Create an oasis in your own backyard with a pool and spa
With winter still holding strong outside, dreams of spending a warm summer’s day out by the pool come pretty easy. Those dreams could quickly turn into reality if you begin laying the foundation before the weather heats up! As the ground thaws out and pool contractors gear up for a busy spring, there’s no better time than the present to get moving on a pool or spa of your own to suit your specific needs and vision.
Gone are the plain, one-size-fits-all pools of yesterday. Today’s water retreats come with top-notch options such as salt water infiltration systems, automation through mobile devices to control pool functions, and unique tanning ledges built into the pool, says Alex Tidwell, designer and project manager with Boyce Design & Contracting in Atlanta.
Create your vision
Of course, a backyard oasis complete with your ideal pool won’t just happen. To make sure you get what you want, it’s necessary to do your research and prepare your budget. To get started, Rick Kaldrovics, president for Outside Landscape Group in Alpharetta, recommends answering the following questions:
• What do you intend to use the space for?
• How often or will you use the space?
• Do you know your budget?
• Would you enjoy added features such as a firepit or fireplaces?
• Have you thought of energy costs of electrical and heating of the pool and surrounding areas?
• Do you have a lighting plan for the pool?
• Are you going to maintain it or hire a company?
• Do you have a survey of your property to delineate the allotted space?
Tidwell also suggests looking at a style of pool that matches the look of the home. “It is important for the pool to be composed of materials that match the house and blend into the existing landscape,” he says.
Some homeowners assume they cannot have a pool of their own because their yards are too small or the landscape is not flat. Thankfully, there are ways to work through these concerns.
“It is possible to install a smaller size pool and still have space to lounge,” Kaldrovics says.
“We can design organic pools that flow well with the landscape. Alternatively, think about installing a small patio with a spa and backdrop of screening plants or even an oversized swimmable pond.”
Incorporating a pool into a hill also is not an impossible task. “Oftentimes, a slope or hill can create challenges, but the slope can also provide dimension to the pool, making the overall design much more interesting,” Tidwell says. “Depending on the topography of the hill, it may take an engineer to design the walls. If the pool needs to be cut into the slope, there are many ways to have a decorative raised beam to retain the slope. Features such as waterfalls, lighting, planting beds and slides can be built into these raised beams to create a one-of-a-kind space.” However, don’t forget to include additional landscaping costs into your budget.
Higher energy efficiency also has become standard in the swimming pool industry. “Variable-speed pumps can move more water with less energy than their traditional single-speed counterparts. They can be turned down when less flow is required to consume even fewer watts,” says Brad Renken, Associate AIA, Certified Building Professional APSP, owner and founder of Hearthstone Environments LLC in Cumming. “We now use LED lights exclusively because they use less electricity, are smaller and easier to install, and even allow color-changing options.”
A firm foundation
Just as with pool planning, careful preparation is necessary when installing a spa. For example, Jason Spain, owner/president of Spain & Sons Construction LLC in Bethlehem, recommends choosing a tub that will accommodate your family as well as have the interior shell layout that is the most conducive to your needs. Installing your spa in the right location also is key. “You want to make sure the spa is placed on a level surface, as spa jets do not work well when the water is not level in the tub,” Spain says.
Frank Pologruto, president of Decks & More in Smyrna, cautions homeowners to make sure your spa is located in a spa that can accommodate the total weight of the spa unit, the water and the persons using the tub. This is especially important if you plan to place the spa on a deck. “Don’t put it on a deck unless it’s a reinforced deck,” he says. Otherwise, it could collapse.
Space to relax
One important consideration is pool decking. “Pools should have an adequate amount of pool decking or lounge space,” Kaldrovics says. “Knowing the size and amount of the pool furniture that will be accompanying the pool will help as well. Think also of the creative design elements that can be implemented, such as waterfalls and boulder accent rocks.”
Many homeowners are turning their backyards into staycation hotspots. According to Kaldrovics, “Creating a vacation spot at home becomes more and more appealing to homeowners. They want to invest money in an elaborate outdoor oasis instead of spending it on travel. Why travel when luxury waits in your backyard?”
For most homeowners, a pool will serve as more than just a serene water feature. Therefore, it’s essential to consider what function the pool will serve. “For family fun, organic-shaped pools are best to install,” Kaldrovics says. “They offer a more playful look and feel versus a more modern rectangle shape. Having a few ideas ready before you talk to your designer is always a great idea.”
In fact, making a pool kid-friendly is easier than ever. “There are many components that can be added to a pool such as water slides, swim-up bars, tanning ledges, waterfalls, spas, etc,” Tidwell says. “Safety, however, is the most important feature to consider.”
If you want a pool geared for fitness endeavors, Tidwell recommends a more formal or rectangular pool. “A more regular shape gives the swimmer room to swim laps without the curves of a free-form pool,” he says. “There are also fitness pools that have jets that create a current that the swimmer can swim against for resistance.”
Lap pools, though, could pose a problem with some homeowners. “Homeowners need to consider space for a lap pool due to the size,” Kaldrovics says. “Oftentimes, we find that the property we are working on has a building setback and we must accommodate. When designing with setbacks, we take in to consideration the size and location of the pool. If the pool is an organic shape, it may be easier to incorporate into the landscape.”
Small space option
Another option is a “spool.” “The newest trend for small spaces is a spool, which is a mix between a pool and spa,” Tidwell says. “The spool is usually about half the size or smaller than a typical residential pool, but still has room for a small shallow end and a deep end of the pool. Normally a spool is built with a heating system, jets and bench seating much like a spa.”
Just as with swimming pools, today’s spas are far beyond the tried-and-true spas of the past. “Many of our spas are designed to overlap with our swimming pools,” Tidwell says. “We have had clients requesting different styles of spillovers on the spa, such as a boulder waterfall cascading from the spa into the pool, or an infinity-edge spillover that spans half or two-thirds of the spa’s edge to dramatic view.”
Technology also has taken spas to a new level. “The science behind the construction of the spas has come a long way as well, with new tubs including nifty new features like LED color lighting, which can even have a therapeutic and calming effect, and yet others with great built-in, surround-sound systems with ports for plugging in iPods, iPhones and the like,” Spain says. “Many of the new spa designs now also include strategic placement of the tub jets to target specific areas of the body’s pressure points that need attention.”
Although it’s still cold outside, it won’t be long before warm days are here again. When that time comes, you could find yourself lounging by your new swimming pool—custom designed for you, your family and your home.