Here in the Lowcountry, we’re surrounded by lots of water: the ocean, marshlands, lagoons, ponds, creeks and lakes. The many swimming pools that dot the Lowcountry landscape bring that water even closer — right into our backyards.
But not just any pool will do for Lowcountry residents; gone are the days of the basic white rectangular swimming pool. Today, each soothing hardscape is unique in its design, functionality, maintenance needs and amenities — and each offers year-round outdoor pleasure for homeowners.
Once you decide to install a pool, hot tub, sauna or Jacuzzi, the options are as endless as the cloud-specked deep blue Lowcountry sky. Your imagination will help the designer and builder you hire bring your ideal luxurious backyard retreat to life.
Once you decide to install a pool, there are two main points to consider: What kind of pool you want — concrete with steel reinforcement or fiberglass — and where you want to put it. Both will depend somewhat on the existing landscape of your yard.
There are plenty of good reasons to build a concrete — or gunite — pool or install a fiberglass pool. Generally, the initial cost for each is about the same — $20,000 to $100,000 — as is durability; both usually last 20 to 30 years. The average national cost to install a pool is $43,706, according to HomeAdvisor, and both pool types can increase the resale value of the home. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference.
THERE ARE TWO MAIN POINTS TO CONSIDER: WHAT KIND OF POOL YOU WANT — CONCRETE WITH STEEL REINFORCEMENT OR FIBERGLASS — AND WHERE YOU WANT TO PUT IT
This material is the best choice if you want a custom-shaped pool design or a pool size not offered in the fiberglass world, like a depth of more than 8 feet, or a pool with a naturescape with natural rock features and other amenities like a waterfall, grotto or beach entry. Concrete takes longer to install because work is done on-site. Maintenance can be more intensive and you may face additional costs to repair structural damage over the years. With a concrete pool, you may also have to spend more time on chemical treatments, because concrete’s porous nature may allow algae and mold growth.
This pre-cast, factory-produced material, which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, is virtually maintenance-free because of its nonporous surface, which doesn’t alter the water/chemical composition. Pre-molded features — which don’t require any framing on site, can include steps, benches and swim-outs. Its smooth surface is easy on the feet, heats up more quickly than concrete and retains heat longer. However, keep in mind that design, shape and size options are limited to what manufacturers can produce.
Concrete pools require more attention than fiberglass pools, and need to be cleaned and repaired more frequently. Expect to resurface a concrete pool every decade or two — and spend up to $10,000 doing it. But no matter which type of pool you go with, there are everyday maintenance tasks that will help keep your backyard oasis in working order: skimming off debris and leaves; checking the supply inventory; brushing and cleaning the pool’s sides and bottom, where dirt collects; inspecting electrical components; adjusting pH levels for chemical balance; checking water circulation and filters to ensure peak efficiency; and emptying the skimmer and pump baskets. Installing a salt water chlorinator can eliminate the need to manually treat your pool with chlorine.
Of course, pools aren’t all work — there’s plenty of fun to be had. Here’s a list of extra touches that will make your backyard pool a piece of Lowcountry heaven.
- Decking: You can surround your pool with concrete, glass or stone tile, brick, wood planking, exposed aggregate or pavers. Travertine natural stone is very popular and provides an attractive, non-slip cool surface. Mixing and matching shapes, decorative colors and textures can enhance the aesthetic experience when lounging, sunbathing and dining poolside. Consider elevating a deck or two, separated by low retaining walls, to add dramatic depth. Carefully placed ornamental plants and grass leading up to the pool can add a naturally green or colorful element to the environment.
- Lighting: Energy-efficient LED lighting sparkles with spotlights, highlights and color features in your pool. Imagine the dramatic mood that special lighting, whether fixed or floating, can add after the sun sets. The color combinations you can create from the more than 100 hues available on the market are endless — but expect to spend $75 to $100 per 50-watt bulb.
- Poolscapes: Water features run the gamut from stone waterfalls, water fountains, bubbler fountains, water streams, tanning or rest ledges, reflecting pools, swim-up bars and multi-level pools (think tropical resorts) to water slides and diving boards and shallow plunge pools. Of course, infinity edges, also called vanishing edges, create the visual impression that water spills over the pool’s edge into infinity and beyond — though in reality, the overflowing water is collected in lower basins underground and recycled back into the pool. Many newer homes in the Lowcountry feature this expensive, elaborate design.
- Finishes: The sky is the limit here. Dark shades are nudging aside the traditional light blue color of yesterday’s pools. Aggregates are custom-made materials, textures and colors; the result is polished and smooth. Hydrazzo is a new polished crushed-stone marble finish with a smooth texture and high durability. Or add texture to your deck with premium round pebbles sourced from plants and mines world. And of course, there are tiles in an abundance of styles, colors and sizes and made of glass, porcelain or stone.
- Smart technology. Let your smartphone or computer do the hard work while you sit back, relax and entertain. Everything in and around your pool can be activated with a finger or two. Do you want to retract or expand your pool cover, control your water jets in the sauna, adjust the water temperature, change moods with the LED lighting, or activate the sound system? It’s all easily managed with the click of a button.
- Heating/cooling: Solar thermal panels have long been used to heat pools, but mechanical evaporative coolers are a new addition to the pool scene. Used overnight, this device can lower water temperature by 10 degrees. A reverse-cycle swimming pool heater uses a refrigerant to keep the temperature at a constant level.
With so many options to chose from, you can create the perfect pool paradise so you can relax and enjoy your personal backyard oasis all year long.
Pool Safety Checklist
TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
- Teach children how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, developmentand how often they are around water.
- Make sure kids know how to swim and learn these five water survival skills:
1. Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface.
2. Float or tread water for one minute.
3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
4. Swim 25 yards to exit the water.
5. Exit the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
- Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
- Empty kids’ pools after each use. Store them upside down so they do not collect water.
- Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a child’s life.