—Key design and function goals to consider when choosing a shape
—Part 1 in a 2-part series
Building a swimming pool is an exciting outdoor addition for which you will make many design choices. From the pool’s position in your backyard to the color of the interior finish, a number of aesthetic and function-related options await your review. Among the most important ones will be the shape.
With a concrete (gunite/shotcrete) pool, the shape is not set in stone; options are extensive. Materials used to build this kind of inground pool are highly versatile, making them capable of accommodating your pick of most any standard or custom pool shape.
While familiar shapes—such as a kidney or rectangle—can serve as a starting point for design, your pool builder can modify plans to meet your style preferences and desired functionality. Or, you can have a unique design altogether.
Considerations for selecting a pool shape
When you sit down with a pool builder to plan your project, one of the first decisions will be about the basic shape. The one you settle on will fundamentally impact both the appearance of your aquatic retreat and the experiences your family members have enjoying it.
Before narrowing in on a shape, thorough planning is key. Before choosing your pool’s silhouette, it’s smart to evaluate a variety of preferences and goals that your family has not only for the pool, but for the entire backyard living area.
Your early favorite for a shape may not be ideal for providing the kind of benefits or features you seek. Or, it may be capable of incorporating all that you want, but only with a higher price tag or with a demand for more backyard space.
Another scenario is that the shape you initially prefer requires the sacrifice of another decorative or usability feature you would like to have in your pool.
That’s because some shapes are better suited for certain features, elements, space considerations, functionality issues, aesthetic styles, and other variables.
Toward a more informed, strategic decision about your pool shape, here are some questions to think about and discuss with your pool builder.
- What size of pool you do want? How much outdoor space do you have to devote to it? Where in the backyard will it be positioned?
- What kind of hardscape do you envision? How much decking and patio area you do want?
- What are your plans for preserving any existing landscaping? What are your goals for adding various landscape features?
- What other outdoor features—such as fire pits, decking, outdoor kitchens—do you plan to include (whether now or down the road) in your backyard? Where do you want these additions to be positioned in relationship to your new pool? How closely do you want to integrate them with your pool and deck?
- Who will be regularly using your pool: Adults? Children? What are their ages? Do any family members have mobility challenges?
- What kinds of activities will they engage in—lap swimming, recreational use? Do you want a sports pool for water volleyball or basketball? Will the pool be used for diving? Do you plan to entertain friends? Will you regularly have pool parties with lots of people in the water at once?
- How deep do you want your pool? Do you want a deep-end? Do you want the deep end to be in the pool’s center—with a shallow area at each end of the pool?
- What do you want the pool to look like—the overall style? Is it important that to complement the architecture style of your home, such as being modern or traditional? Do you want to achieve a certain kind of backyard setting, such as a sleek, contemporary aesthetic, a rustic countryside feel, or a tropical lagoon setting?
- What kind of structural and decorative features do you want in your pool? Are you considering options like fountains, laminar water arcs,rock waterfalls, grottos, multi-level decking/raised pool walls, and large usable shallow ends?
- What functional features and accessories, such as slides, diving boards, tanning ledges, and hydrotherapy spas.
- Do you plan to use a pool cover? Will it be an automated one on motorized tracks that slide open and closed?
- How much will you invest in your pool project budget? (Some shapes can be more economical than others, as explained below.)
- Might you sell your home in a few years? Is the shape you are considering typical of pools in the neighborhood—or is it dramatically different?
In addition, local building codes and any community association regulations may influence shape options. Your pool builder will review any requirements and will know how certain shapes may pose particular challenges for regulatory compliance.
How pool shape impacts construction costs
As you select a pool shape, keep in mind that the shape directly influences the cost to build it. A pool industry saying goes like this: Perimeter feet is what you pay for; square feet is what you swim in.
Let’s break this concept down. The exterior edge of a pool requires more steel rebar, more tile, more coping materials, more concrete, and the required labor for installation. That means the cost may be higher.
For example, imagine the outline of an L-shape pool: There is a great deal of perimeter footage along its exterior. Now, compare that to one that’s more oval in shape; it packs in more usable square footage for swimming, but with less perimeter.
For maximizing square footage—the area that you actually enjoy—on a limited budget, curved shapes are usually a better way to go.
Better yet, the direction of the curve often does not matter. For example, take a basic kidney and tweak the indentation, so that it bubbles outward, vs. inward. The resulting total perimeter footage remains the same. The takeaway here is: In some cases, you can achieve flexibility with a curvy design without increasing the cost.
However, don’t rule out various straight-edge pools or geometric pools! They offer other benefits that may be just as important to you. In some cases, these kinds of shapes may be a better choice for your ultimate pool goals and other factors.
Popular pool shapes: Evaluating your choices
Now that you are starting to understand some of the many variables that influence the selection of a pool shape, the next step is to take a closer look at some of the most common shapes.
Each shape brings a different combination of advantages. In part 2, we will take a look at the major shape categories and explain what each one offers that others may not.