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Design Decisions

Pool enclosures and gazebos come in many different styles and models to fit your needs and the style of your home.

By Katie Jacobs

Garden Prairie Residential Pool & Spa EnclosuresA swimming pool enclosure is a worthwhile investment that lets you enjoy your pool year-round, while also reducing the amount of time and money you spend maintaining it. There are many styles and models of enclosures to choose from, and knowing how you intend to use the enclosure will help you during the decision process. And for additional shade and style in your backyard, consider a gazebo.

Permanent or Portable?

Think about the functions you’d like your pool enclosure to serve. Are you looking for an inexpensive way to extend the use of your pool? Do you want to be able to swim on rainy days? Are you looking to extend your home’s living space? Answering these questions will help you determine if a portable, semi-permanent, or permanent enclosure is best for you. 

Portable pool enclosures are inflatable vinyl or fabric-based domes that are anchored to the ground with steel cables. Motorized fans maintain inflation by creating a small pressure difference between the inside and outside air. Priced around $2,500, these enclosures can be customized to fit any inground or aboveground pool and are available in a variety of color choices: however, they must be deflated during high winds and dismantled and stored when closing the pool for the winter. They are best for homeowners looking to extend their swim season a few months. 

Semi-permanent pool enclosures are telescopic, retractable structures with safety glass or polycarbonate glazed panels that slide on a track or use a rolling mechanism to open and close. Each section fits neatly inside the next—like a telescope—and allows you to open the enclosure fully or just part-way. The panels are usually treated for anti-fogging to prevent condensation build-up and are designed to capture solar energy and minimize heat loss. They also protect swimmers from ultraviolet (UV) rays and prevent debris from falling in the pool, which helps reduce maintenance. In addition, this type of enclosure can be left up all year because its composition is strong enough to resist harsh weather conditions. A telescopic enclosure is easy to maintain—simply spray it down with a high-power water hose. Because they are considered temporary/removable buildings, most states and townships do not require a permit. These enclosures can be installed over any shaped pool and start at around $10,000. 

Building a permanent pool enclosure is another option, and offers the most in customization. These structures are built with strong, tempered aluminum framework and stainless steel fastening hardware. Glass or light-transmitting polycarbonate is often used for the roof and walls, which provides UV protection, room insulation, and maintains the water temperature. However, you can also retract the roof or open certain panels to let the breeze in and cool off the room. Like telescopic structures, they allow for an extended swim season or year-round swimming (depending on your region), and keep the pool clean by preventing leaves and dirt from getting into the pool. Permanent enclosures are often referred to as “sunrooms” because they can include a series of sliding glass doors and space for furniture, plants, and other accessories. They can be installed in any region, including areas with high winds and heavy snowfall. While permanent enclosures are the most expensive option, with prices ranging from $22 per square foot for prefabricated models to $60 per square foot for custom-built designs, they are a worthwhile investment. They are a great choice for pool owners looking to increase their living space. 

Function or Style?

Think about how your enclosure will impact the rest of your backyard. Are you looking for an attractive space for dining and entertaining or just a simple way to extend your swim season? 

Inflatable pool domes are solely used for swimming purposes. While they’re inexpensive and available in different sizes, shapes, and colors (clear or solid), they do not add style or extra space around your pool. 

For those who want an extended or year-round swimming season, as well as an attractive area for entertaining family and friends, a telescopic or permanent enclosure is ideal. Many telescopic manufacturers offer a selection of standard colors and designs, such as domed, flat, and angled roof panels.

Permanent enclosures allow for ultimate customization and can be designed to match the color and architectural style of your home. Many manufacturers offer a variety of paint choices, ranging from neutral tones such as brown, sand, and white, to custom colors. You can also choose among several roof styles and structural details like molding, ridge cresting, and finials. Some manufacturers even offer decorative glass, such as sandblasted and stained glass designs. While these custom-built enclosures are the most expensive, they’re an elegant addition to any home. 

Photo courtesy of Garden Prairie Pool & Spa Enclosures, manufactured by CCSI International, Inc.


Gazebos: An Alternative to Traditional Enclosures

Outdoor StructuresGazebos have been enjoyed for as long as there have been gardens. Popular throughout history, gazebos became all the rage in America during the 1800s. Since then, they have dotted the landscape and have become the quintessential outdoor structure. 

Gazebos have a great deal of design versatility—made from wood, vinyl, and even canvas, they can be round, square, octagonal, or rectangular. Screened in or left open, with or without doors, gazebos provide a cozy place to relax in the shade. Hot tub owners can even build them around their spas to provide relief from the sun. 

Large or small, plumbing and electricity can be incorporated into the design to allow for a ceiling fan, lights, or a hot tub. Gazebos range in price from around $2,500 for traditional wooden styles to about $20,000 or more for fully enclosed, customized structures.

A gazebo’s  defining element is the roof. Its ornate style is easily recognized from any vantage point and gives the structure its essence. Typically topped with a weathervane or a cupola, the roof of the wooden variety is shingled with asphalt, cedar, or some other roofing material, although it can also be left in its natural state. Those made of vinyl are fairly maintenance-free, while those crafted from wood need to be painted, stained, and given yearly maintenance checks.

Photo courtesy of Backyard America Outdoor Structures