When summer finally arrives and the sweltering sun starts beating down, many of us start thinking about putting in a pool, of taking that dreamy dip to cool down. But according to Rob Danieli of Alka Pool Construction in Burnaby, B.C., the middle of summer is the worst time to start looking into pool construction. You "should plan a pool well before the pool season begins," he advises, "and do so carefully and properly without being rushed."Building considerations
Building a pool takes more than just digging a hole in the ground. In fact, you need a minimum of two months just to build and another month to get a permit from the city. Every municipality has different rules. In one area of Vancouver, says Rob, a pool can go right up to a property line, but in another you need five feet.
Your contractor, pool builder or landscape architect will evaluate the property's size, its access for machinery and its landscaping, among other things.Types of pools
With concrete pools starting at about $30,000, you want to make sure everyone enjoys it. Rob is keen to discuss a family's needs from the get-go. “We're doing a lot of play pools now, with two shallow ends and a deep end in the middle for installing a volleyball net,” he says. “With young families, there seem to be real practical issues; then there's the flipside where people want the backyard to look like a resort.”
What kind of pool is right for you? Here are a few of the latest incarnations, according to The Pool Idea Book (The Taunton Press, 2004) by Lee Anne White:
Architectural: Custom-built to reflect the home's design elements
Naturalistic: Designed to blend seamlessly with the outdoor surroundings
Lap: Long, narrow lane created for aerobic purposes
Recreational: Designed for swimming, floating, water volleyball, et cetera.
Spa: Built for relaxation, with massage jets, flexible seating and temperature control
Regardless of the type of pool you select, safety is of prime concern. Fences are required by most towns and insurance companies, to protect neighbours and small children. You'll need at least three-and-a-half to four feet of nonclimbable fence. Any gates that lead to the pool area must be self-closing or self-latching. In some municipalities, any doors to the backyard must have self-closers as well. Lighting is also essential, not only to illuminate nighttime swimming but also to ensure no one accidentally falls into the pool. In fact, more and more people are looking to automatic safety covers to protect wet missteps. According to Rob, sales of these pool covers have increased 200 to 300 per cent this year, even at a cost of $12,000 to $18,000. The reason: These automatic safety covers completely seal the pool and can only be removed with a key.
You may also want to consider an insulated pool cover, another feature gaining popularity. Some people, says Rob, are returning to the more traditional linear pool shapes to take advantage of these covers that help to reduce exorbitant heating costs. Another helpful tool, especially if you hate maintenance work, is a self-cleaning system built right into the floor of the pool.
Turning a basic pool into a pleasing outdoor space is all in the details. “Spice up your pool by adding ceramic tile or colour plaster in teal, green or blue,” says Rob. “In terms of landscaping, my favourite choice is to add a water feature like sculpted faux rock, which is just brilliant, or a ‘sheer descent,' a clear sheet that comes out of the pool. The sound of running water is soothing.” Consider decking material like stone for the pool steps and smooth edging for easy handhold and to eliminate bathing-suit snags.
When you're ready to break ground, consult the Master Pools Guild website for ideas and resources, get referrals from friends and neighbours, and do your homework. “Most people buy pools through emotion rather than logic,” says Rob. “Anyone who's looking to buy something that's a minimum of 30K really has to do some research. Ignorance is bliss, but it costs you money.”