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Spoiled for choice

A pool installation is a significant investment, and it’s one that comes with many choices... so how do you determine what’s right for you and your family?

Installing a swimming pool for your backyard will provide years of enjoyment, fun and fitness for you, your family and your friends. But there are so many things to consider, from fundamental aspects like size, shape and construction material, right through to smaller aesthetic choices and finishing touches.

Every decision you make can have a flow-on effect when it comes to other options and will almost definitely have an impact on price, so you want be sure to get it right from the beginning.

To help get things started, here are some pros and cons on some of the most fundamental aspects of building a new pool.

In-ground vs Aboveground

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to opt for an inground or above-ground pool. This was once a decision driven chiefly by price, when traditional vinyl lined options were pretty much the only above-ground choice. That has all changed with the introduction of newer alternatives including shipping container pools, plunge pools and precast  choices, which can all introduce considerations that will influence the ultimate choice and the price, as can other factors. For example, if you decide to build a deck around the pool to mimic an in-ground pool environment, you could easily see the costs shoot up. Make sure you are factoring in the total costs and comparing apples with apples.

Above-ground pools are also a great alternative when it simply isn’t possible to install a completely in-ground pool because of location limitations like a sloping site, access restrictions, excavation constraints or the need to level with an existing deck or other structure.

For many potential pool owners, the biggest disadvantage of traditional vinyl-lined above-ground pools is simply the way they look. It can be difficult to install this type of pool in a way that improves the appearance of a home and backyard and convincingly creates the ‘resort living’ atmosphere that most homeowners are seeking.

There are also more limitations in terms of available depths and design, as most above-ground pools are circular, oval or rectangular in shape and set to a specific depth with no potential for customisation. They also have a shorter life than in-ground pools and, as a result, are often not considered as a value-add to a property.

Fibreglass vs Concrete

If you’ve decided to go for an inground pool, some builders will offer the choice of either concrete or fibreglass as a construction material.

One of the primary advantages of fibreglass pools is that they arrive onsite ready to go, which makes installation relatively quick. There are different fibreglass manufacturers out there, so make sure you choose one that is reputable.

Maree Voss, Marketing Manager from Aqua Technics Pools, says you should do your research to save heartache down the track.

“Always make sure the manufacturer of your pool is certified to build to Australian Standards. Obtaining accreditation means being measured and tested by an authorised, independent auditor.

“Anyone can say they build to the standard, but for your peace of mind always ask for a licence number,” Maree said.

Fibreglass pools are durable, strong and flexible, and unlike others, should not need resurfacing during their lifetime. They come in a huge array of pre-moulded shapes and sizes to
meet almost every requirement.

However, some backyards (and clients) require a completely custom design, which means opting for a concrete pool that can be built to meet any shape or design specification.  Concrete pools have been around a long time and they are reliable and strong. Newer pool designs are especially aesthetically pleasing and offer an almost infinite number of surface finishes to suit your taste and budget.

That flexibility and customisation comes at a price, with the average concrete pool installation taking longer — sometimes several months versus a few weeks — and can also be more expensive given the bespoke nature and the materials used.

Chelsea Watters, Designer & Project Administrator at Outside Signatures, believes concrete wins out for a variety of reasons.

“We always recommend installing concrete pools for a variety of reasons. You can customise the pool into any shape or size, add any bench, stairs or beach area, you can even choose from a huge variety of finishes to line the pool.

“This means the pool can be designed to fit each and every project while meeting council compliance. Every job is different, so every pool needs to be designed differently to get the best out of the backyard.

“Concrete pools are also great for sites with limited access — all you need is a small access path so you don’t have to watch a crane carry the pool over your house,” Chelsea said.

Chlorine vs saltwater vs minerals

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is the type of water you’d like to swim in. This choice has ongoing effects when it comes to cleaning, maintenance and water chemistry considerations, so be sure to do your homework.

Chlorinated pools use chlorine and other balancing chemicals to sanitise the pool water. These chemicals are generally added by hand or through an automatic feeder. Chlorine oxidises bacteria, algae, perspiration, skin oils and other contaminants and is an effective way to keep swimmers safe. For those with sensitive skin or dermal conditions like eczema or dermatitis, swimming in highly chlorinated and chemicalised pools can be problematic, irritating skin and causing dryness, itching and other discomfort.

While salt pools still produce chlorine, it is gentler than a traditional chlorine pool. Around 80–90% of Australian pools utilise salt water, though this number is dropping due to the rise in popularity of mineral pools.

Mineral pools still use a chlorination process for sanitation and then, often in combination with salt, also utilise a magnesium-rich blend of minerals.

Mineral pools provide health and wellbeing benefits, allowing the skin to absorb minerals and offering ultra-soft and comfortable water for swimmers. Magnesium is known to provide natural relief for muscular aches and pains while also soothing the nervous system. As the pool water is filled with natural emollients, it softens and hydrates the skin, which can be a useful property for those with eczema.

New technologies — like advanced oxidation process (AOP) water sanitation — mean mineral pool owners get even closer to natural water, with some offering an 80% reduction in chlorine levels when compared with traditional options.

Mineral pools have a marginally higher upfront cost when compared with chlorine and salt water options. However, they require less ongoing chemical usage, meaning you save money on a monthly basis. They have the added advantage of enhancing water clarity and providing a natural de-scaling function that prevents calcium build-up on equipment.

The other ingredients

These are just three of the key considerations when deciding to install a swimming pool, but the choices you make now will influence others later on, so you need to think carefully before you start. Of course, some of these options will be ruled in or out simply by budget, site location and space availability, but the best thing you can do is engage an expert who can answer all of your questions and help guide you through the process.

There are plenty of options on the table with an endless number of ways to create the perfect backyard sanctuary that’s guaranteed to deliver enjoyment for decades to come. Think  lighting, planting, furniture and fencing... to name just a few.

For the best advice and information on the most up-to-date technologies, speak with a SPASA member. Whatever you decide, you’re sure to be delighted.

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