Avoiding Surprise Costs when Building a Pool

Avoiding surprise costs when building a pool

As a long standing swimming pool construction company we often hear horror stories about people buying pools only to be slugged with extra costs that they were not aware of. This particularly happens with unlicensed builders. Our first suggestion would be to use a Swimming Pool and Spa Association Member as they will use a SPASA contract which outlines any exclusions.

If you do this you will find that there are no hidden costs. What there can often be though is misunderstood contracts. We find that often when customers are signing the pool contract they are so excited about getting the pool they don’t necessarily take in all of the information that they should. Below we provide an overview of the SPASA contract price exclusions; explain what they are, how likely they are to occur, and what they can cost. If it is known that these items will be encountered, you can ask your builder to include them in the contract at a fixed rate or PC allowance.

a) Survey of the property

This will generally be required when the pool is very close to the boundary to make sure that the pool is built on your property. Most other pool projects do not require this. A site survey would generally cost up to $1000.

b) Town planning permit, council deposits or asset protection fees and any related fees

Town planning is mostly required in Heritage or other Special Building Overlays. Contact the Planning Department at your council for advice. They normally cost around $200-300 for a pool but can take up to 12 weeks. Most projects will require a council bond or asset protection fee. Typically they will be around $1000-1500 and will be repaid when the project is complete if no damage has been done to the footpath, road or other council assets.

c) Clearing, stabilising, timber crossings or other protection to the access pathway.

Builders will assume that you will provide clear access to the property for the purpose of excavation machinery. If any protection or clearing works are required these will generally be charged at an hourly rate plus expenses. Of course you can prepare the site yourself if you would like to save costs.

d) Repair, reinstatement or relocation of reticulation systems, drains, sewer and gas lines, storm water drains, power cables, telephone cables, water pipes and any other service lines in and around the area of the swimming pool or the access pathway which require repair, removal or relocation or which are damaged during performance of the works.

Your builder does not know what is under the ground so the more information you can give them the more carful they can be. Pay particular attention to electrical and gas lines as they could cause harm if struck. For a better idea of what is under the ground you can call Dial before you Dig, consult your house plans and get a sewer and storm water plan from you Local Water Authority and Council. Sometimes the lines will need to be diverted. A plumber or electrician can do this before the project starts or be on standby for the day of excavation. Costs are site specific and excluded.

e) Excavation or removal of any sub surface materials or obstructions requiring equipment such as pneumatic or blasting equipment and or explosives for ripping, cutting or blasting.

This most commonly refers to removing rock in the ground but can include concrete footings or paths. Your builder will assume that the pool can be excavated with a normal bucket. Once the hammer is put on the excavator the rock rate kicks in. This is generally charged on a cubic metre rate. This rate should be found in the provisional sums section of the contract. It is generally charged at around $250 per m3. This can equal $20000 for the average pool if it was to be completely in rock. The best way to deal with rock is if you think there may be some, get a soil test which will allow your builder to include an allowance in the contract. This should help prevent any nasty surprises. If you have access for larger machinery, 20 tonne plus) it can also work out well to put in a day rate for machinery hire, rather than a rock rate. This can save you thousands of dollars.

f) Sealing off, diversion or pumping of any water from the swimming pool excavation other than water falling direct thereon.

Quite often on building sites we find that down pipes and storm water drains are not connected which puts all of the water into the pool. This can damage the pool at excavation stage as well as be dangerous for any small children or animals while the pool is incomplete. Make sure that any excess water is diverted away from the pool. If not your builder will need to take precautions and charge you for this.

g) Shoring up of wet or unstable soil or reinstatement of any cave in of the swimming pool excavation.

This would be one of the most common variations and is caused by wet ground, heavy rains, excess water and poor soil conditions. It costs around $150 per square metre which is around $5000 for the average family pool. A soil test again can help to identify the likelihood of this.

h) Electrical supply, power points or wiring of any type.

It is your responsibility to provide the power for the pool. This usually costs between $1000-2000. It can be more in the case of integrating with home automation systems. Your builder should be able to recommend an electrician if you do not have one.

i) Connection of waste line from filter to the sewer, storm water drain or any other outlet required by the Regulatory Authorities, and associated fees.

Sand filters require connection to the sewer for backwashing in most suburban areas which can costs anywhere between $250-$2000 depending upon the complexity. In rural areas this can be done to a reln drain or soaker pit.

Cartridge filters require no such connection, however it can be good practice so that you can lower the water level easily.

j) Any gas or oil plumbing, flue installation or heat shields or any further requirements due to site limitations.

This will be required if you have a gas heater only. A gas line is usually between $2500-4000 depending upon the required pipe size, length of run and difficulty. If the heater is to be installed indoors it will also require a flue and ventilation. This can add another $1500. Once again if you do not have a plumber your builder should be able to recommend one.

k) Reasonable supply of electricity and water required by the builder for construction purposes.

This is simply power for tools and water for cleaning, mixing, etc. On new home sites these services, particularly power may not be available. See if you can run a power lead form the neighbours house or you may need to hire a generator (your builder should be able to do this for you).

l) Sound or weather enclosures for any equipment.

The pool equipment will be installed in the area specified and provided by you, inside or outside. If you require these measures consult with your builder.

m) Temporary or permanent fencing or other requirements that may be imposed by any Regulatory Authority.

This includes safety fencing during and after construction. It is your responsibility to arrange and make sure the fence is adequate. Your builder should be able to recommend a contractor to do this.

n) Removal of rubbish and debris left on the building site other than which has resulted from construction by the builder.

Simply this is other peoples rubbish. The builder should be expected to clean up after themselves but not others.

o) Water to fill the swimming pool and mains water supply and connection to the swimming pool accessories.

Currently pools in Victoria can be filled from the tap providing that a Water Conservation Plan has been approved by the local Water Authority. Connection to automatic fillers must be done by a licensed plumber and usually costs around $250-500 depending upon difficulty.

p) Taking up, replanting and repairing damaged lawns, gardens, driveways or other features on site.

There is generally expected that there will be some degree of make good required at the end of the project. This is often put into the landscapers works at the start.

q) Spreading or levelling of any soil left on the building site pursuant to this contract.

If the soil from excavation is to remain on site it will be generally placed in one pile. If you would like it spread and levelled you will need to specify this. It is often best to put this in the landscape package also.

r) Disposal and handling of soil where excavation is carried out by the owner.

If you dig it, you must also get rid of it.

t) Shoring or retaining walls or other means of stabilisation to ensure stability of overburden excavation and or to protect adjacent buildings.

Excavation when carried out close to structures, pathways, large earth cuts and boundaries can cause potential damage if it undermines any of these. This needs to be carefully considered before commencing the project and any protection works designed by an engineer and installed prior to commencement. This is an area often neglected or misunderstood by inexperienced builders and can cost you thousands in damages and repairs if not done correctly.

u) Piering or other special structural requirements below existing ground level.

If the pool is being constructed in fill or highly reactive ground piering may be required to support the pool. This can be identified with a soil test and should be considered at the engineering stage. Failure to do this can result in pools that move or crack the structure and pipework. Another area neglected and misunderstood by inexperienced builders.

v) Additional works to alter the filter position from that originally agreed.

If you move the filtration location expect to pay more. Even though it may be closer to the pool than the original the builder will have set the pipes up to suit the position and also have to re document.

w) Foundation data and other engineering inspection or reports.

This includes finding out the depths of existing footing on site for the purpose of designing protection works. This also includes soil testing.

x) Architectural or landscaping details or drawings.

Unless specifies most builders are not including design work.

y) The cost of any replacement of equipment which is damaged or stolen from site.

Once the equipment has been installed on site it is your responsibility to make sure it is safe. Include it on your insurance policy if you can.


Although it seems that there are a lot of exclusions most of these items can be included or quoted before your project commences. So you don’t get any nasty surprises, we would recommend that you do the following:

  • Make sure you do your homework and get as much information as you can. Get a soil test and copies of all relevant plans to help your builder understand what they are dealing with. If you do not do this they will often default to the contract, some will anyway.
  • Use an experienced recommended builder who is an industry member. Don’t assume that the cheapest quote is the best. Only used  a registered builder, if not you assume all of the risk.


This information should be only used as a guide and we would encourage you to consult with your builder to gain a greater understanding of how they relate to your project.

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