The Best of Swimming Pool Options: Part 1

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Summer in South Africa spells swimming, but which pool is best? We chat to the experts…

Infinity Pools

The infinity pool is not a new concept. In fact, the first one known to us is the Stag Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, built in the early 1600s. Although no-one swam in it, it does have a vanishing edge. These pools are probably the most visually impressive of all the pools, but they’re not simple to build and are expensive, says Neil Marwick of Pool Designs.

There are various elements needed: elevation, distance and ideally a view, as well as excellent engineering, says Marwick. A huge amount of design goes into the filtration and water-level controls in order to manage what happens when, for instance, the wind blows or there are many people in the pool. The water that floods over the rim needs to be stored somewhere, so it has to be designed with this in mind.

There are some things to note: a rim-flow pool requires much management thanks to the two different levels – the rim-flow pool is at the top, and the reservoir at the bottom (it’s important that this be big enough to contain the overflow). Two pumps are needed, one to drive the water up from the reservoir, and another for the sanitisation process. The level controls are important factors. And, Marwick says, if one lives near the ocean, something to consider is that seagulls love infinity pools and sit on the edge, preening and plucking their feathers, and the guano is prime stimulation for algae and the feathers get into the filtration system. In short, a rim-flow pool requires maintenance, and Marwick recommends specialists.

However, what makes it worth the effort are how beautiful views are enhanced, especially if looking onto another body of water. A well-positioned pool also acts as a water feature, and that can add great value to a house. If built above or adjacent to living spaces, careful engineering is vital to avoid leakage. There should be no shortcuts when it comes to building a pool, advises Marwick.

Contact Pool Designs on 021 852 2484

Plunge Pools

The humble plunge pool is probably the most cost-effective of pools, and there are many more advantages in terms of it being ecologically friendly – it uses less water, costs less to heat, but provides a maximum amount of fun and can add great visual impact in a home. So says George Boorsma of award-winning Johannesburg architects Ink Design Lab, who designed a third-floor plunge pool for a client’s private home.

Plunge pools are often built within the structure of a house like this, and so careful engineering is vital because, as Boorsma says, pools tend to leak. One must use a reputable pool consultant to make sure the structure is technically sound. Employ a company that has been around for a while, he advises, one with a reputable and long history. Ink Design Lab uses Penguin Pools in Gauteng.

Essentially, a tank must be built in the shape the client wants, a structure that then gets plastered, waterproofed and finished in various ways, depending on the effect one wants to achieve. This is where the size helps keeps costs down, says Boorsma. Finishes – such as bold tiling – can be very expensive and a small pool obviously means less overall cost. The average size is 4 metres by 2.2 metres, so it also uses less water, which means less evaporation. It’s a smaller volume of water to heat, and this can be done consuming virtually no electricity by allowing the water to run through long black piping on the roof of the house so the water is heated by the sun – all that’s needed is a small pump. The ideal is to place the pool where it gets the full run of the sun, says Boorsma, so it can absorb as much of its heat as possible.

A plunge pool is also not expensive to maintain, and infinitely manageable. One can use salt chlorination, which is healthier for swimmers, but the downside is that the pump tends to corrode and needs to be replaced every few years.

It’s important to secure a pool – today there are laws regulating this, he adds. There are various ways to do this, from a fence with a gate to a material pool cover that slides over the water surface on a roller mechanism that can be hidden away.

This article was originally featured in IMAGINE.