In most municipalities a swimming pool is considered to be an auxiliary structure, and, as such, a building permit is required prior to construction. After completion, depending on the municipality, a Final Inspection Certificate, a Certificate of Compliance, or a Certificate of Occupancy is normally issued. If the house that you are inspecting has a swimming pool, check to see if there is a completion certificate for the pool.
There are certain limitations in a home inspection with regard to a swimming pool that you should be aware of. With no splashing, the average water loss in one week from evaporation is less than 1 inch. There could be a leak in the underground piping that causes the water level to drop more than what would be expected over a 24-hour period. This is a major problem to correct, but it will never be picked up during a home inspection. Pools lose water continuously through evaporation, splashing, and on the bodies of swimmers as they get out of the water. This is normal. However, a steady drop in the water line even when the pool is not being used may indicate a leak. This item should be discussed with the seller. In addition, the chemical composition of the water is generally not checked as part of a home inspection because it is considered to be normal ongoing maintenance.
As you walk around the house during your exterior inspection, check to see if there is a fence that encloses the swimming pool. This is important from a safety point of view. The fence should provide limited access to the pool. The gate(s) must be self-closing and self-latching. Check the condition of the fence and the operation of the gate. If maintenance is needed, record it on your worksheet for later correction.
The swimming pool and equipment can be inspected either before or after the inspection of the house, whichever is convenient. Check the condition of the deck that surrounds the pool. With an in-ground pool the deck is often concrete, although it could be stone, tile, or brick. Specifically look for cracked, chipped, or settled sections. Uneven joints between the sections are considered tripping hazards. If there are any open joints, particularly between the deck and the coping, they must be sealed. While on the deck if there is a grab rail, ladder, and slide, check to see if they are adequately anchored to the deck. If there is a diving board, look for cracks. If there are any, the board should be replaced. Is the board topped with a nonslip coating? Many older pools with diving boards do not meet new diving board standards. The safety upgrades outlined in the standards are mandatory. Check with a local pool company for the latest standards. With an aboveground pool the deck is generally wood constructed. Check the decking and railing for cracked, broken, or rotting sections. If there is access to the area below the deck, inspect the support framing.
After the deck inspection check the condition of the pool’s sidewalls. With a vinyl-lined pool, look for staining, discolorations, or tears in the lining. Faded liners are more likely to tear. Has any portion of the lining pulled out of the edge retainer? If there are stains in the liner at the bottom of the pool that don’t continue up the sides, it may indicate a fungal growth in the sand below the liner. With tile-lined concrete walls, look for cracked, loose, chipped, or missing tiles. If the walls are finished with plaster, check for spalling (flaking or chipped) or cracked sections. With painted walls, look for flaking or faded paint and cracks. As you walk around the pool looking at the sidewalls, check the skimmer. Does the weir move freely? Is it broken or missing? Is the strainer basket in place? Is it damaged?
Before you inspect the pump, filter, and heater, look closely at the pool water. If it is turbid, it would indicate that the filter is in need of a cleaning. If there are tiny bubbles discharging at the water-supply outlet, it would indicate that air is getting into the system. This condition must be corrected to prevent possible damage to the pump. Check the cover to the pump’s hair and lint strainer. Most covers are transparent. If bubbles are visible, it would normally indicate that the cover is not tightly secured or that the gasket needs replacement. However, if there are no bubbles, you should suspect a leak in the water circulation system. In this case, further investigation is required by a pool service company.
When inspecting the pump, listen for any abnormal sounds. If it is noisy, there may be impeller damage or worn bearings. A pump that is very hot to the touch is also a problem condition. It could indicate that the pump is running dry. If there is water dripping around the pump, it may indicate leakage around the shaft because of worn seals or because the hair and lint strainer cap is not tightly secured. Check the pressure gauge on the filter. Is it inoperative? Is the pressure excessively high? If the heater is not on, turn it on. If it doesn’t fire up, record it on your worksheet. If the heater cycles on and off, it may indicate low water flow, a condition that must be corrected. To whatever extent the burner area is visible, look for a scale buildup with rust flakes and dust. Is water dripping in that area? If it is, you should suspect pin-hole leaks. If this condition exists, have the heater inspected by a pool service company. If there is an underwater pool light, check to see if it is operational. Also if there are electrical outlets nearby, check to see if they are GFI protected.
If the pool is not being used and is covered over, check the condition of the cover. Is it worn, are there any torn or damaged sections? If the cover is held in place with straps, are any straps missing? Since the operation of the pool equipment and the condition of the pool shell cannot be checked at this time, you should contact the company that has been servicing the pool and ask them for a copy of their service record. If the record is not available, have the seller include a clause in the contract to guarantee that the pool shell and equipment are in good operating condition.
- Has a Certificate of Occupancy been issued for the pool?
- Is there a fence that encloses the swimming pool?
- Are fence gate(s) self-closing and self-latching?
- Are there any cracked, chipped, or settled sections?
- Look for uneven joints between sections.
- Cracked or open joints should be sealed.
- Are grab rails, ladder, and slide adequately anchored to deck?
- Is diving board cracked or warped?
- Is lining stained, discolored, or torn?
- Has lining pulled out of edge retainer?
- Is bottom of liner stained?
- Are there cracked, chipped, loose, or missing tiles?
- Does the plaster finish have flaking, chipped, or discolored sections?
- Are any cracks visible in the sidewalls?
- Is the painted surface flaking or faded?
- Check the skimmer weir and strainer basket.
- Is pool water turbid?
- Are tiny bubbles discharging into pool?
- Is the pump noisy? Is it very hot to the touch?
- Check for water dripping around the pump.
- Is the pressure gauge on the filter operative?
- Does heater cycle on and off?
- Look for scale buildup with rust flakes and dust around heater.
- Is water dripping under or around the heater?
- Does pool cover have torn or damaged sections?
- Check the operation of underwater pool light(s).
- Are electrical outlets GFI protected?