The Connexion's guide to owning a swimming pool in France

It’s been a hot summer and readers with gardens may be wondering about the cost of fitting a pool for next year...

18 September 2020
A garden with a pool, grass and trees. Our guide to owning a swimming pool in France. Desjoyaux / ©piscinesdesjoyauxOur guide to owning a swimming pool in France. Desjoyaux / ©piscinesdesjoyaux
By Connexion Journalist

Costs

The cost of building a pool in France is widely given as being between €15,000 and €50,000.

This is for the pool, and you need to add on the cost of the surrounds, whether this is a paved area or wooden deck. Building a pool yourself is an option, especially if you have a reasonable level of building skill, but it is wise to take expert advice before you start.

In the worst cases, mistakes or miscalculations could lead to leaking pools that cannot be repaired without demolishing everything and starting again. Pool projects can take longer than expected, which is one reason why building in winter is recommended, so there is less pressure to rush to be able to enjoy the water while the hot weather lasts.

For most DIY pool builders doing everything from scratch, concrete blocks with steel reinforcing rod is the material of choice. After the hole is dug, a foundation is laid, and conduits for any necessary plumbing or electricity installed. Then a floor of reinforced concrete is laid before the sides are built up with concrete blocks with rods in them. Once the walls are in place, the concrete has to be smooth rendered and made water- proof, using special mortar.

In France, most pools have a plastic liner installed – alternatives are to paint the concrete with special epoxy swimming pool paint, or to tile the pool. If you tile, make sure you use swimming pool glue and pay particular attention to the grouting to make sure there are no leaks.

Laws affecting swimming pool owners in France

Swimming pool in Biarritz, France. Karim Ben Van / Unsplash
Swimming pool in Biarritz, France. Karim Ben Van / Unsplash

Built pools like this are relatively rare – it is more common for DIY pool builders to buy various kits, which can include glass fibre shells or ready-made concrete or composite panels. These have the advantage of being quicker to build and having step-by-step instructions. The leading pool builder in France is Piscines Desjoyaux, based at La Fouillouse in Loire, which has about 13% of the country’s market. In a normal year, it installs around 9,000 swimming pools equivalent to the 8mx4m pool which is the most common size in France.

It operates mainly through agents who sign up with it and follow strict procedures when installing the pools, and through a network of shops, with 165 across France. But lockdown meant that the company, which closes its annual accounts at the end of each August, is unlikely to meet its target of €100million in sales this year. Around a third of its revenues come from the sale of shelters and other pool equipment.

For kit pools, the company Waterair, based at Seppois-le- Bas in the Haut Rhin, has been going for 45 years. It has a patented system of corrugated steel panels which are bolted together to form the structure of the pool, with most people using a plastic liner to complete the pool. Company spokeswoman Emilie Fischesser said: “We certainly have seen a surge in requests for information about our pools since the end of the lockdown. Our prices start at around €8,000, which just includes the pool and pool equipment, not the hole or the surrounds, but most of the kits we sell are in the €15,000 to €20,000 price range.”

She confirmed that most of the pools sold in France are small, and said that is because space is at a premium in many French gardens. “But it is possible to use our kits to make much longer pools, which people who like to swim to keep fit prefer,” she said. “You have to remember, though, that solutions to cover longer pools in the winter are more difficult and costly to arrange, and that if you want the water heated, it will cost more than a small pool.”

She said that once a pool hole has been dug and the concrete base laid, some builders are able to complete the work in as little as a week, although most take longer. There are alternatives, such as pools built using concrete panels or made out of recycled shipping containers, like those from the La Rochelle company Pool Container, which featured in Connexion earlier this year. Read the article here.

France has nearly 2.5m private pools

A pool at night, in Nantoux, France. Fabrice Villard / Unsplash
A pool at night, in Nantoux, France. Fabrice Villard / Unsplash

The latest statistics concerning swimming pools in France show the country has around 2.5million private pools with a surface area of more than 10m2 – more than any other country in Europe. Of these, around 1.3million are sunken pools, with the rest above-ground structures.

The figure, part of a study by Cabinet Decryptis for the Fédération des Professionnels de la Piscine et du Spa in 2018, was 25% higher than previous estimates. By population, France has one pool for every 27 people, ahead of Spain, which has one pool per 39 people. The study also found that 450,000 people were considering putting in a swimming pool while 110,000 people with pools were preparing for a major renovation.

Compulsory security measures were imposed for swimming pools in France in 2003. Since then, the number of children drowning in pools fell from more than 30 every year to fewer than 10. One of four measures must be applied, although many people have more than one. They are:

  • Pools either fenced or walled in, with access by a gate which can be locked;
  • Alarms fitted which go off when the water is disturbed;
  • Pool covers fitted that meet safety standards;
  • Pool shelters fitted, such as the telescoping transparent ones, that meet safety standards.

France lockdown boosts salt water swimming pools popularity

Taxes – and local rules – you should know

If you have ever wondered why French garden swimming pools are so small, one factor may be tax – larger pools are more heavily taxed. A one-off taxe d’aménagement calculated by the size of the pool, and an ongoing increase to your taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation (the latter is being phased out for main homes but still applies for second homes) are all likely to apply. The taxe d’aménagement, nicknamed the garden shed tax, was introduced in 2012.

The only pools which do not need to be declared to the authorities are those with a water surface area of less than 10m² – small enough to make them dangerous to dive into. If the property is in a protected zone, as many houses in old villages are, or is close to a historic monument site, rules laid out in local urban planning codes will have to be followed.

Usually the forms are passed to local tax centres, but you should check this has been done, or you might be hit with a tax bill plus an extra sum for late declarations. People planning larger pools, with a surface area of between 10m² and 100m², and which are not covered or which have pool covers, either fixed or mobile, under 1.8m high, have to make a declaration of work – déclaration préalable de travaux – at their mairie.

Swimming pool and float in France. Marie Dehayes / Unsplash
Swimming pool and float in France. Marie Dehayes / Unsplash

The seven-page form (cerfa 13404*01) makes no mention of installing swimming pools, so check with the mairie which sections to fill in, with the decision depending on local planning rules. In both cases, there are spaces on the form for a description of the project. Full planning permission is needed for swimming pools where the water area is greater than 100m² or where a pool of between 10m² and 100m² is covered, either with a mobile or a fixed cover which has a height of more than 1.8m.

The taxe d’aménagement is calculated by multiplying the surface area in m² of the pool by €200. Multiply the result by the tax fixed by the commune and by the tax fixed by the department and add the two together for the final tax bill. If the total is less than €1,500, the sum has to be paid in full 14 months after your declaration was accepted by the mairie, or from the date the permission was given. For sums over €1,500, half must be paid after 14 months and the rest by the 26th month.

Taxe foncière is calculated by estimating the increased rent you would get with a swimming pool on your property. Pools which are judged to be easily moved – those made of material that can be dismantled and are placed on the surface – are not subject to taxe foncière.

If you have filled out the forms, and informed authorities within 90 days of the pool being completed that work has finished, you will be given a two-year exoneration from the rise in most communes. Similarly, your taxe d’habitation is likely to rise as the property will be judged to have more “standing” than an identical property without a pool. Taxe d’habitation has been lowered by the Macron government, and was to be cancelled for 80% of people this year. For the remaining 20%, this has been pushed back to 2023.

Water restrictions in France: where and what changes

Maintenance and other costs to consider before you dive in

The cost of maintaining a swimming pool varies widely as local factors – such as the price of water, electricity and taxes – all play a part.

Taxes

When you build a pool, you immediately start paying extra taxes. The first is the 2012 taxe d’aménagement, which for pools is calculated on the basis of €200/m², multiplied by the index of tax imposed by your commune and your department. That means, for a 8mx4m pool in a commune with a tax of 0.036, paying €230 to the commune, and with a departmental tax of 0.013, €83 to the department. After two years, the pool will also be included in a new calculation for the taxe foncière, based on the theoretical rental value of your property, which will increase with a pool.

Usually the extra tax is of the order of a 10% increase in taxe foncière but it is possible to discuss the basis of the new tax with your local tax office, if you think the rental value of your property is too high.

Water

Filling the pool is a large one-off expense, followed by regular top-ups, and the cost of doing so depends on where you live. Water in the Var costs around €2.80/m³ while in parts of Brittany it costs €5.12/m³. Most garden swimming pools hold around 45m³ of water, so in Brittany the water to fill up for the first time will cost €230. Regular top-ups will be needed, so expect to use at least 1m³ per month in summer.

Swimming pool. Caroline Minor Christensen / Unsplash
Swimming pool. Caroline Minor Christensen / Unsplash

Electricity

Electricity is needed to run the pump and salt electrolysis system if you have one. Most garden pools can run with 750-watt pumps, which burn 0.75KwH, and most people pay around €0.17KwH for electricity in France, which means the pump costs around €0.13 an hour to run. Recommended filter times for most pools are 2,745 hours in summer and 728 hours in winter, meaning total electricity costs are €443 for the year. Electric pool heaters use 1,000 watts, or 1kw, which is why many heat the water as little as possible.

Chemicals

Your bill for chemicals depends what sort of pool system you have, with salt pools having lower chemical bills than chlorine pools. Most estimates are €300 for chemicals for a chlorine pool a year, but this can vary. If you have a salt electrolysis pool, you have to replace part of the unit every two years or so at around €200. Having a pool professional come and check the water and chemicals once a week is an option. Most charge around €30 an hour, or between €500 and €1,500 for an annual contract.

Depreciation

Pumps, valves and other parts wear out and parts might need replacing. Most French pools are built now using plastic liners, which have a life of around 10-15 years, and which cost around a third of the price of the pool to replace, plus the cost of refilling the pool from scratch.

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