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Fun, fun, fun!
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
HOME TRENDS AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019
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Fun, fun, fun!

A backyard pool should bring enjoyment, not frustration.

In the heat of an Iowa summer, many homeowners begin to dream of having their own backyard pool. Our heads are filled with visions of leisurely afternoons floating in the cool water, pool parties for the kids and their friends, and no need to wander around the public pool hunting for the one available lounge chair.

But that pesky voice of reason tells us a pool is too expensive, the yard isn’t big enough, or it’s just too much work. And we put that dream away for another year.

The truth is that there are pool options for nearly every budget and site, and the options available can minimize the day-to-day maintenance.

Budget

From the least expensive above-ground pool to the most elaborate in-ground system, the initial cost can range from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 and up. Costs for privacy fencing, landscaping, and surrounding elements such as seating areas and hot tubs are additional.

Many homeowners who opt for the less expensive above-ground products choose to add a deck around the pool to create the feeling of an in-ground unit. This also allows for seating and easier access to the pool.

Your choice of a salt water or chlorinated system will affect both the initial cost and the ongoing maintenance costs. Chlorine pools are significantly less to install but require more chemicals to keep the water clean. Salt water systems are more expensive to install but can be less costly to maintain.

Location

You don’t have to have a large yard to have a pool. You don’t even have to have a flat location to begin with. “In my experience, no site is typically level. There are almost always elevation changes and some retaining walls to design to get the site level,” says Ted Lare of Ted Lare Design + Build.

In a smaller yard, choosing the exact site isn’t much of a factor in planning your pool. However, even in this situation, your plan needs to take into consideration existing landscaping, trees, and structures like garages and fences.

Speck Concrete’s Jeremy Speck says walking through the options with a contractor can help avoid complications later. “You want to consider the feasibility of adapting the site. How much is going to be involved in grading and retention to prepare the site? And you want to look at accessibility, not just for maintenance but for daily use. How convenient is it to the home and how accessible is the rest of your yard going to be once the pool is there?”

Lare says, “We always begin with a hardscape plan—designing the pool and any retaining walls, walkways, and other elements like pergolas and seating areas. Providing the client with several options and getting feedback on these gives us a sense of what they want the finished space to provide.”

Maintenance

Any pool will require regular maintenance throughout the swim season and in preparation for winter. But different design options demand varying levels of care.

“Odd-shaped pools can look really nice,” Speck says, “but if you want an automatic cover, a simple rectangular pool may be a better option.” Depending on municipal codes, the installation of an automatic cover can eliminate the need for a privacy fence. And, he adds, for safety purposes, some insurance companies require an automatic cover for in-ground pools.

In addition to choosing a pool cover, selecting the chlorine addition method will affect maintenance demands as well. Salt water pools are more expensive initially and more expensive to maintain because of the additional electricity, but the regular maintenance and testing is more demanding with chlorinated pool options.

The pool deck material also requires ongoing care. Stone offers a natural look and a variety of colors, but some stone materials can chip more easily and create issues with clogged pool filters. Regular sealant application can minimize this, but it also adds to the maintenance.

“Any material will crack eventually,” Speck says. “But concrete is one of the most durable, cost-effective options for a pool deck. You can choose lighter colors so it’s not as hot underfoot. And the design options continue to expand, with stone looks, stamped designs, and more.”

A swimming pool demands a long-term commitment. So does owning a home or a car. Some homeowners may not be willing to pay that price for a pool. But for others, a swimming pool is a worthwhile investment in family time, entertaining, and soaking up every bit of summer possible.


Landscaping Your Pool

Our experts offer these tips on landscaping around your new pool:

  • Consider maintenance when choosing your plants, too, not just your pool.
    “How much time do you want to spend on the landscaping?” asks Lare. “More plants means more time and maintenance.”
  • Think about placement.
    “Trees can offer great wind protection,” Speck says. “But you also have to consider whether they’ll be dropping leaves in the pool constantly.”
  • Choose the specific plants with care.
    “Think about the blooms, the seeds, the roots. What will potentially end up in the pool, and will the roots spread underground and cause other issues,” says Lare. “Plants should offer a lot of reward without a lot of work.”
  • Compare fence options.
    “Rather than fencing the entire yard, you can fence the pool area only. That frees up the rest of the yard for landscaping and keeps the pool area separate and easier to maintain,” Speck says.
    Lare says, “The fence should be part of the landscaping plan, not just a security measure.”

 

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