By Michele Chan Santos
Special to Statesman Solutions
The sparkling centerpiece of Catherine and Sterling Howry’s backyard in West Austin is a lovely 6-foot-deep, negative-edge swimming pool. A swim-up bar, shallow child play area and spa complete their backyard retreat.
Cody Pools designed and built the Howrys’ pool. Sterling Howry, who works in the commercial construction business, wanted their pool to be a fun, relaxing place that serves as a visual anchor for their home. From the picture windows in the living room, you can see the deep blue mosaic glass tiles shimmer under the water.
At Catherine’s birthday party recently, guests enjoyed drinks while swimming. “We’ve created a space for our family,” Catherine Howry said, “and we also like to entertain. If you’re thinking about it, you should put one in.”
Central Texas, with its blistering summers, warm fall and mild winters, has pool-friendly weather nearly all year. According to Cody Pools, industry data indicates that for the past 10 years, about 1,500 pools have been built each year in Central Texas. That means 15,000 new pools in the Austin area just since 2003.
So what do you need to consider before putting in your own pool?
Mike Church, the president and CEO of Cody Pools, and Richard Coan, senior designer and sales manager of Oasis Pools, gave the Statesman tips on what homeowners should think about before starting the process of building a pool.
1. Make sure your builder is a reliable one. The pool industry is not a licensed industry, Church said, so there are disreputable pool builders out there who take advantage of homeowners. “Some builders are not ethical, and they get paid and don’t do the work. Do your due diligence,” Church said.
He recommends looking at the website of The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (www.apsp.org) to find a good pool builder. APSP certifies its members to make sure they meet high standards of service, performance and ethical conduct. On their web site, go to “Find a Professional” and enter your ZIP code. Membership in the BBB (Better Business Bureau) is also recommended.
2. Locate your property survey. The pool designer who comes to your property to do an estimate needs a copy of the survey so he or she can figure out where underground wiring and public utility easements are, and factor those in the plan for your pool, Coan said. You normally receive the property survey with the closing paperwork when you buy a house.
3. Remember impervious cover regulations. Impervious cover includes driveways, roofs or other areas where rainwater cannot penetrate the ground. In some areas of the city of Austin (depending on the zoning), homeowners cannot put more than 45 percent of their lot beneath impervious cover. So if your house already covers 45 percent of your lot, and the patio around your new pool would cover another 10 percent, the city will not allow you to build your pool unless the design changes. The pool itself does not count as impervious cover, but a limestone deck around it does.
4. Think about what kind of pool is right for you. Do you want to swim laps in it? Want a waterslide for the kids? Or would you just like a spa, a swim-up bar and a shady place to relax? Knowing what you want will make it easier to fit the pool of your dreams into your budget.
5. Remember fencing. Depending on what city you live in, there are different regulations about what type of fence you are required to have if you own your own pool. Generally, Coan said, it can be a wooden privacy fence, but it can’t be a chain-link fence because that can be climbed.
6. Safety first. For families with children, an automatic pool cover, safety fences or products like Katchakid Pool Safety Nets are important.
7. Design your pool so you will use it. Sterling Howry loves that his pool is right by the house, where his family can see it and spend time in it. “Don’t put it down a slope somewhere where you can’t see it,” he said. “It’s great to use it every day.”