17 Must-Have Backyard Pool Features to Create the Ultimate Swimming Experience

Swimming by a beautiful pool is one of the best parts of vacation and can be one of the best parts of home life. Homeowners are increasingly bringing their resort expectations home and thinking about how they can turn their backyard pools into more relaxing and entertaining experiences. They are also considering what they need and what their guests will need for comfort and safety.

Below are some features people are introducing, ideas that could be incorporated into new pool construction, or as upgrades.

Enticing, Must-have Pool Features

These 17 swimming pool features are examples of elements you could include in your designs:

1. Serene spillway

One of the most easy-going pool water features is a spillway. Spillways are stationed on slate pillars spaced around one backyard pool, with copper sculptures of agave on top of the pillars.

2. Swim-up bar

If you often have friends at your place or just want a way to better integrate your pool with refreshments, the swim-up bar could work well. 

A particularly interesting benefit of these pool features that will not immediately be obvious is that they are space-saving: you are positioning your pool right next to the cook center. 

While you may be using space well when you choose a swim-up bar, you are also making the pool experience more enjoyable. This feature has been rising in popularity in private settings after people have experienced them in tropical resorts.

3. Lighting

You can really make backyard pools beautiful using light. With a focus on underwater LED pool lighting and ample incorporation of glass, one homeowner makes their pool glow in greens and blues.

4. Upcycled fountain

Pool features can express eco-friendliness. Make a poolside fountain by repurposing a palm planter. At night, dramatically showcase the fountain with fiber-optic floodlights.

5. Fire pit

One homeowner went further than the swim-up bar in the direction of a resort theme with their pool and spa. Water flows freely throughout the space and through its spa’s outer walls via scuppers. There are several waterfalls, a hidden slide, and circular seating around an island fire pit

6. Natural rock fixtures

Natural stone is one of the most popular pool features, whether it is simply decorative or also serves a functional purpose (such as seating). You can make the ambience of your spa more inviting with the placement of natural stone and tiki torches around its periphery.

7. Jump-off perches 

One swimming pool owner knew they wanted their pool to both be fun for their grandchildren and attractive to them. Their pool is lagoon-style and is paired with a spa. It offers a spa waterfall, heated for all-season comfort; a slide built into the rocks and extending downward from a waterfall; safe-depth jump-off perches; an enticing grotto; colored LED bubblers illuminating a stone tanning ledge; and a sound system. 

8. Waterfalls

Spas and waterfalls, which each introduce calmness to your pool, can be integrated. You can get creative with these pool water features, with one homeowner building a one-of-a-kind feature for a Tuscan-styled spa. It consisted of a wall with three waterfalls at six and eight feet high, landing in the spa below. Abstract pictures of vineyard scenes framed the waterfalls.

9. Spa spillover

Integrating spas and waterfalls is just one way to combine falling water with your spa. You could also use a spillover. One pool owner decided on a tiled above ground spa with a spillover leading down to the turquoise water of the swimming pool below.

10. Outdoor shower

Some of the best pool features are highly useful. Once people get finished swimming in backyard pools, they often want to be able to take quick showers. If you live near the beach, you might want an outdoor shower for cleaning off sand from those swimming trips as well. While people used to just want to quickly rinse themselves off at outdoor showers, many pool owners now want to be able to bathe in their backyards – contributing to the rise in requests for the outdoor shower.

It is important to know what is essential for this backyard feature. The two primary concerns are privacy and drainage. Regarding the former, it is important to locate your outdoor shower in the right position so that no one will be able to see the person who is showering from anywhere (such as windows). In terms of enclosing the sides, you could do that with a shower curtain or privacy screen; or, if you want to get luxurious, you could use lumber or masonry to construct solid walls.

If you do not have a drain in your shower, then the soil and plants surrounding the shower will be vulnerable to the chemicals from your soap. If there is no drain currently, install one connecting to your sewer system.  

11. Wood decking

One homeowner opted for a blend of different surface types to make the spaces more user-friendly and create separation between areas. While the focus is affordability, durability, and low maintenance at the fire pit, concrete made sense there. On the other hand, wood decking, despite its higher price tag, worked well framing the pool because it simplifies pool maintenance.

12. Island

A built-in island is the highlight of one infinity pool. The island gives swimmers a spot to sunbathe or just set a drink, as well as creating a more complex aesthetic. 

13. Stepping-stones

One homeowner created a pool that wraps around it, with stepping-stones connecting different sitting areas.

14. Outdoor kitchen

As you consider your outdoor kitchen, since it’s such a central part of a backyard, consider style. Three key styles for outdoor kitchens, according to ThisOldHouse.com, are rustic, contemporary, and traditional:

  1. Rustic — With this style, you will mix the plantings with earth-tone counters made of rough stone. By tinting stucco, you can make it appear like terra-cotta. You can create a worn ambience through matte and texture finishes.
  1. Contemporary — Stainless steel and granite are typical for contemporary outdoor kitchens, with those materials’ focus on polish and smoothness. If there are woods surrounding your backyard, you can integrate your space with the trees using horizontally positioned pipe boards.
  1. Traditional — Take the design of your chimney or foundation walls and use it to create your masonry base of mortared brick. Your style might use a running-bond brick design, for instance.

15. Baja shelf

Also called the Shamu shelf or tanning ledge, the baja shelf is a large shallow space that is standardly five to eight inches deep. This feature is generally positioned at the end of the pool.

Whether you have young kids who could use a safe setting to play or simply want a good sunbathing location, a baja shelf can meet your needs. While you may think this shelf would make sense at the shallow end, many pool owners decide to put it at the deep end so that parents can supervise while their children jump off it.

16. Grotto

Offering a protected cove and usually built from artificial rock, a grotto is a small cave. A grotto may be devised as a kids’ fort, as a retreat, or as a sanctuary. Often it is built in combination with a slide and/or a waterfall.

17. Pool fence

A safety fence may be added during new pool construction, or it may become necessary when animals or young children become part of the picture. The three core categories of safety fences are as follows:

  • Interior — If you just use an interior fence, it will set off your general yard from the pool. To serve as a safety fence, guidelines from the Building Officials and Code Administrators list gate specifications and minimum height.
  • Perimeter — This fence stretches around your whole yard.
  • Removable — You can partially or fully remove this fence for complete pool access when desired. However, you want the fence to be up when the pool and house become a single space during a party. This option is also great for protecting your kids from the pool when they are young. The code requirement will be met by the perimeter fence once they outgrow the removable one. Whenever you have additional pets or children that you want to generally protect from the pool, you can reinstall it.

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