Take the plunge
Installing a swimming pool is an expensive and large-scale undertaking. Make sure you are informed about the different options available as well as how to keep your pool safe
As our summers get hotter and hotter, more of us dream about having our own swimming pool to relax in after a sweltering day at work or for the children to splash around in.
If you are lucky enough to have your own swimming pool, or are planning on installing one, take a look at the following information and inspiration to help you install and maintain your own perfect – and safe – haven of blue.
Before you jump in with both feet, here are some important points to consider:
* Remember that installing a swimming pool is a big expense, and once installed, it requires regular maintenance to keep it pristine.
* Make sure you have checked and adhered to municipal by-laws and regulations for domestic swimming pools.
* Set yourself a budget and take into account the extras that come along with swimming pools, such as pool fences, nets, cleaning equipment and chemicals, as well as the cost of running the filter.
* Winter is the best time to build a pool. Swimming pool companies are busier during summer, so you are more likely get a booking according to your schedule during winter. Also, by the time summer arrives, your pool will be ready for use and you will have had time to add the finishing touches to your garden and surrounds in time for the swimming season.
Choosing a reputable company
“When choosing a company to build your swimming pool, the first criteria is that the company should be a member of the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI),” advises Piet Snygans, CEO of SA Pools. In South Africa, the NSPI acts as the watchdog over the swimming pool industry – to the benefit of both its members and pool owners. Visit to see which swimming pool companies are members of the NSPI.
“When getting quotes, beware of any unusually low or high prices. For example, if all your quotes are in the region of R80 000 and you suddenly get one for R48 000, you should see a red light,” says Piet. “You can visit for recommended prices of various standard size pools. Also ensure that the company you choose builds according to SABS specifications. Make sure you research the company and its track record carefully. You can also ask to look at some pools the company has installed and get recommendations from the owners. Note that NSPI members will offer a 10-year guarantee on their work.”
Once you have settled on a company and signed the quote, ensure that you agree on the payment terms. It is usual to pay a deposit up front, a percentage of the balance halfway through the installation process and the final amount on completion of the pool, once you are happy that the project has been completed according to the terms of your agreement with your chosen company.
“Reputable pool companies will deal with all known problems during the pool building process, but remember that they are not blasters, rubble removers or plumbers. Read your contract with them carefully to see exactly what they are responsible for. Should any problems occur that don’t fall within their expertise in terms of the contract, they should recommend a reputable company to deal with whatever issue has arisen. Remember you will have to deal directly with outside companies and pay them directly,” advises Piet.
Design and situation
“Remember, your pool will most likely be a focal point in your garden, so ensure that whatever shape and size you choose complements that of your house and size of your garden, otherwise it may turn out to be an eyesore,” says Piet.
For example, a contemporary style house warrants a modern, geometric pool with clean lines, while a more old-fashioned or cottage style home would better suit a classical pool with curving lines. Currently in fashion are rim-flow swimming pools, particularly suited to contemporary homes, natural style pools and splash pools, especially popular in small, complex gardens.
Choose the site for your swimming pool carefully. The modern trend is to situate your swimming pool leading off from your entertainment area, but in smaller gardens, this is not always possible – choose a position where it will be the most practical and aesthetically pleasing. “In South Africa, positioning your pool in a shady spot is not always such an issue; in fact, it can be a blessing, particularly in the hotter regions such as Gauteng,” says Piet.
“Most swimming pools are built from gunite, a mixture of cement and sand that is sprayed on, or hand-packed steel reinforced concrete, which provides the structural strength of the pool. These types of pools can be constructed in just about any shape and size,” explains Piet. “Pre-moulded fibreglass pools are another, cheaper option, but these generally come in standard shapes and sizes.”
Once the shell of your concrete pool is in place, your next decision is whether to finish it with marbelite or a fibreglass liner.
“Marbelite is still the most popular finish and, in my opinion, the best,” says Piet. It is a cement-based waterproofing plaster that goes over the concrete and is available in many different colours, including white, blues and greens and darker colours such as charcoal.
* Comes in a range of colours to suit your style.
* Ideal for a natural look. Suits a pool surrounded by natural rock or stone tiles.
* Wide choice of mosaics available – just about any type of mosaic material can be used to finish off the look, such as glass, porcelain or ceramic.
* Can crack and be costly to repair.
* Marbelite is porous, making it susceptible to stains. This also allows algae to attach more firmly, making brushing down the pool more time consuming. The pool may need to be resurfaced with new marbelite after some time due to staining.
* Can feel rough underfoot, particularly on the soft soles of children’s feet.
* Fibreglass liners
A waterproof fibreglass liner is applied over the gunite or concrete shell, forming the finished surface of the swimming pool.
* Offers a smooth finish.
* Because of the smoother, less porous finish, algae finds it more difficult to cling to the surface and is easily brushed off, making cleaning quick and easy.
* Fibreglass liners can delaminate from the concrete or gunite shell, which is costly to fix.
* Can be slightly slippery due to the smooth finish.
* There is a limited choice for the mosaic rim as a special type of mosaic material is required for fibreglass pools.
“There is a belief that fibreglass pools are warmer than marbelite pools, but the difference in temperature is so negligible that it is barely worth taking into account when making your choice,” adds Piet.
Finishes and extras
There are a host of finishes and extras that you need to consider when planning your pool, and these will mostly depend on your taste and the style of your home, garden and pool. Ensure that you discuss these with your pool company before you begin and find out whether they can supply these or whether you will need to source them yourself.
Mosaics are usually used around the rim of the pool as well as on the steps. Some people prefer to mosaic the entire step (budget allowing), while it is more common to use two or three rows of mosaics along the edge of each step.
Mosaics for fibreglass pools are very limited as they are made from a special material – ask your pool company to recommend some suppliers (there are several companies with online catalogues).
Just about any type of mosaic can be used in marbelite pools, including ceramic, glass or porcelain, with ceramic glazed tiles currently in vogue – visit various tile retailers to choose from the vast array of colours, styles and materials available or you can also ask your pool company to recommend some companies with online catalogues.
The choice of tiles that surround your pool is also limitless and includes natural and man-made materials. Do some research about the material you choose as many tiles that are exposed to water need to be sealed. Try to choose a tile that has bullnose coping variations as well as plain ones – the bullnose tiles have a rounded side for the edge of the pool. It is not advisable to use tiles with a sharp edge on the edge of a pool.
Water features that splash into your swimming pool are trendy and provide that calming sound of moving water in your garden. Raised walls offer the perfect place for situating waterfalls and currently blades that provide an unbroken sheet of water are in fashion, while rim flow pools also offer the sound and effect of a waterfall.
Fountains that shoot out of each side of the pool and cross over the centre are also currently in vogue. Just remember that these water features will increase the evaporation rate of your pool, especially on very hot or windy days.
Swimming pool lighting has also become trendy, with LED lights offering a single colour or changing colours in the pool, transforming it into a spectacular feature at night.
You can also transform your pool into a spa pool with the inclusion of jets. These are commonly situated on martini seats or steps, but can be situated anywhere in the pool.
Ensure that you maintain your pool regularly to keep the water clear and safe for swimming in. Brush down the sides and steps and use a pool net to scoop out any debris floating on the surface on a daily basis. A good quality pool cleaner will keep the bottom of the pool clean. Also make sure you keep the pool water at the correct level.
Piet advises that the filter of an average domestic pool should run from 8am to 3pm in summer and from 10am to 3pm in winter, which shouldn’t affect your electricity bill too heavily. “Most pool owners make the mistake of running their pumps for too long,” he cautions. Most common are sand filters, which generally need backwashing every two weeks. “Backwash only until the glass in the filter goes clear so as not to waste water.”
You can choose a chlorine or salt water chlorinator to keep your pool water clean. Chlorine pools are the most common in South Africa and generally use chlorine tablets, which are available at pool and hardware retailers. You can either add chlorine tablets to a separate pump unit or directly to the water in the form of a floater in the pool that releases the chlorine into the water over a period of time.
Regularly test your water with a pool testing kit to check the pH level, which will tell you whether more chlorine or acid needs to be added in order to keep the water clean.
Saltwater pools use salt to clean the water. In a salt chlorinator unit, the saltwater passes through an electrical system and creates chlorine. You will still need to maintain the pH level of the water by adding salt as required.
Be aware that your water consumption will double once you have installed a swimming pool. This is largely due to evaporation, which is high thanks to the South African climate. You will need to top up your pool on a weekly basis as you can expect your pool to drop between 3-4cm per week during summer, and more if it is very windy or your pool is heated or has a water feature. Using a pool cover can help to reduce evaporation. If your pool level is dropping faster than this, investigate for leaks.
Swimming pool safety
Statistics reveal that drownings are in the top three leading causes of death in children in South Africa. Ensure that you take the necessary steps to prevent such a tragedy occurring on your property.
* Use multiple safety methods, such as swimming pool fences, lockable, self-latching, spring-loaded gates and pool nets, to secure your swimming pool. Do not solely rely on yourself, other adults or children to keep an eye on children around a swimming pool.
* Never leave a child alone near a swimming pool, even for a few minutes while you switch off the stove or answer the doorbell or phone.
* Take your child to swimming lessons to get them water safe from an early age and ensure that they know never to swim without adult supervision.
* Go on a course to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
In South Africa there are by-laws which state that all swimming pools have to be safeguarded. The onus is on the swimming pool owner to ensure that their swimming pool is safeguarded in terms of the regulations.
For example, the new proposed by-laws regarding safety measures for private swimming pools for the City of Johannesburg state that all swimming pools must be enclosed by a wall or fence that a child cannot climb over or squeeze through, or the pool must be fitted with a safety net. They also state that children under the age of seven using a swimming pool must be supervised by an adult of 18 years of age or older.
Be aware that your swimming pool may be inspected by an authorised official and failure to comply with your local by-laws makes you guilty of an offence. Ensure that you read up on your local by-laws and comply with them to avoid unnecessary accidents on your property.
SA Pools, 086-067-7472,