On Saturday, July 27th, Boyce Design & Contracting was featured in the Home Finder Section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The “Pools add a splash of style to backyards” article, written by H.M. Cauley, talks about the value, cost and benefits of having a swimming pool in one’s backyard.
Pools add a splash of style to backyards
Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, July 27, 2013
A swimming pool can be the center of an outdoor living space that might include covered seating areas, decks, firepits, spas and landscaping.
BY H.M. CAULEY – FOR THE AJC
The backyard swimming pool isn’t just for cooling off anymore. While it’s still a terrific asset on a scorching summer day, having a place to take a dip just a few feet from the back door has become just one element in the scheme of outdoor living.
“A pool is now part of an entire backyard scape,” said Steve Morgan, owner of the Atlanta-based Sunbelt Pools of Georgia. “People are transitioning away from just wanting a lap pool to understanding that a pool is part of their lifestyle. Even if they don’t ever get in it, there’s a very soothing, relaxing atmosphere in a yard with a pool.”
Homeowners now are more inclined to view that boring backyard as a place to create an outdoor room. And in that design, a pool may be the biggest element – and the one requiring the most maintenance – but it’s also just one piece of a bigger plan that could include a spa, a waterfall, an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit or fireplace, an eating area and a deck or patio space with comfortable seating. Because of the backyard’s elevated status as another living space, more thought needs to go into what sort of pool works in that area, said Morgan.
“Will the poolside be used for cocktails and high heels or a place for lots of kids to have fun?” he asked. “We try and help people decide what they’re going to use the space for and whether they want something natural or more formal. Do they want it to be part of an outdoor room, with a kitchen, porch, cabana, seating area and fire pit, or do they want something more natural that blends into the trees with features that are kid- as well as adult-friendly?”
Once those questions have been settled, the design is only limited by an owner’s imagination and finances.
“Any shape will work – if we can draw it on paper, we can build it,” said Evan Horning, director of sales for Neptune Pools in Sugar Hill. “We are definitely seeing pools that are far from being just a hole in the backyard. They are part of a larger, outdoor living area.”
Morgan’s firm has completed pool projects that ran the gamut from filling up a very tiny backyard to becoming the main architectural feature of a classic mansion.
“We did one in a yard so small it was hard to meet the setback requirements, and we wound up putting a long, skinny pool,” he said. “In another spot, we put in a pool with a water level identical to the deck it was next to. A pool can often be challenging, especially if it has to be technically precise.”
A homeowner’s lifestyle is as important as the physical space, said Thomas Boyce, owner of Boyce Design and Construction in Sandy Springs.
“I always tell people to think first about the features that would fit them, such as, do you like to entertain, and how big a group? How big is your family? Do you like dining outside? A pool needs to fit the way you like to live and entertain. From there, we look at the available space and come up with a design that fits the area in a way that enhances the value of the home.”
The selected size, shape and finishing elements – be that a basic deck and fence or an elaborate outdoor gathering space – play key roles in determining the cost of putting in a pool. One expense homeowners often forget to figure into the budget is the building permit fee than can vary from $100 to $1,000, depending on the home’s location. From there, the cost can only be calculated on an individual basis.
“Asking for a ballpark price is like asking a builder how much a 3-bedroom home costs,” said Horning. “Most of the pools we build start in the mid-$30,000s, but a pool and spa combination starts in the $50,000.”
Whether or not investing in a pool will add value to a property at re-sale time is also a difficult question to answer simply.
“It’s tough to quantify because the value depends on the neighborhood and the buyer,” said Boyce. “In higher-end homes, outdoor spaces are becoming more of the norm, not just an extra upgrade, and buyers don’t just want to walk out to a patio, so a pool is a plus. But an empty-nester couple may not want the maintenance. We have gotten feedback that when a buyer says, ‘The backyard is amazing!’ it does help speed up the sale. But a pool is probably not going to recoup every dollar.”
The condition of the pool, just like the yard it anchors, is another factor that may make it a plus or negative for a potential buyer.
“If it’s in great working order and everything around it looks great, then the pool becomes a focal point,” said Horning. “I think, if marketed properly, it is a positive. But how much will it add to the value of the home? Not a whole lot. But some [buyer] may love it, and [the seller] will get every penny back.”
Homeowners enthralled by the idea of having a private pool don’t have to wait too long to turn that dream into a reality. Most pools, along with the areas immediately surrounding them, can usually be completed within eight to 10 weeks. But there’s always the possibility of things taking much longer.
“The delays from rain are enormous, and with all the rain we’ve had lately, yards are more puddles than dirt,” said Morgan. “Even without the rain, I try to get people to understand that they’ve never seen a mess like putting in a pool. There could also be delays if someone wants a specific product. A client recently ordered travertine [tile] from Turkey that took 16 weeks to arrive. If someone wants a specific product like that and were in a hurry, it wouldn’t work.”
The result, however, is an amenity that, in Atlanta, can be put to good use for most of the year. Heated spas have even more utility.
“Pools are clearly a great way to get outside and cool off,” said Boyce. “They’re terrifically popular here because you can use them almost all year long. And now we have automation systems that can heat up a spa in about 10 minutes without heating the entire pool. And there’s nothing like being in a spa when it’s 30 degrees outside!”