OK, so you've saved up enough cash for that pool or spa.
You can just picture yourself lounging in the water, sipping something cool.
So what do you do now to make that dream real? Pat Tongue, board member of the Chesapeake Chapter of the National Pool and Spa Institute (NPSI), has some tips.
First, decide how much you want to spend. Spas and hot tubs cost from $2,000 to $8,000; above-ground pools, about $1,000; and in-ground custom pools, as much as $25,000, Tongue says.
Once that's settled, start thinking about a dealer. Select one who belongs to the NPSI, a national professional organization of pool and spa dealers.
"Membership means they accept the standards set forth by the national organization," said Tongue, owner of Sauna Circus and O'Neil Pools in Annapolis.
One important standard of the organization is that members obtain a state license in pool and spa intallation. Some non-members don't have those licenses, she says. Translation: They may not know what they're doing.
When you've chosena dealer, make sure he's reputable. Ask for references, Tongue suggests.
"Talk to people who have bought pools or spas from the dealer," she says. "Are they satisfied?"
Also, check with the Better Business Bureau and Maryland Home Improvement Commission for any complaints lodged against your dealer.
Ask whether the dealer services his products and whether he has the parts to fix them.
It's also important to research the manufacturers, Tongue says. Find out how long they've been making their products. What kind of warranty do they offer? Does it cover parts and labor?
Generally, manufacturers offer warranties that cover a spa or pool's structural integrity, meaning its ability to hold water. That could be a lifetime for concrete poolsor five to 10 years for those with vinyl linings.
After you've found a dealer and a manufacturer, you're ready to select a pool or spa.
That can be a daunting experience. Do you want an intimate spa that seats two or a party spa that can accomodate 10? A portable one or an in-ground one? A spa on a deck, under a pavilion or in a greenhouse?
And you pool lovers. Do you want a pool where you can swim, dive or relax? A concrete pool or one with a vinyl liner? How about a pool with flagstone trim or one with a waterfall?
Most reputable dealers will help you decide. Tongue's employees, for example, will visit your home, take measurements and then offer recommendations on which style is best for you.
"We help customers create an environment," Tongue says. "We try to come up with something that is architecturally pleasing."
Spas come in many sizes, from 5 feet by 5 feet to10 feet by 7 feet. Most are made of acrylic. Some are portable, madewith wooden siding so that they can be carted anywhere. Others are strictly for in-ground use. Hot tubs are made of wood and must remain above ground.
Before pool shopping, you should first consider yourneeds. If you plan on swimming laps, then a 4-foot deep lap pool is right for you. If diving is your sport, then select a 3 1/2-foot to 81/2-foot deep pool. If you're not the exercise type, then a 4 1/2-foot play pool is for you.
If you're enchanted with the qualities ofpools and spas, but don't want to invest in both, then perhaps a swim spa is for you. The spa allows you to swim against a current so that you're actually swimming in place. The smallest swim spa is 14 feetby 7 1/2 feet; the largest is 19 feet long.
Go ahead. Enjoy your dream.