A pool or a spa represents a dramatic physical feature in any backyard. So it makes sense to choose its location with the same type of care you would give to any other important project involving your home. There are various professionals who can help you decide where to situate your pool or spa. These include architects, landscape architects and designers, soils and structural engineers, aquatic consultants, and pool and landscape contractors.
But even if you decide to seek their help, you should do a little homework before hand studying the microclimates of your property, familiarizing yourself with building codes and other regulations, sizing up the landscape, and evaluating possible sites, particularly if your property has some unusual features.
Building a swimming pool or spa-like any other addition or alteration to your property-entails a myriad of legal requirements set forth in deed restrictions, zoning laws, and building, health, electrical, fire, and safety codes. Take the time to look into all of these before you commit yourself to doing the job. When you design landscaping for your installation, remember that additions such as fences, decks, and gazebos must also conform to these same requirements.
Aimed at protecting you from faulty construction methods, these codes set minimum standards for design, construction, and materials used in building. Some communities have specific codes for pools and spas; others apply the requirements of the regular building code.
Though most local codes are patterned after one of the national codes, communities can modify or add to these standards to satisfy local needs. For example, some communities do not allow vinyl lined pools, while others ban one piece fiberglass pools. Check with your building department early in the planning stage.
Your community may have specific laws covering such facets of pool ownership as water quality, lifesaving equipment, and protective fences and gates. Some communities incorporate provisions for pool construction into their health and safety codes, rather than in their building you need to consult both your local health and building departments to determine pool requirements and the jurisdiction each department has in pool construction operation.
Somewhere in the deed to your property you may find restrictions that could affect the design and location of your pool, spa, and accompanying structures. These restrictions may bind you to rules set by a homeowners' association or provide for a utility easement or right-of-way under, over, or through your property.
These city or county laws govern land use-yours included. They can determine where you can place your pool or spa, how close to the property fines you can build, and how large you can make any may also contain ordinances governing the amount of lighting and noise you can create.
Zoning laws usually have provisions for the granting of variances. If you can show that meeting the precise requirements of the laws would create an "undue hardship," and that you would not be encroaching on the privacy of your neighbors, a hearing officer or zoning board of appeals can grant you a variance. Application must be made through your local building or planning department.
Drought, an energy shortage a pool accident, or some other crisis prompts additional government. Among the different regulations proposed by local and state government agencies are:
• Restricting the use of water for filling pools
• Banning the use of natural gas for heating pools and spas
• Mandating solar heating for all new pools
• Requiring that an alarm be installed on all new pools or spas
• Requiring window alarms or automatic closers on new structures
• Banning a specific type of swimming pool or spa
• Requiring that covers be sold with new pools or spas
• Requiring fencing and self-closing gates around pools or spas.
Utility companies and building and planning departments can tell you about any restrictions currently applicable in your community.
Weather records can determine the average length of the swimming season in your area, but it's the day-today weather on your property that determines your poolside comfort.
Since the warmth or coolness of any outdoor pool or spa will be decided largely by its orientation, it is a good idea to study the microclimates of your property along with the regional climate and weather patterns. Any buildings, trees, or other obstructions on or even near-your property can have quite an effect on the amount of sunlight and wind the property around your pool site receives.
A pool or spa in almost any outdoor location will serve well in midsummer, but wise planning can extend the season by several weeks, or even months. In many locations, if a proper design is adopted, there is no reason to close for winter at all.
If you've lived in your present area for a number of years, you should have a feeling for the general climate in terms of average seasonal air temperatures, rain and/or snowfall patterns, prevailing wind directions, and number of sunny days. If not, you can get climate information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Center, Asheville, NC 28801. Request the current annual issue of the Local Climatological Data for your area.
You also may be able to get accurate climate and weather information through U.S. Weather Bureau offices, public power and utility companies, meteorology departments on college and university campuses, and agricultural extension offices.
No matter how much official information you gather, take stock of the local weather as well as you can. Your neighborhood almost certainly will vary somewhat from the recording stations. And by all means talk with the "old-timers" in your neighborhood. They can extend your knowledge of the local climate by many years.
Theoretically a pool or spa with a southern exposure (in the Northern Hemisphere) will be warmer than one that faces north. One that is west-facing will be warmer than one with an eastern exposure. And a pool facing south will be warmer than one facing west.
There are exceptions to this rule, though. In desert areas, where noontime temperatures can be extremely high for several months during the year, a north facing pool can hardly be considered cold. In some coastal areas, on the other hand, a south- or west-facing pool can be cold because of ocean winds and chilly fogs in summer. If you're installing a lap pool, orient it on a north-south plane to reduce eye strain from the sun.
Wind is almost as important a factor in selecting an outdoor pool or spa site as the sun. Too much wind blowing across the area on a temperate day can be unpleasant, as can no breeze at all on a hot summer day. Wind also draws heat from the pool or spa and causes water and chemicals to evaporate, adding to your energy bill and overall operating expenses.
Place the pool where it uses the winds to the best advantage, then control the wind, if necessary, with fences, screens, trees, or plants. A grove of trees clustered around a pool, for example, can divert and disperse the wind, making any additional screening unnecessary. For a spa, there are various options with barriers such as a solid fence and baffles.
In some parts of the world, like the trade wind belt between the equator and 30 degree latitudes, the prevailing wind blows constantly for weeks or even months without letup. In the United States, prevailing winds are felt only in Hawaii, the Mojave Desert, in the high mountains of the West, and in parts of the Great Plains states.
Fortunately, these winds-important factors to consider in choosing a pool site predictable. Some of them are most prevalent during the swimming season.
In coastal areas and on the shores of large lakes, the still air of morning gradually gives way to increasingly strong breezes from the water during the afternoon. These onshore winds die down when the sun sets. By early evening, the air flow has reversed. In some areas, these afternoon sea breezes, approaching gale force, swoop down over the coastal mountains and make most pool activity impossible unless adequate windscreens have been installed.
Inland mountain areas also experience reversible daily winds. Generally, the air flow is upslope during the day and down slope after sunset. Near the entrances to canyons and valleys, the evening breezes can be quite strong and cool.
Meteorologists call these winds "foehns" (pronounced "ferns"), but residents know them under various local names-chinooks, bores, Santa Anas, or Boulder winds. They flow downslope or out of mountain basins. Though these winds are usually hot and dry, in some areas they feel cool relative to the local air; in the Pacific Northwest, the foehn can be moist.
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