Installing a swimming pool

A swimming pool is not really an urgent part of renovation, but many people moving to France think that a pool is as important as the house itself. After all, what point is there in moving to France if you can’t relax by the pool when you get there.

Swimming pool placement and size

It is worth thinking carefully about the location of the swimming pool before the bulldozers arrive – before you submit plans to the planning department in fact.

Many people have their pools immediately adjacent to the house, separated only by a terrace. In the summer we are very envious. Then autumn arrives and all the swimming pool covers go on. The view of a pool in the winter, with a dirty cover on it, is not very elegant. The alternative is to leave the pool uncovered, and keep up the cleaning and filtration all year round. This rapidly loses interest when you can’t actually swim in the pool.

The size of pool you want will depend in part on your budget and partly on whether it is for ‘serious’ swimming or just for splashing around in. Pools are typically 8*4 metres, 9*5 metres or 12*6 metres. Apart from initial installation costs, most subsequent costs are also dependent on the size and volume of the pool, from the amount of chemicals required to the amount of water you need to add every week or two to keep it filled up.

Various Other Considerations when Buying a Pool

Pools themselves are usually similar – it is often the terracing around them that varies.

Most pools in France are ‘liner’ pools – that is, after the concrete shell is built a strong vinyl layer is fitted to provide the watertightness and colour required. Liners are guaranteed for up to 10 years use, and come in a variety of colours – off-white, light blue and sky blue are the most popular. In principle a liner can be torn – in practice this is quite unusual with a well fitted liner.

Tiled pools are also available – these last longer than liners but cost more at the time of initial installation.

Some pools have ‘roman steps’ at one end – these large, wide steps allow people to enter and leave the pool without having to go down a ladder and are often popular with children and people with limited mobility. They are also a nice place to sit with a glass of wine, I understand, and may enable your family pet to escape if he falls in the pool.

Chlorine based filtration systems are still the most common way to keep your pool safe to swim in. Contrary to swimming pools of 20 years ago, it is normal and adequate to have levels of chlorine that don’t make your eyes sting or bleach your swimming costume. However many people opt for a ‘softer’ salt-water based system to avoid this. The initial cost is higher but the ongoing chemical costs are lower.

Various other filter baskets and traps remove insects and the like from the pool, but the pool will still need cleaning regularly – at least twice a week, and possibly every day. An automatic ‘robot’ can be fitted that continually drags itself around the bottom and sides of the pool cleaning it. These are expensive (perhaps 1000 euros) but save a lot of the manual effort.

Safety Considerations and Regulations

Your pool installer must explain the safety options to you, and will probably insist that he supplies the necessary equipment. Since 1st January 2006 in France all pools must comply with these safety regulations, even those in private property. If you buy a property that already has a pool then that must also comply at the time of sale. In outline there are various options:

  • a swimming pool alarm that detects a person falling in the pool or approaching the pool
  • an un-climbable fence around the pool area
  • a rigid cover that is placed across the pool whenever it is not in use

Be aware that each of these is defined in the regulations. You or I can not declare that our fence is un-climbable, even if it clearly the case. It must be officially certified in advance as complying with the appropriate standards. There is a fixed penalty of 45,000 euros for non-compliance.

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