Posted on July 26 2021
The concept of staycation has never meant more than during this crazy Pandemic. We’ve all learned to love the ones we’re with and love the homes we’re in. Mourning the loss of planned vacations, many people turned to transforming their outdoor spaces to becoming their new sanctuaries, their (very) local vacation destinations.
Since last summer, I’ve witnessed and consulted for our neighbours’ pool and patio installation. It has been a slow and painful and expensive process so far, with no end in sight a year later. Pre-pandemic, pools used to be considered zero net gain features of a property. In fact, most real estate experts thought of them as negative selling points. In our area, demand has more than tripled for inground pool installations while production has slowed due to COVID safely measures. This has resulted in a frenzied market, just gasping for a dip.
The very first consideration is your budget. This may sound rather obvious, but it is always surprising to me how people haven’t figured that out at the beginning. Seriously allow for contingencies as this type of project could go in many different directions and unforeseeable circumstances will arise, guaranteed.
Before you start your project, you should become very familiar with local building codes and zoning. Do not assume that your neighbour down the street has the same allowance or restrictions as you do. In our neighbourhood, they differ block to block, especially corner homes. Work closely with your local government representatives to know what your limitations might be for size of pool, setbacks, hardscaping, noise by-laws and street usage for cranes and other construction vehicles. If you also plan to have more enclosed spaces in your backyard, such as a pool house, change room, equipment shed, etc., you need to verify your property’s interior square footage allowance to ensure that if you go over the limit, you may need to apply for variance, which can be costly and time-consuming. You should also plan ahead with goodwill missions to keep your adjacent neighbours apprised of your plans. You may very well need their support and their permission to carry out your projects to their finish lines. Homemade cookies may go a long way to keeping them happy!
You may also need to consider tree removal services. They are usually very pricey and local bylaws will dictate the maximum size allowance. In our area, any healthy tree greater than 12 inches diameter cannot be removed. Any trees which overhang neighbouring properties should have all parties consulted for approval to be removed. Tom might love your crab apple tree, but Tracy on the other side may have always hated your overgrown Maple tree. You never know how they feel until you ask and discuss!
What type of inground pool would you like? There are 3 choices to choose from: custom concrete, vinyl liner or fibreglass. Here are charts outlining the benefits and features of each according to penguinpool.com. Approximate prices are in USD:
It seems all roads lead to fiberglass pools. However at the present time, these are only made and shipped out of Australia. And with COVID protocols still in place in many countries around the world, you will likely have a very long wait. Neighbors of ours who ordered theirs last summer, won’t be seeing their pool until this fall or next spring.
Now onto the unsexy stuff – pumps and jets and water filtration systems. There are still only two major types of water systems – chlorine or salt water. Discuss both options thoroughly with your pool company before making your decision. Really consider your lifestyle and be honest with yourselves about how willing you think you can be to maintain either water system. The seemingly easier system may not be the right one for you. Consider the safety of pets and childrens’ sensitivities as well. There are also many jet options, one of which is the lap pool jet which allows you to swim vigorously in place – kind of like climbing the wrong way on an escalator! Also, consider a remote controlled motorized cover for your pool. These days many models are strong enough to be walked on! This may be a costly added feature, but on those windy days, pouring rainy days, you might be grateful for it. The cover will also act as a barrier for thirsty wildlife! And most importantly, the cover is the ultimate safety feature for little ones who may want to wander into the property. Fencing barriers are a must for most locations, but the cover acts as secondary assurance. Jet motors are very loud, so find a way to cover them with some soundproofing material.
Will you want to manually skim the water or invest in a motorized model which is like an underwater Roomba. Our other neighbors have one of these fancy devices they have fondly named Javier. He is hard working and fun to watch. Remember to add many GFI power points around your backyard space for small devices like Javier, lighting, small appliance, electronics and anything else that requires a power source.
While you are waiting for your pool to arrive and be majestically hoisted into your backyard space, this is the perfect time to design and finalize the myriad of elements to make your new holiday destination beautiful and functional. Think about the tropical vacations you’ve been on. Look through all your travel photos and start compiling a list of elements you loved and thought worked well. This is when your creative juices should start flowing like a tasty Piña Colada!
Where to start? Designing your outdoor space is really no different than a room in your home. Take some time to create a wish list of everything you’d like to have around your pool. Consider employing an interior designer or landscape designer for professional help to include the following:
Hardscaping, Softscaping, deck space, cabana for changing with or without a toilet, shed like structure for storage, veggie patch, outdoor kitchen/bbq space, dining space, lounging space, a fire pit/fireplace. You also need dedicated spaces for all the pool equipment and pumping machines/motors.
Hardscaping isn’t just the patio stones you’d like to have installed in your backyard. Coping stones need to be chosen to go around the edges of your pool. Many have rounded edges waterside so they’re not so sharp. You will also need more hardscape material outside of the coping, unless you’re leaning more towards a softer landing material like grass. Many opt for artificial grass as it’s little to no maintenance and holds up well to splashes of pool water. It also holds up well to your pets’ droppings. Your hardscaping materials are like indoor flooring. You should avoid trendy designs and unusual colors. They are pricey decisions which you don’t want to regret and be tired of anytime soon. Hardscaping is extremely labor intensive, back breaking work. And the materials themselves, in particular natural slabs can be very expensive. Take your time in making your decisions.
Outdoor lounging should be designed with spaces for lots of bums while taking up as little space as possible. Because once the people in your life find out about your pool installation, your phone will be ringing nonstop! And while many companies boast that their fabrics can withstand the elements, it would be better for this area to be covered, or at least have the option for coverage some of the time with retractable awnings or umbrellas or moveable pergola roof materials. Allow for proper circulation space, as you would in your indoor space. Kid especially will want to run around outside and there shouldn’t be any tripping hazards.
How big should your outdoor dining table be? You can always copy the size of your indoor dining table and add a few more chairs. Outdoors, people don’t need to be so formal. Some can eat on lounge chairs or just on their towels laid down.
Also consider some seasonal greenery such as potted palms. Check with your local nursery to get information about which plants are more sensitive to pool water. And have lighting throughout – overhead stringed Edison bulbs, inground solar and directional spot lighting for dramatic effect. One of our neighbors has a tall street lamp feature at the back of the property. It’s so nice to see it at night, with the water reflecting its glow.
Another important consideration is how you connect your new backyard space to the access point of your house. Will you have a leveled deck to step outdoors, or stairs going down to pool level? Or is your back door already ground level? And finally, think about how your new oasis will look from inside your house. Site lines are very important considerations for any space inside or out. Perhaps you’ll want a small waterfall feature at the back of your pool, or a lovely seating area or a pretty little pool house. You want the eye to travel right to the back then all around. Keep pool noodles and other not so attractive things hidden yet easily accessible.
The best way to have the best result is to be prepared and to educate yourselves as much as possible. Good luck and I look forward to seeing some beautiful spaces soon!