The great indoors

The great indoors


By Rachel Falzon 

An indoor pool conjures thoughts of decadence but it can be a practical home addition.

pool designs 

Our country’s climate virtually screams for people to own a pool and there’s plenty of reasons why this is a fantastic idea. It’s a great way to cool down in the heat of the summer sun and entertaining family and friends on the weekends takes on a whole new level of enjoyment when water’s involved.

Many Australian families have fond memories of time spent gathered by the family pool. But what if the blaring sun and the elements turn you off the idea? There is some maintenance involved with keeping a pool clear of debris, not to mention the harmful UV rays. If swimming alfresco doesn’t hold that much appeal, have you considered an indoor pool? This could be just the solution you’re looking for.

According to Dean Jones, operations manager at Neptune Swimming Pools in Melbourne, indoor pools are a good option for those looking for a controlled environment or for those who live in the cooler states. “Although you can heat an outdoor pool all year at a greater cost, in Melbourne, for example, the cold winter temperatures are not conducive to swimming,” he says. Heating and retaining the heat in an indoor pool is a more energy-efficient method of keeping a pool at an ideal temperature.

While an outdoor pool is great to use in the summer months, a heating system will need to be installed for the pool to be usable in the cooler months, too. Indoor pools, on the other hand, can be used all year round. “Indoor pools are particularly good for all-year action,” agrees Dean. “Whether that be for swimming laps or gentle aquatic exercise, relaxation or hydrotherapy. They can also be a great way to entertain kids during long, wet winters.”

Heating an indoor pool works similarly to heating an outdoor pool. “Although the heat loss is less being indoors, indoor pools do not receive any thermal, natural heat from the sun,” says Dean. “This can make outdoor solar systems less efficient for indoor applications. On a typical indoor pool, we normally upsize the solar heating by 40 per cent.”

As pool water evaporates, the humidity levels within the room will rise significantly. Not only will the resulting moisture become uncomfortable for anyone within the room but, if left uncontrolled, it can damage many standard building materials. If left unchecked, moisture has the ability to disintegrate gypsum materials, rot wood, rust metal and promote the growth of unhealthy and unsightly moulds and mildew. This is why it’s best to consult a professional with experience in the design and construction of indoor pools before embarking on the process. Any potential problems will be identified in the consultation stages to ensure that indoor pool provides enjoyment for many years to come.

The evolution of the outdoor room has opened the door to a wide range of options when it comes to decking out your indoor pool area. Whether your indoor pool room is attached to the house or detached and integrated into the landscape will guide you on what kind of style to go with, depending on the theme it’s located within. For example, if the indoor pool has been placed within a room away from your main property and is more a feature of the garden, the room will more than likely take its cues from the landscape, perhaps using natural materials such as timber for flooring and steps. An indoor pool that’s attached to the home, however, will probably draw its style from the home, creating a seamless flow from one area to the other and using similar materials for the flooring.

If the pool is to be attached to the house, or built as part of its original design, keep in mind foot traffic — you don’t want people traipsing through the lounge room to get to or from the pool. Then there is access and orientation; there needs to be easy access from both inside and outside the home. You might also like to emphasise the indoor-outdoor connection by positioning the pool so that it captures views of a planted courtyard, garden or distant vista through large windows or glass doors.

The indoor-outdoor connection can be forged even more with clever design techniques. “A great addition to any outdoor pool can be the inclusion of some large, panelled, opening doors,” says Dean. “These allow the room to be opened in summer for the enjoyment of an indoor-outdoor pool. The same can be achieved with a sliding section of roof.”

If you have the space, it’s a great idea to combine the indoor pool room with the home gym, sauna and spa — imagine jumping off the treadmill or finishing a weight-training session with a dip in the pool or enjoying the hydrotherapy a spa provides? Bliss!

“These lifestyle retreats are fully decked out with home audio/visual systems to replicate an upscale gymnasium in the comfort of your own home,” says Dean.

While Dean says that anything’s possible when it comes to pool design, starting from scratch is always easiest. However, if you have an indoor room that you’d like to see transformed into a pool area, think outside the square and enlist the help of a pool designer or builder. They can manage the whole project, including getting council approvals and organising plumbing, wiring, heating and pool cleaning systems.

As with all pool systems, indoor pools need to be treated to maintain healthy, clear water. When it comes to treating an indoor pool, you may be surprised to find out that it will need to be done differently to an outdoor pool. This is mostly because indoor pools create condensation.“On indoor pools we generally use monitored chlorine and pH adjustment systems, as they control the amount of chlorine going into the water,” explains Dean. “With no UV rays to break down the chlorine, it’s very important not to over-chlorinate.”

Because indoor pools create a lot of moisture in the air, which can damage the building’s materials, it’s best to install a dehumidification system, which is a device specifically designed to draw moisture from the air and dry it out. Another good idea, according to Dean, is to consider buying an automated pool cover; this is also a good way to minimise condensation. Both the dehumidifier and the pool cover will have a great impact on the future condition of a building, so it’s worth considering these options in the early stages of design and installation.

Cleaning an indoor pool usually takes less effort, mostly because there is less debris to clean up. Trees create an enormous amount of debris to be caught and filtered in an outdoor pool, but that particular problem is eliminated if the pool is fully enclosed. You can’t scratch cleaning off the maintenance list entirely, though, as there are other factors to take into consideration, such as dust generated by the building that will eventually settle in the pool. Dean suggests an in-floor cleaning or circulation system to deal with this.

If you already have an outdoor pool that you’d like to transform into an indoor pool, there are options available. A pool enclosure can be installed over an existing pool. There are a few versions, so choose something that will suit your lifestyle. You can opt for an enclosure that stacks concertina-like so you can leave it open for the warmer months and close it when it’s cooler. This can be operated manually or electrically. When stacked back, you can use the area as a makeshift outdoor room — add a table and chairs and you have the perfect place for parents to watch over kids while in the pool.

Other styles include stationary domes to more extravagant models with peaks and gabled roofs. Whatever you choose, an enclosure is sure to add more life to your pool, as it will be useful year-round. Add some stylish poolside furniture, some plants and decorative elements and you’ll have an extra outdoor room where you can entertain friends and family.

Enjoy the benefits:

  • Indoor pools can be used year-round, which is a boon in cold climates and on chilly nights.
  • Paired with a standalone spa, an indoor pool is ideal for socialising and exercise.
  • Maintenance is easier as there are no leaf and dust problems or rainwater to upset the chemical balance.
  • If you have young children, a lockable indoor pool can have safety advantages.
  • Avid exercisers can build an indoor gym and shower area next to an indoor pool.
  • An indoor pool area can be decorated like any other outdoor room, creating an additional entertaining zone.