We’re back with another post in our backyard pool series! This time, we’re tackling all your frequently asked questions about the pool design and technical details of our pool building process. How did we decide where to put it? What materials did we choose? How big is it? Did we use a local pool company? What are some of the special features we included?
One of the main questions we get is who did the work for us. Well, I wouldn’t recommend this for the average homeowner, but because of our experience, we chose to contract out the job ourselves. *insert face palm emoji here*
So we chose to work with local Richmond-area companies that we’ve worked with in the past that have great service and excellent reputations. For the pool deck, we used Lonestar Masonry, and we could not recommend them enough! They are very professional, easy to get in touch with, timely and always stand by their work. When we had a few cracks or pieces installed with imperfections, they were quick to replace and repair.
If you are looking to install a backyard pool, definitely see the first post in our series about the steps to installing a pool and the things to consider when looking for a local pool company to work with.
Pool Design Layout
When we started working on the layout for the backyard pool, I knew we wanted a pool design with a spa hot tub. It took several iterations of the rendering to get the layout that would work in our space. We started with the spa to the right of the pool that included a water feature flowing into the pool. But, we realized that it would block the traffic pattern around the pool and give us a very narrow walking space. And with little kids running around, we didn’t feel comfortable with that. We tried centering it off the deep end, but we discovered that it wouldn’t work with the auto cover we planned to install. It took us good bit of thought and going back and forth with no perfect answer for a bit.
We landed on a layout for the pool design that, I think, gives us the best of both worlds – lots of open yard for easy flow of traffic and a safe, beautiful pool area that is perfect for entertaining. First, we centered the pool to our site line from the house, and we placed the spa to the right of the pool with plenty of deck space on either side for lounge chairs. It’s a little more modern and simplistic. And while I was a little bummed about losing the water feature, it really does work for the open flow we wanted.
The pool measures 34’x16’, and is 3’10” (this was very important to Dave for water sports) deep in the shallow end. It’s 6’ deep in the deep end. The spa measures 7’x7’. This fits perfectly into our space, providing ample area for pool shenanigans but gives us plenty of space for the swingset, our storage building and a small basketball court.
Another detail for the pool layout that was important to us was that we didn’t have railings taking up visual space when looking out to the pool. However, code requires an egress from both ends of the pool. We accomplished both form and function by adding a ledge to the deep end which acts as a way for the kids to climb out. This meets the code requirement and gives us the visual margin we wanted. We also added a large sundeck in the shallow end with our daughter in mind so that she can safely play in an even shallower spot. And honestly, it’s been really nice to be able to sit there to relax in the sun even without the baby!
Pool Design Materials
When I settled on a Hamptons style pool as my inspiration, I started researching right away all the design details that would give us the look we wanted and the functionality that was right for our family. We also considered cost efficiency when selecting materials. I made some compromises to stick to our budget, but I still got the Hamptons-inspired look I wanted!
We love the look of a gunite pool, but here in Virginia, it can get very expensive – very quickly. So we looked at vinyl liner options, and the many choices available surprised me! Vinyl liners have come a long way! You can customize them to the point that, when looking at the pool, you’d never know it’s not gunite. To get the Hamptons look, I chose the Island Onyx All Over Pattern by Merlin.
Pool Deck & Coping
Honestly, selecting the pool deck material was one of the hardest decisions I made throughout the process (or ever!). This decision could be an entire blog post! I mean, just searching the web for inground pool deck ideas is overwhelming. And when I tell you that I visited multiple job sites in town and spoke with multiple contractors for ideas and suggestions, that is an understatement.
We have limestone steps from our patio into the backyard so that was my first choice for the pool deck material. But, holy moly! That is expensive. I looked at bluestone because, well, bluestone. It’s gorgeous, and I knew I wanted that look. So, we ended up selecting a Techo-Bloc stone called Para in Greyed Nickel that is laid in a modular pattern. It is so similar to our limestone steps and gives bluestone vibes. We had it laid on an open base versus on sand. The open-graded base allowed the contractor to keep working even when it rained. And overtime, this will keep the pavers much more level.
We chose Techo-Bloc for numerous reasons. It looks very similar to bluestone, but it doesn’t retain heat like bluestone does. Since lots of little feet would be running around the pool, a product that would not get too hot was very important to us.
We used a Techo-Bloc stone called Raffinato in greyed nickel for our coping. This product matched the pool deck really well and allowed us to get those clean 90° angles, which are a key element of modern design.
Pool Skimmer Lids
Another interesting design element is our invisible skimmer lids. We used a product called HIDE skimmer cover lids. With this ingenious system, you can hide skimmer lids using the same material as your pool deck. You simply cut the skimmer lid to the size of the metal box and glue it down. Then drill a hole into the Techo-Bloc that allows these little metal handles to lift up the skimmer lid easily.
(We did have an issue with the screws. They were not galvanized, and the bromine in the hot tub created a stain from the HIDE lid. Galvanized screws fixed the problem. We also switched to a chlorine system for the hot tub. I am told there is a shampoo called Alliance Gator- rust remover that can take these stains out. It’s on my long to do list.)
Pool Technical Details
Now for the boring stuff, haha! It might be boring, but it’s definitely vital! You can’t have a pool without a pump system. We selected a Jandy Salt Water pool system for our backyard pool which includes the pump and water filter. I personally think salt water is the way to go to keep costs lower on general upkeep and maintenance and for the health-related benefits. Because the water is softer, it’s not quite as harsh as chlorine on your skin, hair and clothes. For the spa we have an AquaLink System by Jandy.
Our Pool Must-have Special Features
There were several special features on our “must-haves” list. These are things that may not be entirely necessary but that would make life with a backyard pool more enjoyable and safer for our family for the long haul.
The auto cover was top on my list of features. We installed one for both the spa and the pool. With little kids safety is our top priority. The covers come with a coded keypad or you can opt for a lock and key. We chose the code just to have one less thing to keep track of and so our pool maintenance guy can easily cover and uncover the pool.
Apparently, the pool cover can handle the weight of an elephant! To me, this is one of their main selling features so that I know my kids will be safe if they fall on the cover. We haven’t done it yet, but we are looking forward to laying on it while having an outdoor movie night. It feels like a giant water bed when you walk on it which is super cool!
For the cover, we chose the same color as our pool deck so when the pool is covered it fades in with the Techo-Bloc. We considered doing a blue cover so it would look somewhat like a pool at first glance. But, I figured the dark blue might fade overtime.
We also added a heater for the pool. This has been one of the best decisions we made throughout the pool building process. We went with a gas heater vs electric and that allows the temperature to rise quickly. The pool can easily gain as much as 10 to 20° over the course of 24 hours here in Virginia. Our weather can be kind of “squirrley!” The pool heater has allowed us to get at least an extra two or even three months of use out of the pool.
Here is a very pregnant me on April 23rd enjoying the pool with the pool heater. Pro tip: 85 degrees is the sweet spot.
I hope this answers some of your burning questions about the pool design and technical details of our backyard pool. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments or DM me on Instagram. I also have highlights on my profile that document the whole process.
All in all, through all of the decisions and the long pool installation process, adding a backyard pool to our home has been one of the best decisions we have ever made! It is great for our family to spend time together and for entertaining friends and neighbors. Having a pool has been great with a newborn because it keeps our five-year-old entertained for hours and it is so much easier than lugging all of our stuff down to the local pool to play.
We’ll continue this series soon with the cost breakdown, and I’ll share some of the things I’d do differently and the same if I had to do it all over again!