Creating Drama & Fun
Add style and flare to your swimming pool with laminar jets, fire features, caves, waterfalls, and waterslides.
By Debra Maurer
While most pools are designed to create a certain theme, such as tropical, modern, or classic, your pool doesn’t have to be limited to one kind of look or purpose. With the right pool features, control settings, lighting, and some creativity, your pool can go from family fun to chic and sophisticated with the flip of a switch. While there are many features that can add drama and excitement to your pool, we’ll explore some of the most popular, including laminar jets, fire features, caves, waterfalls, and waterslides.
Laminar Jets vs. Deck Jets
Laminar jets, or laminar fountains, create beautiful arcs of water that leap from your deck into the pool with very little sound or splash. You may have seen them at resort pools, lit up at night with color-changing LED lights. What makes laminar jets different from—and more expensive than—standard deck jets is that they produce a steady stream of bubble-free water, as if the water is flowing through a glass tube. Standard deck jets (or stream jets) contain air, meaning the water sprays slightly apart in droplets. They serve as an affordable alternative to laminars, and many pool owners enjoy their effect. Deck jets are also the better choice if your backyard has a high degree of wind coming through, which ruins the effect of laminars.
Laminar jets are installed at the edge of the pool deck and can shoot water up to 7 feet high and 8 feet out. They can be turned on or off individually so you can have only a few on at a time or all of them flowing at once. When you have laminars installed with LED lights, your pool will take on a whole new level of drama at night. Whether you prefer classic white or a multitude of alternating color-changing patterns, laminar jets create a spectacular effect when the sun goes down.
Laminar jets shoot glass-like tubes of bubble-free water into the pool, creating a spectacular effect.
Photo courtesy of Downes Swimming Pool Company, Inc.; Photography by John P. Frantz
It’s easy to see how pool and landscaping lighting can change the mood of an outdoor setting and give a whole new look to your backyard. If you want to take lighting to the next level, you can heighten the drama with a fire feature. Fire woks and firebowls, typically filled with lava rocks or fire glass, can be placed on retaining walls, stone columns, or pedestals around the pool. Firebowls can double as a water feature with sheer descent waterfalls flowing down into the pool. Firebowls come in a variety of colors, shapes, and materials, including concrete, copper, and stone.
Firepits can be stand-alone or custom designed and permanently installed into your deck. They are often surrounded by brick or stonework that complements the pool coping, decking, or other materials used in your outdoor space. Firepits set in the middle of a seating area are typically square or circular. A rectangular firepit may be installed as a decorative poolside accent, offering a modern flair and giving the illusion of a row of fire along the water.
Firepit tables are an excellent choice for poolside entertaining. Featuring beautiful granite countertop finishes or mosaic tiles and other patterns, firepit tables are as beautiful as they are functional. During a nighttime soirée, reflections of the flames on the pool’s surface create an alluring mystique. Used unlit, the table becomes a decorative and useful part of your outdoor living space.
This Gem Stone firepit table features a Costa Esmeralda Quartzite countertop and the same glass mosaic tiles used in the pool. Accent rope lighting adds a subtle glow, making this piece an attractive work of art, as well as a lively entertaining area. Pool designed by Bazar Pools, Orlando, Fla.; Quartzite supplied by Steve Elliott Granite & Marble, Inc.; Ivory travertine decking and coping by International Tile & Stone
Photo courtesy of Brierhill Homes, Inc., Orlando, Fla.; Harvey Smith Photography
Waterfalls add beauty, acoustics, and enchantment to any pool. Rock waterfalls are common among tropical pools because they elicit the charm of an island getaway, especially when surrounded by lush landscaping. Giant multi-tiered rock waterfalls make a bold statement while still looking natural. Depending on the topography of your backyard, your pool may accommodate several rock waterfalls; other pools may look best with one large waterfall where the water originates from multiple sources. The water’s volume (referring to both the amount of water and its sound level) can be adjusted through a control panel; this allows you to customize the mood from a quiet, gently rolling stream to a roaring waterfall.
Rock waterfalls can be composed of natural rock or faux rock. The advantage of manmade rock is that it’s much lighter and therefore easier to work with and less expensive to ship. Although made of composite materials, usually GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete), faux rock still offers a natural look because it’s molded from real rock formations and colored to match the grain and texture of various stone types.
For formal and modern pools, sheer descent waterfalls (sheetfalls) are often the best option. Sheer descents produce a continuous sheet of water falling from a flattened horizontal spillway. You’ll often see sheer descent waterfalls in groups of twos or threes on a pool’s raised wall. Some projects call for multiple sheetfalls, and, like rock waterfalls, each one can be controlled individually so you can have as many or as few running as you wish.
Multiple faux rock waterfalls add drama to this tropical pool setting.
Photo courtesy of RicoRock, Inc.
Caves and Grottos
Caves and grottos create a sense of mystery, hinting at a secluded entryway that’s just begging to be discovered. Caves are easily enjoyed by kids playing in the pool and adults looking for a unique hideaway in the shade. You’ll often see caves and grottos beneath a large waterfall. They may include a bench or love seat where you can sit and view the water falling in front of you; it’s like being right inside the waterfall—without getting rained on. Grottos can also be hidden on the other side of the pool, tucked in between rockwork, creating a true hideaway with a secret entrance.
If you’re looking for something grander, builders and designers have turned caves into phenomenal spaces. If you have a large pool, spacious property, and a hefty budget, your grotto can be decked out with a swim-up bar, in-pool bar stools, colorful lighting, and even a weatherproof TV! Imagine getting relief from the sun, enjoying a cool drink, and lively conversation with your guests—without ever having to leave the pool.
This secluded grotto is built entirely of faux rock and features a swim-up bar with built-in bar stools, a kitchen, and a color-changing light how.
Photo courtesy of Caviness Landscape Design, Inc.; Photography by K.O. Rinearson
Finally, waterslides are a wonderful feature to incorporate into your pool design because they create fun for the whole family. Waterslides have evolved immensely from aqua blue stand-alone structures to naturally-colored slides built right into the landscaping and surrounded by rockwork for a completely blended look. This means your backyard can have the excitement of a mini water park without having to look like one.
Standard waterslides are usually made of acrylic or aluminum while custom waterslides are commercial-grade fiberglass or concrete. While standard waterslides come in a variety of different models, custom waterslides have the option of having closed flumes. A closed-flume waterslide looks like a tube and gives the rider a feeling of sliding through a tunnel. Closed-flume waterslides are easily concealed within the landscaping.
With so many options to add excitement to your pool, it’s a good idea to narrow down which ones are most important to you before talking to your pool builder. Of course, if your budget allows, you can incorporate all of these features, plus other unique design elements. With the right combination of features, your pool will become a true entertainment hub.
Photo courtesy of Dolphin Waterslides, Inc.