Whether your agenda is finishing a few laps or simply cooling off in the water with friends and family, a swimming pool has a lot to offer. Which is why it’s such good news that advancements in technology and aesthetic design have made renovating your pool—rather than investing in a new one—much more accessible.
Renovations often develop when a client purchases a property with an existing pool that has been neglected, doesn’t meet current safety regulations, or just doesn’t crank up enough joy, says Scott Payne, owner of Scott Payne Custom Pools, headquartered in Pennsylvania. Payne is a third-generation pool builder who maintains certification through Genesis, a think tank of pool professionals.
“A typical client has purchased a property with an existing pool and the styles don’t match or the project is dated or unsafe,” Payne says. “Sometimes it’s a cosmetic facelift, sometimes it’s a technological issue.” The last decade has seen a rush of dramatic developments, he explains, including automation, LED lights, and variable-speed pumps. “Customers can easily upgrade and dramatically change the look of the pool without a lot of money.”
On a recent site visit to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Payne assessed an existing 700-square-foot pool. It required a major renovation, including updates to the mechanics and drain function, plus new tile and interior finish. Glass tile is high on Payne’s list: “The choices are great. Glass can change a pool’s look and feel completely.” Proper landscaping is critical as well (Payne credits his longtime collaborator Roger Gerhard of Landscaping by Roger in Allentown, Pennsylvania).
Payne renovated one pool (pictured) after it was damaged by a house fire. He and his crew removed a funky boulder waterfall that clashed with the rustic stone house; extended the wall of the pool by about 30 feet; redid the decking; and added laminar deck jets and a quartz interior finish. He estimates that if the homeowners had started a new pool from scratch, including excavation, the cost would have increased by about 40 percent.
Depending on budget and landscape, pool renovations can reach the lofty heights of intricacy. Frank Hines, manager of renovation sales at Year Round Pool Company, Inc., recalls a full-scale pool and deck renovation that he and his colleagues recently completed in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The pool, a classic cookie-cutter design built in the mid-1990s, had a blandlooking quartz finish and a typical textured and painted deck surface.
Post-renovation, the pool is a sparkling beauty. “This renovation incorporated some of the highest quality, most aesthetically appealing materials being used in our industry for renovations or new construction,” Hines says. The crew applied an exterior stone finish with new water scupper features on the raised walls. After expanding the enclosure area, the crew installed custom Turkish travertine deck tile and deck features crafted from exotic ipe, a Brazilian walnut. A Pebble Tec interior finish and waterline tile also were added. Finally, the original fiber optic lighting system was replaced with LED lights. Every improvement contributes to the dazzling effect.
In another, much simpler renovation, Year Round Pool resurfaced the pool deck with a new spray-deck textured finish and resurfaced the interior with standard sixinch- square waterline tile and a Pebble Tec “Caribbean Blue” finish. “It shows you can create a nice wow factor without having to upgrade to nonstandard finishes,” Hines says.
Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design in Miami recently transformed an outdated Mediterranean-style Miami home into a modern beauty with elegant Spanish Revival notes. Its outdoor spaces give new meaning to resort-style living, including the stunning L-shaped pool.
The home’s indoor-outdoor focus is key to the project’s success, says Ralph Choeff, founding principal of Choeff Levy Fischman. “The new pool, deck, and cabana bring the built environment, as well as the outdoor environment, up to date with fresh aesthetics and integrated functions,” Choeff says. “It also gives the family a more functional space for relaxing and enjoying the bay views.”
Redesigning the backyard involved a major facelift to the swimming pool and deck. The pool’s new L-shaped infinity-edge design, with a catch pool and “floating” steps, is a visual wonder.
The indoor-outdoor cabana, complete with Carrara marble accents and a custom wet bar, was previously a guest house.
Sometimes an existing pool can be taken to new heights simply by installing one piece of equipment. Hayward Pool Products offers a line of saltwater chlorination generators that create ideal conditions for people who love the feel of saltwater.
“The salt concentration needed for saltwater chlorine generators is closer to body chemistry, which results in less of an osmotic gradient compared to traditional chlorine pools,” says Jason Davila, Hayward’s product manager of chemical automation. “It’s about health and comfort.”
The sensual pleasures of saltwater pools are not lost on its fans. “I loved the weightlessness,” says one devotee, who this spring had her first swim in a heated saltwater pool in Florida. “I was even able to do yoga poses in the water,” she says. “It was very freeing. Afterwards, my skin felt great; I didn’t have that chlorine smell on my skin and in my hair. Lovely!”
Sanitization, of course, is still essential. Hayward is a global manufacturer of pool and spa equipment and industrial flow control products. Its residential pool product line includes several saltwater generators, including the AquaRite, which converts dissolved salt into just the right measure of chlorine. The automatic function produces silky water with none of the drawbacks of traditional chlorinated pools. “It keeps chlorine levels in the desired range instead of having spikes and dips,” Davila says.
There may be cost savings as well. “A saltwater chlorine generator has a bigger cost in the beginning, but over the life of the product you will save money,” Davila says. “It’s convenient, too. Rather than loading chlorine tablets, you set your generator to turn the salt to chlorine. That means years of chlorine tablets you’re not loading.”