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Taking the Edge Off Is Just One Way to Update Your Pool

Jan 12, 2011 05:51PM ● By Anonymous

(After all, concrete and fiberglass are not as interchangeable as appliances.) And how much does it cost? Interviews with local and national professionals reveal that, if you make clever design and landscaping choices, in weeks your pool may have an entirely new personality. This is often easier and less expensive than starting from scratch, which entails excavating and applying for building and zoning permits. Building a new pool can cost $50,000 to $60,000, while, in general, renovating a pool can cost between $5,000 and $25,000. Of course, total cost depends upon your exact requirements.

To make the most of your investment, check out as many pools as possible to broaden your imagination. Then hire well-seasoned professionals who will not just redesign your pool, but also take the time to understand the new environment you envision, whether your goal is emphasizing a naturally shaped pool with tanning rocks and trickling waterfall, or brightening up a traditional pool with new interior plaster, decking, and decorative tiles. Obtain recommendations from trusted friends, call references, and make sure your contractors are licensed. However, do not stop there. Visit at least two jobs that the contractor completed recently or that appear in his or her portfolio.

Experts agree that the best pool designs converse in some way, not just with your home’s architecture but also with your interior décor. For example, an angular pool can reflect your home’s modern design. And, if the interior flooring is tawny, your poolside decking may be flecked with bronze. Also, swimming pool designers are sensitive to color relationships and color theory. They often manipulate water color and pool accents to establish mood. For example, a black marble bottom will darken your water to help create a sophisticated, dark palette, while a light blue and silver pebble bottom will make your pool appear to shimmer. Glass tiles on an “infinity” reflecting pool will magnify the sky and the water’s sheen. You can continue to experiment and, with beige pebbles, the blue reflection of the sky, and the depth of the water, create your own custom shade of green.

Tile murals are another way to redefine and add color your pool. Murals can be inlaid on your pool’s bottom, steps, and sides or even its furnishings. One Florida resident had her contractor build a concrete café table right into her pool, adjacent to a submerged sitting bench. The tabletop rises about a foot from the water.

Artistry in Mosaics, a wholesale factory in Florida that employs artists, created a mural tabletop depicting dolphins swimming around a water plume. The durable, water and sunproof tiles are hand cut, hand painted, glazed on both sides, and fired in kilns on the premises. You can order the mosaics through your local pool tile company. They can take from two to four weeks to create. And check out other custom designs from different companies.

You may find subdued patterns and vivid colors you can use to style a pool’s walls, steps, or bottom. Possibilities include an Aztec calendar; a spiral of ruby, emerald, and onyx tiles; and a replica of a Papilio ulysses butterfly, whose velvet black hind wings are distinguished by turquoise crescents.

Pool pros, including Bill Lee, northeast regional manager for renovations and modernization at a prominent national pool company, agree that colors in and surrounding your pool are important; they can either unify or call attention to a design. Lee says that cosmetic alterations are the next best thing to committing surgery and changing a pool’s entire shape. “We would rather stick with using what’s there and beautify with new coping and tile, and new plaster on the interior. This can cause dramatic changes. Sometimes changing a pool’s structure can be a disaster.”

Lee notes that a new pool interior, decking, and tile work radically altered a client’s kidney-shaped pool. Renovations cost approximately $40,000. “The basic shape and structure did not change. But we did other things. We took the ugly stone and half-boulders off of the spa, did a full removal of the deck and full refinishing of the pool’s interior. The new pool interior has a bright finish, the original had black in it, was faded and solid all the way through.”

He points to another, smaller job, a spa that cost the homeowners approximately $8,000 to refurbish. Their circular raised spa was composed of red bricks. Replacing the red brick with a sandy, irregularly sized, stacked stone added new colors and texture. An additional slate surround, or broad rim on top of the spa, seems to expand its size by creating extra seating.

Sometimes, for aesthetic and even health reasons, you must alter a pool’s structure and shape. If so, choose a professional to do all of that hard work and then sit back, relax, and have fun. An Easton resident who lives on Glebe Creek updated her mid-century rancher, adding walls of windows to take advantage of gorgeous views. Once the renovation was finished the existing kidney-shaped pool lacked the home’s contemporary flair. “The pool was a weird shape and old fashioned. It went with the old house that, like many older homes, was closed off. The very worst thing was that it did not take advantage at all of the views,” she recalls.

She wanted a much larger pool but was restricted by zoning laws that required the pool to remain 100 feet from the shoreline. So she worked with her pool company to expand the pool approximately five to ten feet in each direction. She looked at many pool shapes before choosing a classic square. However, what gives the traditional form a contemporary look is the illusion that it does not have an edge. Commonly called a “vanishing edge” or “zero edge” pool, instead of having coping or a wall that can obstruct a view, the pool has one edge that is the same level as the water. Water flows over its side and appears to vanish into infinity. In reality the water is captured by a catch pool and recirculated back into the main pool with a separate pump. Many people like zero edge pools because they do not complicate views but instead enhance them. On a still day such a pool can become a giant mirror reflecting its surroundings.

The homeowner chose a new deck to surround her pool, replacing sand-colored composite tiles with bluestone that repeats the landscape’s grey and green tones. She completed her home’s new picture with new landscaping. Landscape designers replaced the original boxwoods, usually associated with more formal gardens, with lush grasses, roses, and hydrangeas. Drought-tolerant, hardy perennial plantings are easy to maintain and leave her more time to swim in the pool and to contemplate Glebe Creek, which is now reflected in her pool.

You can continue to transform your space by adding structures, such as a gazebo, a pergola, or a pool house with changing rooms and outdoor shower. Today’s pergolas express many architectural styles—from classic to modern and everything in between. A painted Victorian pergola is ideal for serving your guests tea in, or you can read beneath a vine-covered Italianate pergola with wide cracks between its planks so you can reach up and pick a few grapes. An Annapolis builder worked with a family to add a pergola and a pool house, transforming their ordinary backyard into an elegant retreat. He notes that outdoor pool houses are becoming popular because they enable you to take care of guests without having to clean up your house.

Pool designers, like chefs, cannot agree on much. Strong opinions abound—some say shape drives design, others argue that landscaping is what truly transforms a space. Even more point to decking, decorative tiles, and stonework. However, all note that if you choose to make major changes considerable engineering and building skills are necessary to avoid accidents. In other words, to keep everybody safe, hire a professional. With today’s evolving designs and water features, it pays to do your homework and choose what’s right for you. If your wallet is like an “infinity pool,” or never ending, you will have no problem indulging your every whim.

Kymberly Taylor, home editor of What’s Up? Annapolis and What’s Up? Eastern Shore looks forward to diving into any pool at all this summer.