For years, the ubiquitous blue swimming pool has been an essential part of suburban lifestyles, but today’s trends show shifting perceptions and needs. We look at all the options and what to consider when building a pool or dealing with the challenges of renovating an existing pool.
BUILDING A POOL?
Here’s the lowdown on your options
There are several different types of pools available in South Africa: the old-fashioned concrete pools finished with marble plaster; precast fibreglass pools; concrete shells lined with fibreglass; and the very
21st-century ecopools, which use plants as a filtration system.
‘Precast fibreglass pools are the most reasonably priced and popular pools in South Africa,’ says Bruce Deeley-Smith of Robust Pools. ‘Most fibreglass pools are manufactured in a factory and placed into a hole in the ground, a process that takes about two weeks. The quality control at the factories is generally excellent and fibreglass offers good value for money. They are easy to maintain as they do not stain or chip, which would allow algae to grow. Fibreglass is also warmer to start with and easier to heat than a Marbelite or Gunnite pool.’
Jason Sanders of Blupool agrees: ‘The main reason people would choose a Marbelite pool is because they like the look or feel of the finish. Otherwise, prefabricated fibreglass pools are the best option.’
Myles Wakefield, CEO of Wakefields Real Estate, sees a swimming pool as an investment that will enhance the value of the property, ‘hence its positioning is very important. It needs to be close to the house and have easy access to and good flow with the entertainment area. It also needs to be private. Pools that are at the bottom of the garden or are open to the street are not popular. It is also important to check the soil type first, as some areas on built on soil types (such as shale) that tend to move more than others and are not pool friendly,’ he suggests. ‘Homeowners also need to check servitudes with the municipality to ensure that there are no major municipal services such as water and sewage lines running through the property where they want to put the pool.’
Sanders suggests speaking to someone who has pool-maintenance experience to assist with the design of the pool. ‘The position of the pool itself, the situation of the filter, pump and weir can all have an impact on how easy it is to maintain a swimming pool,’ he says. ‘Maintenance experts can suggest the optimum conditions for a fuss-free swimming pool.’
Another imperative is to check whether your pool builder is registered with the National Spa and Pool Institute of South Africa (www.nspi.co.za).
What size is best?
Pool sizes have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. According to Sanders, ‘In the 1980s, an average-size pool was 12m x 6m. Today, it’s 6m x 3m and you’re looking at R60 000 to R70 000 to build a new fibreglass pool.’
What about shape?
‘Circular and oval pools with water features and fountains have become a thing of the past – today’s modern lifestyle demands practicality rather than high maintenance. A simple rectangular pool set into a balau deck is first prize,’ says Carol Reynolds, Pam Golding Properties area principal in Durban North and La Lucia.
Are there any trends to watch?
Liz Ellice, principal of the Upper Highway branch of Chas Everitt, has noticed that the trend is for straight-lined pools with large sandstone paving positioned close to the house. ‘Rim-flow pools have become a sought-after feature in upmarket homes, particularly where there is a sea view and the pool blends into the view to create an impressive aesthetic,’ says Reynolds. Black and charcoal pools are no longer fashionable says Grant Gavin, owner of Re/Max Panache. ‘This trend has since reversed back to the white pool with sparkling blue water. I think people want to see what is actually in their pool.’
‘A trend is to have a deep covered patio that connects the living area to the pool,’ says Myles Wakefield, CEO of Wakefields Real Estate. ‘The pool surround should enhance the connectivity to the home and its entertainment area. Wooden decks are most popular, followed by paving, while slasto is considered outdated. Decks often extend the patio or create a level entertainment space on ground that slopes.’
What’s the best way to light my pool?
Lighting takes a swimming pool from a functional fixture to a striking feature at night. According to Jack Miller, branch manager at WaterLinx Pool and Spa, there are two options for lighting your pool: traditional incandescent globes or LED globes. ‘I would recommend LED lighting to people installing new lighting in their swimming pool,’ he says. ‘LED lights have a 12-month warranty and you have various options in terms of colour. They also draw less electricity thereby reducing your pool’s running costs.’ Miller’s advice when installing lighting into your pool is simple: ‘Ensure that the positioning of your lights will give the best effect in your new pool and avoid ‘blank’ spots. You also need to take into consideration the colour of your pool finish, in order to ensure you choose the best LED option, for example, a colour-changing LED will be lost on a pool with a dark colour finish.’ Arthur Fonseca of Province Lighting suggests linking your pool lights to your home automation system.
What do I need to know about heating a pool?
Your options vary depending on where you live in the country, says Glen Symes of Hi Temp Pool Heating. ‘There are three methods of heating swimming pools,’ he explains. ‘The first is utilising solar panels. There is only a once-off cost involved, and in areas such as the KZN coast, solar panels can heat a pool to 28–30˚C for 11 months of the year. A 24m2 pool will need seven panels, which costs about R8 000 including installation. If you live in area that does not get enough sunlight, a heat pump is probably the best option. A heat pump for an average 4m x 6m swimming costs in the region of R14 500 for the necessary 7.8kilowatt pump and about R400 to R600 in electricity each month. A heating blanket is a necessity with a heat pump in order to reduce electricity consumption, and these cost about R2 000 for an average pool.’
Eco pools are the pools of the future
An eco pool uses plants to filter the water. Jerome Davis, director of Eco-Pools, explains that in a conventional swimming pool, nutrients collect in the water from plant debris that falls into the water and from swimmers’ bodies and it’s these nutrients that feed algae and bacteria, causing black algae to accumulate on walls or water to turn green. These nutrients are stripped from the water through the use of chlorine in a conventional pool. ‘In an eco pool, the plants strip the nutrients from the water leaving nothing to feed algae. Therefore, the water remains clean and clear. You are in fact getting into living water, which is a much gentler environment than a chemically treated pool as the water is filtered through the plants.’ The plants are not actually in the pool itself but grow around it in a separate area through which water is pumped.
The aesthetic appeal of ecopools is also very high and Davis suggests that they are like a swimming pool and water feature in one. Eco pools are more expensive than a conventional pool, however. ‘You are looking at R4 000 to R8 000 per square meter of swimming area,’ says Davis.
How can I update my pool?
Deeley-Smith says there is a great demand for pool renovations at the moment. ‘Replacing outdated paving and scum tiles is a popular request,’ he says, ‘as is lining a Marbelite pool with fibreglass. I am also asked to reduce the size of swimming pools. One option here is to fill in part of the pool but this is a costly exercise. We also change the steps of a pool and put in salt-chlorinators on a regular basis.’
Zane O’Donovan of Eco-Sundecks says that it is simple to change the shape of a swimming pool using decking. ‘By laying decking that extends over the pool by 200 to 300mm, we can change the shape of the pool. It is possible to reduce the size of a swimming pool by installing decking but there are implications for both pool maintenance and safety if a large portion is covered. Ensure that you can still brush the walls under the decking. If you have children, you need to consider the fact that they could hit their heads on the deck, which is extremely dangerous. You could extend an entertainment area by installing a raised deck over the pool under which you can walk to clean the pool and which poses no danger to swimmers.’ O’Donovan says that decking is a popular option for updating paving and costs between R750 and R950 a square metre to install on top of paving.
Where should you build your pool?
‘The position of the pool is important in that it fits with the flow of the home, and provides an added entertainment area,’ says Grant Gavin, owner of Re/Max Panache. ‘Sticking a pool around the corner, or away from a natural entertainment or veranda area will give the home a poor flow and might affect the potential resale value of the property. People with younger children want the pool to be in view.’
Although most people build a swimming pool for their own enjoyment while they are living in a house, it is important to consider who may buy your home in the future. Janine White, owner of Nets for Africa, suggests that homeowners seek advice about pool coverings before starting to build. ‘Not all pools can have a pool net,’ she explains. ‘A rim-flow pool is often unable to support a net and the pool then becomes dangerous for children and pets.’
There are several different types of pool coverings available, which serve different functions. A leaf cover is made of shade cloth and is safe for pets but not children. Pool covers can insulate your pool and therefore extend the swimming season considerably by raising the temperature of the water by as much as eight degrees. The only option for keeping children safe, however is a net. ‘A 6m x 3m pool net costs around R3 000, which includes fitting, easy release system and float and is guaranteed for three years,’ says White.