Read on to learn more about some of the fun and unexpected pool options and amenities that can help make the most of your pool. While some of these projects, such as a natural pool, need to be done during initial construction, others, including updating the pool deck or installing a fire feature, can be added to an existing pool.
In addition to the standard backyard pool, many options exist for creating a pool with a twist. You can add a pool that cuts down on chemical use, or choose a smaller design that won’t take over the entire outdoor space.
1. Saltwater. Saltwater pools, like this one in Fauquier County, Virginia, are considered a more people-friendly choice than traditional chlorine pools: Saltwater is softer on your skin and eyes, as you don’t get the irritation from pool chemicals. Instead, a salt cell, also called a salt generator, converts sodium chloride into chlorine. An added advantage is that you don’t need to buy and store chlorine.
Saltwater pools also require less maintenance than traditional pools.The salt is added directly to the pool. You can test the water periodically, usually every few months and at least once or twice a year. You’ll also want to inspect the salt cell every three months to ensure that it’s working properly.
Blue or white square porcelain tiles are a fine choice, but it may be time to up your tile game. New colors, materials and sizes are increasingly available. If you aren’t quite sure which to go for, or if your budget is limited, consider mixing and matching.
5. Mix-and-match. This Palm Springs, California, pool features hand-painted ceramic and glass tiles in two sizes. The black-and-white look is a nod to nautical style and gives the pool a bit of a retro vibe.
A mosaic pattern of glass tiles mixes shades of brown and blue in this coastal North Carolina pool. The pool’s style is decidedly modern, especially given the stainless steel form. The mix of colors is a subtle nod to nature, mimicking a sandy beach.
Options for stone tiles that will work in a pool include travertine, sandstone, slate, limestone, bluestone and semipolished granite — you can create a look that fits your aesthetics.
White concrete has long been the default paving around a pool, thanks to its durability. If you want to add more sophistication, go for a darker concrete to add some style.
9. Natural stone. You can also install decking other than concrete. A bluestone paver patio surrounds this Minneapolis pool. Its natural color variations add visual interest, and the stone complements the surrounding trees.
Concrete, stone pavers, wood and synthetic surfaces all require regular maintenance. In all cases, choose an option that’s as slip-resistant as possible while still feeling comfortable to walk on without any protection for your feet.
Whatever paving you choose, don’t forget to check on the cost of installation as well as care and upkeep, including repairs and sealing as needed — as well as how long it should last.
Natural grass is fine around pools as long as it doesn’t get an overdose of chlorine. You can also consider artificial turf, but that will be hotter under bare feet when exposed to the sun.
12. Multicolor lights. Turn an otherwise dark pool into a landscape highlight after dark — or even during the day. Multicolor LED lights create different colors in different areas of this free-form pool in Florida. The colors range from deep purple in the deep end to rich blue in the spa to turquoise in the shallow end.
Waterfalls, bubblers and sprays add the gentle sound of splashing water to a pool setting. They also help block noise, both inside the pool and from outside the yard, aerate the water and add a focal point or two to the space.
14. Cascading streams. In this pool outside Atlanta, twin waterfalls drop from the upper deck into the pool. Combined with the rock wall, they add a natural touch that echoes the surrounding countryside.
Why enter the pool by walking down some steps when you can slide or dive in?
(Before you install a slide or diving board, check for any building code requirements. You also should contact your insurance company about coverage before you install the feature.)
17. Water slide. Slides don’t have to be perched above the concrete for a straight descent. Instead, consider one with a curve or two, like this one that emerges from the plantings and rocks at a pool in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its unexpected color and contemporary styling take it into the 21st century.
If adding a slide, place it where you can monitor the action on the slide and in the pool when you aren’t in the water — generally the opposite side of the main gathering area. Ideally, a slide should exit into the center of the pool, with an easy exit point nearby.
The minimum depth for the pool directly past the end of the slide is 36 inches. The pool should then slope downwards to a minimum depth of 42 to 54 inches.
Always enforce safety rules around a slide, including no running and no hanging out under the slide’s exit when people are using it.
Another option is a diving rock, sometimes called a diving platform. Diving platforms provide a broad, textured surface from which you can launch yourself into the water. They can also be far more design-worthy than an old-fashioned springboard. One drawback is that they can be more slippery when wet.
Safety is your first concern for any diving board or rock. Your pool depth needs to be at least 8 feet, and 9 to 12 feet is better. You also need to consider the “diving envelope,” or the space around the diving spot, to ensure that the required depth extends far enough on all sides for safety. The final requirements depend on your pool size and slope, but most pools with diving boards are both longer and wider than other pools, even for home use.
As with slides, you’ll need to strongly enforce pool safety requirements.
Swimming is great, but sometimes you just want to relax in the water. Sure, you can get a float, but something that’s always available and won’t deflate is much more reliable.
19. Pool ledge. Ledges, also known as Baja shelves, Acapulco shelves, sun shelves and a handful of other names, got their start in resort pools but have become popular in home pools as well. They’re essentially shallow shelves, set between 3 and 18 inches below the waterline and extending anywhere from 4 feet to the width of the pool. The edge bordering the main area of the pool can be straight, curved or include steps for a gentle access to the deeper water, as with this pool in Austin, Texas.
Ledges offer advantages you might not recognize at first. They’re a perfect splashing spot for youngsters (but remember to keep an eye on them at all times). They’re easier to navigate for those with mobility issues. They’re also a great spot for your dog to enjoy the water with an easy entry and exit. Anyone who has had to help a wet dog out of the pool will appreciate this feature.
22. Fire feature. Who says fire and water don’t mix? Adding a fire feature next to the pool gives you the perfect blend of cool and hot, not to mention capturing the attention of both swimmers and those relaxing outside the water. In this Phoenix pool, the lounge chairs on the ledge are perfectly placed to take in the view.
Glass fencing is resistant to chlorine, another advantage around pools. The one disadvantage is that birds and other wildlife often can’t see it. If you live in an area with low-flying birds, you might consider adding etchings to the glass panels to make them more visible — or using something other than glass.