Beyond Fun: A Deep Dive Into Why We Really Own Pools

Everyone knows that pools are fun. But all of our spontaneous pool parties, end of summer barbeques, and graduation celebrations don’t quite account for the fact that having a pool is far from cheap or easy (and if it’s really easy, it really isn’t cheap). So what is the real reason we do it?

Let’s look directly at the numbers. For the initial build, a pool costs an average of $30,000 to $60,000, but it’s not unusual that costs rise to $100,000. And then there’s all the other expenses, such as fencing, lighting, irrigation, landscaping, and accessories. It’s not unusual for a first-time pool owner to discover that these all add up to a higher price tag than the pool itself.

And on top of all of this, there’s also the ongoing cost of maintenance, which is a balance of a significant amount of both time and money. If you hire a professional, it’s less time and more money. If you opt for the DIY maintenance, it’s more time and less money. In either case: that’s pretty costly fun!

So what keeps homeowners building and maintaining their own private oasises? As much as anyone loves fun, the reality is much more meaningful.

Throughout the drama of our lives, the constant reunions and goodbyes, the pencil lines moving up on the wall as our children grow taller, a swimming pool remains a continuous site for gathering. And what that gathering looks like might change a bit every summer, from the young family playing water sports to the next generation held in our arms as they experience cool water for the first time.

Our pools are meeting places that remain over the span of our lives, as well as those of the people we love. And a well-cared for pool will actually last down our lineage.

Of course, every swimming pool has its own household and community—and no two families are alike. In order to understand the spectrum of remarkable reasons why people build and keep their pools, we spoke to five pool owners we met through our work here at Pool Parts to Go. We were touched by their stories, and we’re honored to share them with you.

Making Waves as a New Dad

When Ben and his wife moved their three young kids from New York City to Westport, Connecticut, they weren’t expecting a pool. “The house that we ended up loving happened to have one. We saw it as a bonus!”

Ben hired an expert to come by every other week to keep the pool maintained and outfitted his pool with simple lounge furniture. For him, the most rewarding part of getting the pool ready for his young swimmers was letting them pick out their new pool toys: colorful noodles, swimming goggles, and for his daughter, a inflatable tube in the shape of a cartoon cat.

Now, some of his fondest memories involve splashing around and doing cannonballs into the pool with his kids. “When the weather is warm, we are always in the pool area, in and out of the pool throughout the day.

In a world where children spend an average of 6 hours online every single day, Ben says that his pool is “ a fun way to keep the kids off screens and playing as children. It’s like a life hack to turn the clock back to childhood 25 years ago.”

Ben’s pool is where his family can come together for laughter and play. No two summers are the same, but each of them he experiences in the company of his wife and kids, the air warm, the music playing, and another cannonball incoming.

Reagan Makes-A-Wish

Reagan is a sweet, sassy eleven year old who communicates through eye contact and smiling. When she was two years old, she was diagnosed with Rett’s Syndrome, a neurological condition which prevents her from walking and talking.

One of Reagan’s favorite activities is swimming, and she has a lot of fun while being in her pool. But her need for a pool goes even further than fun: it’s where she can move freely, as well as the location for some of her physical therapy.

When Reagan enters her pool, her muscles instantly relax, and the physical weight of her body gets lighter. It’s a similar sensation to one of her other favorite activities, swinging on her deck, but this way she has even more autonomy. She can swim around in the water, and even play with her parents. And the stimming of her hands, self-stimulated and repetitive moments, instantly calm down.

“As Reagan gets older and heavier, it’s hard to transfer her and go places,” says her dad, John. “The pool is the one thing we can all do together, relax and be a family while keeping her calm.”

People like Reagan who are diagnosed with Rett Syndrome often benefit from hydrotherapy, a clinical intervention method that promotes relaxation, improves circulation, restores mobility, and strengthens muscles. In order for hydrotherapy to be effective, the swimming pool water in which therapy takes place must be around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s how we learned about Reagan’s story: for Make-A-Wish, we gifted her a pool heater to extend her therapy through the years.

Reagan’s parents would say that her condition has been “long, difficult with many challenges” but they feel “blessed to be able to meet wonderful people.” For them, a pool is where they can play with and witness their daughter in a happier, and more comfortable setting.

We’re so grateful to know Reagan, and her beautiful story is just one from swimmers who use pools therapeutically, including those who are adolescent or elderly, and those of all ages who have disabilities.

Raising a Responsible Generation

When Carol was a kid, the only addictive screen was the television. She has vivid memories of leaning on her dad’s shoulder and watching evening programs before bed—but first, she was outside after school, playing with and taking care of her family’s dogs. She would sit in her yard and brush out their fur, toss a ball around, and clean up after them.

This upbringing, she believes, made her a more hardworking person. Part of her theory is that because she was mostly offline when her brain was developing, she is able to hold steady concentration on tasks at hand. And of course, she became a more empathic person through her chores.

Now that Carol has two sons of her own, she sees her job as a parent to ensure that her kids become the best versions of themselves that they can be. And although she’s isn’t going to shield them from the digital culture of their time, she knows that it’s important to give them chores that keep them outdoors, where they can breathe fresh air, notice the clouds, and appreciate the natural world, like she did growing up.

“They’re kids, and this is the world they live in,” Carol says. “So instead of telling them they can’t go on YouTube or social media, I’m trying to balance their screentime with healthy activities that get them outside and teach them to work hard.”

At Carol’s, the pool isn’t just a place for the family to enjoy quality time. It’s also the biggest chore her boys have: skimming out leaves from the pool’s surface every day, vacuuming the bottom of the pool and balancing chemicals every week, and checking that all elements are in working order: the pipes uncracked, the skimmer unclogged, and no mold or rust to be seen.

“It’s not uncommon that I’ll look out into the yard and see them huddled over a frog or a fascinating bug one of them is holding gently in their hand, the other one still holding the pool net. It’s exactly the balance of hard work and hard wonder that I wanted for them,” she says.

Carol’s swimming pool presents a stimulating and rewarding challenge for her sons. It’s where they can learn new skills, problem-solve with their own two hands, take some time away from their phones and computers, and reap the rewards of their work with quality family time in sparklingly clean water.

A Retreat for the Body and Mind

Patrick knew something needed to change when he fell asleep at his desk for the third time that week. On the surface, he had a perfect life: a high-paying job in insurance, a wife he loved deeply, and three intelligent kids in middle and high school, bright futures ahead. But he just couldn’t fall asleep at night.

“My insomnia was terrible. It’s like a part of me was at my desk at all times. And then because I was so tired all the time, I was doing a worse job. So it wasn’t even productive to stress out,” he says.

When he saw his general practitioner, she confirmed high blood pressure. “My doctor told me that I needed to do anything I could to get my stress down,” Patrick says. “But work was too demanding for a vacation, as much as I needed one. So I had to look at what made sense.”

Patrick thought about when he felt the most at peace during his normal daily life. He loved when talk at the dinner table with his family was especially engaging or funny, when everyone was laughing and teasing one another. But he couldn’t rely on the moods of other people, or lean on his teenage kids too much. They were teenagers, after all!

Then he realized that his favorite moments when he was alone happened in and around his pool: moving his body through cool water, or lying back with a cold drink in a lounge chair and closing his eyes. It was perfect. He already had a pool, and it was already integrated with his lifestyle. He didn’t have to go to the Bahamas. He could just walk right into his backyard.

And so he made stress-busting schedule around his pool. In the morning before work, he swam laps, starting the day with the water rushing in his ears, his body stretching and his muscles contracting. Over time, this low-impact workout gave him high-impact results at night, since the exercise aided his ability to sleep.

When he would get home in the evenings, instead of turning on the television and zoning out to try to forget about his stressful work day, he changed and went straight into the yard. There he’d lean back on his chair and close his eyes, either listening to music or the faint sounds of the neighborhood. Just an hour of calm made him even more present at the dinners he so loved, and helped him turn off his thoughts when it was time for bed.

For Patrick, the pool was a place for quality time with his family, as well as quality time with himself. Through alone time outside, in and out of the water, he was able to find his center again, be more present with his friends and his work, and get back on a normal sleeping schedule.

“I was told by doctors for years to take better care of myself,” he says. “If only I knew earlier that the answer was right under my nose.”

Turning the House Into a Home

Brett and Kerry don’t have children, but they’ve always loved the idea of a full house. When they were visiting potential homes to buy, they both fell in love with a two-story Meditteranean-style house with a kidney-shaped pool.

It wasn’t what they had planned, but as they were walking through its empty rooms, they both started to envision the times that they could have: dinner parties and cocktail hours. When they saw the pool, they knew that it was exactly what they didn’t know why needed, an open space for relaxing, connecting as a couple, and hosting their chosen family.

Five years later, Brett and Kerry agree that the benefits of their pool outweigh the costs, even though the costs are no small thing. “We didn’t know what an investment the upkeep would be. Every year there are opening and closing costs, chemicals (even though our pool is salwater), replacement cartridges, increased electric and water bills, and so on,” Brett says.

“That being said, you can’t put a price on the memories we’ve had,” says Kerry. Always willing to host celebrations for their friends, they’ve had birthday barbeques, bat mitzvahs, and even a wedding on the books. They love opening up their space to others.

But they also love the quiet moments when the last guest leaves, the music is cut, and the bottles are all in the recycling bin. “When everyone goes, we get to enjoy each other again. I love when we debrief that day’s party in the spa, looking up at the stars.”

For Brett and Kerry, the pool is a place for quality time with their friends, as well as a place to revitalize their relationship.

So why do we really own pools? For Ben, it’s a place to spend quality, face-to-face time with his family. For Reagan, the pool soothes her muscles, and is a place for physical therapy as well as play. Carol uses her pool to teach her children responsibility and help them appreciate the outdoors. Patrick uses his to combat stress from his demanding job, both through physical exercise and calming moments of solitude. Brett and Kerry use theirs to host their chosen family, and make their house a warmer, more lively place, as well as to stay connected to one another.

In the end, a pool isn’t just a pool at all. It’s a gathering place for us to enjoy the people we love. It’s a calming space for us to reflect in solitude. It makes wide open space for the important moments of our lives to be experienced. And since the really worthwhile parts of our lives require care and time—such as relationships, parenthood, and even our connection to ourselves—it makes sense that a pool requires something of us. But if we’re willing to put in the effort, what we receive will far outweigh the cost.

Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of our community members, some names and circumstances have been changed.