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Choosing the Right Pool Design

June 30 2010

Just imagine your backyard with an oasis of shimmering water beckoning you to jump in and splash like the kid you still are. 

Having your own pool today is much easier and less costly than you might think. You can go the professional route and use a professional pool installer, or there are do-it-yourself pool kits available. 

Consider how you, your family and friends will most likely use the pool. Will you be swimming laps, playing volleyball, diving, or just relaxing? Your answers will influence the size, shape and depth of the pool.

The main factor is cost. Do you want your yard excavated to accommodate an in-ground pool, or do you prefer the lower cost option of an above-ground pool? From there, the costs escalate to features and maintenance. If you want to add a spa or a fountain, the cost goes up. A diving board may make your insurance costs higher, and the depth of water required for diving will make your water bill higher. You may also be required by your community to install a safety fence even if you don’t have small children.

In-ground Pools

In-ground pools are permanent, with the pool surface level to the yard.  Digging the ground out of the  yard, setting the pool in place, and finishing out the pool surface and deck usually means a big commitment in price.

Often, an in-ground pool is designed by a landscape architect to include features such as plants, spas, waterfalls, swim-up bars, sun-bathing decks and furniture for the ultimate swimming experience.  The ambiance created by these additional features makes the pool area attractive as well as provide a wonderful view from the home.

From infinity pools to the basic kidney shape, there are many options to choose as far as the basic design of the pool. Infinity pools have a rimless edge that gives the impression of the water falling over the edge. Glamorous and expensive, infinity pools are the top of the line. 

Function is something to consider in the shape of your pool.  The rectangle is great for swimming laps and games such as water volleyball.   Combination styles such as a rectangle with a half kidney can allow swimmers to get out of the way of a game, as well as designing the entry steps to the side of such activity.  Kidney shapes can easily differentiate the shallow end from the diving end. 

Grottoes, swim-up bars, waterfalls, and other options call for a larger pool area in your design.  The deeper the pool, the cooler the water will stay without a heater option.  Many pools are not used except during June and July due to the cost of heating the water.  Diving pools will certainly have much cooler water in the deep end than in the shallow end. 

Materials for in-ground pools can vary in cost and performance. Gunite concrete pools are a concrete shell over copper rebar.  Plaster is applied over the rough pool shell to give a hard, smooth finish and seals it as well.  The plaster color sets the mood for the look of the water with darker plaster giving the lagoon look, lighter plaster giving the brighter, blue water look.  Gunite pools are flexible and can be shaped in any way you prefer while being very strong.  Disadvantages include a longer build-time, more expense to maintain, rough surface, and highest acid and chlorine use to remove algae. 

Other pool shell materials include fiberglass which requires fewer chemicals to maintain the pool.  Fiberglass pools come in shapes designed by the manufacturer, but they can be installed much faster than gunite pools. The surface is smooth and non-abrasive, and algae just brushes off.  Vinyl liner pools are similar in benefits, except that the seams can harbor algae, and stairs and seating are optional, which means extra costs.  The slippery surface can be easily punctured and torn.

In-ground pool costs vary widely, but roughly start at around $8,000 if you do-it-yourself, to as much as $100,000 for the ultimate resort pool, professionally designed and installed with custom tiles and features.  

Above-ground pools

Above-ground pools can be installed without the cost of relocating gas lines, plumbing lines, sewer lines, etc. and are far less expensive than in-ground options. The pools are made of resins over a vinyl coated galvanized steel frame.  Polyester paint coating and sealant further protects the surface. 

Unlike in-ground pools, the frames, braces, and pool wall are in full view, which may cause your back-yard oasis to suffer a little in style. The pools come in packages, with two styles – round or oval. Sizes can vary from 15′ to 30′ in round shapes and 16′ x 32′ or 18′ x 33′ in ovals. 

What above-ground pools can offer is lots of fun without great expense – they’re under $1,000 to $2,000, excluding installation. Above-ground pools can also be an excellent choice if you have a backyard that slopes downward. In that case, you may conceal the above-ground frame with a wood deck, where you can entertain and sun bathe.

Like any remodeling project, it’s always wise to get your ideas together before you visit local pool dealers. Cut pictures from magazines, measure your yard, and find out where sewer and gas lines are.

Keep in mind that if you do install a pool, that’s an improvement that may not improve the value of your home at resale. Like any home’s feature, a pool is either an asset or a liability depending on good it looks, how well it’s maintained, and whether or not your home’s next buyer wants a pool. 

If you’re ready to get your feet wet, visit ServiceMagic.com for more pool ideas.