Question Your Intentions
Its a simple beginning, but why do you want a swimming pool? Pools come in all shapes
and sizes. Ask yourself how you will use
the pool: for swimming, lounging, exercising?
Will you need space for grilling and
entertaining? Will young children use the
pool? How important is the visual appearance
of the pool versus its functionality?
How much time do you want to devote to
Whether you decide to contact a contractor
yourself or work with a landscape
professional to develop a custom pool to fit
your landscape, if you're armed with answers
to these questions as well as examples from
books and magazines of pools that appeal
to you, you ll be better prepared to articulate
your desires. And that means you ll be
more likely to invest in the pool that's right
"People tend to focus on size, shape,
and depth," says Lew Akins, owner of Ocean
Quest Pools in Belton, Texas,"but these factors only become relevant after you've determined the role the pool will play in a family's lifestyle."
Picking a Location
Pools can slip into backyards, front yards,
and even side yards of all shapes and sizes,
so the perfect location can vary greatly by
site. A good place to start when evaluating
a site is the interior spaces of your house.
You'll spend 50 hours looking at a pool from
inside for every hour you spend in it, Akins
says, so the view inside-out is important.
Other factors include zoning codes, existing
utility lines, and ease of access. Zoning
codes can impact the safety features
surrounding your pool, moving existing utility
lines can add to the expense of a project,
and convenient pathways to and from
your home can impact how much you use
a pool and spa. The pool's visibility from
the house may also be an issue with children.
Don't forget to evaluate sun and shade
patterns. A pool shrouded in shade all afternoon may languish unused or, depending on your climate, it may be the perfect place to cool off.
Most in-ground swimming pools are made
from concrete, vinyl, or fiberglass. Concrete
is most popular because it offers many
design possibilities. It's either poured or
sprayed over steel-reinforced rods on-site
to form a seamless surface. A finish is then
applied on top of the concrete.
Paint specifically designed for pools is
the simplest finish option, but it requires
reapplication every one to two years. Plaster
is another inexpensive alternative, but
its susceptible to staining from chemicals;
it has an average life of five to eight years.
Exposed aggregate, which is made from
crushed pebbles or a mixture of concrete
and crushed quartz, is more expensive but
gaining in popularity. Its prized for its durability,
array of color options, and textured,
nonslip surface. At the top of the line is
ceramic tile. It can finish an entire pool or
just be used along the water line for decorative
Color combinations are varied, and maintenance
Preformed fiberglass molds and vinyl liners
offer less design flexibility, but their smooth surfaces are a plus. Vinyl liners are supported by manufactured wall systems made from steel, aluminium, polymer, concrete, or wood.
Highly visible and highly trafficked, the surface
that surrounds a pool also deserves
serious consideration. Plain concrete offers
a smooth, nonslippery surround and is an
inexpensive, reliable option, but it can lack
pizzazz. A stamped concrete finish can add
charm inexpensively, but watch out for dark
colors, as they can quickly become toasty
underfoot. Bricks or concrete pavers make
a classic, colorful choice and are easy on
bare feet and on the eye.
For earthy tones and a natural look, granite,
fieldstone, slate, flagstone, and marble
are beautiful, nonslippery surfaces but carry
a hefty price tag. Wood and new synthetic
woods can also play a role poolside.
Not sure how a surface will react under
the sun in your region? Brian Van Bower,
owner of Aquatic Consultants, Inc., in Miami
and president of Genesis 3 Design Group,
recommends placing a sample of the product
in your backyard in summer and standing
on it with bare feet at noon. You'll soon know whether it's too hot to handle.
Features of Fun
A decade ago, the bigger the volume of
water in an in-ground pool, the better. But
today's pools tend to downsize gallons of
water, investing the saved money in accessories
that add aesthetic and functional
Popular accessories include waterfalls and
fountains that add soothing sounds of moving
water; beach entries that offer space for
young children to play and easy access for
disabled or elderly visitors; swim-in-place jets
that allow fat-burning exercise in pools too
small to swim laps in; and fiber-optic lighting
to illuminate steps, plants, and water features
for a spectacular nighttime show. There
are also underwater barstools for happy hour,
umbrella supports inside the pool for instant
shade, and shallow underwater sunbathing
ledges to host those who want to get only
a little sun.
There are so many exciting things happening
in pool design, Van Bower says,
that there's no reason to opt for a plain hole in the ground when you could add tremendous features without necessarily busting the budget.