Unless you’re an Alaskan native or a polar bear, you’ve probably been hanging out for summer since, well, last summer. But with soaring temperatures on the very-near horizon, it’s time to start prepping your refrigeration strategy. In the ‘olden days’, installing a pool in your backyard was the obvious answer. Unfortunately, that might not be an option thanks to smaller backyards and heftier house prices. So, what is a viable cooling-down option that doesn’t involve your four-year-old’s blow-up paddling pool? Consider the plunge pool, if you will.
A plunge pool is exactly that: a pool that’s big enough to plunge your glistening body into to cool off when the heat of summer becomes unbearable. The idea is to chill out while exerting as little effort as possible, hence the smaller-than-standard size. Plunge pools generally don’t have a ‘deep end’ like larger pools do, although many have steps that allow for easier access into a more compact space.
“A plunge pool is suitable for properties with limited space,” says Angela Corbett from New Zealand-based Aqua Technics. “They’re designed for cooling off and relaxing in on those hot summer days, and have gained in popularity as sizes of residential sections have decreased over the years.”
When it comes to design, the world’s practically your oyster. From picturesque Balinese-inspired plunge pools to quasi-spas that convert into exercise pools at the press of a button, a plunge pool is versatile enough to seamlessly slot into any backyard’s landscape design. Use tiles to create an in-ground plunge pool with steps that allow for perching and paddling, then surround it with exotic planting like palms, ferns and birds of paradise to create a sanctuary that feels like you’re always on holiday.
If you like practicality as well as good looks, a pool that converts into an exercise pool might be up your alley. While it’s not strictly a plunge pool, an endless swim spa is a great option for anyone looking for the functionality of a pool but not the oversize. It creates a strong flow against which users can swim, jog and generally work out without actually going anywhere. Post-workout, turn the jets off and sit back and relax those weary muscles in the oversized spa. During the heat of the day, let the kids go crazy in the convenient smaller sized pool.
Just because it’s smaller, doesn’t mean you can skimp on safety. A pool is a pool regardless of the size, so pool fencing is compulsory. Pool barriers must enclose the entire pool area, be at least 1.2 metres high, have no rails on the outside that could be used to climb over it, and not have gaps under it or between rails that are more than 100 millimetres wide. If you’re worried about the aesthetics of a fence, think about using glass balustrades instead. Glass offers that all-important protection without hindering the outlook of your garden.
Pros & Cons
The benefits of plunge pools are pretty obvious from the outset. Because they’re much smaller than your classic in-ground pewl (said in an Australian accent), plunge pools are much more versatile for homes with not much space. Smaller pools are cheaper to run than their larger counterparts too, and if you’re worried about dealing with council, the good news is that you don't need building consent for pools less than 35,000 litres (with the exception, of course, for fencing).
Any cons ultimately come down to how you want to use your plunge pool. If yours is a large family who was a school of fish in a previous life, a larger pool is probably better for your backyard. If you like to swim for exercise, a larger pool or an endless swim spa might be more appropriate.
The cost of the average plunge pool varies a lot depending on how big it is, what it’s made out of and whether it’s inset or on top of the ground. Aqua Technics’ fibreglass plunge pools sit at the top end of the market at early-to-mid $30,000s including installation, filters, cleaning equipment and building consent plans. An endless swim spa will set you back anywhere from around $17,000 to $35,000 depending on the brand and how much oomph it offers. Some even come with a separate spa so one person can enjoy a soak while another works out, which will obviously impact your budget.
Most Kiwis pretty much live outside during summer (it’s in our DNA) so it makes sense to have a cooling-down option that’s not simply turning on the garden hose or hopping in the shower. Not only will a plunge pool make the summer months more bearable, it will also make a stylish addition to any fashion-forward backyard that even the Joneses will be envious about.