Photography courtesy of Hobbs, Inc.
For many, having a pool in the backyard sounds like a recipe for summer bliss. And while beating the heat in the privacy of one’s own property comes with a price—and sometimes a bit of a wait—when executed properly, a pool-building project can result in a beautiful and functional oasis that will be enjoyed for years to come. For those considering taking the plunge, we reached out to three experts for advice on how to create your very own swimming destination and poolside sanctuary. Read on to learn what to consider when designing your dream pool.
Be patient. Adding a pool to your existing property, or including it into a custom build, is more involved than most homeowners expect. “A pool is a luxury item, and the technological advances have made them a high-ticket item,” says Jodee Ramsey, owner of Mirage Pools & Spas in Edmond, Oklahoma. From design to construction, the process can take several months when it is built well and done right, so be realistic about your timeline as you wait to break ground.
Know that many factors can affect the cost. It’s important to remember that due to the process and variety of options, the price of putting in a pool can span a wide range, says Ramsey. “Differences in pool-building can be found in the skill of the dig for accuracy, size/amount of steel and plumbing pipe, budget for tile/coping, in-floor cleaning (vs circulation, vs pool sweep), and interior finish,” she explains. All of these elements add to cost and time on construction.
Carefully consider your pool location. “It’s critical to determine where to site the pool in relation to the house,” Jason Schellhase, managing director at Hobbs, Inc. in Saddle River, New Jersey, says. “The farther the pool is from the house, the less it will be used,” he notes. However, the closer to the house, the more the owner will be looking at a pool cover for most of the year, so he recommends investing in a sleek, automated cover. Trees and sun exposure for the pool and surrounding deck area should also be taken into account, as well as the fact that a fully code-compliant pool fence will need to be incorporated into the design (and surrounding landscaping).
Take style cues from the surrounding structures. “The very first considerations for a new or renovated swimming pool should be to style and scale,” Todd Yeager, principal of Bellwether Landscape Architects, in Atlanta, Georgia, says. In order to add value, “A pool should match the architectural style of the home and the scale of your property,” he notes. For example, while beautiful, a tropical lagoon pool might not pair as well with a classic brick home as a more traditional design.
Think about how the pool will be used. In addition to aesthetics, Schellhase stresses the importance of taking into account how the pool will be used—what activities will people want to do while taking a dip? If pool games like volleyball or basketball are on the list, a large shallow area might be in order. If diving is something you’ll want to be doing, then incorporating a deeper area is key. Do you have a serious swimmer in your family? If so, add a lane that allows for full flip turns.
Know where to invest. Installing a pool is expensive no matter what, and according to the experts, there are areas where you don’t want to cut corners. Ramsey stresses the importance of choosing quality material from the get-go. “Whether pool equipment or pool jewelry—tile, stone, coping, water features—using top-of-the-line materials will best ensure the backyard looks and operates properly for years to come,” she says. Yeager adds that selecting natural materials versus man-made products will pay off in the long run as well, as they will look and feel better and last longer, and that using qualified tradespeople will ensure both beauty and function. “A great pool design looks and feels best when it is livable and functional,” he says. “While grading, drainage, safety, and function are critical to function, they can also be beautiful.”
Add elements to create an outdoor living space. According to Ramsey, if you plan on using your pool area for entertaining, certain elements can elevate the experience. “If budget and space allow, fire elements, such as a fire pit or fireplace, act as an anchor for guests who want to socialize but perhaps do not want to get into the water,” he says. Outdoor kitchens, seating areas, and televisions are also common additions. Landscaping, lighting, and a sound system will also add ambiance while creating the feeling of a true outdoor room.
Incorporate shade. Shade at the pool is achievable in numerous ways, according Yeager, including stylish umbrellas that can even be put in the water. And in addition to tried and true trees, a simple classic garden structure, like an arbor or pavilion, can provide a sophisticated respite from the sun’s rays (and maybe even house a changing room, bathroom, or kitchen).
TSG Tip 395 from Jodee Ramsey, owner of Mirage Pools & Spas in Edmond, Oklahoma; Jason Schellhase, managing director at Hobbs, Inc. in Saddle River, New Jersey; and Todd Yeager, principal of Bellwether Landscape Architects, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. Mirage Pools & Spas is featured in The Scout Guide Edmond. Hobbs, Inc is featured in The Scout Guide Two Rivers & The Shore. Bellwether Landscape Architects is featured in The Scout Guide Atlanta and The Scout Guide Augusta.