You’ve made the decision to install a swimming pool. You have visions of lazy summer afternoons, cool beverage in hand, lounging by the water, and blissfully cooling off when the sun gets just a little too hot.

Obviously, you understand that a swimming pool is a major financial investment. It’s also a pretty big time commitment when you consider maintenance and the other assorted factors that go into owning a pool. Therefore, once you’ve decided you want a pool, there are a few things you should consider before hiring a contractor to begin digging.

1. Budget Wisely

Plan ahead so your new pool doesn’t break the bank. Financing is available just as it is with any home addition through home equity loans and lines of credit. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be prepared to pay more than you initially calculated. But with the right planning and contractor, installing a pool can actually be a smooth and painless process.

2. What Permits Will I Need?

Building a pool requires permits from a local municipality. Your pool will need to be built to code. If you don’t obtain permits, you may face ramifications from your town, and the legal liabilities will cause insurance issues, and complicate any future property sale.

3. Materials Matter

A concrete pool is the priciest option, while a vinyl pool is the most affordable and a fiberglass pool splits the difference. Vinyl comes in various shapes and sizes and is the easiest to install. Be aware that fiberglass is fragile, so it comes in a maximum size of 16 feet across.

4. Where Will You Locate the Pool?

It’s one thing if your space is large and flat, but what if it’s sloped and narrow? In that case, experts recommend a semi-in-ground pool, which is built directly into the slope and can reduce costs. It’s also important to consider if you want to be able to look out at your pool from the inside of your house. Your contractor will also need to make sure there aren’t any power or sewer lines where you wish to install the pool.

5. How Quickly Do You Need the Pool?

Are you planning a backyard wedding? Is there some other special occasion in the not-too-distant future? A pool installation can take six months, so make sure to discuss any time factors with potential contractors.

6. How Will You Use the Pool?

Some people see a pool as a great way to stay in shape through a regular routine of swimming laps and doing in-water stretching and flexibility exercises. Others see it just the opposite, where the pool is a place for doing nothing but lying on a raft and floating in the water. Perhaps your pool will be your spot for quiet time, or maybe it’s where you will entertain family and friends. How you will use the pool will help determine a size and shape that suits those needs.

7. What Style Suits Your Sensibility? 

Pools come in all shapes, styles and sizes, so it’s a good idea to go pool shopping by researching online, and in magazines and books for the many choices offered. You might also visit a home or pool show to get a better sense of what you like. You also want to consider how the pool will blend into the style of your home, and what you want in terms of decking, furniture and surrounding landscape.

8. Size Matters

Unless you have a sprawling estate, it’s important to choose a size that doesn’t overwhelm your property. For those with smaller lots, don’t be afraid to be creative with design, and be prepared to make compromises.

9. Remember the Extras

A diving board, a slide or a waterfall will add fun, as well as expense. Maybe you absolutely must have a hot tub alongside the pool. Determine beforehand what you can and can’t live without.

10. Don’t Forget Maintenance

There’s a long “to-do” list when you own a pool. Heaters must be maintained, chlorine levels must be monitored, pool cleaners must be working properly. If your pool isn’t clean, no one will want to use it. Make sure you consider who will do that dirty work, and if you choose to hire a monthly pool maintenance service, factor what that will cost into your budget.