Splashdown to Summer Fun
Planning Your Pool For A Fabulous Outdoor Experience
By Elizabeth Anthony
Summertime fun is quickly approaching and now is a great time to begin planning for splashdown in your very own backyard pool. Start with a vision of your family’s outdoor space. Imagine your dream backyard when you’re entertaining or when it’s just you and your spouse and/or kids. Is there a patio, outdoor kitchen, flower garden or kid space around your pool? Is there grass and landscaping or simply cool deck and potted plants? Do you envision a swim-up bar, a grotto, fountains or a hot tub adjoining your pool? Here are some ideas to consider which will assist you in making the best choices for you and your family.
Determining Size and Shape
Pool size can be a financial or a personal choice. Some families don’t want any grass; only pool and patio. Others want a yard in the landscape. Some factors that determine pool size are:
- Family size and expected guests
- Pool use: Will you swim laps, play sports and have kids around?
- Yard size, terrain, tree coverage and sun path should be considered
- Restrictions or regulations on lot set-back or coverage
- Architectural style and lifestyle
Be completely aware that a pool is expensive, both to install and maintain. Make sure you are ready for the financial commitment. Most people want in-ground pools. Design and construction costs make in-ground pools more expensive to build. In-ground ➝ pools with minimal patio surrounding and basic fencing start around $20,000.
More elaborate designs will run between $40,000 to $100,000+. The elements which determine cost are pool design and building materials, patio materials, landscaping, lighting, and extra features such as spas or fountains.➝
Chemicals, equipment and maintenance are ongoing expenses. Routine pool maintenance will include keeping the water chemically balanced and sanitary, maintaining the support equipment, and cleaning the pool surfaces. You can contract a pool service professional to perform these chores, or you can do them yourself. On average, chemicals cost between $50 and $100 per month depending on your climate, pool size and frequency of use. Factor in the cleaning equipment (vacuum, pump, etc) and the cost of maintaining your finish, which is the biggest maintenance expense. Vinyl liners and painted concrete last approximately 5-7 years; plaster finishes may last 10-15 years; but many cement-coated products can last a lifetime. Additionally, you should expect an increase in utility bills during your pool’s open season.
Yard Size and Conditions
In addition to the dimensions of your yard, consider slope, soil type and construction equipment accessibility. If your yard is already level, that’s a big plus. Severe conditions like steep slopes, rocky soil and limited access for construction equipment require special considerations and will add to the cost and duration of your pool project.
Zoning and Building Restrictions
Depending on the time of the year, getting permits usually takes a minimum of three weeks, as it involves engineering, survey and topography plans as well as obtaining building permits, financing arrangements and locating the pool design in your backyard. Be sure you and your contractor have the most up-to-date zoning and building restrictions. Zoning is principally handled on a local level and typically covers such issues as fencing and barriers, pool depth requirements for diving boards, set-backs and proximity to utility lines.
Do your research before hiring pool professionals. A pool professional will help you determine which size and shape will be best for your yard as well as determining estimated maintenance costs. You should interview at least three builders when getting estimates. Ask how long they have been in business, ensure that they are bonded and insured, visit their work sites firsthand or ask for examples of their work, and determine if they subcontract the work or use their own staff. Also, get referrals from friends and family. Be aware that it is not customary to pay the full amount upfront, and make sure to get lien waivers for all work completed.
Design and Build Your Pool
Depending on the scope of your project and how well defined and complex your vision and desired features may be, this may take from a few days to weeks. Once you have these, design can begin. With an inground pool, you can add customized features. Design the entire poolscape including decks, water features and the patio area.
Custom features for your pool will define its use and its cost. Talk to your builder about the features you and your family may want to add on. Some custom built-ins to consider:
Custom Entry — Steps can be built into a corner or can span a much larger area, creating a multi-tiered oasis for sitting and splashing. Another choice to consider is the beach entry — a gentle, sloping walk-in entry that feels like walking into the ocean. Beach entries can take up a lot of space, so, depending on the size of your pool, a combination of the two may be ideal.
In-Water Bench and Table — Built-in underwater benches and chairs provide a cool, relaxing spot to sit and can be outfitted with hydrotherapy jets for added enjoyment. Pair with an in-water table, and you’ve got an ideal place for reading, snacking and playing games. Just be sure to build a table fitted for an umbrella, so this area stays shady and comfortable.
Tanning Ledge — These ledges are typically about 6 inches deep and built into the perimeter of your pool and provide a large, shallow area where toddlers can play and where others can relax or tan.
Grotto — A grotto is an imitation cave built onto the side of your pool. They can be built out of natural boulders, but are usually created from artificial rock — and are at their best when tucked away behind a waterfall. When combined with an underwater bench, a grotto makes a magical water fort for kids — or a romantic hiding place for adults.
Swim-Up Bar — These bars are usually built with underwater seating and are great for entertaining. You can build a swim-up bar that’s surrounded by water and strictly for swimmers, or you can build it along the pool edge to be used by people both in and out of the pool.
Many pool finish options are available. Which finish you choose will depend on the look and feel that you desire. What is important to remember is that your pool finish is constantly submerged in chemically treated pool water. Expect your pool’s finish to change over time. Some pool finishes to consider are:
Pool Tile — Swimming pool tile offers a customized look in an array of colors, designs, and textures, and you can expand your options with a pattern or design. The biggest advantages to pool tile are its durability and low maintenance, as this material is built to last with relatively little care.
Vinyl Liner — Replacing the pool liner is part of ownership, and the frequency depends on how the pool is used and how well it is maintained. Proper pool chemistry and maintenance can extend the life of your pool liner for many years. Vinyl pool liners are now available in an extensive variety of colors and patterns. From the water line to the very bottom, liner designs can add texture, depth and personality to your pool.
Pool Plaster — Standard white plaster is the tried-and-true pool and hot tub finish. However, a plethora of pool plaster color and texture options are on the market. Simple, white pool plaster makes for an economical choice that will give you that classic swimming pool look. However, you may want to reflect the colors of nature in your pool or hot tub with tinted plaster. With proper water care and maintenance, you can enjoy beautiful, consistent, lasting colors with high quality pigments for a unique, enduring pool plaster finish.
Aggregate Effects — Pool plaster now can include aggregates and other stones which provide customizable effects, colors and textures. Aggregates offer the look of a myriad of pebbles worked into a pool surface. Pebble surfaces have recently become more popular due to the broad range of colors and color combinations available, as well as their relatively low maintenance and slip-proof surface. Aggregate pool finishes are noted for their striking beauty and long-lasting durability. With proper water chemistry and maintenance, an aggregate pool finish will stay beautiful, sturdy and last for decades.
Water features have an amazing ability to transform an already amazing pool into a tropical resort, romantic oasis, elegant escape or family fun zone. Some features to consider are:
- Sheer Water Walls
- Jets and Bubblers
- Spillover Spas and Hot Tubs
Other factors to consider are what type of equipment you want to use, what kind of insurance you will need to add to your homeowners policy, and what safety features will be required to ensure that your family and friends continue to enjoy your outdoor area for years to come.
Splashdown to Summer Fun