Salt Water Pool Cost Breakdown

Written by Michael Dean
May 2, 2023

cost of a salt water pool

Saltwater pools come with a lot of benefits — not only are they much gentler on your eyes and skin, but the cost of maintaining them year-round is often significantly lower than a traditional chlorine pool. However, the initial cost of a saltwater pool is far from cheap. If you’re interested in converting or building a saltwater pool, knowing what you’ll be getting into is a good idea. I’ll cover the following:

The Cost of a Saltwater Pool: The Quick Answer

Coming up with an all-inclusive answer to how much your saltwater pool costs isn’t easy. The price can dramatically change based on the size of the swimming pool, where you live, and whether you’re building it from scratch or converting a chlorine pool.

What I can say is that most homeowners can expect to spend anywhere from $20,000 to $180,000 — give or take a few grand — if they’re constructing the pool from scratch. The national average cost of installing a saltwater pool is around $32,000.

Smaller salt water pools less than 20,000 gallons might only cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

There’s so much variation with these numbers because the size, shape, and materials used and your pool can significantly impact the price. A 10′ by 14′ pool with little to no landscaping might not make as big of a dent in your wallet, but if you choose a larger pool with landscaping and water features, you’ll have to shell out A LOT more.

However, many homeowners choose to (or are required by city law) build a deck, patio, or install a fence along with the pool. Landscaping and similar construction costs are often where the expenses start to pile on.

If you already have a chlorine pool but want to make it into a saltwater pool, you won’t have to start from scratch. Converting a standard chlorine pool to a saltwater pool is much simpler and more affordable. The cost of buying a salt-chlorine generator can run between $600 to $2,500, depending on pool size.

Minimum Cost of Building a Saltwater Pool$10,000
Maximum Cost of Building a Saltwater Pool$180,000
Average Cost of Building a Saltwater Pool$32,000
Average Cost of Converting a Saltwater Pool$1,550

Factoring in the Size of Your Saltwater Pool

The size of your pool can play a significant role in the total cost, and it’s one of the first things you’ll need to consider when tallying up your saltwater pool cost. Not to mention, you’ll need a larger salt chlorine generator based on how many gallons of water the pool holds. The larger your salt chlorine generator is, the more expensive it will be.

Once again, I compiled a list of rough numbers to give you a ballpark estimate of how much cost varies by size. Remember that these numbers are for building an inground saltwater pool from scratch, not converting a traditional chlorine pool to saltwater.

Pool SizeAverage Price Range
10′ x 16′$15,000 – $26,000
10′ x 30′$24,000 – $42,000
12′ x 24′$27,000 – $50,000
14′ x 28′$36,000 – $57,000
16′ x 32′$47,000 – $72,000
20′ x 40′$65,000 – $105,000

Most standard pools you’ll find in a backyard are 12′ by 14′, 14′ by 28′, or 16′ by 32′.

Calculating Cost by the Type of Construction Material

Size is only one part of the equation, and the type of material you use in your saltwater pool can significantly affect the final price tag. Unlike chlorine pools, you’ll have to be careful about the kind of material you use with saltwater. Not all materials work well with these generators; if you aren’t careful, you could have to do major renovation work within a couple of years.

Concrete: $40,000 – $180,000

Concrete isn’t always the first option for saltwater pool owners, and there’s a reason for that. Like metal, salt water can be a little rough on concrete or gunite surfaces. Concrete is a porous material, and saltwater absorption can cause it to deteriorate slowly over time.

This doesn’t mean you can’t own a concrete pool with salt water, but homeowners should just be aware that it might not last as long as fiberglass or vinyl liner. The maximum cost is much higher because concrete is generally a lot more customizable regarding water features (waterfalls, rock features, etc.).

Pros:

  • You don’t have to rely on pre-made liners or sizes
  • Easy to customize

Cons:

  • Not as long-lasting as fiberglass or vinyl
  • Takes longer to build
  • More maintenance costs as saltwater can corrode concrete 5 times faster than standard chlorine

Fiberglass: $10,000 – $40,000

Fiberglass is probably the most inexpensive material to use with your saltwater pool, and it doesn’t come with the same hazards as a concrete or vinyl liner pool. Generally, fiberglass is very compatible with saltwater systems and generators as it is corrosion-resistant and durable.

You don’t have to be too careful about metal components rusting, and there’s no risk of the saltwater slowly damaging your fiberglass shell like it would with concrete.

Fiberglass pools come pre-made, so there are not a lot of customization options, but if you are looking to build a saltwater pool with the least amount of issues and maintenance needs, fiberglass is your best bet.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t take as long to build
  • Less expensive than concrete and vinyl
  • Corrosion resistant and very compatible with salt chlorine generators

Cons:

  • Fewer customization options

Vinyl: $25,000 – $68,000

Vinyl is a common choice for many pool owners, as it is generally very affordable. But, like anything, the price can vary. Usually, the vinyl liner comes with a steel frame, and you can customize it to fit specific dimensions or sizes. If you don’t have odd or customized measurements, you might even be able to purchase a pre-made liner from a contractor.

While the liner itself is not a major issue for saltwater pool systems, the metal frame may not react well with the saltwater. Saltwater can easily corrode metal surfaces, so the frame of vinyl pools may need repairs or replacing over time. If you want a vinyl liner for your saltwater pool, I recommend investing in a high-quality liner and looking for a polymer frame, as these are more corrosion-resistant; however, keep in mind that these are more expensive.

Vinyl liners are also very customizable, so if you want a saltwater pool in a specific custom shape, this is a more affordable option than installing a concrete pool.

Pros:

  • More customizable than fiberglass pools
  • Cost-effective and low maintenance if you invest in a quality liner

Cons:

  • Saltwater might corrode the metal frame
  • Prone to rips in the liner, which saltwater can cause more damage to

Saltwater Equipment and Maintenance Costs

When people argue that a saltwater pool will “save” you money, they’re usually not talking about installation and construction costs. Initially, a saltwater pool can cost you $30,000 or more just to build in your backyard. And due to the extra equipment needed, you’ll likely pay more to install a saltwater pool than a standard chlorine pool.

Instead, they are typically referring to long-term maintenance and equipment costs. In comparison to a traditional chlorine pool, maintaining your saltwater pool from month to month tends to be cheaper.

Maintenance Costs

With a traditional chlorine pool, you’ll have to continually purchase chlorine and other balancing agents to condition and clean your pool. Even just per month, this can run you from $50 to $100. This doesn’t account for storage costs or finding somewhere to keep the chlorine so that it stays dry.

A saltwater pool, however, doesn’t require you to purchase chemicals like chlorine. While there is some chlorine in the pool water, the only compound you’ll need to add is salt (however, you will still need to shock the pool from time to time). Even then, that’s not something you should have to do every day or every week as salt does not dissipate as chlorine does – the amount of salt in most generators is low at 2,800 to 3,500 ppm.

In comparison to chlorine, salt is usually significantly less expensive. You can buy in bulk, but most 40-lb bags of salt currently run you less than $40.

Read my saltwater pool maintenance guide for more information.

Equipment Costs

Regarding equipment costs, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need to purchase is a salt-chlorine generator. This generator turns your pool into a saltwater pool to begin with, so it’s not something you can avoid purchasing.

Most of the time, a salt-chlorine generator (also called a saltwater chlorination system) will cost anywhere from $600 to $2,500 with installation costs. You shouldn’t need to replace the generator itself very often, but most owners find that they have to replace the generator cells every four to seven years (the average cost of replacing salt generator cells runs around $500).

Just like a standard chlorine pool, saltwater pools also require a pump and filter. This entire system will cost you between $200-$3,000, depending on the size of your pool and the installation cost, as you will likely need to hire a plumber for the job.

Besides the salt chlorine generator and the filtration system, you can’t forget about the pool heater. Heaters can vary significantly in cost, depending on how much water you need to heat, what type of pool heater you want, and how many degrees you want to heat the pool by. Pool heaters can vary in cost from $1,200 to $10,000.

Cost To Fill Your Pool With Water

An often overlooked pool installation cost is the cost to fill your pool. Water is not free, so you’ll need to calculate the gallons in your pool to determine how much it will affect your water bill. Depending on your municipality, you can expect to pay between $3-$12 per 1,000 gallons of water. So, if your pool is $10,000 and your water costs $5 per 1,000 gallons, you’ll pay around $50 to fill the pool. Check out my pool volume calculator to calculate how many gallons are in your pool.

After the initial cost of filling the pool, you should expect an increase in your monthly water bill — somewhere in the ballpark of $5 to $20 a month.

For example, many pools in hotter climates can lose about one or two inches of water per week due to evaporation. If you’re using city water, you could be paying $0.0049/per gallon (in Virginia, for example).

Repair Costs

Unfortunately, repair costs are one area where having a saltwater pool can work to your disadvantage. With a chlorine pool, owners might be able to handle tiny repairs themselves. With a saltwater pool, this isn’t usually the case.

Your saltwater system is sensitive, and even patching up the concrete or repairing a rip in the liner can require the help of a saltwater technician or professional.

However, repairs shouldn’t be an ongoing problem. If you’re properly maintaining and taking care of your pool, dealing with a repair cost every three or four years usually isn’t a detriment to most pool owners.

Cost of Converting a Chlorine Pool to Saltwater

A lot of the previously stated numbers deal with building a saltwater pool from scratch. However, if you’ve already got a chlorine pool and are looking to convert it to saltwater, the cost is relatively low in comparison.

Your biggest expense will likely be the salt chlorine generator, which, as we’ve already discussed, can cost up to $2,500 to purchase and install. This number usually includes the cost of hiring a technician and paying labor costs.

The good news is that you shouldn’t need to pay any more construction costs, but you will need to load up on salt. When you’re first converting your pool, you’ll probably need to purchase several bags, depending on the size of your pool. You shouldn’t expect to spend any less than $400 on salt bags initially.

For example, a 40-lb of salt might only be around $40, but during the initial conversion, a 15,000-gallon pool can require up to 10 40-pound bags of salt.

Overall, the total cost of converting a pool should be around $3,000, but possibly less if you’re dealing with a smaller pool. If you plan to tack on landscaping, decking, or other features that aren’t standard, this number could go even higher.

Other Saltwater Pool Costs to Consider

Although construction, installation, and maintenance costs are usually the main concerns, potential pool owners should also consider these hidden expenses as well:

Cleaning Costs

Saltwater pools might not require as much maintenance as a chlorine pool, but that doesn’t mean you can get out of cleaning them. Although you won’t need to purchase all the chemicals and balancing agents that a chlorine pool needs to clean itself, you’ll still need manual equipment.

In the fall, you might want tools like a net skimmer and a telescoping pole to pick out debris or floating leaves. Regular maintenance like this can help prevent sanitation issues (and potential repair costs) later down the road.

Decking

Saltwater works differently with decks than standard chlorine pools, so unfortunately, you’ll need to ensure that your deck is compatible with saltwater. Standard wooden decks and concrete can corrode and wear down from constant exposure to saltwater. Ensure that the decking you buy is coated to be salt resistant. You can also consider purchasing composite, coral stone, or other naturally saltwater-resistant materials for your decking.

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Estimating and Budgeting For Your Salt Water Pool Cost

As a homeowner trying to budget for a saltwater pool, all the numbers can be confusing. Not to mention, with a lot of variation between them, it can be difficult to know whether you’ll be spending $10,000 or $180,000 on your new saltwater pool.

The first step in getting an accurate estimate is understanding your specific needs—consider whether you want to build the pool or convert one, what type of material you’ll use, and how big it’ll be. Once you understand exactly what you’re looking for, you can start the process of saving for it or even contacting a contractor for the saltwater pool cost.

Questions? Let me know. For more pricing information, read my main inground pool pricing guide.

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