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Installing a swimming pool in France in 2017

First-hand information on the available swimming pool options

*** UPDATED 2017 ***

A swimming pool with your French property

Almost everyone who moves to France wants one, particularly those who live in the warm south of the country. A pool is an essential part of the dream, and it is vital to make the right choice of pool for you. So picture this... you are floating on an airbed, gazing up at a cloudless blue sky, with the sun beating down on your tanned, lithe body… your fingers drift to the floating tray by your side, and you lazily lift your chilled rosé to your lips…

Rewind three months

You are sweating, standing in a muddy pit, deafened by the noise of the digger you have paid a king's ransom to hire, desperately trying to even up the levels of the pit…

Rewind 2 months

You are sitting, warming your fingers by a log fire, idly flicking through a swimming pool catalogue. The pictures are alluring, promising summer dreams come true. Laughing families play in azure waters, but then you notice the price. Unwilling to sell your children into slavery to fund the purchase, you pick up the next brochure. More azure waters, more happy smiling families. Price? Cheaper than you'd thought. The trouble is, it's a prefabricated pool and the access to your property won't accommodate the delivery wagon. Move on to the next brochure. Price, fine. Families still smiling and swimming (hang on a minute, aren't they the same family in every picture? Maybe they just hop from pool to pool being photographed all summer long, and get paid for it? No wonder they're smiling!) The catch? You put this one in the ground yourself. It looks straightforward, so you order one. (How hard can it be?)

Fast forward six weeks

Delivery day… a tiny little girl arrives in a huge wagon, which she parks in the middle of the main road. Ignoring all the furious beeping horns and shaking fists, she proceeds to unload a forklift truck. As she begins the first of ten journeys down the track to your house, loaded to the limit, you begin to experience the first pangs of anxiety… perhaps this might not be as quick and simple as you thought. Your mind turns to the instruction booklet you received with your order. The whole process was explained in a series of cartoon pictures. Happy smiling couple, he with a spade, she with a bucket, seem to have the thing cracked in a couple of days. You gaze at the spot where the pool is to be. Reality begins to hit. A bucket and spade is going to take a long while to dig a pit eleven metres long, six metres wide and three metres deep… you sit on a log and begin to sob.

Your options

There are many possible options of swimming pool (and of course price and degree of difficulty of installation depend somewhat on size and site) but the basic choices are as follows:

The money no object option

If you can afford this you need read no more. Choose any pool you fancy, from any manufacturer, have it personally designed (read a summer edition of Maisons et Decors for inspiration) and installed while you pop off to Monaco for the weekend.

The next best thing option

If you don't quite have an unlimited budget but you are prepared to spend a little more to have the pool fitted for you, you could consider a pool such as Des Joyeaux or Crystal produce. The product is excellent, the work done for you, but you will find the overall price is considerably higher than the DIY options.

The totally DIY option

If you are a very committed DIYer you may like the idea of creating a bespoke pool yourself. This is possible, and can be a really good choice if you know what you are doing. Talk to people who have done it, look around at different styles and types of pools, weigh up the relative merits of liners versus tiles, press gang all your able-bodied friends into helping and off you go. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have really achieved value for money, but it won't be an easy ride.

The kit pool option

This is the semi DIY option, and, in fact, the one which we chose. Now it's in, and the blood sweat and tears forgotten, we are delighted with our choice, as the quality is superb and we were able to create a pool which suited our needs. It was not, however, the simple few days task that the brochure appeared to promise! A small digger is required (quite costly to hire, so consider buying and then reselling) and all in all the work took some two months to complete. The pool we bought was from a company called Waterair, who have representatives all over France.

The prefabricated option

You will see these pools on display all over France. They come in many shapes and sizes, are delivered in one piece on the top of a wagon, and are simply lowered into a hole in your garden, Great…but remember you have to dig the hole first…and make it level, and find somewhere to bury the earth you have produced (we still have a mound of earth the size of Mount Canigou in our garden)! For an in ground pool, however, this is probably the cheapest and simplest choice. The drawbacks are that the shape is pre-set, and it is difficult to find one deep enough to accommodate a family who enjoy spring board diving. You also need to consider delivery, as this pool has to be brought to the site on a large wagon, and not all properties have suitable access.

The above ground options

There are many different types of above ground pool available, and there will be one to suit all budgets and requirements. They range from very large pools which are big enough to swim lengths in, usually of an attractive timber construction through to the little snap set splash pools which have a blow up rim, and are ideal for the smaller garden or the young family.

French swimming pool safety standards

There are a few important things to bear in mind and consider before installing a pool. The first is that as of January 2006, all in ground outdoor swimming pools in France must have either an alarm, a barrier, a cover or a shelter. These safety regulations have been set up by the Association Française de Normalisation (Afnor), who are imposing a maximum fine of £31,000 (EUR 45,000) should one of these safety measures not have been installed. (Visit www.afnor.fr for further information.)

Above ground outdoor or indoor pools are exempt from these rules.

Pool maintenance

Don't forget the costs associated with keeping your pool clean. Chlorine is the most widely used method, as it is cheap and easy to obtain. Saltwater systems are also economical to maintain once installed. Other methods of sanitisation include PH monitoring systems, which administer chemicals at appropriate times, and non-chemical UV light systems.

You must also allow for pool liners to be replaced periodically (approximately every 10 years), as well as pump and filtration systems.

French swimming pools and how they effect your tax

Another issue relates to tax, and this is that if you choose an in ground pool it will add an extra payment to your tax bill (Taxe Fonciere), as it is considered a permanent structure and by adding the pool you have increased the value of your property. The pool must be declared on your tax form, and is then charged as part of your tax every year. It is not a one off payment. There is not a banding system in France, but the tax does work like council tax in the UK, ie: your home is valued and the taxes levied accordingly.

Planning permission for pools

Planning permission is required for in ground pools, depending on the size. Pools less than 10m² will only require a déclaration préalable de travaux (building works declaration), while pools of more than 10m² will require full planning permission or a permis de construire. Your Mairie is the place to go to get any information about this. They will supply the paperwork necessary and help with any questions you may have.

Above ground pools do not require planning permission.

A final word

So there you are… a run down of the basic choices that you will find when you start looking for your pool. Of course you could save yourself the dilemma and buy a house with a swimming pool already in installed. Now, if I could just find someone to install that lithe tanned body… !

*** UPDATED 2017 ***

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about planning permission (added 12/3/09)...

Do I need planning permission for a "natural swimming pool" in my garden (in France of course)?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. The place to go for an answer to your question is your Mairie, what they say goes.

2. A question about pool repairs (added 22/4/09)...

You have already helped me find an English solicitor practising French law in the UK for which I thank you. I wonder if you are able to help me further. My pool and house have been damaged in the recent storms and several months ago I read an article in an issue of FPN corncerning an English company somewhere near Bordeaux who specialise in installing and renovating pools.I have read through back issues I have here but I think the issue I want must be in France. Please would it be possible for you to perhaps help me in locating this company?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us again. I'm afraid I can only suggest you have a look at Pages Jaunes to find this company or perhaps use a service such as that offered by Help in France ( http://www.help-in-france.co.uk/), who might be able to suggest another suitable company you could use.

I'm sorry I cannot be of more help.

3. A question about swimming pool regulations regarding septic tanks and wells (added 29/8/12)...

Are there any specific regulations as to how far sunken pools have to be from fosse septics and wells?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us, though I am afraid I am not aware of any rules regarding this. I would suggest you get in touch with your Mairie, who should know the answer.

4. A question about construction standards for swimming pools (added 30/10/12)...

Are there any regulatory bodies in France for pool construction standards etc?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would suggest you contact your Mairie, or the Association Française de Normalisation (www.afnor.fr), or even a pool company such as Des Joyaux for information on this. I'm sorry not to be of more help.

5. A question about taxes due when you apply to build a swimming pool (added 7/1/15)...

I applied for a pool two years ago, yet still haven't got permission in writing. I'm not too bothered now because circumstances mean that I can't afford to build it. However i have just got two tax bills in the post for a combined total of Euros 812 for the pool that isn't built. One is TAXE D'AMENAGEMENT and the other is REDEVANCE D'ARCHEOLOGIE. What is this for and do I have to pay it? This is a problem as I don't have a spare Euros 812 and it's got to be paid in a month. P.S. I live in department 31.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. Redevance d'Archeologie Preventive is a levy/fee that must be paid when certain construction work is done, to fund archaeological excavations. These fees are donated to the National Fund for Preventive Archaeology and the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap). Taxe d'Amenagement is a planning tax which must be paid when certain building work is done, and is usually at a fixed rate for swimming pools, depending on their size. Though I did think that these taxes/fees were only payable once planning permission had been granted, yet you say it hasn't.

I understand it is possible to get these fees waived by cancelling the planning permission, and obtaining decrees declaring abandonment of the project. But as you say you haven't yet received planning permission, I think your best bet would be to contact your Mairie about these bills, or get in touch with whichever office has sent them, to explain your situation and get their advice as to what to do.

6. A question about water being delivered by tanker (added 23/4/15)...

We have built a pool in the garden of our home in the La Clayette, Charollais area of France area code 71800. Do you know if we would be able to buy the water to fill the pool to be delivered by tanker?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understood most people filled their pools with mains water in France, though I also understood there are companies delivering by tanker too. However I did think the price ended up being approximately the same. Have you tried Pages Jaunes, or asking the people at your Mairie? They should be able to advise on where to go.

Should anyone reading this be able to help, please do get in touch.

7. A question about a hot tub (added 6/12/15)...

Are you taxed in the same way, if you have a hot tub?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us, though I'm afraid I don't know the answer to this. You could check with your Mairie. They should be able to help.

Should anyone reading this be able to offer any advice, please do get in touch.

8. Planning permission in rural areas (added 3/5/16)...

We are in a rural area - architecte des batiments de France. What impact does this have on planning permission for a swimming pool?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. It may have no impact, but you would need to check this out. I would suggest you contact the people at your Mairie as they will be able to tell you what the rules and regulations are for your area.

9. A question about tax on above ground swimming pools (added 20/10/16)...

Do above ground swimming pools have to be declared and is there a tax on them? Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I don't think above ground pools need to be declared or any permission sought if they are less than 10m2 in size and lower than 1.80m in height. Nor do I think any extra tax is paid, as above ground pools do not generally increase property values.

10. How far from your main house can a pool can be installed (added 28/11/16)...

Hi - are there any rules/regulations in regards to how close or how far away from the main house that an inground pool can be sited. I have been told that the pool must be within two metres of the house, but I have seen pools that appear to be more than two metres away from the main house? Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand that some local planning departments issue regulations about how far a swimming pool must be from the main house, usually where the swimming pool is going to be considered as an extension of the house. I'm afraid I don't know the specifics however, as these rules vary as to where you are in France. Generally rules are more uniform concerning the distance from the boundary of your property, ie: a swimming pool must be more than three metres from the boundary of your property.

I would suggest therefore, that you contact your Mairie for rules relating to your area. I'm sorry not to be of more help.

11. A question about planning permission (added 18/5/17)...

I have just had a declaration prealable application refused for a 10 x 5 mtr in-ground pool - no Plan d'urbanisme and the property is too rural to be considered urbanised. Our only recourse appears to be an above-ground (half-in, half-out) pool of roughly the same size but this means it will be a semi-permanent pool. Do I need planning permission for this? Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I don't think above ground pools need to be declared or any permission sought if they are less than 10m2 in size and lower than 1.80m in height. Though I would suggest you check with your Mairie, as local rules and/or regulations may apply.

12. A question about semi-sunk above ground pools and tax (added 28/7/17)...

Hi - I have semi-sunk an above ground pool DIY pool - do I need to pay tax on this? Many thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I wouldn't think that you would have to pay extra tax on your above ground DIY pool, but semi-sinking it may have changed things, perhaps making it a permanent structure and increasing the value of your property. It may be worth contacting the people at your Mairie to get a definitive answer.

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