Magazine article Sunset

New Life for Old Pools: Three Remodels Show How to Upgrade and Update the Backyard Plunge

Magazine article Sunset

New Life for Old Pools: Three Remodels Show How to Upgrade and Update the Backyard Plunge

Article excerpt

An aging pool is like a room that's ready for remodeling: even if you've maintained it well, little dings appear, new technologies emerge, and tastes and styles change, helping to prompt a major upgrade. Just as you can reshape a room by cutting openings in a wall or by attaching new cabinetry, you can expand or even shrink the size of a pool to accommodate new features. A remodeled pool can turn an ordinary backyard into a vacation destination.

COSMETIC CHANGES

Basic pool remodels change the tile band, the coping, and the plaster. New tile along the water line can introduce bright colors, an interesting pattern, or - when stone is used - subtle natural color and texture. You can change the look of a pool but still blend it with existing decking by replacing the original coping tiles with a more muted material such as bullnose brick. Changing from white to a darker plaster not only makes the pool less visually intrusive but also turns it into more of a reflecting pond. The most popular color of plaster is called Tahoe Blue, though it's actually light gray. With much darker colors, it can be difficult to determine the pool's depth - a safety concern for young divers.

The cost for a comprehensive cosmetic remodel runs about $7,500 for an average-size pool (in the 16- by 35-foot range), according to Randy Saunders of Adams Tile & Plaster of Pleasanton, one of Northern California's largest pool remodelers.

A logical extension of the cosmetic upgrade is to change the surrounding deck. Designers create a more cohesive look by using the same material for decking and coping - concrete, stone, terra-cotta tiles, brick, or even wood. Cost varies with material and surface area. If you have a rectangular pool, this is a good time to add an automatic pool cover that runs on tracks mounted to the underside of the coping. A typical "cover beam conversion," as this is called, costs another $7,500.

CHANGING THE SHELL

There's nothing sacred about the shell of a pool. As with the walls of that remodeled room, you can add elements inside or outside the shell, or even cut away portions of the sides. Here are some other popular remodel strategies that go beyond the cosmetic, affecting the shape, volume, and performance of a pool. (Check with local building officials regarding any structural, plumbing, or electrical changes.)

* Change the topography. Go up - with raised spas that spill back into the pool, with tile-faced planters, or with real or manmade boulders that line the pool's edge. Artificial boulders often notch over the edge of a pool, resting on and tying to the perimeter bond beam (the structural beam that rings the pool) and running several feet below the water level. A modest remodel that uses 2-foot-tall boulders to line about a third of an average pool starts at about $10,000. Costs depend on custom detailing and the size and number of boulders.

* Fill in the deep end. This creates a "play pool" of even depth to promote lap swimming or games. (It also cuts costs for water, chemicals, and heating.)

* Add a spa. It can be at water level inside or outside the shell, or may be elevated above the bond beam.

* Introduce other water features. Recirculating waterfalls, water slides, or spray jets added along the side animate the pool with sound and movement. …

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