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Making Old Pools New Again—Replacement or Renovation?

Updated: Jan 28

A lot of Bay Area homes come with a pool. If you’re buying a home in the Bay area, you may have already figured this out. Whether or not a pool is on your wish list during the home buying process, there’s a fair chance you’re going to inherit one regardless.


If you’re lucky, that pool will be fairly new, in good working condition, and is ready to serve you and your family for years to come. But for many home buyers, this simply isn’t the case.


Whether your new home’s pool is too small, no longer functional, or simply has become an eyesore, figuring out what to do with a pool that doesn’t serve your family’s needs is a common conundrum.


The Three Most Common Solutions to Updating Old Pools


A lot of homeowners who find themselves in this situation often end up putting their outdoor living plans on hold. They assume that their unwanted or unusable pool will throw a wrench into the equation. Sometimes, they think that their pool predicament is too big or too overwhelming for any landscape design company to be eager or willing to take on. So what happens instead?


Well, many homeowners wait years to renovate their backyard space, compromising their own happiness and the functionality of their backyard while they stare at a giant, pool-shaped question mark.


And when they do decide to face the problem head on, many will turn to a pool contractor to do one three things:


1. Make The Existing Pool Larger (Retrofit)

If you’ve purchased a home with a few decades under its belt, chances are you are dealing with a pool that is small when compared to today’s standards. So for many homeowners, the instinct is to simply ask a contractor to use their existing pool as the base for a larger, updated unit.


This process typically consists of removing a section of the pool and installing a larger addition, increasing the square footage of the swimming pool without gutting the entire thing. Many clients assume this is a less invasive way to change the shape or functionality of an existing pool. They envision the process as less disruptive than a “total overhaul”.


Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. We’ve explained to many clients before that making an existing pool larger is no small feat. Rather than a small project, expanding an existing pool is actually a major, invasive construction project.


Not to mention, you’re unlikely to save much money. Retrofitting an old pool is often more expensive than homeowners might anticipate. Sometimes, the cost of a project in this vein is similar if not equal to the cost of a full renovation.


2. Renovate The Existing Pool


Next, there are those who will try to make the best of a situation that is less than ideal. This crowd opts to renovate their existing pool, and attempts to design around it without any additions or additional revisions. This process largely looks like replacing old materials with new. New coping, new tiling, new plaster, etc.


Homeowners in this situation often don’t have the budget to start new, or to attempt to retrofit their old pool. In this case, they strive to work with what they have, bring old structures up to date, and create a functional living space around their existing pool.


While this doesn’t result in the most custom of spaces, it is likely the only option for those on a small budget who do not want to simply remove and fill in their pool.


3. Rip It Out and Start Fresh


Finally, some homeowners simply feel like there is nothing redeemable about their existing pool design. Whether it’s falling apart or simply doesn’t work in their space, this group of homeowners opt to remove the entire pool, and start from scratch.


While this may seem like the most drastic option, this is usually the approach we recommend.


Yes, homeowner’s will spend around 20% more on average for a full gut than they would a retrofit, but they’ll also avoid a potentially massive headache. Sadly, old pools are not something that get better with age.


Avoid a Headache—Start From Scratch


Swimming pool technology has changed aggressively over the last 40 years, and most old pools simply weren’t built with today’s standards in mind. From outdated styles to outdated safety regulations, it takes a lot to bring a 70’s style pool into the 2020’s. This can cause unexpected problems during construction.


The more bumps in the road you run into while attempting to retrofit an old pool, the longer the process will become, and the higher your costs will climb. And at the end of the day, you will still only be left with a pool that is halfway between old and new. The margin of savings is simply enough to compensate for the potential headache.


This is why a complete removal can often be the best option for a large majority of homeowners. In the end, they get exactly what they want, with the fewest headaches possible, all while working on a more concrete timeline.


Instead of making do with a space that is halfway between two time periods, homeowners get to relax and enjoy a pool that was truly built with them, and their lifestyle in mind. Additionally, the surrounding design can be designed alongside, allowing for a seamless look that is almost impossible to achieve with a retrofit.


Avoid Regret. Do Your Research!


All three of these processes look different, but they are all driven by one main sticking point—Nobody is ever quite sure what to do with a pool they didn’t ask for.


Unfortunately, swimming pool companies know this, and they benefit from it. Sadly, a good number of pool companies do not always have your best interests in mind. They are quick to take advantage of homeowners who believe a retrofit is always a far cheaper, easier option than a complete remodel.


You see, renovations and retrofits are big business for pool contractors. Where there is a naive homeowner struggling with an outdated pool, there is a huge opportunity to make money. Between huge opportunities for upsells, and the very likely situation that something will go wrong and need to be fixed, pool builders view pool renovations as welcome money pits.


At the end of the day, the contractors have very little thoughtful design work, the homeowner has a space that is only halfway suited for their needs, all while having spent nearly what they would have on a full renovation.


Pool Replacement Over Pool Renovation


If you’ve got a new home with an old pool, we encourage you to think it over before jumping into a renovation or a retro fit. At the end of the day, the small amount of extra money you spend for a full replacement you will make up for with a brand new, headache-free pool that is designed to serve the needs of your entire family.


Interested in viewing some of our favorite pool designs? Check out our portfolio, or follow us on Instagram.



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