Plunging Into Pools


Plunging into pools

Jim Fogarty says a pool can add considerably to the value of your property, but this kind of success only comes from getting all the little design details right.

Swimming pools have never been more popular in Australian gardens. A smart design will incorporate the layout of a pool into the surrounding garden, where the pool becomes an asset to your lifestyle and also to your hip pocket. However, if pools are not designed as part of the garden layout they run the risk of looking like an add-on, never a truly comfortable fit on your block.

Location, location

The size and location of the pool needs to be considered with the rest of your garden. Views need to be considered, as the pool can double as a water feature, under light at night, as well as being a feature to admire by day.

Also think about access to the pool from the house, and whether you want to create adjacent outdoor entertaining and living zones. Factor in access pathways, paved areas, and the root zones of existing trees to prevent damage when digging the pool. And don’t forget to plan where the pumps, filters and other equipment will go – along with, perhaps last of all, the garden beds and plantings.

Water tanks

Pools can lose up to a centimetre of water depth each week due to evaporation in hot weather, so they need topping up. You could install a water tank nearby, so you can use rainwater run-off for this job. A 2500-litre slimline tank would be the minimum recommended size for smaller pools. If you have the space, a 5000-litre tank would be a better option.

An underground tank is a good option to save on space, but it needs to be designed so you can still accommodate garden beds and the spreading roots of nearby trees. Unsightly tank access lids can be hidden in a garden bed. A pool cover can help minimise water-loss, and there are pool additives that can reduce evaporation by 30%.


The easiest and cheapest pool shapes to build are usually square or rectangular. However, some gardens won’t lend themselves to these formal shapes and there may be occasions when a custom shape is required so that it works with your garden design. Natural and organic shapes are popular in modern gardens and in natural settings where the pool needs to blend in with bush or coastal surrounds.


The final height of the pool needs to be configured with the rest of your landscape. If your block is sloping, the final concrete-pour height needs to be calculated, with relevant step heights factored in, so that there is an easy transition and access to the pool.

The final height of the concrete pour will also depend on the coping material you have chosen for the pool, and this material needs to be either the same material used elsewhere in the garden for unified look, or a material that works harmoniously with other paving materials used in the garden.

Tip: merely guessing the final height of the pool can be disastrous, especially when you consider that every paving material differs in thickness. Always finalise your choice of coping material before you install your pool.

Structural tips

If you plan on paving adjacent to a pool, make sure the pool company leaves reinforcement bars sticking out of the concrete pool walls. These reinforcement bars can then be tied in with concrete sub-bases around the pool, ensuring any ground movement has little impact on your paved areas. All paving around pools should be laid on concrete slabs, as significant ground settlement can occur after pool excavation, and this results in cracking and movement of paving.

Pool fences

All states and territories in Australia have pool fence laws. They can be unsightly, and you may want to opt for a glass fence without metal edges, which makes it less obtrusive, but these come at a price.

Generally, pool safety barriers need to be 1.2m above the ground, as a minimum, and you’ll also need to allow a clear area of 1.2m outside the fence to prevent children from climbing the fence. Traps are nearby paling fences whose horizontal rails can be used by children to climb. Never cut corners on safety and always check guidelines with your local council.

Interior finishes

A blue interior finish is a popular choice to create an inviting, oceanic look, but there are many colour and texture options that can alter the way a pool looks within your garden. Black, for instance, suits a more modern style pool and is more reflective. Green is more lagoon-like and perfect for natural-style pools.

Trowel-on coatings are fast to apply, but a fully tiled pool looks a million dollars. Tiles come in ceramic, stone and glass options, and the colours on offer include white, green, brown, blue, and black. A pool interior can be any colour you wish – an important consideration if you want to pick up on plant or flower colours in the garden.

Coping traps

Pool coping can be a real trap in a new garden. It’s usually best to get your landscape contractor to supply and install the pool coping. This ensures the material and finished height of the coping marries in with other paving in your garden. Also, be sure to allow for expansion joints behind the pool coping where it meets paved areas, and allow for expansion joins in every corner of the coping. Without this allowance, the coping will crack with movement – a common occurrence around pools.

Hidden extras

To keep your pool water clean, you’ll need to pump it through a filter. The average sand-based filter is 90cm in diameter, though newer cartridge filters are as small as 36x36x50cm. They can be housed anywhere, but the further away from the pool, the more costly the plumbing. You need to ensure good access to filters, pumps, pipes and pool heaters for servicing.

Pool equipment can be noisy and may need masonry walls to dull the noise. Locating equipment on a boundary fence can be an issue with neighbours, and you will need to check with your local council first. Fences may also need to be rated for fire safety.

Planting tips

Choosing the right plants around pools can save you money, time and effort in the long run. Avoid trees with large roots that can crack pool walls and paving, and also those that drop leaves, flowers and fruit. Here are some major offenders:

10 large-rooted trees to avoid near pools

  1. Large growing eucalypts

  2. Magnolia grandiflora

  3. Figs (Ficus)

  4. Canary Island palm (Phoenix canariensis)

  5. Oaks (Quercus sp.)

  6. Ash trees (Fraxinus sp.)

  7. Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

  8. Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

  9. Pepper tree (Schinus molle)

  10. Running bamboo

10 messy trees to avoid near pools

  1. Pin oak (Quercus palustris)

  2. Silky oak (Grevillea robusta)

  3. Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

  4. Jacaranda

  5. Maple (Acer rubrum)

  6. Elm (Ulmus sp.)

  7. Coral tree (Erythrina sp.)

  8. Plane trees (Platanus sp.)

  9. Loquat tree

  10. Cocos, date and bangalow palms


For helpful information about pool design visit the website of your state branch of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association.