. You’re using different sets of sanitation options that can reduce the need for harsh chemicals.
What would a pool owner have to consider that’s specific to Arizona?
Every family is different, but the temperature of the water is something to consider. Most families move here from elsewhere. They might think Arizona is a place where you can swim year-round, which isn’t the case.
They find out that [pools rise to a warmer temperature] just by way of the Arizona sun; you get four to five months of swim season. If a family wants to attempt to enjoy more months of that pool and as perfect as the weather can be in the spring or fall, most analysts find that you can’t use your pool. It’s way too cold.
There needs to be consideration of how long [a family] wants to be using their pool. Also: There are moments of the summer when that water temperature can naturally rise to the low-to-mid 90°F mark. If they’ve just been outside working hard, they want to return home and jump into something refreshing. 90°F feels gross. It doesn’t feel very refreshing. So, there are systems and options to adjust the temperature.
What goes into the completion of a pool environment?
Families realize they need to do something beautiful around the pool. Even on an existing landscape, the process or construction is such that there’s no delicate way of getting a tractor into the backyard, going back and forth. It’s passing by 100 times, digging up irrigation lines, grass, rock, and existing plants to create this big, beautiful pool. So, when that’s all done, we have a crew that spends hours cleaning up. The construction process is intense.
It’s always wise to consider the landscaping to come, bring the grass back to where it was, or away from the pool that borders it. You bring fresh rock for ground cover or new plants to accent that pool.
Landscaping will almost always be something someone wants to consider and budget. The wonderful thing about landscaping is that it can be done anytime. Some families have started with us and our in-house landscaping team. We send our crews out right when the pool is done. It’s all done quickly. At some point, when a monsoon rolls through, there’s going to be mud and dust that’s getting into the house. It will bother them, so they’ll want to tidy up and need some landscape restoration.
How much is this pool going to cost me?
The average Arizona pool costs between $65,000 to $80,000. That number is based on our data and Arizona’s public records. The industry must list an initial price point of the pool, and the permit price is based on the retail value of the pool.
We include the range to help families understand and communicate the initial price difference you can get when choosing different equipment.
We had a new family that peeked over the back wall of the neighbor’s home and said, “Hey, Skip: Put that pool in my backyard. I’m going to be your easiest customer ever.”
But after asking them lifestyle questions, I’ve found out or realized they’re just talking about the pool’s shape and size. But when they described their needs, there was an $8,000 to $10,000 difference in the pool. It had everything to do with the guts of the system that one family chose versus the other. The neighboring family was already established. The neighbor said, “I can brush this every day and enjoy grooming the pool. Hand vacuuming is therapeutic for me.”
The new family said something to the effect of, “If we have to lift a finger, we’ll be disappointed.” So, the equipment selection could not have been more different than the family selected across the street. That’s why we put that range in place because we see similar size pools, and the price can range dramatically based on what families choose for equipment.
Plan, learn, consider, and then plan some more
Your pool is a permanent fixture of your house and one of the most expensive investments you can make for your future home. Be honest with yourself about your needs and wants. If you have little interest in cleaning or maintaining a pool, plan that into your budget.
Consider whether you want to use it year-round or just for a few months out of the year. And don’t forget to anticipate your landscaping needs once the pool is in place.
Some serious planning beforehand will save you from an expensive mess down the road. Then get ready to be best friends with every neighborhood kid in a five-block radius and the inevitable question, “Can we use your pool?”