Home swimming pools used at one time to denotes a luxurious way of living — a reflection of the film star image. But nowadays, even in countries with only a temperate climate, more and more swimming pools are appearing in the back gardens of ordinary suburban homes.
The reasons for this are easy to understand. Relatively, home swimming pools are much less expensive than they used to be. A do-it-yourself enthusiast can do much of the installation work himself. And as year by year the roads to the coast and countryside become increasingly crowded, there is more incentive for a family to spend a sunny summer afternoon in their own back garden and, consequently, to provide better amenities there.
Before installing a pool consult the local water authority to ensure that the installation complies with regulations and to find out whether it will involve your paying higher water rates.
There are three basic types of home swimming pool from which to choose. First, there is the above-ground pool. Secondly, there is the sunken pool, the type that is really a purpose-dug, and embellished hole in the ground. Finally, there is the halfway stage between the two — the raised pool — in which you dig out a hole but build up the excavated soil around it so that you artificially create a pool much deeper than your actual excavation.
Shape of the pool
You must decide at the outset what shape you want your pool to be. Pool shapes are not restricted to squares and rectangles. Many exotic variations, such as a kidney shape, are feasible. If you want an unusual shape, however, you will have to call in a contractor to build the pool for you, since the construction would over-tax your skills. You should be content with a pool that is of uniform depth throughout. Pools with varying depths — such as municipal pools that give, for instance, a diving pit — are much too difficult for the average amateur to build.
Size of the pool
When you are building your own pool you cannot construct, even if you have the space for it, an enormous swimming area, for — again — it would probably be beyond your capabilities. A pool with a maximum capacity of about 6,500 gallons (say 30,000 litres) is the limit for most amateur builders. That capacity would work out at something like 24 ft by 12 ft (say 7.3 m by 3.6 m) with a water depth of 4 ft (1.2 m). That may seem impossibly small if you are accustomed to public swimming pools. But it will give the average family plenty of room to splash about in. The length offers enough scope to the swimmer for a few strokes and for a shallow dive. Any scaling down that is forced on you by the nature of the site or by financial considerations should, if possible. Be applied to the width.
Siting the pool
If the orientation of your house and garden gives you any choice, you should select a sunny site for the pool. It will then be a much warmer place to swim in and, as important, its fringe will be more tolerable for sun-bathing and idling. A pool in the shade is. By comparison, a cool, dank place. It is a good idea to construct some form of windbreak to shield your pool from prevailing winds: it could be a wall, fencing or a quickly maturing hedge.
Heating the pool
You will obtain more use and enjoyment from your pool if you can heat up the water to a comfortable temperature. Heating is obtained by means of a special swimming pool heater. Such heaters are expensive to buy but they allow swimming out of doors on days when it might otherwise be disagreeable.
Swimming pool heaters can be operated at off-peak electricity rates and they are thermostatically controlled. The heater is coupled into the return flow from the pool filter. The filter outlet must then be placed low down in the pool wall, since heated water rises.
Lighting the pool
Special underwater lights are made for swimming pools. They are built into the side walls. Provision must therefore be made for their inclusion while the pool is being built. An outer casing is cemented into the wall during construction and the light itself clips into this. Thus the light can be withdrawn easily at any time for maintenance.
For the sake of safety, both heater and lights should be connected up by someone with a knowledge of electricity.
Every pool — even a simple above-ground one — should be surrounded by a paved border. The border acts as a useful barrier, reducing the debris that enters the pool from the outer edging of grass or soil. The surround can consist of concrete paving slabs. Or, if you are making extensive use of concrete in the construction of the pool, you could lay a continuous concrete surround about 3 in. (7.5 cm) deep resting on a bed of hardcore.