Splash!

By Amy Winter

February 18, 2011 5 min read

A pool can be the perfect addition to your backyard. It is great for entertaining guests and for keeping cool during the summer. But homeowners must research several elements before pool construction can begin. Jeff Rugg, a syndicated gardening columnist, says people should look into costs, location, landscaping, maintenance and time.

"I think there is a whole group of things to consider all at once," Rugg says. "They include the local zoning and state laws governing pool construction, materials and safety. Then there is budgeting, where the pool would go in the landscape and how the landscape would fit around it, how much time and money would be budgeted for maintenance and how long it would take to build the pool."

Rebecca A. O'Neal of Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects (http://www.JeffreyCarbo.com) says a homeowner first should consider who would use the pool and look at the available yard space. Mathew Luebbers, the swimming guide at About.com, emphasizes safety as another top priority before building a pool. Make sure the location would be secure and wouldn't allow access to unsupervised children or animals. The pool should be seen from the main indoor rooms, such as the family room, so parents can make sure the kids are safe. Get advice about pool styles by talking to family and friends, researching on the Internet or visiting pool supply stores.

Once you decide that you want a pool, you need to figure out what type. Would you prefer an in-ground or aboveground pool? If you choose an in-ground pool, will it be vinyl, concrete or fiberglass? O'Neal recommends concrete/gunite pools for better durability. Once you pick the pool, Rugg suggests looking into a heater if you plan to use the pool year-round. And don't forget pool accessories, for example, a pool deck and pool cover. According to Rugg, you also may want to consider costs if you plan to add other landscaping features, such as an outdoor kitchen, a fountain, a bar, a fire pit or an outdoor TV.

"We design specifically for the homeowner and consider age groups of the family and how the pool will function within the outdoor living space," O'Neal says.

When looking for the perfect spot in your yard, make sure there is access to electricity and water. If these utilities are far from the pool, the installation cost will increase, according to Rugg. Luebbers recommends looking at the current landscaping. Ask yourself, "How would the pool shape appear in that area?" Rugg suggests keeping pools away from large trees. Roots could be harmed during construction, and leaves constantly would fall into the pool. Remember to consider your yard's soil type. According to Rugg, sandy and clay soils may cause more issues for the pool's foundation.

Choose low-maintenance plants that leave the least amount of debris. David Beaulieu, the landscaping guide at About.com, recommends broadleaf evergreen plants, such as holly. He says plants offer beauty around a pool. If your pool has a waterfall and you want a tropical theme, choose plants with large leaves and large flowers, according to Rugg. The plants can be put in pots and moved out of the way if needed. O'Neal says flowers with cool colors -- such as white, blue or lavender -- are popular for a "cooling effect" that balances with the pool's blue water. With limited space around pools, ornamental grasses -- including bamboo -- are another possible choice.

"We consider the texture and foliage of plants that we design near pools," O'Neal says.

Avoid planting shrubs and trees too close to the pool. Not only will leaves fall into the water but also shrubs with thorns and sharp leaves can hurt if stepped on. Beaulieu says to avoid putting fruit trees near pools, too, because they attract bees and other insects.

Be prepared to add safety items to your pool's landscaping. Fences and patios enhance the yard's beauty, as well as provide a safer environment. A patio could include a slip-resistant pad and outdoor lighting. Get a sturdy cover to put over the pool. Create a wading/shallow area on one side of the pool for young swimmers. Make it easy to get in and out of the pool. There are even alarms available that alert owners when someone is in the water or on the deck, according to Rugg.

"Research before you go to a dealer. Check with several dealers, and don't rush," Luebbers says. "A good pool takes time to plan and build."

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