The Inside Outside Guys: Staycations with pools and spas

By: Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News


What’s in a pool? We know the obvious answer is “water,” but after spending a day at the Backyard Pool and Spa Show a couple of weeks ago, the Guys learned there is a lot more to pools than we thought.

Water is soothing. The most popular choice for users of the Calm app is “Rain on Leaves.”

Water is healing, both physically and psychologically. From cold water plunge pools first employed by the Chinese centuries ago to natural hot springs that relax and calm tired muscles and brains, water is recognized as therapeutic.

Pools and spas are big business. Notwithstanding the health crisis of the past decade, the market for on-site swimming and spa facilities has been trending upward for over a decade to more than $1.3 billion in the United States in 2022.

In the U.S., there were, at last count, nearly 11 million residential pools and more than 300,000 commercial units.

It used to be that the best way to enjoy a backyard pool was to know someone else who had one and allowed you to use it.

But that has changed for many reasons.

Pools add value and fun to your home.

While the numbers vary from state to state and even by price points of homes in the marketplace, a pool adds a national average 7% to the value of a home. In terms of dollars, that can range from an average of $95,000 of home value in Los Angeles to $11,000 in Phoenix.

Additionally, many homeowners, comparing the cost of a second residence and all the associated expenses to the installed cost of a backyard pool and entertainment space, opt for the “stay-at-home” amenities and the future travel flexibility afforded by the convenience of your cottage also being your home.

How much does a backyard pool cost? It depends on many variables, but, according to the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, PHTA, the cost can be as low as $3,000 for a small above ground unit to several hundred thousand dollars for, say, an Olympic sized in ground unit that is 25 meters by 50 meters and holds a half-million gallons of water.

According to Forbes, the average cost of an installed pool in the U.S. in 2022 was $35,000 with 59% of those installed in-ground.

Ongoing costs for these amenities include higher insurance premiums, water and water treatment, utilities for heating and circulating equipment, repairs, and others and can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars each year.

There is also the issue of safety as, according to the Red Cross, 54% of Americans either cannot swim or lack basic water safety skills. This, and other related issues, results in nearly 390 drowning deaths a year in children under the age of 15.

It should be noted most drowning deaths in children to age 17 occur in natural bodies of water such as lakes and ponds.

Statistics also show an 88% reduction in drowning deaths in children aged 1 to 4 who have had formal water safety training.

PHTF raises money every year and distributes it through a foundation for a program called Step Into Swim, SIS, which conducts training and water safety programs throughout the country.

Materials used to construct pools vary from the sprayed and troweled concrete material we call gunite to pre-cast fiberglass units to vinyl liner pools which may have a base made of steel or treated wood or even Insulated Concrete Forms, ICFs.

Gunite pools tend to be more expensive in initial installed cost but may provide a service life of 50 years while a less expensive vinyl lined pool averages a liner replacement every seven to 10 years.

Styles may range from a small, basic, above-ground "spool" that doubles as spa and soaking pool to larger infinity pools, natural pools with plant and water-fall amenities, to architectural shapes, game pools and pools set up to simply swim laps and stay in condition.

Pools housed in screened or conditioned enclosures are gaining in popularity as an aging population seeks to expand the seasonal use of home spas and pools.

The best way to get a sense of the myriad benefits that may be waiting for you is to talk with a specialist like those you can find through

Let the guys help you start planning today for the hot summer ahead.

For more advice, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on AM760-WJR from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at