If you were to ask a group of people what their ideal features in their dream home would be, you can bet that a swimming pool would be high on the list.
It’s easy enough to see why a backyard swimming pool is so coveted. There’s something luxurious about the idea of being able to come home after a long day at work and take a dip in your own, private pool. You could do a few laps – and tick off your exercise requirement for the day – then sit on the edge with a magazine in hand, letting the world pass you by as the stress slips off you. It’d be bliss; a private sanctuary from the world outside, a little feeling of being on holiday even on a regular working day.
That’s all well and good, and there’s no desire here to argue that a backyard swimming pool can’t meet all of your expectations. However… there is a tendency with “fantasy” style ideas like this for them to become lost. Rather than assessing the good, the bad, and the ugly of our dream design ideas, we all have a tendency to be a little more idealistic than is ideal. We don’t put the same mental effort and stress into making the right decision, for the right reason, as we would we a new vacuum purchase (for example). Instead, it’s easy to get lost in the glimmer of the wonderful possibilities to the point that we’re in danger of losing touch with reality.
When this happens with a small, frivolous purchase, it’s largely harmless. One to chalk up in the “lessons learnt the hard way” book. With something so huge as a backyard swimming pool, however… it’s not really a mistake that many of us can afford to make. It requires a huge change, a lot of money, and is a continued investment. If you choose the wrong wallpaper then it’s a weekend to fix it; go with a swimming pool without realising the realities and you’re stuck with it.
In an effort to ensure that any huge changes have been correctly thought through, it’s worth investigating the downside of the backyard swimming pool. To keep things simple, all of what is to follow applies to two scenarios. As in, the same will be true whether or not you buy a new house that already has a swimming pool, or you go through upgrade and development on your existing house to install one.
Maybe it will still be worth it for you, and the realities – while real – are not enough to dissuade you from your chosen path. And that’s okay! It’s just important to know what you’re in for, so dip a toe in the water and learn about some of the pitfalls of this most luxurious of home designs….
There’s no doubt about it; maintaining a swimming pool is a task that can feel like it never ends.
That’s probably because it does never end.
First and foremost, you have to think of the way the changing seasons will mean extra work for you. If you felt fallen leaves during fall were a problem before, they will take on a whole new meaning with a swimming pool. Of course, much of this problem can be mitigated by using a good swimming pool cover – but what about when you want to use it? A quick dip after work on a warm autumnal evening, and you’ll suddenly find yourself swimming through the beginnings of leaf mulch rather than the crystalline water that you had in mind.
Dealing with the fall issue is just the beginning, though. A large amount of water sitting in your backyard is going to be vulnerable to algae and other such problems; it is, in effect, standing water that is going to need to be aerated. That can be tricky enough with a small garden pond, but a swimming pool is another level – for one thing, it’s larger, and you’re going to want the water to be a good enough quality for humans to swim in. You therefore have to be ready to deal with any need for pump repairs the moment they become necessary, which could be an additional expense you need to ensure you keep money aside for.
You also have to set time aside in your schedule (or in your budget if you want to hire someone to do it for you) for the regular maintenance that any pool requires even when working well. That means treating the water – whether with chlorine or one of its alternatives – and skimming the surface for just the usual debris. All of this is a big undertaking that you can’t afford to ignore, so make sure you’re ready for it before you think of introducing a swimming pool to your life.
While for the most part your life with a pool will pass without issue, it’s vital to remember that a pool is nevertheless a safety hazard. That’s just unavoidable when you have an area of open water.
For one thing, did you know drowning doesn’t look anything like you think it does? There’s no cries for help or whirling arms; it’s a quieter, deadlier process than TV shows and movies have shown it to be. This is something you need to ensure everyone is aware of, especially if young children are going to be in the pool.
If you read that paragraph and thought: “it’s a backyard pool! They’re not deep, no one is going to be at risk of drowning…” then you need to push that thought right out of your mind. It only takes about six teaspoons of water inhaled into the lungs for someone to drown, so obviously, there is going to be a drowning risk for everyone if you have a backyard pool. You can, of course, be vigilant and stick to a rule that no one (adult or child) is allowed to swim alone, but you have to be certain that it’s going to be adhered to. It’s worth considering a locking pool cover that can at least ensure children aren’t going to be tempted to paddle without adult supervision.
Then there are the obvious downsides to having a lot of wetness around, namely the risk of slipping. If you’re buying a house with a pool, then you need to test the surrounding walkways to ensure they are not going to be hazardous if stepped on while wet. If you’re installing, then this kind of precaution is an extra step you’re going to have to take – and it won’t be cheap, either. Essentially, you want textured tile and walkways, and a few strategically placed handrails won’t go amiss either.
None of the above safety concerns are impossible; they just take a little more work than you might otherwise have been expecting to keep everything as it should be.
Finally, it’s important to mention something that, on inspection, will seem worth it: the loss of space.
When you have a swimming pool, you’re likely going to be giving over a huge chunk of your garden. That might seem like a fair trade when you first begin to consider it, but make sure you’re aware of how much that might impact you.
For example, if you have kids, they’re going to have a lot less room to run about and play games in. Then there is the entertainment factor; you’re going to be able to host fewer guests should you decide to host a summer garden party. There’s also the consideration of the fact you’re not going to have room to garden as much, so if you like to grow your own vegetables you’re going to be losing a lot of valuable space.
There are ways and means around this of course; you can grow veg in pots and turn those summer garden parties into summer pool parties, but nevertheless, you do need to consider them. It might immediately seem like it’s an acceptable trade that you’re more than willing to make, but think it through to make sure. It’s a good idea to jot down a few things you have done before over the summer particularly, and see how you would manage them now you’re giving up a large amount of your backyard to a pool. Don’t just assume it’ll be fine and you’ll think the change is 100% worth it; this is a big commitment, so it’s worth a little more mental energy to make sure you know what you’re getting into properly. Extra thought never hurt anyone!
While a backyard pool can be wonderful, it’s important to remember the less-than-wonderful ways that it might impact your life. Be safe, make rules that you adhere to, and be ready to adhere to a maintenance schedule to keep everything as it should be. If you do decide to take the plunge, at least now you’re doing it with all the full facts at your disposal.