Things to consider before installing a swimming pool

Image of the connected indoor living room to an outdoor space with a modern swimming pool
ARTICLE Clare Chapman IMAGE Biform

Deciding to invest in a swimming pool can feel like jumping in the deep end when it comes to the amount of choices available. Everything from the type of pool, installation, fencing, depth, finish, water type, and associated landscaping offers up numerous options, all of which need to be decided upon. Often, it’s hard to know what’s best, and what would be most suitable for a specific project.

Generally, it’s best to first consider the options for the type of pool you’re after, what its purpose is, who will use it and how it will be used. Knowing the answer to these questions paves the way for making the first major decisions. 

In New Zealand, salt water pools are on the rise as people steer away from chemical use – salt water pools still need continuous chlorine but, generally, at much lower levels. With a clear trend towards salt water pools, those who suffer from eye or skin irritations report that salt water pools ‘feel’ nicer, often describing the water as feeling soft and silky like rain water as opposed to the harder feel of fully chlorinated water, and report less irritations. 

A swimming pool behind a kitchen table in an outdoor area

Salt water systems have their pros and cons, like anything. While they generally require less maintenance that chlorinated pools, it’s a hefty investment up front for a saltwater system – thousands of dollars more generally, and if there are any sanitation issues it’s likely that the help of a professional will be required to sort things out. 

Fully chlorinated pools on the other hand, are considerably cheaper at the outset but require constant maintenance and surveillance as the pH levels are not stable and need to be monitored. 

However, as Zones Landscaping specialist Matt Gillespie says, making only one decision at a time can be of serious detriment to the overall cost of the project. “There are so many different elements to consider that without designing the project in its entirety, the homeowner can run into escalating costs further on in the process,” he says. “If you’re going to a pool specialist, they will only provide costs for the pool itself, but then there a lot of other things to consider including fencing, decking, gardens and access for a start.”

As Gillespie explains, this process can be streamlined by utilising a landscape specialist who will liaise with the council about consents, provide costs for the entire project and a detailed concept design at the beginning, and then manage the project and subcontractors through to the completion of the project.

A woman sits on a Biform deck by the edge of a swimming pool

There are four basic types of pools; concrete, vinyl, fibreglass and above-ground pools. Each has its merits, with concrete generally being the most flexible option in terms of design and installation. Concrete pools allow the greatest amount of design freedom, can incorporate weir edges and unusual shapes, and can be tailored to fit any space, which can mean the pool can be bigger as it can be worked around site-specific requirements that other types of pool cannot. Another factor is the installation – if there is no scope to utilise a crane to lift in a fibreglass pool, it’s not an option to begin with. Concrete pools are generally seen to be the premium option in the market and are the most aesthetically pleasing and hard-wearing pools. If a tight budget is a factor, vinyl pools are the most popular option, generally. 

Each local council has its own rules around pool installation, so these need to be taken into account from the outset of any project also. 

There’s countless other decisions to make around pool choice – one aspect that’s often important to people is the type of finish that is applied to achieve the illusion of sparkling crystal clear water, which is actually a refraction of the interior finish of the pool. There are various products on the market with differing benefits and effects, but it’s a choice that’s good to make in conjunction with the landscaping and colour and style of the home to ensure continuity of design. 

Modern home with a swimming pool surrounded by a glass fence

But once the pool choice has been made, it’s important to ensure it can be used as it was originally desired, and the associated landscaping elements work together to achieve the best outcome. That may mean decking is constructed, access ways to the pool are needed, and planting may be strategic to provide elements of shade or sun and limit the amount of leaves dropping into the pool. “This is where it’s important to engage a landscaping professional from the outset to design the project in its entirety so all elements work together, costs are kept within budget, all consent requirements are adhered to, and the process is completed as swiftly as possible, minimising additional expense associated with delays,” Gillespie says.

With the Kiwi summer upon us, it does seem that the time is right to start thinking about that pool project, but without jumping in the deep end; instead, starting in the shallows, confirming the entire project’s cost and design, and wading comfortably into the depths in the knowledge the project in its entirety is cohesive, planned and being managed by experts.

Get inspired looking at these Swimming pool design ideas


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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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