How can we make our pool area more comfortable and enjoyable?
Our pool has a concrete deck around it that is cracking, and it’s too small for chairs or lounging. And the pumping equipment is too close to the area where we want to hang out. We want a swimming pool environment that will accommodate more people and activities.
When people consider a swimming pool design and installation project, they usually have big dreams of backyard barbecues, lazy summer afternoons, and lively pool parties with family and friends. But for a variety of reasons, pools can fail to live up to homeowners’ aspirations. Maybe the pool or the surrounding area has fallen into a state of disrepair. Maybe the pool location and landscaping were poorly planned and doomed to fail from the start. This can make the swimming pool more of a source of stress than enjoyment.
Here’s the key to getting started on your dream backyard swimming pool environment: Realize that a swimming pool isn’t just for swimming. You want a swimming pool to fit into an overall setting, complete with accessories and comforts that make it useful for more than just a swim. What you want is a fully designed swimming pool environment. If you’re looking to install a new pool or upgrade an old one, here are a few important elements to consider.
Is It Time to Update Your Old Swimming Pool Environment?
In landscaping and in life, nothing lasts forever. Just like any part of your landscape, at some point your swimming pool will require repairs. Most pools are due for a renovation at about the 15 or 20-year mark. When a pool is older, it’s fairly common for decks or patios to need an upgrade as well, and the pool shell also may need some work. The good news about this renovation process: It often helps people see new possibilities for their pool environment, such as adding more patio space, creating a shelter or shade structure, or introducing other amenities to make the area more inviting.
In particular, your patio may need some attention if it was originally installed by a pool contractor instead of a landscaper because the pool was likely not part of a larger landscape design. While this is unfortunate, it makes sense – a pool contractor is not in the design business. Their focus isn’t on creating an atmosphere – it’s about completing a construction project. Over the last 10 years, this has changed a lot. Today many pool contractors use designers or landscape architects to draw their plans because people are paying more attention to their overall pool environment and surroundings.
Why the Location and Shape of Your Pool are Important
In addition to the overall landscape, the desired shape and location of a swimming pool has changed over the years as well. A typical old-style pool would be a rectangle or kidney shape with a three to four foot concrete deck surrounding it. One side would be a bit larger to allow space for lounge chairs or a diving board. In most cases, the pool would be located close to the back door, with the convenience of proximity to the house in mind. While this may sound good on paper, it often doesn’t take the overall environment into consideration.
Thanks to an enhanced focus on the overall landscape, modern swimming pool designs don’t put the pool front and center unless it’s intended to be seen. Instead, the pool is usually designed to be off-center, as it’s not supposed to be the landscape’s focal point but rather an element of the total outdoor environment. It’s also important to remember that pools are not beautiful to look at in the winter, when they are covered with a tarp that collects leaves and other debris.
To create a more user-friendly gathering space, many newer pools have spacious adjoining areas with different types of seating. Some connect to a dining area under a shade structure. There may also be an outdoor kitchen All of this contributes to the relaxed atmosphere and allows a family to stay outside all afternoon by the pool. Many people also want a spa nearby, as well as a fire pit. They expect landscaping to beautify the whole area while providing privacy screening and shade – as well as many happy and memorable summer afternoons.
When to Repair or Replace Elements of Your Pool Environment
In some cases, it’s possible an older pool deck will need to be repaired, replaced, or expanded to make it more functional and beautiful. Older pool decks are often made of concrete or flagstone, which can absorb a lot of heat on a sunny day. Newer pool decking materials like travertine don’t get so hot underfoot, and pavers also make a good deck material because they don’t crack and heave like concrete. Also, important (although not the least bit exciting): the larger the hardscape area, the more important drainage becomes. A professional landscaping company can help you plan and install a drainage system that will ensure you don’t have wet spots in the surrounding area.
When repairing your pool, at a minimum, you will want to put in new filters and pumping equipment. And you may need to relocate noisy equipment to be out of sight and hearing. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to add a motorized pool cover for safety. When upgrading the shell of the pool, you’ll replace old-style lights, tile, and coping (the border that runs around the edge of the pool). If the surface of the pool shell itself needs to be refinished or entirely replaced, that can get costly – sometimes as much as a new pool. It’s always best to explore your options before moving forward with this type of plan.
Finally, think about what you would love to have for your ideal backyard gathering – kind of like the icing on the cake. Certain enhancements can help integrate your pool into your overall backyard environment and add beauty and fun to your landscape. In addition to new underwater lighting, area lighting and an audio system can make your swimming pool environment more versatile and encourage gatherings to continue well into the evening.
With the right kinds of upgrades, enhancements, and landscaping improvements, your swimming pool can offer much more than simply a quick dip on a hot day. It can become a gathering place for friends and family and the site of many memorable summer afternoons and evenings. It can become more than just a pool – your swimming pool environment can be an integral part of your outdoor experience.
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