Thinking of installing a swimming pool at your French property? Here’s all you need to know about the types of pools, planning permission rules, maintenance and safety rules
What type of pool do you want?
Your first decision has to be the type of pool. There are several options so there should be something for all circumstances and budgets.
An in-ground pools costs more to install than an above-ground pool and it is also considered a permanent property fixture and will therefore increase your taxe foncière. But on the flip-side, it will increase the value of the property if done well, an added advantage if you decide to sell or rent out your property as holiday accommodation.
Keen DIYers might consider creating their own pool but make sure you talk to people who have done it and have a good team to help you. Alternatively you could consider the ‘semi-DIY’ option of a kit pool. You’ll still need to dig a hole for it (so consider the cost of hiring a digger and disposing of the earth) and the work can take longer to complete than the glossy brochures advertise but you can create a pool that perfectly suits your needs. Probably the simplest and most inexpensive option is a pre-fabricated pool, for sale all over France and coming in many shapes and sizes, delivered in one piece and lowered into the ground.
While above-ground pools can be less attractive, their installation is quicker and easier and they are likely to be cheaper to install than in-ground pools. Plastic kits can be brought at a supermarket for less than €500, while metal- and timber-framed pools can be between €2,000 and €10,000 but there are no added costs for burying the pipework. There are various styles and sizes of these pools available and, best of all, planning permission is not needed, although you will need to complete a déclaration préalable de travaux form (building notice).
Where are you going to put the pool?
Once you have decided on the type of pool you want to need to think about where you are going to put it. Do you want your pool to be visible from the house or tucked away? Ideally it should be sited somewhere that enjoys maximum sunshine, especially if you are considering heating it with a solar system or not heating it at all. Where possible, avoid installing a pool too close to trees to minimise debris falling in, and consider vital proximity to water and electricity supplies. There needs to be realistic access to the site for a digger or any vehicles delivering materials, and for in-ground pools, take heed of any drains, fosse septiques, cables, tree roots or anything else that could be underground where to want to fit it. Finally make sure you leave yourself sufficient room around the proposed pool area to install the all-important terrace.
Do you need planning permission?
Swimming pools measuring less than 100m² will only require a déclaration préalable de travaux (building notice), while larger pools of more than 100m² will require a permis de construire (building permit, as you would need for a property build or major extension). You can obtain the necessary paperwork from your local mairie (town hall). A full permis needs to be supplemented with various documents, including a sectional drawing of the land and proposed construction, and a graphical representation of the proposed pool within the existing surroundings. You also need planning permission for any pool houses so make sure you declare any intentions to build one of these too. Your local mairie will be able to tell you which forms you need to complete.
Don’t forget about pool security…
In-ground pools have to comply with the loi Raffarin law which stipulates that all in-ground outdoor pools must be fitted with an approved form of security to prevent people (especially children) from drowning. There are four types of approved security systems: security barriers, pool alarms, pool covers or a pool shelter. Most people rely on a combination of alarms and fences but your local DIY store, garden centre or swimming pool specialist will be able to advise you on the best system for your pool. This of course adds to the cost of installing a swimming pool so make sure you factor it in to your budget. You can find the full swimming pool safety rules here.
Pools need regular cleaning so keep a large net handy to remove debris and wildlife that blows into your pool and clean it as you use it. The pool liner will need to be replaced every 10 years or so and all the technical kit required to keep the pump and filtration system working happily will also have a limited shelf life, especially if your pool is in use for a large portion of the year.
Sanitisation is another important part of maintenance. Chlorine is the cheapest and most popular method but it doesn’t suit everyone, especially those with skin or eye conditions. Saltwater systems require a greater financial outlay but their annual maintenance cost is typically lower – you can get as much as a year’s use from one bag of salt. Less common sanitation methods include use of ultraviolet light and automatic chemical dosage, which utilises a sophisticated pH monitoring system and optimises your use of chemicals, but it can be expensive to install.
When weighing up your sanitisation options, think about your intended usage. If your pool is only going to be used privately by you and your family and friends, a standard filtration and sanitisation system is sufficient, but if more than one family at a time will be swimming (if it’s a holiday let for example) you will require a more efficient system that maintains the water in a more strictly balanced state. If your property is a holiday home and you are away for long periods without someone on site to keep up the maintenance, consider emptying the pool on your departure and refilling it when you return.