With the rise of the “staycation,” more and more homeowners are turning their backyards into their own private oases. The centerpiece of many such retreats is a refreshing and inviting pool.
Whether above-ground or inground models, pools make for welcoming spots to enjoy warm days and nights. A new pool can quickly turn a yard into the “it” spot to spend vacations or cool off at the end hot summer days. While pools are often the focal point of a backyard, many homeowners want their pools to blend seamlessly with the rest of their yards. When transforming a backyard that includes a pool, homeowners should consider a few factors to ensure each afternoon spent poolside is as safe as it is fun.
Although the goal may be to soften the lines of the pool and/or create sight barriers that will provide some measure of privacy for swimmers, homeowners must put safety above all else. Before any decorative touches are added, it is important to surround a pool with a slip-resistant surface and fencing (many communities require fences be erected around pools). Consult with a landscaping contractor, who should be knowledgeable about safety codes, or speak to the permit-issuing department at town hall. There should be a list of requirements to ensure pool placement as well as any surrounding touches are legal and within code.
Concrete, brick and pavers and decking are popular materials used to surround a pool. Installers can make recommendations on materials and finishes, but one suggestion is to choose a rough finish. Pool water can make surfaces slippery. Concrete that is stamped or scarred provides extra traction than a smooth surface. The same can be said for brick patios and pavers. Avoid smooth stones or pavers with shiny surfaces, as these may only increase the risk of falls.
Homeowners who have chosen wood or composite decking to surround a pool should talk to their contractor about nonslip protective coatings. Such coatings typically are acrylic-based liquids applied like a paint or sealer. Some composite decks may be crafted with texture or a built-in coating to reduce slipping. In addition, use nonstick mats on decks and patios to provide a little extra footing where people enter and exit the pool.
Mulch and stone
Homeowners often prefer some combination of mulch or stone to serve as a transition between the pool, concrete or paver hardscape and the lawn. Stone may be more practical for those with inground pools because it will not easily blow onto the water surface. With an above-ground pool, mulch or stone can do the trick, serving as a barrier so that pool water does not overly drench the surrounding lawn or damage grass after exposure to pool chemicals. Mulch and stone also will provide drainage from water runoff from the pool and rain.
Another advantage of having an additional barrier between the pool and lawn is that lawn clippings will not be shot into the pool when mowing. Stone and mulch can be dressed up with statues, lawn ornaments and tolerant plants.
Plants can provide the finishing touches for a poolside landscape. Homeowners should keep in mind that pools are not often shaded from the sun, so plants placed around the pool will need to be sun- and drought-tolerant. Succulents, such as aloe and jade, may work, as can the perennial shrub yucca. Moderately growing grasses will offer a privacy barrier.
Keep trees and flowering plants far enough away from the pool’s edge so they do not contribute to debris that falls into the pool, which can complicate maintenance. Also, flowering plants may attract insects and other wildlife that may interfere with your enjoyment of the pool. It’s better to create a friendly environment for wildlife further away from the pool.
Homeowners who need some advice planning the landscaping around their pools can rely on the expertise of landscape architects as well as employees at lawn and garden centers. Pool companies may work with landscapers and offer recommendations to people unaccustomed to working around pools.