The Ultimate Guide to Designing the Pool of your Dreams

5 Essential Questions you Should Ask When Designing your Stunning In-ground Swimming Pool

Paver Patio and Pool

I. What Type of In-ground Pool Suits You?

Most in-ground pools are one of three materials: fiberglass, vinyl lined, or concrete. Each material carries its pros and cons.

Fiberglass Pool

Fiberglass is the choice material for bathtubs, sinks, hot tubs, and even multi-million dollar yachts, so it’s no wonder it makes for an excellent, sturdy material for in-ground pools. Fiberglass pools are handcrafted off-site in a myriad of available shapes and sizes. They are then shipped via tractor-trailer to your home site.

With a fiberglass pool, installation can be accomplished relatively quickly, depending on the complexity of your build. It’s possible you could be swimming within days of your pool arriving on site. While concrete pools can crack and have a much rougher surface, a fiberglass pool’s smooth surface means no scratches on sensitive hands or feet – not to mention that a slick surface helps minimize algae growth.

A fiberglass pool is incredibly sturdy and reliable, unlike vinyl liners that can tear easily. Also, fiberglass pools retain their form over time. So you also don’t have to worry about the expense or hassle of replacing it in the future.

Although fiberglass pools are an easy and cost-effective option, there are limits. You can choose different shapes and sizes from their collection, but creativity is limited. If your vision for a backyard oasis means obtaining a unique pool shape, fiberglass isn’t your best option. These pools are pre-made and shipped on flatbed trailers. They typically won’t exceed 16′ in width and 35′ in length.

Vinyl Pool

Vinyl-lined pools have become a trendy choice for homeowners. Unlike fiberglass pools, vinyl liner pools can be designed to fit into nearly any type of backyard or space. In addition, modern manufacturing techniques can produce a vinyl liner pool in virtually any shape for almost limitless design options. Several unique features are also available, such as spill-over spas, tanning ledges, and liners that come in various colors, patterns, and thicknesses.

All pools will require maintenance, but vinyl doesn’t require as much concrete or fiberglass. Similarly to fiberglass, vinyl pools are a non-porous, smooth surface which means fewer chemicals to keep algae growth at bay.

Vinyl liners are highly durable and, if properly maintained, can last an average of 10 years before needing to be replaced. Although the notion of having to replace the entire liner of a pool every ten years is a drawback, it does open the opportunity to transform your pool space – tired of the blue completely? Try replacing the liner with an entirely new color.

The countless customizable options, near unlimited design potential, and a lower upfront cost have made the vinyl-lined pool an appealing option for backyard pool installations.

Concrete Pool

Concrete pools (also known as Gunite or shotcrete) are infinitely customizable. Due to concrete’s undisputed structural strength, it has been used for pools for decades – especially for commercial and public pools.

Gunite is a specialized blend of concrete applied over a steel rebar inner frame via a high-pressure hose to create a rock-hard, solid structure. As a result, Gunite is highly adaptable to any pool form; it can hold gentle flowing curves and contours, varying depths, and virtually any imaginable shape. Once the Gunite has cured (dried), it is coated in plaster for a smooth yet slightly textured finished inner surface.

The plaster can be blended with colored quartz for additional durability and aesthetics – alternatively, a high-end pebble finish may be applied for a luxurious finish and feel. Gunite pools allow deeper depths than fiberglass or vinyl pool.

Despite the durability of concrete and steel, gunite pools will need to be acid washed about every 3-5 years to remove algae and chemical buildup. The plaster coating may look fantastic on day one, but it won’t last forever, and you’ll effectively have to re-plaster the pool every 10-15 years.

II. Saltwater or Chlorine?

There are pros and cons to both types of pools. We’ll discuss the main highlights so you can make a properly informed decision.

Saltwater Pool

Pros: This option is excellent for anyone who doesn’t like or want the harsh chemicals of a chlorine pool. While it’s important to note that a saltwater pool DOES still have some chlorine, it’s a much smaller amount generated through the filtering system. No chlorine tablets are added to a saltwater pool.

It’s much softer on hair, eyes, skin, and swim attire (it won’t fade your suit or turn your hair green!). The smell alone is reason enough for some to forgo the chlorine pool – saltwater carries no chlorine smell. Maintaining a saltwater pool is much easier than a chlorinated one. While you will still need to maintain this pool by testing pH and alkalinity levels each week, you won’t need to maintain this like a chlorinated pool. This system naturally takes care of any algae buildup!

Saltwater is also helpful to those who suffer from asthma or allergies – breathing in chlorine can irritate breathing. Since the level of chlorine is low, it is less likely to cause irritation.

Cons: Salt can harm a pool over time, causing erosion and buildup. So it is essential to check for this periodically to maintain your pool’s life. As stated earlier, just because it’s called a saltwater pool doesn’t mean it’s 100% salt. There are still small chlorine levels in a saltwater pool – the salt chlorine generator is electricity-ran and turns the salt into chlorine. While the upfront cost of saltwater is considered a con, it does equal out over time because the maintenance cost is less for saltwater.

Chlorine Pool

Pros: A chlorine pool has much less upfront cost compared to saltwater. You won’t need to purchase expensive equipment; you can test the levels yourself, which helps reduce the cost of hiring a professional. Saltwater can also cause corrosion to metal over time, but thankfully chlorine doesn’t have that same effect. So no significant damage will be done to pool parts with a chlorine pool.

Cons: Chemicals are not conducive to our health. And long time exposure to chemicals can have adverse reactions. For example, chlorine is a chemical that can irritate skin, eyes, throat, lungs, and skin, and it wreaks havoc on clothes and towels.

Maintenance can be a headache for homeowners! You are constantly adding chlorine pellets into the pool to keep optimum levels. You will need to “shock” the pool regularly (approximately every week) with an abundance of chlorine pellets, and this continual stocking of chlorine can impact the pocketbook.

Lastly, you will need a safe space to store these chemicals. And homeowners with pets and small children need to be acutely aware of how they store the chlorine.

III. What Kind of Pool Deck Do you Want?

The second most important material to discuss is that which will surround your pool – the pool decking. The pool deck is a solid surface patio space typically constructed from concrete, manufactured pavers, or natural stone.


Brushed finish concrete is a primary, inexpensive, and durable material for pool decks. A brushed finish on concrete adds texture to the surface to help minimize slips when traversing with wet feet. Although concrete isn’t the most glamorous material, it is the most cost-effective for those on a budget.

Due to its slick finish, I do not recommend stamped concrete around pools. Concrete also has the potential to crack. It is almost guaranteed to have hairline cracks at some point. Hairline cracks in concrete are an eyesore and can become a much bigger issue.

As cracks deepen, you will need to replace a portion of the concrete – if not the entire patio. When this happens, I often recommend resurfacing the concrete with Kool Deck – a polymer cement overlay that can be applied to existing concrete. It noticeably reduces the surface temperature of your pool deck and comes in a large variety of available colors.

Manufactured Stone

Manufactured pavers are the most diverse and customizable options for pool decking. With hundreds of options for color, texture, and size, manufactured paving stones are made from specialized concrete mixes that are mechanically compressed for superior durability. As a result, manufactured pavers are unmatched by conventional poured concrete. Want to install your own paver patio? Learn more about it here!

Aside from their incredible strength, pavers are available in countless colors and textures, making them one of the most flexible pool deck materials. No matter your design style, there is a paver to match – consider Beacon Hill Smooth by Unilock for a sleek, contemporary feel or Origins by Belgard for a more classic, textured look – the possibilities are endless.

Unlike concrete, pavers very rarely crack and are easily replaced on the off-chance that one does. Rather than having to cut a section of concrete out, we remove the damaged paver and return it for a seamless, unnoticeable repair. If you want to learn more about the cost of a paver patio, we can help!

Natural Stone

Although not used as extensively as manufactured pavers, natural stone is a luxurious option for pool decking!

Travertine has been favored as a building material since the time of the ancient Romans. You can still see travertine tile in old Roman bathhouses – for a good reason! Travertine is a natural sedimentary form of limestone that forms around mineral-rich natural springs resulting in beautiful mottled textures with distinctive colorful swirls. When appropriately maintained, it can last for decades.

Due to travertine’s naturally porous nature, it quickly absorbs water that splashes onto the surface resulting in a non-slippery surface. Travertine is also resilient to extreme temperatures – walking on sun-baked travertine is still cooler than a hot, sandy beach.

As with any natural stone material, there are some notable drawbacks. That porous nature that helps prevent slips can also be a curse – naturally formed holes in travertine can fill with water, and in the winter months, it can freeze and crack a travertine tile. Those same holes can also accumulate dirt resulting in a stained look over time.

Although it is unnecessary, I recommend sealing natural stone every 3 to 5 years to help prevent staining and cracks that develop during natural freeze-thaw cycles.

IV. Any “Must Have” Pool Features?

A tanning ledge? Perhaps a diving board? Would the kids like a slide?

While these are essential add-ons, diving boards, slides, and tanning ledges are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg regarding the multitude of fun and unique features you can add to your backyard pool experience.

How about a water feature?

Water features are by far the most common addition to many pool projects. A sheer descent waterfall can add just the right amount of splash to suit any mood or environment, ranging from a glass-like sheet of water or a rushing mountain waterfall. Sheer descents are usually installed in the mortar joint of a feature wall – between the pool coping and stonework. Water must be piped up and through the wall and is typically fed by a separate pump. They require a great deal of power to operate.

This water feature’s width can range from 8″ to 8′, and they are available in straight or curved options. Sheer descents are popular with contemporary designs but can be easily implemented into nearly any design style. These visually striking features are sure to impress guests and homeowners alike.

If you are interested in something more substantial, then perhaps an actual waterfall is more your speed. RicoRock offers manufactured waterfall kits that can easily take an average pool and transform it into your luxury tropical resort. Many waterfalls can also incorporate slides for an interactive experience that adds something extra to set your pool apart from others.

V. What’s Next?

Meet our Elevate Outdoor Team! Pool installation can be costly and should be planned for the best possible outcome. Working with a landscape design team will help ensure that you get precisely what you are looking for while staying within your budget. We’d love to sit down with you and discuss all the available options so we can design a truly unique backyard pool oasis customized to your needs and wants! We would be honored to create the perfect plans to make your pool dreams a reality. Contact our customer service department to start the process or submit a form, and we’ll be in touch soon!

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