Make a Splash With a Fantasy Pool

initial_poolWater is a source of Both life and comfort; it invokes all the senses with its natural delights. Because of these inherent qualities, there is nothing quite like a water source to enhance the landscape. Swimming pools are one way for homeowners to bring the aesthetics of water close at hand. And today’s pools are a far cry from yesterday’s aqua-colored rectangular holes sunk into the backyard.

At one time pools were considered a real luxury; they were both expensive to install and difficult to maintain. Today there are pools to fit all budgets. Swimming pools in the higher end of the price scale are indeed more luxurious than ever, composed of elaborate installations where no expense is spared. With so many designs and options available today, homeowners can have anything imaginable for a real fantasy pool.

Create the Pool of Your Dreams
Imagine floating in a tropical paradise with waterfalls, reflecting pools and lush landscaping with islands, rock formations and other natural features. Fantasy pools are just that. These pools are works of art, incorporating a variety of elements that can reflect the personalities and lifestyles of individual homeowners.

When creating a fantasy pool, appearance is important. There are several options that a good pool contractor can offer to make the pool area a true asset to the property. Jason Vaughan, who owns National Pools with his wife Ginnie, points out that there is simply no end to the variety of pools available today. In choosing the right design, however, it is important that the shape of the pool fits the style of the house. “Ultimately, the pool and house should appear as if they were both built together,” he says.

Ginnie Vaughan stresses the importance of hiring a landscape architect to work on your pool project. Landscaping provides privacy, adds elegance and creates an air of serenity as an escape from hectic everyday life. Landscaping also helps the pool area blend in perfectly with its surroundings. A landscape professional can be a real help with the design of the entire pool area, helping you visualize the “big picture,” including elements like location, shape and support buildings.

pool_waterfallCool Trends in Pools
Over the years, pool styles have changed from large pools with small patios and decks, to today’s fantasy pools that are shallower and lack diving areas, water slides and handrails. Anything that might impede the view or surrounding scenery is often omitted. Fire pits and water sprays are more and more commonplace. There is also a trend to design pools to look more natural. Beach entries, where the deck or patio slopes gradually down into the water to create a beach effect, are popular. Waterfalls and large boulders placed strategically in and around the pool are more over-the-top features included in today’s pools. Vanishing edges or infinity pools are also the latest rage. Here water is filled to the top edge of the pool, streams over the edge and circulates back into the water system. Each addition, making the pool more attractive, adds extra costs.

Pool specialists recommend that homeowners check their finances before considering a pool. If a homeowner wants to install an in-ground pool with the hope of increasing the value of the property, costs can be high. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is true here. A fantasy pool can easily run $100,000 or more once the patio, decking, fencing and support structures are installed and landscaping is completed.

Constructing a Fantasy Pool
Today’s pools are manufactured from concrete (gunite and shotcrete), vinyl and fiberglass. It is important to understand the benefits of each, and decide which product is right for you. Jason Vaughan points out that gunite, which his company uses exclusively, enables him to form any shape imaginable. Gunite and shotcrete both use a concrete mixture which is sprayed directly onto the pool form. They differ in the way the ingredients are mixed, but when applied correctly, the results are the same. These pools have a permanence and easily last for many years. An added advantage is the ease with which they can be replastered and renovated.

According to Wayne Melancon of Land Tech, “Pound for pound you get more use out of a pool than a boat or skis.” He points out that instead of traveling, “People are opting to stay home and enjoy their own outdoor living space.” He believes that homeowners should consider all types of pools available before making choices. “We want people to enjoy their pools for a lifetime,” says Melancon.

Land Tech builds both shotcrete and gunite pools. Both form a concrete structure that is strong and long-lasting. According to Melancon, shotcrete and gunite provide the customer with the best selection of colors and shapes. They get the homeowner away from standard cookie-cutter pool shapes and colors, and allow for an out-of-the-ordinary fantasy pool.

Another option that can be used to create the pool of your dreams on the lower end of the cost spectrum is vinyl. Tom Holzknecht, who owns The Pool Guy and deals exclusively with vinyl pools, says that technology has come a long way, allowing contractors to “form most shapes” with vinyl that can be formed with gunite or shotcrete. “These are high-end vinyl-lined pools,” says Holzknecht. “In this economy, people want a luxury pool at less of a cost.” An added benefit to vinyl, according to Holzknecht, is the ease of maintenance. “It is almost maintenance-free,” he says.

west_manor_pool1Assess Your Needs, Lifestyle
Jason Vaughan explains that a first step in pool planning is to consider the fundamental use of the pool, which “drives the shape and affects the overall size of the pool.” A pool can serve different purposes for different families. Is it for recreation? Recreational pools need not be very deep. Will it be a place for children to play and families to keep cool in the summer? A relatively new feature in pool construction is a “lazy river.” This pool literally runs through the property like a trail, allowing swimmers to float along with the current.

Exercise pools offer different opportunities for an athlete. A lap pool needs to be long enough to give swimmers room for a sufficient number of strokes before reversing directions—but it needs to be only 3.5 feet deep and not very wide. For water aerobics, the pool must be deep enough to tread water without touching the sides or bottom of the pool. A swim spa or endless pool is another exercise option; this pool has a built-in water current that is powerful enough for a swimmer to swim against it and literally tread water in place, similar to the way a treadmill works for runners.

For those interested in diving boards, the pool must be built according to safe diving specifications developed by the National Pool and Spa Institute. The pool must be quite deep, at least nine or ten feet, and this depth must extend out at least twelve feet in front of the board.

Many homeowners plan to use their pools for entertaining. If this is the case, the pool should be close to the house with easy access to the kitchen and changing areas. Or, an outdoor kitchen and pool house can be included as part of the pool design.

Maintenance Matters
Maintenance, using filters, chemicals and vacuums, should be done regularly to keep pool water clean and usable. Today there are special installations in pools that will perform most of these maintenance tasks automatically, but it is important to monitor the pool regularly. According to Tom Holzknecht, today’s pool maintenance is minimal, but must be done regularly.

Ginnie Vaughan points out while there are many new features on the market to help maintain a pool, it is still important to keep an eye on it, no matter how automatic the system is. She also stresses the importance of using good quality chemicals. There are differences in the various chemical products available in the market. Read the ingredients and compare chemicals purchased at discount stores to be sure that they are comparable to those purchased through a pool supply store. To cut down on expenses, pool owners sometimes turn filters off. This is a big mistake. Filters are designed to perform best when they run constantly. By cutting corners to keep maintenance expenses down, more problems may develop, causing additional maintenance down the road.

More Practical Considerations
While homeowners’ policies cover most accidents and events around the home, be sure to check with your insurance agent about your coverage before starting any construction project. It is also important to consider your local building codes. Constructing a pool will require a permit, and most communities have specific requirements concerning pools, including proper fencing and other safety features.

Another expense that may not be figured into the equation is water. How will you fill the pool? Options include well water, municipal water or water trucked onto the site. Some pools must be filled immediately and require a large amount of water at one time. In this case, water must be brought in. If water will be taken from a municipal system, let the authorities know. Sometimes the cost of water will be waived if it is used to fill a pool.

When planning a pool construction project, give yourself time to do some research. Talk to professionals and carefully select a contractor. Just like food in the hands of a talented chef can be transformed into a culinary event, water in the hands of the right person can be used to create something of both beauty and comfort. Consider the following when searching for the right professional: Is the firm licensed and insured? How many years has the company been in business? Check on their reputation. Talk to people who love their pool. Whom did they use? Would they recommend them?

Be honest with yourself. Are you and your family the pool type? Do you like the out-of-doors and enjoy the sun? When you are at the beach, do you chose the pool over the ocean? If your answers are yes to all these questions, a pool may be the perfect addition to your home landscape.

Once you’ve found a professional and decided on the type of pool that will be ideal for your family, it won’t be too long before you can make a splash in the neighborhood with the addition of your own fantasy pool.

Additional Resources

Aquatech.com
Association of Elite Pool Builders
Take their dream pool survey to help prepare a wish list for the perfect dream pool.

APSP.org
Association of Pool and Spa Professionals
Click on “consumers” for information on choosing a professional, design ideas, maintenance tips and safety issues.

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