Great Time to Upgrade or Build Your Pool

Believe it or not, there is an upside to the lingering down economy. Homes and cars are more affordable. Restaurants are less crowded. And many products and services once considered luxuries are now within reach for consumers who have patiently waited to make their move. For anyone who has dreamed of owning their own pool or spa, or upgrading the amenities in the one they have, there may never be a better time to buy than now.

A well-maintained, clean pool can increase the value of a home, while you and your family are enjoying years of pleasure and memories right outside your back door. A yearly "tune-up" will ensure that your investment stays in shape; it also gives you an opportunity to reassess upgrades and new safety products that will enhance your outdoor pool experience.

The Pros Know

While you will undoubtedly find some great deals on pool products and services this season, it is essential to find a reputable and trustworthy pool professional in your area to guide you through the process. To help you find the best resource, the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) -- an organization representing the pool and spa industry in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England regions --offers a directory of seasoned pool professionals on their Web site (www.nespapool.org). They can work with you to design and build a pool to meet your budget, design and landscaping requirements. They can also introduce you to new design elements and the latest energy efficient and safety products on the market.

Smart Shopping Pays Off

From opulent fountains and rock enclosures, to re-plastering and outdoor kitchen areas, there are many options to consider when designing or upgrading your pool area.

"Consumers can now recoup their investment quickly," says Andy Levinson of Jet Line Products in Farmingdale, NY. "There are many new and efficient products on the market, such as LED lighting and solar panels, that will allow the customer to see an instant return on their investment."

And in addition to mechanical upgrades, there are the more dramatic flourishes to consider that also add value. If you've always wanted a three-tiered fountain and slide, you may be pleasantly surprised at their affordability. And according to NESPA, simple enhancements such as re-tiling and re-plastering with different colors, will add pizzazz, quality and longevity to your investment.

Safety First

NESPA advocates installing layers of protection around your pool area, such as gates and alarms, to ensure that your fun pool is a safe pool. In fact, safety should be the first priority when thinking about renovations.

If your budget is limited, NESPA recommends that you upgrade your drain cover.

"Cracked or old drain covers are dangerous and should be replaced," says Levinson. "New drain covers will keep your pool safe as well as clean, and prevent entrapment."

To learn more about pool building, renovating and safety tips, start with the NESPA Web site, www.nespapool.org. You'll find a list of local NESPA pool professionals, award-winning pool photos, and practical safety advice. For printed educational pamphlets on how to build, operate and maintain a safe pool, write to NESPA at 6B South Gold Drive, Hamilton, NJ 08691.

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