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Making a Splash

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Locals are lucky enough to be just a drive away from the ocean, but they also may be yearning for something much closer to home – like going for a swim in their own personal backyard oasis. But cookie-cutter pools are a thing of the past, as homeowners and pool experts alike are opting for innovations in both design and functionality. Personalizing a pool and its surrounding area creates a one-of-a-kind gathering place for relaxation, for recreation and for entertaining.

While it may be too late to get started for this summer, planning for next can begin right away: After all, the more thought you can give your expectations of a new space, the better. Preparation yields the best in visuals and utility, and it is pertinent to follow property regulations that are often unique from one township to another.

"Summer to fall is the best time for homeowners if they're really considering a pool for the upcoming season to meet with their builder, get the contract, get that engineering done, have the builder submit permits so come springtime, we can start digging in as soon as we can," says Joe Perchetti, who co-owns Ted's Pools with his wife Carol. "I frankly plug this all the time: We want it done right the first time, every time."

He adds that engineering helps prevent any foreseeable issues by taking into account the location of the pool from the home, different parts of the yard and neighbors' properties. One such example is ensuring that any runoff from storms will not cause damage to other parts of the home and will not spill into nearby yards or basements.

Another part of planning is to determine a pool's size, shape and material. While freeform pools provide more unique design options, rectangular pools provide the most swimming space. This fits the reemerging trend of incorporating right angles that line up with the home instead of curves, according to Bryan Hull, co-owner of Del Val Pools & Spas.

Yet, if a homeowner is feeling whimsical, irregular shapes are a possibility – Perchetti has even seen a guitar-shaped pool. Smaller pools, or "spools," are more adaptable to out-of-the-box shapes and sizes. The key for any project, of course, is attention to detail.

"[With] concrete pools, you can just draw a picture and we can put it in, it just goes by square footage. And a lot of people are putting sun shelves in where they can actually have an 8-foot area, or where they could put a lounge chair and only have a foot of water and then walk out into the pool from there," explains Walter Beyer, president and owner of Stardust Pools.

Concrete, vinyl and fiberglass are three options that offer differences in durability and maintenance depending on lifestyle requirements. Concrete is perfect for placing pool chairs and tables as opposed to vinyl lining, which can tear from the friction. Similarly, gunite is a concrete mix blended from sand, cement and water with plenty of potential for personalization.

"A custom gunite pool is affordable and allows the most flexibility, so we start there: Go gunite, go custom. It's what we are known for. From there, technology drives the newest changes each year. Customized lighting, heating and moving water options that can be controlled from your phone are the expected norm. Automation, imagination and creativity drive everything else," affirms Hull.

The latest technology does greatly enhance a pool, including the water itself. In addition to smartphone-controlled lights, colors and movement, salt generators to replace chlorine and heat pumps to extend the swimming season are trending upward. Saltwater pools are also getting a lot of attention for being gentler on swimmers' skin – and their wallets, too.

"By putting a heater on, you're basically adding at least two months to your swimming season. This April was cold, but usually you could swim at the end of April [through] May, June, July, August and September," says Beyer. "Everybody's going with salt generators, it's just a money saver – just better swimming water and the savings on chlorine and shock that you'd have to buy. You don't need to buy any of that anymore."

The pool serves as the centerpiece of an outdoor living space, and the surrounding enhancement options are endless. Lounge areas on the deck can incorporate entertainment systems like speakers for music or TVs begging for an outdoor movie night. Outdoor kitchens, spas, restrooms and changing rooms can take a backyard to the next level, making it the new preferred place for pampering, hanging out and bringing loved ones together for cherished memories that ultimately become a lifestyle.

"Sun decks remain a very popular option, as do waterfalls and fountains. The sound of moving water is very soothing, and it's good for your pool. Lighting comes in a variety of options that allow one to change color, color patterns, brightness, and create all kinds of special effects. Fire balls have become quite popular and are a unique juxtaposition of natural elements – fire and water," says Hull.

He also points out that as the "core area of socialization" rather than simply a place to swim, pools can include seats in the water to accompany a swim-up bar accessible to those outside the pool. In addition to waterfalls and fountains, diving boards, aquatic climbing walls and slides add even more activities that appeal to any age, promoting both fun and exercise.

Coordinating all of these different components generates an atmosphere fitting homeowners' preferences. Change the water's color to complement different themes, like red, white and blue for Fourth of July, or change the pattern and speed of lights to accompany music for a DIY disco. Additionally, harmonizing the human-made features of an outdoor living space with the natural environment is a streamlined source of inspiration to decide which pieces look best and where they should be placed.

"We're all earth-friendly now; we're all very, very conscious about recycling. If I go to empty a pool, how is it going to affect wildlife and shrubbery downstream? So, we're very conscious of Mother Nature and Mother Earth. With that, we're seeing an increase in natural products, like a boulder waterfall feature," affirms Perchetti. "So, not only do you have a very nice visual in front of you, but you have that audible effect that is just absolutely beautiful. Just sit there and close your eyes, and you'll swear you're at a mountain retreat right next to a lake with a waterfall."

The No. 1 trend today above all else is summed up in one word: personalization. With the ability to both research and compare ideas from home improvement internet, television and print sources—as well as the range of experts available with whom to confer – one can witness their dream pool come to fruition. Afterward, there is no longer a search for something to do or for the perfect venue to host a party: The solution is right in your backyard.


Del Val Pools & Spas
Turnersville, N.J.
(856) 629-2999

Stardust Pools
East Brunswick, N.J.
(732) 254-3330

Ted's Pools
West Chester, Pa.
(610) 359-1301

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 24, Issue 6 (May 2024)
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