A swimming pool is just a swimming pool, right? When it comes to indoor swimming pools, the answer is no.
An indoor swimming pool is an entirely different animal than an outdoor swimming pool. An outdoor swimming pool is, by its definition, exposed to the elements of weather and open to the environment. Conversely, an indoor swimming pool is protected from both, housed inside of a structure.
That means an indoor pool is much less susceptible to debris and environmental influences, like falling leaves, critters, plummeting winter temperatures, and scorching sun.
But it also means that there is a considerable volume of water housed inside of a structure, possibly adjoining your home. That means that indoor pool structures and their surrounding environment are very susceptible to the rapid buildup of excessive moisture and humidity.
The pool will always evaporate some water into the area around it, and without mitigation, it may cause considerable damage. That water also contains chemicals like chlorine, cyanuric acid, and others needed for balancing and sanitizing the swimming pool.
Those chemicals may release into the air inside of the structure surrounding the pool, making the environment unpleasantly malodorous and potentially hazardous.
Let’s look a little more at the costs, construction, and advantages of an indoor swimming pool, while also being mindful of the complications they may create.
Swimming pools can range widely in their total cost. A small, outdoor, above-ground pool may cost just a few thousand dollars. Elaborate outdoor pools can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Whatever scale of pool design you have in mind, it will cost much more to build it inside.
If you don’t already have an existing structure to house it, you must build one. Even if you have a cavernous indoor space where it is possible to install an indoor pool, they use much more energy to maintain than an outdoor pool.
Indoor swimming pools require powerful dehumidifier systems to counter the increased humidity created by the pool and protect the surrounding structure from it. That leads to bigger energy demand and higher costs. The costs again go up quickly when you also factor in the cost of materials like decking, patio space, water features, lighting, and other items that need to move indoors. Taking all of this into consideration, building an indoor swimming pool can easily cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, a luxury most people can’t afford.
So, we’ve established that indoor pools can be pricey. But, it’s also a fact that indoor pools have significant advantages over outdoor pools.
One massive advantage is that indoor pools are swimmable year-round and in any weather conditions. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing outside. Your indoor pool is still ready to use. If it’s connected to your house, you might not even have to shovel! You certainly won’t have to pay to winterize the pool and open it again in the spring.
That same protection from temperature and weather also typically reduces the amount of maintenance required. Since your pool is completely enclosed, you don’t have to worry about leaves falling into it, frogs and squirrels swimming in it, or even other larger animals coming for a dip.
It will be less susceptible to chlorine burn-off and sun damage. You may require a reduced total volume of chemicals to maintain the pH balance of the water and sanitary conditions. That saves you money.
Plus, indoor pools are overall much more private and safe than outdoor pools. Instead of lounging by the waterside for all the neighbors to see, you are inside of a protective structure. With the addition of some shades or blinds, you can enjoy the water away from prying eyes.
With a complete indoor pool enclosure, you can also easily secure your pool. A wall and a roof are much more effective barriers than a simple fence around an outdoor pool, so that means an indoor pool is ideal for preventing small children or others who may be at risk of falling in from accidents.
But there are some disadvantages besides cost to keep in the back of your mind. Most of them are related to the beefed-up construction requirements and necessary ancillary systems required to support the operation of an indoor pool.
If you’re thinking about installing an indoor pool in your existing basement, you should probably think again. Indoor pools will typically require new construction. That’s because they need dedicated facilities to support their operation, and your builder will need substantial access to the worksite.
Have you ever stepped into a hotel or YMCA swimming pool area and been overwhelmed by the smell of chlorine? Remember that sensation and the burning in your nose as a point of reference. Without a strong ventilation system, the area around your swimming pool will be quickly overwhelmed by the smell of chlorine.
A swimming pool built indoors will require a complete, dedicated heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system to sustain a proper operational environment and the structure of its enclosure.
Indoor swimming pools tend to dump humidity into the atmosphere around them, and that can have terrible consequences for the other things in the room with the pool and the rest of your home. Small residential heating ventilation and air-conditioning systems do not have the capacity to remove the excess moisture put into the air by an indoor pool.
That means you’ll have to build a heavy-duty, dedicated system just to handle the pool’s moisture and humidity. That same system will also be primarily responsible for maintaining ventilation. But it can also be supplemented by louvers, windows, doors, and fans that help with air exchange.
An indoor swimming pool and its tendency to create excess humidity must be adequately separated from any attached structures. That means your builder will need to install additional vapor barriers to prevent moisture from reaching the structural frame of the pool house. And if your pool house is attached to the rest of your home, those vapor barriers will be essential for protecting it from the pool’s moisture.
There are also water-resistant drywall products that can enhance the vapor barrier. They are pretty standard in bathrooms and kitchens, where water may come in contact with wall surfaces. But, on their own, they will be insufficient for protecting the structural integrity and living environment of your home.
When considering an indoor pool design, it is easy to forget where you will house the swimming pool equipment. The pump, filter, plumbing pipes, and other mechanical parts of your system will need someplace to live.
Most indoor pool designs work hard to conceal that equipment. The noise of the filter system can overwhelm an indoor space, and it is also a bit of an eyesore. So, integrating an equipment room into an adjoining area of the pool house is very common.
Sometimes, that area will be below the pool. Other times, it will be on the same level in a separate room. Either way, you need to ensure that the room will be accessible enough for service. Your pool maintenance company will need ample space to perform required maintenance and periodic repairs.
It’s essential to keep in mind that the equipment room will also need sufficient ventilation to prevent temperature and humidity buildup, and excessive corrosion from chemicals that are left to linger in the air.
Indoor swimming pools can feel like a tomb if they do not have adequate exposure to the outside world. That means a high-quality indoor swimming pool will be surrounded by transparent structures, like glass doors, skylights, and windows.
That building style requires a particular type of framing and construction that is much different from a typical home. Your pool builder may have the best credentials when it comes to making a quality swimming pool.
But not every pool builder is qualified to understand structural requirements, ventilation needs, engineering, and the general anesthetics required for a functional and fun indoor pool building. If you don’t ensure that your pool builder and the constructor of your structure are working in concert effectively, you may end up sinking a lot of money into something that you won’t enjoy.
One example where the builder of the pool and the building must be on the same page is when it comes to lighting. When you’re going for a swim in an outdoor pool, you’ll only require supplemental lighting at night time.
Conversely, an indoor pool without an adequate number of windows, skylights, and glass doors will feel claustrophobic and require full lighting even during the day. So it’s essential to design as much ambient light as possible to enhance the feel of the room around the pool. The structure and the pool must coexist in harmony to create a welcoming environment indoors.
An indoor pool is a seemingly extravagant concept. But it doesn’t have to be. Keeping in mind the fundamental trade-offs of locating a pool indoors instead of outdoors provides you with a formula for success.
If you are a serious swimmer and your family will enjoy the benefits of year-round swimming pool access regardless of weather conditions, building one indoors makes a lot of sense.
But if you are a casual swimmer and your family will only use the pool occasionally, it may not be practical. An outdoor pool requiring more maintenance and seasonal openings and closings will be a better option.
But when it comes time for hosting a winter party, it is unlikely you will find a better location than an indoor pool.