So, You Want a Custom Pool

What You Need to Know Before You Begin

Folks who’ve earmarked $45K-$125K for good, clean, summer fun want one thing: a swimming pool. Or a tennis court. So two things. Or, if your family is like mine, a slip ’n’ slide to replace the duct tape/trash bag/hose thing my kids scrapped together last summer for roughly $3.19 which killed a large swath of grass and looked about as terrible as you can imagine.

But let’s focus on pools. Contractors are crawling all over Fairfield County, anxious to over-promise and under-build these coveted custom watering holes. But before you ink your tag on their line, it’s important to pony-up on the intel.

Nick Vitiello, owner of in2blue design, has been building swimming pools in this area for 25 years. What he sees this summer “is unprecedented. Everyone’s chomping at the bit and they really don’t know what the process of building a pool [here] is.” So when these guys guarantee a shiny, new swim spot in a month? Be wary. “There are no promises,” Nick warns.

Permits and surveys:

The permit process alone can take 6-plus months. “Is the house on septic or wells, conservation or wetland areas? What about setbacks? A whole litany of things come into play,” Nick explains.

Even if everything is perfect, remember we just had/are having a pandemic. The building department, conservation department, and every other necessary department is deluged with applications, making the approval process as nimble as a brick. Waiting times are slower for everything, not just your swimming pool.

Then you need a civil engineer to survey the property and consider where the drainage is going and how it will affect the septic. And you know who’s hiring surveyors? Everyone else who’s building anything. It all takes time.

Building and materials:

Once your permits are approved, wouldn’t it be lovely if the pool guys swooped down like birds of paradise to crack sod? Yeah. That won’t happen. “We work from permitted job to permitted job, so it’s tough to say definitely when we can start working,” Nick states. “Your pool is on the docket but it could be 1-3 weeks before we can begin. We have to mobilize equipment, stake the work site, and get ready for excavation.”

Construction timeframes for pools vary with the material: Gunite, 4-8 weeks; Vinyl, 4-6 weeks; Fiberglass 2-3 weeks. Then build in time for surrounding masonry and landscaping and you’re looking at 4-8 weeks minimum.

Aaaaaand a gentle reminder about how COVID is affecting everything in the world. Raw goods, filters, pumps, machinery - the supply chain is playing catch-up after quarantine.

Excavation site:

If your eyes light up at the prospect of finding pricey antiquities beneath your grass during “excavation,” well… Nick’s team has unearthed plenty of treasures, from car parts to (cue: horror music) animals in caskets. “Typically when we find something, it’s not very good,” Nick apologizes. Sorry, dreamers. No one’s planting diamonds for posterity.

These “finds,” however, may cause more delays and expenses (parts of houses, bedrock). Something else to not look forward to.

It’s not all bad news, though. While you should be savvy to the pitfalls, the possibility exists that the process goes swimmingly. If it doesn’t, remind yourself that you’re super lucky to be building a pool in your yard instead of peeling duct tape and garbage bags off the grass. Then make some sandwiches, grab a bottle of wine, and go to Compo Beach for a swim.


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