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Pool Maintenance: Making Sense of Whether or Not to DIY

DIY vs DIFM: The Costs to Maintain a Pool

Every homeowner that has a swimming pool knows that it’s a love-hate relationship. 

When the hot sun is beating you down and you need a refreshing place to cool off, your pool will feel like the greatest place on Earth. But when it comes to all the work that goes into keeping that water crystal clear blue and safe for your family to use week after week, it can be a real chore!

Just like most things around the house, pool cleaning and maintenance is something that can be outsourced. But for the price a professional will charge you and the frequency that it will need to be cared for, will it really be worth the investment?

In this post, we’ll explore what it will cost to maintain a pool – both from a do it yourself (DIY) and a do it for me (DIFM) perspective.

Pool Maintenance DIY factoring in common repair and service costs
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Common Pool Maintenance Tasks

Generally, when it comes to working with swimming pools, there will be three main areas of tasks or work packages that you’ll want to consider:

  • Opening the pool
  • Weekly maintenance & cleaning
  • Closing the pool

Opening the Pool

Opening a pool involves the following tasks:

  • Taking off the winter cover
  • Raising the water level
  • Turning on the pool pump, ensuring its working normally, and getting water flowing through the filtration lines
  • Adding start-up chemicals
  • Cleaning any debris

Pool openings are done in the spring (typically in the weeks before Memorial Day).

Weekly Maintenance and Cleaning

From the time the pool is opened until its closed, the following tasks must be performed once per week:

  • Cleaning the pool (skimming the surface, brushing the sides, vacuuming the bottom)
  • Emptying the skimmer baskets
  • Cleaning the pool filter (i.e. backwashing)
  • Adding chemicals
  • Checking the water levels

Closing / Winterizing the Pool

Pool closings are done in the fall, typically in the weeks shortly after Labor Day. Closing the pool involves shutting down your filtration system for the winter and preparing the water to be as clean as possible for the next year. This will include tasks such as:

  • One last cleaning of any debris
  • Lowering the water level
  • Using a large air compressor to blow out the pool pump and the filtration lines
  • Adding chemicals to help the water fight algae during the winter months
  • Putting on the winter cover

What Happens If You Don’t Winterize The Pool Properly?

Not winterizing or closing the pool properly can result in serious damage, including damage to the liner, burst pipes and a cracked filter. Repairing an in-ground pool liner costs on average $2,127, with entirely new liners costing upwards of $4,100.

Hiring a Professional Service – DIFM Option

If you decide you’d like to use a professional pool service to maintain your pool, then here some of the charges you can expect to pay (using data from Home Advisor and Thumbtack):

  • Opening the pool = $150 to $300
  • Closing the pool = $150 to $300
  • Weekly maintenance = $75 to $100 (or more depending on how dirty your pool gets). In some instances, you may qualify for a discount on this rate if you sign a contract agreeing to use the service provider for the whole year.

Note: Because chemical needs will vary from pool to pool, and since they can be purchased directly on your own (no need to go through the pool cleaning service), we will omit them from this analysis.

Putting these charges together, if we assume your pool will be open for approximately 16 weeks of usage, then the total cost to hire a pool service will be approximately $1,500 to $2,200 per season. 

Maintaining the Pool Yourself – DIY Option

If you’d rather maintain the pool yourself instead of hiring it out, then the good news is that there will be minimal up-front costs. The grand majority of your expense will just be the amount of “time” that you’ll have to invest.

Equipment Needed

The main tool you’ll need (that a pool service would generally bring with them) is a fairly large air compressor. This is for blowing out the filtration lines and pool pump as part of the winterization process. To purchase a decent compressor yourself would cost approximately $500.

For other tools like pool skimmers, brushes, poles, and the pool cover, we assume that you already have these items available.

Labor

Since your time has value, we need to consider this as part of the comparison. If we use the average median income in the U.S. of $63,179 as the basis, then we can assume that every hour you work is worth approximately $30.

For the main tasks, let’s estimate that each one will take the following: 

  • Opening the pool = 2 hours
  • Closing the pool = 2 hours
  • Weekly maintenance = 1 hour per week

Again, we’ll assume the chemicals are omitted from this analysis because you can buy them direct and would need them no matter if you did the job yourself or hired a service.

Adding up all of the time required to maintain your pool for the entire season, the value of your time & labor is $600.

Analysis – Which Option is Better?

DIY Savings Only

If we compare all of the work required from opening to closing the pool (and everything in-between), then we can see that the DIY option is clearly cheaper. In fact, even with the cost of the air compressor for winterization, you could calculate the break-even point and find that you’d more than cover this expense in just one year of servicing the pool yourself.

Maintenance ItemDIY Cost (value of your time)DIFM (Pool Service) CostDIY Savings
Opening $60$150 – $300$90 – $240
Weekly Maintenance$480$1,200 – $1,600$720 – $1,120
Closing$60$150 – $300$90 – $240
Pool Maintenance Cost Comparison of DIY vs. Paying a Pool Service Company

Factoring In Potential Problems

However, keep in mind that opening and closing your pool may not be tasks that every homeowner is prepared to handle themselves. Especially when it comes to winterizing the pool and making sure that all of the filtration lines are properly clear of water.

If this process is done incorrectly, it could cause damage over the winter months and lead to thousands of dollars in costly repairs next spring. Major expenses from pool mishaps include the following:

Common Repair ItemsCost to Repair (Average)Cost to Repair (Range)DIY Likelihood of ProblemPool Service Likelihood of Problem
Leaky Pool Pump$900$175 – $6,000Low to ModerateLow
Vinyl Repair$2,200$1,700 – $2,500Low to ModerateLow
Pool Filter$975$225 – $2,500Low to ModerateLow
Skimmer Repair$175$50 – $300ModerateLow
Leak Detection$300$100 – $500ModerateLow to Moderate
Total$4,550$2,250 – $11,800~ $495 Expected~ $200 Expected
Costs courtesy of HomeAdvisor and Fixr

If we compare the expected repairs of doing it yourself at $495 versus hiring out a pool service at $200, we know that hiring a service brings down our expected repair cost by $295. AND, you save money by not buying an air compressor for $500. That air compressor should be expected to last around 15 years, making each year’s expense roughly $33.

So when you weigh the $295 in the expected value of repair savings plus the $33 from the air compressor versus the $180 – $480 in DIY savings ($330 average) for the opening and closing, on average you will only save $2 for the opening & closing combined.

This is why many homeowners will often hire-out the higher risk tasks of opening and closing their pools, and choose to manage only the low-risk tasks of weekly maintenance themselves. Besides, this also makes sense since it will also be the most expensive part of the process.

Recommendation

For just the weekly maintenance, if we compare the cost of a professional service versus your labor rate, you’ll still save anywhere from $720 to $1,120 per year. If you live in your home for 20 years, that’s over $18,000 saved!

While the cost to maintain a pool may be cheaper if you can do all the tasks yourself, there are some jobs like the opening and closing of a pool where you could risk damaging your pool equipment if you’re not careful. Unless you’re already 100% confident that you know how to tackle this task, leave it to the pros and instead save yourself some money by doing the weekly cleaning and maintenance yourself.

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