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Soak up the sun: Need-to-know info to pick your perfect pool

Photo courtesy Valley Pool & Spa Inc

By Jason Cramp
Heading to the cottage after a long work week may seem like an escape until you realize everyone else had the same idea and you’re stuck for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Thoughts quickly turn to relaxing next to your own swimming pool, and before you know it, you’ve made up your mind to give your backyard the ‘cottage treatment,’ a place where family and friends can gather to make lasting memories. Now that you’ve decided to install a pool, you’re faced with another big decision: What kind should you get?

Size, shape, design, and budget are all factors to consider. However, depending on your preferences and the size of your backyard, there is a swimming pool to suit every need. Here’s what you need to know to determine the perfect pool for your family.

Option #1: Inground

Inground pools require excavating your yard to accommodate them, making them more expensive than above-ground or onground models. However, if you ever decide to sell your home, they can provide a better return on investment (ROI). Although installing an inground pool requires a great deal of planning, effort, and cost, the payoff is the luxurious option of taking a refreshing dip in your own pool. So you’ve made up your mind to go with an inground pool. The next step is deciding whether it will be constructed from concrete, vinyl, or fibreglass.


Inground pools are more expensive than above-ground or onground models, since they require excavating your yard to accommodate them. However, they can provide a better return on investment (ROI) if you decide to sell your home down the road.
Photo courtesy Solda Pools Ltd.

ADVANTAGES: Concrete pools are pretty pricey, but if you’ve got the budget for it, they offer infinite design configurations with the added advantages of durability and strength. Design options include underwater shelves, vanishing edges, elaborate steps, and graduated and beach-style entries. If you’re up for something a bit more exotic, the pool’s interior surface can be finished in a variety of materials, such as colourful tile fragments forming a mosaic design, or ceramic-coated quartz crystals that create an underwater sparkling effect. Given the prep work and actual build, constructing a concrete pool is labour intensive, typically requiring the use of several qualified subcontractors and six weeks or more to complete, depending on site and weather conditions. The end result, however, can be a unique, custom-built aquatic feature.

INSTALLATION: Adding a concrete pool to your backyard requires excavating space where it will be located. Once done, concrete is installed using either the cast-in-place technique, the wet-mix shotcrete method, or the dry-mix gunite practice. Cast-in-place entails pouring concrete over a grid of steel-reinforcing rods (i.e. rebar) between prepared forms. Wet-mix shotcrete and dry-mix gunite have similar methods of application. Both involve spraying pressurized, pre-mixed concrete through a hose at high speed to fill in and cover the rebar. However, gunite comprises a higher percentage of cement and a lower amount of water than the two previous methods. Unlike cast-in-place or shotcrete, with gunite all the dry ingredients are mixed at a concrete plant or at the jobsite before it is applied. There is no water added until it is delivered via the gunite nozzle.

After the rebar is filled in and covered, the concrete is finished in plaster or another coating, then painted or accented with finishing materials. Next, coping and border tiles are installed around the pool’s perimeter. Features such as underwater lights are installed last.

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