Planning a swimming pool

Dreaming of a dip? Caitlyn Frey explains the ins and outs of swimming pool installation in France

There can be no better way to spend a summer at your French home than poolside and a swimming pool is right at the top of many househunters’ wishlists. However, before you sign that compromis or call in the contractors, it’s worth swotting up on the various options available.

Ready when you are If your new property comes with a pool – lucky you – you’d be forgiven for assuming all is above board, but there are several checks you should undertake before you sign on the dotted line. First, you want to be sure that the previous owner sought the relevant planning permission (d�claration pr�able) – it isn’t unusual for homeowners to construct pools without permission and, if they didn’t, you might be required to fill that lovely blue oasis in again.

As Caroline Simcock of C&C Construction says: “More and more buyers are demanding proof that a professional artisan has carried out the work and provided the appropriate guarantees – the work should be insured for a 10-year period, which is transferable to the new owner.”

You will need to carry out a thorough inspection of the pool’s structure (and its condition) to make sure the filtration systems work properly. If you’re not wellversed in swimming pool construction, it’s worth hiring an expert to avoid pricey repairs down the line.

Cost considerations Obviously your choice of pool will be influenced to a great extent by your budget. The cost will vary depending on the type of pool you choose and how you install it, and can range from €500 for an above-ground pool to €25,000 for an all-singing, alldancing in-ground pool. DIYenthusiasts can save money by doing some of the less specialist work themselves.

Make sure you account for maintenance costs and heating the pool as well as the initial cost of installation – running costs can vary from €400-€2,000 annually. Don’t forget that the taxman considers an in-ground pool to be a permanent fixture and, as such, increases your taxe fonci�re.

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Whatever the cost, you can rest assured that adding a pool to your property will increase its value – the general rule is that a properly installed pool will increase the value of your property by at least the cost of installation. A pool will also give you the edge when it comes to marketability too, it’s a top priority for many househunters and, if you plan to let out your property to holidaymakers, it will greatly increase your rental prospects and the rent you can charge.

Location Before you start browsing through brochures, however, it’s worth thinking about where you are going to site your pool. Check with your mairie whether any local regulations apply – some communes don’t allow pools to be installed in plain view of the road; the sight of scantily-clad bathing beauties has been known to cause road accidents in the past.

Ideally, the pool should be placed in a sheltered spot in full sun, away from any buildings or overhanging trees. Think twice about putting a pool in plain view of the house. While the idea of looking out over sparkling blue water from your windows during the summer is certainly attractive, the reality is that you will mainly be looking at the protective cover during any cold spells. However, having an unobstructed view from the house to the pool may be necessary if you have children, so think the location through before breaking ground.

You will need to consider the practicalities too – is the site accessible for the machinery? Where will you house the filtration system? Is there adequate water supply nearby and changing facilities?

Don’t forget to think about privacy too; if you site your pool too near the entrance to the property, you may feel rather exposed if the gasman calls by when you’re in your bikini!

Above-ground or in-ground? The choice between an inground and an above-ground pool can be difficult, as there are pros and cons to both.

Above-ground is the cheaper option but can be less aesthetically pleasing. Installation and maintenance costs are relatively low; kits can be purchased online or in-store and are fairly simple to assemble, no need for a professional. Typically DIY kits range in price from €500 to a few thousand and are a good solution for families who want a quick and easy fix for the kids, without making a major financial commitment. More serious swimmers will find it difficult to get in their stride, as these pools are often considerably smaller than their in-ground equivalents.

In-ground pools are an attractive addition to any garden and increase the value of a home if they are kept in good shape. Basic construction involves digging a hole, which is then filled with a base, such as concrete, fibreglass or panelling and a liner (there are several options). It is best to hire a professional to install an inground pool and there are many English-speaking companies in France who will happily take on the job. If you use a bonafide, registered contractor, the work will be guaranteed for 10 years.

Make sure you check the subsoil before you decide on an in-ground pool – if it’s solid rock, the cost can skyrocket.

Prices for in-grounds can range from a €5,000 DIY-job to a professional installation at around €25,000. If the liner is installed properly and kept in good condition, it can last for 10 to 15 years. Remember to budget for a surrounding patio, usually a stone or tiled surround costs in the region of €1,000.

If you’re on a tight budget, you could save some dosh by digging the hole yourself. You can rent un tractopelle, or a digger, for around €300 to €400 per day. While saving a few pennies is an attractive concept, be aware that the hole must be absolutely level and adhere to precise measurements. Amateurs should steer well clear.

Safety first Once you have a clear idea of the type of pool you plan to install, you must check whether you will need to apply for planning permission. A d�claration pr�able is required for any pool over 20m�. For smaller pools, you will need to apply for a formal exemption from the requirement for planning permission. Note that shared’ pools (a pool shared between neighbours or several g�tes will qualify as shared) are governed by separate rules.

You also need to be aware that certain types of swimming pool must be equipped with a safety system by law. Indoor and demountable above-ground pools are exempt. All other pools must be fitted with one of the following: an alarm to detect movement in the water, a pool shelter or enclosure, a fence surrounding the perimeter or a safety cover that can withstand the weight of an adult. Fail to comply with these AFNOR (Association Fran�aise de Normalisation) safety standards and you could be fined up to €45,000!

Eco-friendly options There are environmentally friendly swimming pool options too. Instead of chlorine-based water, saltwater swimming pools offer a softer quality of water and are more eco-friendly. Saltwater pools can be pricey to install, but annual maintenance is much lower – a bag of salt can last a year, compared to monthly chemical purchases.

Natural pools are another green choice. The filtration system uses micro-organisms from plants to clean the water, eliminating the need for chemicals. This type of pool requires little maintenance because the filter is separate from the rest of the pool. Traditional swimming pools can also be converted into natural pools fairly easily.

Choosing a contractor Once you have a clear idea of what type of pool you want, you will need to choose a contractor to install it for you. Ask neighbours and friends for recommendations and always ask to see examples of previous projects before you commit. Beware of pressure sales tactics.

You should invite several companies to prepare a quote for you before making your final choice. When comparing quotes, check carefully what is and isn’t included – some companies only supply pool equipment and don’t get involved in the structural works.

As a general guide the quotes should include:

• Construction (structural works and materials)

• Filtration system (including housing)

• Purification system

• Liner (check each quote uses a similar colour, quality and pattern)

• Lighting • Terracing (check the paving stones are of similar quality)

• Poolside shower and changing facilities

• Pool security

• Heating (solar, air pump, electric or gas).

C&C Construction Tel: 0033 (0)5 53 62 13 38 cc-construction@itcsd.demon.co.uk