Today it seems no luxury pool is complete without the addition of a custom spa. The combination of a swimming pool and spa creates a backyard refuge where homeowners can enjoy the best of both (aquatic) worlds: They can swim laps and splash around with the kids in the pool, then take a relaxing soak in the spa to unwind.
A spa can be integrated with a swimming pool in a variety of ways. View the photos below to explore the five common design options for pool and spa combinations.
1. Pool with Integrated Spa
An integrated spa design is where the spa is located inside the swimming pool and appears to be part of the pool’s overall shape.
The spa can be built into a corner, side, or end of the pool, depending on the pool shape and location of utilities. The two bodies of water are separated by a dam wall to keep the cold pool water from seeping into the heated spa.
Though the spa is within the swimming pool, it can be any size or shape. It can also be finished in a different plaster color or finish material to provide contrast between the spa and pool.
The walls of this integrated spa (at left) were finished in the same colorful glass mosaic tiles that adorn the pool’s waterline and water wall feature, yet they give the spa its own distinctive border.
2. Pool with Attached Spa
An attached spa is constructed outside or adjacent to the pool. Unlike an integrated spa, the pool and spa appear as separate entities.
An attached spa can be any shape or size; some attached spas are configured to blend with the rest of the pool design (as seen in the picture below) while others are constructed in an opposing shape, like the circular spa attached to the rectangular pool pictured at left.
An attached spa can also be installed inground or elevated above ground. An attached inground spa is built level with the pool; usually one wall of the pool serves as a wall of the spa.
In most designs, the pool and spa are finished in the same materials. Sometimes the joint wall between the pool and spa is left uncapped to create a more cohesive look, as seen in this pool and spa combo (at right).
An attached raised spa is elevated above the pool; the elevation is usually anywhere from 6 inches to 18 inches, though 12 inches and 18 inches are most common.
A pool with an attached raised spa adds another dimension to the pool design. Because part or all of the spa’s exterior can be seen, it becomes an attractive focal point and is usually finished with a decorative material such as stone or tile. For more rustic or tropical designs, faux rocks or boulders may be used to surround the spa.
3. Pool with Raised Perimeter-Overflow Spa
Raised perimeter-overflow spas are becoming increasingly popular in pool and spa combinations.
To create this unique design effect, the walls of the spa are set lower than the water level so that the water spills over the entire perimeter of the spa and into the pool. In reality, a small containment vessel captures the water and recirculates it back into the spa.
A raised perimeter-overflow spa can be integrated with the pool or attached. When the spa is integrated with the pool, it can appear as though the spa was lifted out of the pool and is floating on top of the water.
Raised perimeter-overflow spas are typically finished in tile to enhance the reflective quality of the water as it flows over and down the spa walls. The use of multicolored, iridescent glass tiles creates one of the most elegant visual displays, as the tiles glisten when the sunlight meets the water.
The dark blue tiles on the perimeter-overflow spa (at right) provide a beautiful contrast against the pool’s aqua interior.
4. Pool with Spillover Spa
When a pool has an attached raised spa, it offers the chance to incorporate the visual and audible appeal of a spillover (spillway). One or more sections of the top of the spa wall are built at a lower level or with open spaces to serve as a spillway through which water from the spa flows into the pool.
Usually the spillover appears as a thin sheet of water falling evenly into the pool. Some spillover spas consist of one wide cascade, while others may include a few separated, narrow spillways. An alternate spillover spa design option uses funnel-like slots to channel tube-like streams of water into the pool.
5. Pool and Detached Spa
While a spa can definitely enhance a pool’s design and enjoyment, there are times when these two structures deserve their own separate space.
When space is limited around the pool, locating the spa in a separate area could allow for a bigger spa. In addition, positioning the spa away from the pool area can provide a little more privacy for those seeking a relaxing escape.
Sometimes a detached spa is the best option for expansive backyards with an open garden design. If the pool is situated several yards away from the home, placing the spa closer to the back of the house will make it easier (and more pleasant) to access during the colder months.
When the pool and spa are in separate areas, it’s important to keep a unified look between the two structures by repeating materials, patterns, or shapes, such as the stacked stone surrounding the outdoor fireplace, spa, and pool pictured at right.