Insight from top pool builders and designers on unique pool settings
Above: An urban rooftop is the ideal setting for this dramatic contemporary pool that features a number of amenities, including an all-tile perimeter-overflow spa. See more pools by Aquatic Consultants/Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL >>
Designed by Aquatic Consultants, Inc./Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL; Architect: Silberstein Architects; Photography by Robin Hill Photography
At first glance, the steep incline at the end of your property seems like the last place a pool should be built—as does a residential rooftop or the edge of a beachfront getaway just feet from the ocean. But, professional pool designers and builders will tell you that challenging sites are often ideal spaces for out-of-the-box poolscapes. In fact, hillsides, rooftops, and urban residences are the sites of many spectacular infinity pools, multilevel pools, perimeter overflows, and other custom pool designs.
All that is required is a pool-building team that has the expertise, knowledge, ingenuity, technology, and the confidence to confront a “bet-you-can’t-do-it” dare head-on. The result? A mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind poolscape that will be a delight for the ages.
Planning a Unique Pool Setting
Above: Overlooking a rolling cityscape and a peaceful waterway, this amazing cantilevered pool is finished all in glass tile, giving it a touch of elegance to go along with its seemingly magical appearance. See more pools by Questar Pools and Spas, Escondido, CA >>
Designed by Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA; Photography courtesy of Studio Carre Photography
The team of every pool project includes a variety of specialists who answer to one person—the director who understands the creative vision and guides everyone toward a successful outcome. This can be the pool designer, builder, general contractor, or architect, depending on the type of job and what is needed. No matter who the manager is, the team must trust the person in charge and be able to express concerns, solutions, and ideas in order to be effective. This is especially true for projects that are complex in design and execution.
Constructing a pool in a nontraditional space requires many experts who are willing to leave their egos at the door while remaining self-assured of their skills. A topnotch engineer verifies that the proposed space is viable for a pool by studying the land, examining the soil, and determining not only the feasibility of construction but also the best way to obtain safe, lifelong results.
“Believe it or not, the soil can dictate 90 percent of a pool’s cost,” says Skip Phillips, SWD (Society of Watershape Designers), professional pool designer, Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA. “It is important that a pool builder obtains a soils report before building any type of pool, but it is especially true for pools in extreme settings like a hillside or on the beach.”
Once the space receives a passing grade, the other professionals on the project go into action. The designer drafts the plans, the builder gathers the construction team, and the structure starts to appear from seemingly nothing.
Hillside Pools with a View
Above: This sleek two-sided vanishing-edge rectangular pool features negative edges that are 27 feet tall. LED color lighting and the black Pebble Sheen® interior finish provide the wow while the deck crafted from imported Chinese sandstone frames the setting in splendor. See more pools by Lewis Aquatech Pools, Chantilly, VA >>
Photo courtesy of Lewis Aquatech Pools, Chantilly, VA
One of the most common spaces for uncommon pools is in, on, or cantilevered off a hill or mountainside. The views from these locales are often spectacular and perfect for poolside entertaining or daily decompression activities. But they can also pose an intense challenge for a pool builder, which is why you must only utilize the talents of a highly qualified, licensed professional who employs a full team of skilled craftsmen who are accomplished in constructing this type of pool setting.
“When you decide to incorporate a pool on the side of a hill or cantilevered off a mountainside, certain construction practices must be followed. Based on the soils report, holes must be drilled at certain depths, pilings must be installed, and concrete must be used to stabilize the entire setup. Done correctly, the perfect foundation is created for the construction of the project,” explains Phillips.
Above: This spectacular vanishing-edge pool blends in seamlessly with its magnificent natural setting. Appearing to be a part of the vista since the beginning of time, the pool receives its reflective abilities from the all-glass tile interior. See more pools by Questar Pools and Spas, Escondido, CA >>
Designed by Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA; Photography courtesy of Jade Mountain
Above: This soaring multi-level project is the result of many professionals collaborating to achieve the definitive beachfront poolscape. To keep the setting stable and safe, the pool and spa include a custom-manufactured acrylic support system. See more pools by Master Pools Guild >>
Designer and general contractor: Wolf Design Build, San Diego, CA; Pool and spa built by Mission Pools of Escondido, Inc., Escondido, CA, member of Master Pools Guild; Photography courtesy of David Hartig, San Diego, CA
Many homeowners who live by the sea want to complete their outdoor living space with a pool but are hesitant because of the ever-fluctuating weather conditions and the sandy soil. A skilled pool builder will turn to a knowledgeable engineer for a soils report and determine setbacks from the ocean. Plus, the homeowner’s municipality has laws on the books that dictate what can and cannot be done.
Many pools built on a hillside or by the beach are the result of limited horizontal space—the designers go up because there is usually more acreage in the vertical direction (as long as there are no laws restricting the amount of stories a residential building can ascend). By planning a poolscape on different levels, the pool designer can create a number of interconnected zones that give the whole setting a dynamic vibe.
The possibilities are limitless. For instance, one tier can feature an infinity pool and spa that flow into a lower pool, creating a beautiful curtain of water as it descends. Another tier may be the scene for non-pool recreational activities like a putting green or bocce ball court. Finally, the lower level may contain a wading pool, a tanning shelf, or a deck for relaxation or dining.
Above and below: This rooftop pool provides the perfect vantage point to enjoy the Atlanta skyline—but at night, it has a dramatic pull that draws everyone to its center. See more pools by Aquatic Consultants/Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL >>
Designed by Aquatic Consultants, Inc./Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL; DWY Landscape Architects; Photography courtesy of Greg Wilson Photography
Another atypical spot for a pool is a residential rooftop. This type of construction takes precision and a great deal of expertise. The structure will need to be strong enough to handle not only the weight of the pool but also the extreme weight of the water, any decking, and all of the amenities. “As footprints become smaller, homeowners are looking up instead of out for their pools,” explains Brian Van Bower, SWD, professional pool designer, Aquatic Consultants, Inc., Miami, FL.
Although best included during the planning stage of new construction, rooftop pools can be incorporated onto existing structures as long as a structural engineer confirms that the building is suitable for this type of pool. Concrete, seemingly too heavy, can be used, but lighter-weight, watertight stainless steel is usually the go-to material. Lifted whole or in pieces, the shell is then placed on a shower pan for water stoppage should it become necessary. Small leaks in any pool are not good, but when the pool is on the roof, the resulting damage can be costly.
“Rooftop pools are not for everyone and not just any pool guy can build the pool,” says Van Bower. “When it comes to rooftop pools, you have to think ahead and plan for every possibility. Should something happen to cause the pool to leak, stopgap measures must be in place to funnel the water off the roof and away from the home.”
Rooftop pools are dramatic on their own, but increasingly, homeowners are opting for an added dimension of excitement: a see-through acrylic floor that looks down into a room or space below. When viewed from underneath, the pool’s transparent floor becomes a dynamic piece of art with water as a medium that constantly moves and changes. The effect is sensational, especially on a sunny day when the water sparkles in the light.
The bottom line is this: do not allow in-the-box thinking to stop you from fulfilling your lifelong dream of owning a pool just because your property is confined by cliffs, the ocean, or urban sprawl. With the help of a highly gifted, licensed, and industry-recognized pool designer and builder, anything is possible.
Above: Either looking up into the pool or down into the media room, this rooftop pool brings an added dimension to the home’s dramatic style. The pool includes a Pebble Tec® interior finish and features black granite accents. See more pools by Questar Pools and Spas, Escondido, CA >>
Designed by Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA; Photography courtesy of Cameron Acker