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Swimming Pools Living the Dream!

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Updated: August 19, 2020

Once upon a time, backyards were large swathes of lawn with a solitary path to the hills hoist. Today, Australians see their backyard as so much more – an essential part of their lifestyle, their own little piece of the great outdoors, a place that brings family and friends together. Living the dream!

For many Australians that dream now involves a pool. Over three million Aussies have access to a backyard pool– entertaining areas complete with a pool are definitely on the bucket list.

Pool construction involves council approval and compliance inspections. This usually means subcontracting the work to a specialist pool company –preferably one that is registered with SPASA (Swimming Pool and Spa Association).

Yet, there are still so many opportunities for the landscaper to become  involved in the pool project – everything from excavation to water features, retaining walls, fire pits, coping, paving, pool fencing, pool houses, outdoor showers, outdoor lighting, outdoor heating, shade sails, outdoor kitchen, rain water tanks and planting. In some ways, subbing out for a pool creates an endless array of landscaping opportunities.

Pool Positives

Safety remains the main issue for consumers considering a backyard pool but, in our greener, more resource conscious world, there are also growing concerns around electricity and water usage.

However, continuing innovation is creating safer, more environmentally-friendly pools.

By law, pools need to be adequately fenced, children’s safety comes first! Now, pool guard alarm systems that link via an app to your mobile phone take security to a whole new level. Any child that enters the pool area sets off the alarm.

The old single-speed pump contributed up to 18 per cent of a household’s electricity bill. Labelling for the energy usage of pool pumps is voluntary but will become mandatory this year. Nowadays, quieter, more energy-efficient variable speed pumps are available.

An average domestic swimming pool holds between 20,000 and 60,000 litres of water, so the aim should be that once filled, water is conserved by topping it up from  an independent supply such as an on-site rain water tank. Interestingly, our recent horror bushfire season has seen backyard pools being used as a fire fighting resource. Bushfire authorities, such as the NSW Rural Fire Service, now encourage those with pools in bushfire prone areas to display a static water supply (SWS) sign at the front of their properties.

Fibreglass Versus Concrete

Fibreglass pools are great where space is not an issue, providing a quick and easier solution. Concrete pools come into their own on sites where space and shape are a challenge, however they take longer to install and require a higher level of engineering, which usually makes them more expensive.

Logistics

Access to the site will influence the size, shape and type of pool that can be installed. On vacant blocks it is easier to install the pool shell before building the house. As they then become a trip/fall or drowning hazard, temporary fencing will be required around the concrete shell. Alternatively, the shell can be backfilled with sand or covered with timber sheeting and metal supports.

Fibreglass pools will need to be filled with water to settle them into the ground and barricaded with temporary fencing.

An in-ground fibreglass pool may seem the easiest solution but make sure that the pool can be craned over the house without obstruction from trees or overhead lines. In suburbia access for earthmoving machinery between the houses should be ensured and if the spoil can’t be used elsewhere on the block, a clean fill dumping site will need to be sourced. Many pool construction companies allow for cartage within 5km and charge thereafter. Excavation usually takes a day, unless spoil has to be transported long distances and, if you strike rock, you may be looking at up to two weeks.

Planning And Design

A shaded area is also desirable near or even over one section of the pool so that the owners can relax while not having their above-water bits baked by the sun! Shade sails as well as pergolas thatched in tea tree or bamboo seem to be the most popular options.

The aesthetics of fencing the area as well as hiding equipment such as pool pumps, chlorinators and heat pumps creates a real challenge for the landscaper. The most unobtrusive fencing option is to use glass panels, although powder-coated aluminium or steel fencing panels are cheaper alternatives.

Non-Climbable Zone

The Australian standard for swimming pool fencing (AS 1926.1-2012) states that a non- climbable zone (NCZ) of 900mm has to be achieved on the outside of the pool fencing. Pool handovers have ground to a halt where trees and shrubs or construction (seating, barbecues etc.) have encroached into this zone. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to have seamless access from the house to the pool. Every doorway or window from the house to the pool needs to be built as mandated by the Building Code of Australia – beware, pool fencing rules continue to be tightened by state governments and enforced by local councils.

Construction

A fibreglass pool will require a hole around 300mm deeper than the shell. The hole is then backfilled with sand or gravel to provide a solid foundation. For a concrete pool there are companies that specialise in pumping concrete through up to 60m of line into any tight location. One of the great advantages of concrete is that the hole essentially becomes the shape of the pool allowing creative free-form designs.

After excavation, the next stage is steel fixing, essentially creating a crisscross steel cage around the whole interior surface of the pool ready for concrete spraying.

Next comes pre-plumbing, making provision for anything that goes through the concrete such as the hydrostatic valve, suction inlets and returns, underwater lighting, spa jets or water features. Make sure that the customer is aware that if they are considering add-ons in the future such as solar heating, it is a good idea to make provision by putting in the piping now.

After plumbing, the steel fix is sprayed with concrete. When the concrete has cured, the waterline tiles and coping are laid. If additional tiling is required outside the pool coping, a further expansion joint needs to be installed between the pool top and surrounding slab. The pebble interior is spayed on (or tiles laid) with the crew returning the following day to acid wash the newly sprayed pebblecrete.

The final electrical and plumbing fix occurs next as does the construction of the pool fencing. The pool fence will need to pass a compliance inspection before the pool can be filled and balanced ready for handover.

Fibreglass pool installation follows the same steps: excavation, pre-plumbing, installation, filling, fencing and final fix. Although, after installation you will need to wait around two weeks for the pool to settle before forming up a concrete collar or beam around the perimeter of the pool ready for the laying of pavers.

In our hectic world, it’s time to consider a pool, the ultimate relaxation, in any new home or backyard build. Landscaping is now just as much about creating lifestyle as it is about creating beautiful surroundings, helping customers to live the great Australian dream.