Make a splash
From minerals and marble finishes to systems controlled from your smart phone, today’s swimming pools are designed to be more luxurious and low-maintenance than ever.
Bryce Steele, state manager of the Swimming Pool & Spa Association of WA, said that with more homeowners investing in their outdoor living spaces, pools were as sought-after as ever — and designers were upping the ante to create dream pools.
“Pools, spas and outdoor areas have become an extension of the family home, ” he said.
“With over 3500 pools installed in Western Australia every year, people continue to choose a pool to enhance their lifestyle.
“Consumers are willing to spend more in order to achieve the ideal outdoor lifestyle and to complement the architecture of their home.”
More pool builders were also striving for a point of difference. “This has seen the shape, size and the finished product of the pools built in 2014 better than ever, ” Mr Steele said.
When it came to shape, Maree Voss, of Aqua Technics, Buccaneer Pools and Sapphire Pools, said geometric designs were the most popular.
“Ranging from small plunge pools to long, narrow lap pools, many of the geometric designs also incorporate bench seating along one side of the pool, providing the perfect place to sit and relax, ” she said.
“Straight edges with side-entry steps allow pools to fit into today’s smaller backyard spaces, as well has having modern appeal.”
L-shaped pools that could wrap around a home or alfresco area were also popular, though the classic kidney shape was all but dead.
Niamh Murray, of Tropical Pools and Narellan Pools, agreed. “Freeform pools, including the classic kidney shape are rarely installed nowadays with a greater move towards more geometric-shaped pools, ” she said. Mr Steele said lap pools, designs incorporating play areas, and pool-and- spillway-spa combinations were other growing trends.
Ms Murray said that in the choice between concrete or fibreglass pools, both offered pros and cons.
Concrete pools had the benefit of being custom designed, meaning no design or site limitations, while fibreglass was more affordable and could be installed more quickly than concrete — sometimes as fast as one week.
“Narellan Pools (averages) turnaround times of only one week from excavation to completion, ” she said.
Barrier Reef Pools’ Brad Hilbert said there had been significant improvements in fibreglass pools over the last decade. “We have seen a change in people’s perception of fibreglass pools as the products have improved immensely, ” he said.
“Most of our customers think our pools are in fact concrete but they are not. The look of fibreglass pools have changed a lot from what people remember them as.”
The main difference with modern fibreglass pools was that the top edge of the pool was now much smaller, to allow for a concrete footing to be poured around the pool after installation — avoiding that unattractive “bath tub” look. “This then creates a solid foundation for the paving to sit on, ” Mr Hilbert said.
Fibreglass also had the added benefit of longer warranties than concrete.
“The range of pool colours and surface finishes available today has grown significantly from the days when all you could have was plain blue, ” Ms Voss said.
Popular choices in fibreglass pools included shimmer and marble-look finishes.
“While blue is still the most popular pool colour, there is now a broad spectrum of blues available, ranging from light blue through to very dark shades that look spectacular with glitter chips that sparkle in the sun, ” Ms Voss said.
“The popularity of greys and darker charcoal colours is also growing.”
There was an emerging trend towards very light colours, which looked stunning when used for bigger pools.
Mr Gliosca said mosaics remained popular, particularly custom-blended colours which added impact, while Ms Murray said large-format waterline tiles — such as a 600x300mm — offered an ultra-modern finish.
SALT v CHLORINE
“Salt is still the most popular option as it is a much cheaper form of pool chemical and is kinder to skin, ” Ms Murray said.
“The introduction of fully automatic sensing and dosing salt chlorinators has increased its benefits.”
Mineral pools were also gaining popularity.
“The use of forms of magnesium minerals to sanitise swimming pools is becoming more popular as the magnesium helps detoxify the body and boost wellbeing while you enjoy a luxurious swim, ” Ms Murray said.
“The minerals are designed to soften the swimming pool water. Your body absorbs pool water when swimming, so the use of magnesium can provide many health benefits for the skin, hair and nervous system when absorbed transdermally through the skin.
“It is also better for the swimming-pool surface, pool equipment and the environment as it lowers the salinity of the water.”
Ms Murray said fully frameless glass was still the most sought-after option for pool fencing, and had become significantly more affordable in recent years.
When it comes to flooring, granite had also become more affordable and was a popular choice for bullnosing as well as paving.
Mr Hilbert agreed, adding that other natural-stone products such as coral stone and travertine were increasingly popular for poolside paving.
Another trend is pre-engineered decking, according to Mr Gliosca. “Pre-engineered decking is now becoming a more readily available option as the market has grown considerably with a range of low- maintenance decking available in a number of colours, ” he said.
Washed aggregate was also popular, particularly in high-end projects.
Advances in energy-efficiency are among the biggest innovations in pool technologies.
“Swimming-pool equipment has become much more energy friendly with the introduction of variable speed pumps and fully automatic pool controllers, ” Ms Murray said. “A variable-speed pump’s running cost is around a tenth of the cost of a standard single phase and, when used in conjunction with a fully automatic sensing/dosing chlorinator, it can ensure the pool chemistry is always kept at the optimum level.”
Ms Voss said there had also been innovations in pool equipment which made looking after a pool easier than ever.
“Chlorinators are now able to minimise or eliminate the change in water balance, dramatically reducing manual water testing, ” she said.
“Some robotic cleaners are available with the latest pool mapping and positioning technology to clean the pool quicker and for less energy costs.”
Ms Murray agreed that remotely controlled systems were an exciting innovation.
“Pool/spa controllers have come a long way, offering multi- functional controls all from an LED touch screen positioned in your house or alfresco area, saving a lot of time by not having to manually switch valves, ” she said. “Some even have apps available for iPhones and Androids meaning you can use your phone to switch on your pool/spa heating.”
Ms Voss said most fibreglass pools now incorporated anti- microbial properties that guarded against the growth of bacteria, while another significant innovation was Pool ColourGuard, which guaranted your pool’s colour would never fade.
“It offers superior defence against chemicals and water. It is also able to withstand the effects of UV rays. Special ultra-violet absorbers and inhibitors are incorporated to dramatically minimise any degradation of the surface by ultra-violet light.”
Heat pumps are another exciting innovation, according to Ms Murray. “They work in a similar way to an air-conditioning unit, using Perth’s summer high ambient air temperature to transfer heat into the swimming pool, ” she said.
“When they are installed in-line with a variable speed pump the cost of operation is on par with solar heating but they don’t have the limitation of relying on direct sunlight in order to be effective and don’t require any roof space.”
Mr Gliosca said integrated pool covers were increasingly popular.
“The Remco pool covers integrated in to the decking or aggregate of the home are becoming more popular options as clients are worried about the loss of water to the pool however want to minimise the visual impact of these pool covers when they are using the pool, ” he said.
When it comes to shape and size, balance is key, according to Brad Hilbert. ‘Bigger is not always better, ’ he said.
Expert tips to get in the swim:
•Take your time in the researching and planning stages, recommended Maree Voss. “Make sure you have a clear understanding of why you want a pool and how you would like to use it before you start looking at designs, ” she said. This included considering the visual impression you want to create, how you want to enclose the pool, and how much paving you want.
•Bryce Steele recommended talking to friends and relatives who have already been through the process, and to visit the websites of pool and spa builders to find examples of designs you like. Visit the SPASA WA website (spasawa.com.au) for a list of pool-builder members.
•“Make sure you have the budget to afford the things you have identified in the planning process and make sure there is a contingency for items such as shire costs and unexpected installation issues that may arise, ” Ms Voss said.
•“Be sure to check specification details when comparing quotes as there is a massive difference between cheap equipment and the right equipment for your specific needs, ” Niamh Murray said. “Although the better equipment may cost more in the initial outlay, nine out of 10 times you will recoup that savings within the first year on operation costs alone.”
•“Not all pools are the same so be sure to ask for evidence to back up any claims that are made, ” Ms Voss said. “For your peace of mind, always ask the pool builder for their licence number and check that they will build to the Australian Standard.”
© The West Australian
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