Photo by Platinum Poolcare, Ltd. | Outvision Photography

The Ultimate Guide To Indoor Pools: What You Need to Know

Indoor Pools: Construction, Ventilation, Design & Cost

Thanks for their luxurious design and year-round convenience, indoor pools are becoming increasingly popular with new pool buyers. Though a pool room or enclosure adds significantly to the cost of a pool, it also guarantees perfect swimming conditions year-round. In many regions of the country, a pool enclosure can turn a 90-day swim season into a 365-day pool party.

Table of Contents

Indoor pools are the ultimate playroom. Think about it: one room containing everything you need to entertain, exercise, dine, and lounge. From an exotic indoor tropical paradise, complete with waterfalls, waterslides, and palm trees, to a marathoner’s dream with a lap pool and other equipment to train for athletic competitions, an indoor pool room becomes a home’s focal point, the room to where everyone gravitates when visiting. But the best part? You can slip into your pool whenever the mood strikes—rain or shine!

Any type of pool–gunite, fiberglass or vinyl-lined–can be constructed indoors, and the installations can be as simple as a lap pool or as elaborate as an indoor water park. Many people add changing rooms, showers, exercise facilities, steam rooms, saunas, wet bars and other amenities to their indoor pool installations to create a health spa atmosphere. The possibilities for indoor swimming pool ideas are limited only by imagination and budget.

An indoor oasis designed by Endless Pools
Photograph courtesy of Endless Pools

Indoor Pool Cost and Construction

The best time to plan for an indoor pool is during the design and construction of a new house. With the right architectural help, however, it may be possible to seamlessly add an indoor pool to an existing home. Either way, it is important to work with an architect who has a lot of experience designing indoor pool rooms, says Kevin Ruddy, owner of Omega Pool Structures, Inc., Toms River, NJ. “To do it right, you need a complete HVAC system, and that takes someone who knows what they are doing.”

Whether a pool is destined for indoors or outdoors, most builders will construct it the same way with one major exception: an outdoor pool deck slopes away from the pool to keep debris and runoff from entering the pool, whereas an indoor pool deck slopes toward the pool to keep water away from walls. Because an indoor pool does not have to deal with the freezing and thawing cycles that an outdoor pool might have to, builders can use a wider variety of materials, such as glass and ceramic waterline tiles smaller than 6 x 6 inches, says James Atlas, principal of Platinum Poolcare, Ltd., Wheeling, IL.

Architecturally, an indoor pool room may look like the rest of the house, but in terms of engineering, it is quite different-especially when it comes to heating and ventilation, which are key to ensuring comfortable humidity levels. In some cases, you can expect to pay as much for the air quality equipment as you do for the pool. Atlas estimates that indoor swimming pools, including the cost of the pool and structure, start at $165,000 to $200,000.

Aquatic Consultants, Inc./Brian Van Bower; Photograph by Automated Lifestyles; Pool construction by Superior Pools

The Planning Process

Before you decide on what type of room you want for your indoor pool, you should open the lines of communication with your architect and pool builder. They in turn will interview you to discover how you will use the pool and how your lifestyle will be impacted by the finished product. Without this step, your construction team will not be able to provide you with the best possible result.

For optimum results, an indoor pool should be built during new construction or when a current structure is being renovated. Based on the pool’s design, materials needed to complete the project, and even the ground on which the pool will be constructed, the pool builder will have to work with a team of experts, including a licensed architect, to ensure that both the room and the pool are built to code and that all permits are in order. Because soil conditions and drainage play a part in the footings and substructure, a building team’s skill in preparing setbacks, easements, rights-of-way, scale, proportion, and balance is essential.

Design-wise, an indoor pool room should be treated as any other space in a home: It needs to blend in with the home’s architecture and personality. Construction-wise, special modifications must be made to accommodate humidity and other related issues. An experienced pool builder who is well-versed in the unique issues of building an indoor pool knows how to manage situations before they become problems. One of the first things they will consider is all that water—and the resulting evaporation.

Liquid Evolution Pools takes creativity to the extreme.

Indoor Pool Ventilation

The air quality of indoor pool environments has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years. Ideally, the humidity level should be maintained at 50 to 60 percent, either by exchanging humid air for fresh, drier air or by installing a dehumidification system. Any dehumidification system should be carefully designed to make sure that air is not forced across the pool surface, which can speed up evaporation. Rather, air should be evenly distributed over the outside walls to prevent condensation.

When the ambient air temperature reaches the temperature of the water, this is known as the dew point. To reduce evaporation and improve bather comfort, keep the air temperature inside the enclosure two to four degrees above the pool water temperature. Evaporation increases as the room and water temperatures drift apart. “This will begin as droplets on the windows, followed by a sensation of actually raining in the room,” Atlas says. Because many people like to heat their pools to 82 degrees, heating the enclosure to 84 or 86 degrees is not practical. That is why a properly-sized dehumidification system is so important. You can dramatically reduce evaporation by limiting the amount of time that water features run. To further reduce evaporation from water features, Ruddy suggests plumbing them separately from the pool. By not routing heated pool water through fountains and waterfalls, the water features stay at room temperature and do not contribute as much to evaporation.

Evaporation and humidity can be reduced dramatically by using an automatic pool cover, which can cut evaporation by 50 percent. Ruddy notes that an automatic cover is the most effective tool for reducing dehumidification costs-sometimes by hundreds of dollars each month.

Proper deck drainage is also important because it prevents puddling, which further contributes to evaporation and high humidity levels. From a design perspective, a low-profile strip drain placed around the pool’s perimeter looks much cleaner than traditional hub drains placed every 8 to 10 feet, says Tim O’Neil, operations manager for Downes Swimming Pool Co., Inc., Arlington Heights, IL. To further keep deck areas dry and reduce evaporation, O’Neil suggests installing a radiant floor heating system, which will dry up standing water and ensure that bare feet will not get cold in the winter.

Indoor pools are essentially bodies of water in a confined environment, and as such, have special requirements that must be met if the room is to be not only beautiful but also functional. Trouble begins when that setting’s climate is not properly managed. Dehumidification systems are the best way to control the “weather” inside the room, but a unit needs to be properly sized to handle the correct amount of air and humidity in a room to prevent mold, corrosion, and other problems. Builders also utilize water-resistant products like Dryvit and Wonder Board® to finish the walls in a pool environment to help stop damage from moisture. An automatic pool cover is another superior option for preventing problems: Studies show that they can reduce evaporation and humidity by up to 50 percent.

Ventilation systems are equally as important in controlling a room’s environment, especially when the room is full of windows, skylights, and sliding glass doors—all that glass allows heat to build up. Plus, if you plan to use chlorine to sanitize the pool water, be aware that as the chemical works, it generates chloramines which have a strong odor. By properly placing the vents in the room to ensure optimum air flow over the windows, an experienced architect can guarantee air flowing and keep the room inhabitable.

Indoor Pool Structural Support

As with any wet indoor environment, plastic vapor barriers are needed behind walls to prevent moisture from reaching the structural framing members, where it can encourage the growth of mold and cause freeze/thaw damage. Some builders believe that greenboard (a water-resistant drywall used in bathrooms) is sufficient for pool rooms; others recommend a waterproof board, such as Wonder Board. Still others suggest Dryvit, a material designed for exterior applications, which is available in several textures and can be painted.

Meanwhile, do not underestimate the amount of space you will need for the equipment room. For this, you may want to rely on the pool builder’s expertise, not the architect’s. According to pool builders, architects may tend to undersize equipment rooms, which can make for impossible working conditions down the road if equipment ever needs to be repaired or replaced. Also, if the pool is going to be maintained by a service company, consider having the room accessible from outside so that service techs do not have to go through the home to access the equipment.

Any pool that is sanitized with chlorine will emit odorous chloramines, but the smell can be much more pronounced in indoor pools. Though ventilation systems are capable of reducing such odors, there are additional remedies. One is to use a supplement, such as an ozonator or mineral purifier. This will help reduce the production of chloramines and mitigate the YMCA smell.

Indoor Pools with Skylights and Retractle Roofs

Windows, skylights and sliding glass doors are a great way to create an open feeling, but they can also lead to excessive heat in the summer. Ruddy says it is important to have skylights or high windows that open to let hot air escape; otherwise, you could spend more on cooling your indoor pool room in the summer than you do on heating it in the winter. Better yet, an open roof system and lots of sliding glass doors enable you to treat your indoor pool like an outdoor pool in the summer, he says.

To keep windows from fogging up, airflow must be maintained across the entire width of the windows. Some architects recommend placing vents in both the floor and the ceiling near each pane to ensure a clear view.

Indoor Pool Lighting

Incorporating lots of skylights, windows and sliding doors lets natural light flood the space, but when the sun goes down you will need adequate lighting for nighttime enjoyment and safety. A combination of underwater lighting and wall sconces typically provides sufficient and attractive illumination. Avoid overhead lights, because the bulbs are too difficult to access when they need changing. If you want lighting near the ceiling, consider fiber-optic cable fixtures, which use remote illuminators that are easily accessible. According to Ruddy, the lighting should be subtle-just enough to create the right ambiance. If it is too bright, it could draw unwanted attention through the windows, he reasons.

As you can see, an indoor pool allows you to control everything about your aquatic environment–no matter what kind of weather Mother Nature sends your way. So if you are thinking about installing a new pool, consider making it an indoor one. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can easily turn an outdoor pool into a pool room at some future date. “If you have an existing pool,” Ruddy says, “the cost to convert it to an indoor pool will be as much as it would be to build a new indoor pool from scratch.”

Defining the Style Of Your Indoor Pool

Another important person to consider for your team is a skilled interior decorator. Unlike an outdoor pool where planting materials and hardscapes are the priority, the environment of an indoor pool needs to be in harmony with the home’s overall décor. Furniture, amenities, and even the artwork, must reflect your home and your style.

When the outdoor venue is picturesque and a pleasure to view, using its beauty as a backdrop for the indoor pool is an excellent way to capture nature’s beauty and bring it indoors without a lot of hassle. Walls of windows, a ceiling of skylights, and sliding glass doors achieve this open feeling.

Natural lighting is best, but when the sun goes down or hides behind the clouds, artificial lighting can create a whole new vibe. The lighting should be restrained: the idea is to create a welcoming ambiance. Wall sconces combined with in-pool lighting can create a glow that will transform a room from daytime to nighttime. Most designers will recommend not installing overhead lighting, however, because changing bulbs or repairing fixtures would be too difficult.

After all the amenities are in place and your pool is ready for opening day, take time to look around and admire the view. No matter the reason why you decided to build your indoor pool, you will undoubtedly echo what others have found to be true: you now have a new favorite place to enjoy the best things in life—your family and friends.

11 Inspiring Indoor Pool Designs

An indoor swimming pool offers the luxury of year-round enjoyment as well as privacy. It also presents an exciting opportunity to create a unique interior space for play, exercise, entertainment—or all three. Take a look at the exquisite indoor pool designs in the pictures below.

Photo courtesy of B&B Pool and Spa Center

This magnificent Roman-style indoor pool features laminar jets, blue glass mosaic interior with gold inlays, LED color-changing lighting, a marble deck, and a rim-flow edge. Four marble pillars support a glass pyramid above the pool that serves as a dramatic skylight.

Photographed by Mary Vail, OSG for Paragon Pools

This indoor spa is a little bit of heaven. Designed specifically for all-year water exercise, the enclosure features large pocket doors that open to allow in fresh air and sunlight when desired.

Photo courtesy of Falcon Pools, Ltd.
Photo courtesy of Falcon Pools, Ltd.

Sleek and quite urbane, this classic L-shaped perimeter-overflow indoor pool is finished in black glass tile that is also found on the columns. Ideal for laps, the pool also has out-of-the-way space for children to splash and play.

Photos courtesy of Master Pools by Dominion Gunite (Calgary) Ltd.

These two views of an indoor lap pool and attached spa illustrate how the utilitarian and artistic can blend to create a harmonious setting. The blue granite overflow grating is just one of the ways this goal was accomplished—the dark tile mural is another.

Photographed by Ed VanLuvender for Ramapo Valley Pool Service, Inc.

An indoor pool design should incorporate the overall style and architecture of the home—especially when it’s located right in the middle of the living room! The pool’s classic symmetry and elegant Greek key mosaic tile perfectly complement the formal beauty of the home’s French Manor-style interiors.

Photo courtesy of Swimming Pools by Jack Anthony

Finished in custom hand-painted glass tile, this exotic indoor swimming pool is romance personified. The pool also features an in-pool bench, elevated spa, and a dazzling mosaic that is the setting’s elegant focal point.

hotographed by Outvision Photography for Platinum Poolcare, Ltd.

Feel like going outside without actually going outside? The solution is quite simple: by painting a dreamy skyscape on the ceiling to oversee the crystal clear pool and installing rows of tall windows, the homeowner provides swimmers with the best of all worlds.

hotographed by Robert Atwater for Swimming Pools by Jack Anthony

Seen from above, this indoor pool has an Old World charm that is amplified by the imported travertine coping and deck. Outdoor landscaping and lighting put the finishing touches this indoor environment.

Photographed by Douglas Gornall for Ramapo Valley Pool Service, Inc.

Situated in the rear of the home, this indoor lap pool features a beautifully detailed stone diving platform for the 12-foot-deep pool, Caymen Lagoon Hydrazzo finish, and a multicolored stamped concrete deck. Water trickles off the platform and into the pool, creating a soothing musical interlude.

Photographed by Ruth Aveta for Creative Master Pools, Inc., Lincoln Park, N.J.

This elegant indoor pool design is the culmination of coordination between the Master Pools Builder, the home builder, and the architect from the initial planning stages to completion. Thick dolomite limestone surrounds the pool and spa, making this indoor pool and room awe-inspiring.

Photo courtesy of Falcon Pools, Ltd.

This classical beauty is a study in white—with a sparkle of color coming from the pool’s and spa’s glass tile interiors. A separate, private lounge area gives guests a place to call their own while still being able to enjoy the rest of the space, including the magnificent skylight, wall of windows, and the gorgeous woodwork found throughout the space.

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