With nearly limitless choices in design and technology, pools serve as a focal point for recreation and entertaining … Your outdoor oasis awaits

by Ashley Blanchard

Steve Peters of Intercoastal Pools and Spa Builders, Inc. (ICPoolSpa.com) in Melbourne is a licensed contractor and pool designer. Throughout his 25 years in the industry, he has witnessed a variety of pool designs ranging from traditional rectangle and oval shapes to modern free-form figures. He once had a client request a design that replicated a pool showcased in a Lady Gaga music video. On another occasion, he had clients request a retro-style pool to fit the period of their renovated 1960’s home.

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“When thinking about your own pool, questions to ask yourself are, ‘How will I plan to use it?’ and ‘How will I enjoy it?’” explains Peters.

For a well-planned design, it is important to pay attention to the details. Patio surfacing, landscaping and lighting are just a few of the elements that can give a plain pool a “wow” factor. To get the biggest bang for your dollar, Peters suggests incorporating special lighting, a waterfall or a hot tub.

MODERN TOUCHES

Whether you are entertaining in the space or simply looking out into the area, night lighting creates a special setting. A range of effects and colors are possible, as are various lighting sequences. The bonus is that most systems can be automated.

Plants add a natural element to pools that soften the hard surface and especially add interest to rectangular designs. The sound of water – created by waterfalls and waterspouts – can drown out noise and help enhance the leisurely setting.

Spas are a natural accompaniment to a pool and many homeowners actually use them more often. A patio or deck extends the space of the pool and spa. Stone, marble shell stone and stamped concrete are popular choices. Stamped concrete has the look of stone but is less expensive.

Fire pits, meanwhile, have become popular for cooler evenings. And an elevated sitting area adds interest to the overall design and makes a great adult space to watch kids playing in the pool.

DREAM DESIGN

Maria Riddle and her husband Seth lived in their Viera home for five years before building the pool of their dreams. “We looked at hundreds of pictures on the Internet before we designed our pool,” she explains. “We contracted Cool Pools who showed us a house with a fire bowl and we added it into our plans.”

The fire bowls, which are up on pillars and flank each side of the adjoining spa, are a focal feature that creates ambience at night. Unlike a fire pit, their purpose is not to provide heat. Situated next to the bowls is a seating area that allows a waterfall to go over the space.

“One of my favorite features is the tile,” says Riddle. “When we were searching for tile we found glow-in-the-dark solar tiles. We used them to outline the seats in the spa and the step areas in the pool. The tiles are an aqua color so they blend in with the pool water during the day, but glow at night.”

The Riddles have two children, ages 4 and 7, so their design incorporated special features with them in mind. There is a sun pad, which is a wading area at the shallow end of the pool. It has a waterspout for extra fun and can also hold an umbrella.

3D INNOVATION

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Although the Riddles produced their own design, many pool companies have software that helps clients envision the final outcome. “Technology is advancing how we are doing things and has made it more interesting. It is more time consuming to do a 3D design, but customers are more satisfied in the end,” explains Peters.

John Foster of Blue Marlin Pools of Brevard, Inc. in Rockledge has designed pools for 29 years and echoes the benefit of customers being able to visualize their backyard with a pool. Their website, BlueMarlinPools.com, which has been in existence since 1995, has a link to YouTube which hosts nearly 300 videos of computer-generated pool designs.

“Part of living in Florida is having a pool. You might only use it 25 percent of the time, so it serves as more of an entertainment area. Deck space and sun benches are important features when having guests over,” says Foster.

Blue Marlin Pools has seen a surge in new pool construction, but Foster emphasizes that homeowners don’t have to start anew to create a modernized pool. A spa is a simple addition that can update an existing pool. There are multiple interior features, such as new tile, that are possible enhancements. Patio resurfacing or new decking can also give a facelift to an outdated backyard. In addition, new technology can be adapted for already existing pools for cost savings and ease of maintenance.

There’s nothing like having a pool to entice outdoor fun!

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FUN MEETS FUNCTIONALITY

Having a pool can be costly and time consuming. However, functional systems involving the newest technology can enhance the experience. The simplest accessories and features, often not noticeable at a glance, are the most important.

  • Salt vs. Chlorine: Chlorine has become a thing of the past as 90 percent of new residential pools are treated with salt. Lower cost and maintenance have contributed to the change.
  • Energy Efficiency. LED lighting is a popular feature that saves energy. While a conventional pool light will use 300 watts, a LED pool light will provide up to 60 percent more illumination at only 70 watts.

    As of March 15, 2012, a new law has been put in effect as part of the Florida Energy Act in which new pool pump motors for residential pools must be two speeds or a variable speed. Although more expensive, a new unit can pay for itself in as little as eight months. This high efficiency variable speed pump runs at a lower noise level.

    Solar panels remain the most energy efficient heat source and are favorable in Florida where the sun shines year round. However, although costly and less efficient, gas heaters still can be counted on for their high performance.

  • Prevention. Surface treatments to patios or pool bottoms can eliminate long-term cracking problems and offer significant warranties. For example, Maria and  Seth Riddle used Pebble Tec® to treat the concrete on the bottom of their pool.
  • Convenience. An in-floor cleaning and circulation system can make cleaning invisible and almost maintenance free.Most features can be automated and controlled from a keypad on a wall indoors or a hand-held wireless control. There is even an app called iAquaLink available on iTunes that allows homeowners to control their pool and outdoor lighting systems from any location.