Enclosed pools allow for year-round fun

Three months a year is just not much time to swim laps, play games and gather for family fun in a backyard pool - especially when you consider the investment required to install a pool. Yet, unless pool owners enclose their pool or fire up a heater, June, July and August may be the only time they have for aquatic fun and exercise. A heater will get these people a couple more months, but if they want year-round use of their pool, enclosing it is the way to go. The enclosure that makes the most sense for a pool depends on the homeowner's location, needs and budget.

Screened In

Ccsi Illo 0210Screens are a great way to enclose a pool, but they're not going to extend the swim season in many parts of the country. However, in the Southeast, especially in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, they make a lot of sense. While many pool owners in this area can use their pools year-round even without a screened enclosure, an enclosure can improve the backyard experience significantly by keeping leaves and bugs out.

"People in Florida like to be able to open up the back of their home, and that's what the screen does," says Keith Cooper, president and owner of Artesian Pools in Orlando, Fla. "It allows you to have full nighttime outdoor living, where you don't have to worry about insects.

"We probably have about 70 percent of our clientele go with a screened enclosure, and then the other 30 percent go with a yard fence."

While many of his clients do enclose their pools, Cooper discourages it unless they have trees canopying out over the pool, because it limits the deck options to a simple rectangle or square.

"And keep in mind that probably the biggest drawback to enclosing a pool with screens is pool temperature," he says. "It's about 8 to 10 degrees cooler than an unscreened pool, so then you may need to think about how you're going to heat the pool to extend the swim season. Ultimately, it's about what is going to be the most enjoyable environment, and that's going to vary from one pool to the next."

Beefed Up

After the series of hurricanes that pummeled Florida in 2004, Cooper says engineering codes for constructing enclosures were revised and beefed up. In the Orlando area, where Mike Delahoz, owner of Florida Pool Enclosures, does business, they're now built to withstand winds up to 120 miles per hour. "And the code for all the connections has been revised and made sturdier, " says Delahoz. "So we need to use more screws and fasteners where, for example, the structure connects to the concrete and where the gutter connects to the house."

The stronger code also calls for bigger beams. "In the old days, for an enclosure that attached to a house and went out 30 feet, you could use a 2-by-7, but now you have to use a minimum of a 2-by-8 and possibly a 2-by-9," says Delahoz. "Overall, the product has improved quite a bit."

This sturdier product also comes with a slightly higher price. "You're looking at about 10 to 20 percent more," says Cooper. "For a while screens were getting 20 to 25 percent more than they used to, but as the economy has slowed, the competition has brought the price down a little."

Cooper says the whole Orlando area has been hit hard by the recession. "Our sales are way off. Everyone's are. Financing has become real difficult to secure, so now we're looking at cash buyers, and everyone is fighting for the same cash buyers, so it's a little difficult. To fill in the gaps, we've gotten more into renovation. With a company like ours that has been around for so long, we're going back to all of our old customers, as well as those that didn't buy a pool from us and getting into the renovation market."


A couple thousand miles away in Spokane, Wash., Bryce Kehrer, spa and pool specialist for Pool World, says his dealership sells about two to three Plastimayd Space Arenas a year. Typically, clients get one of these inflatable enclosures so they can swim year-round.

"One of the ladies here in town who has one does swim lessons year-round, so it helps her run her business," says Kehrer. "Even with our bad winters the last couple of years, our clients told us the enclosures held up. The heat inside the dome will melt the snow off the top, so they did just fine."

While the Space Arenas can withstand some mild wintry conditions (like those typical to Spokane), Plastimayd's Web site indicates this residential enclosure is only intended to extend the swim season and should not be used during cold winter months. If weather conditions are consistently below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or if you experience heavy snow falls or ice, the manufacturer recommends the enclosure be removed and stored during the winter.

Kehrer notes that the warm temperatures in the Space Arena that keep conditions pleasant in the winter can get a bit steamy in the summer, so he suggests clients open the enclosure's two doors (one on each side) to ventilate.

Aside from extending the swim season, Kehrer says his clients typically get a Space Arena for lower maintenance and a lower pool heating bill - if they even have a heater.

Unlike running a gas heater, keeping the Space Arena inflated is not terribly expensive. According to Playstimayd, the dome comes with a continuously operating all-weather blower, which functions on normal 100-volt household current. The actual cost of operation is less than that of a 100-watt light bulb.

While these inflatable enclosures cannot withstand the kind of winds that a rigid-frame structure can tolerate, they may fit your client's budget better, and they're not difficult to remove if pool owners want to put them up only for the colder months of the year.

Rigid Frame

For those clients with a bigger budget looking for a permanent structure that can withstand harsher conditions, a rigid-frame structure may be the best option. Well-constructed rigid-frame structures built with quality materials can withstand quite a bit.

In 1999, four enclosures in the Oklahoma City area built by Alan Dodson, owner of Sun Building Products, were hit by a tornado. "One is a residential enclosure, two are at colleges and one is at a YMCA, and while all of them had to be re-glazed, the frames were not affected at all," says Dodson, who business is based in Dallas.

"To give you a sense of the storm, the residential enclosure had been built between a house and a barn, and during this tornado, the house lost its roof and the barn completely disappeared. They didn't even find pieces of it on the 500-acre ranch. And the enclosure at Rose State College didn't even look like it had been hit. The college called me up a couple of days after the tornado and said it had the only roof on the campus that was not totally destroyed. Now I'm not saying that they all stand up to tornadoes, but those are four that did."

While these sturdy, rigid-frame enclosures are not inexpensive and can in some cases rival the cost of conventional construction for an indoor pool, Dodson says the advantage to a Garden Prairie enclosure versus conventional construction is that it's much easier to manage moisture. "You really have to know what you're doing to build a conventionally constructed pool enclosure. If you don't, it's going to fall ap art in about three or four years because of moisture and chemicals. Every four or five years we tear down one of these conventionally constructed enclosures and put up one of ours."

In all of its enclosures, says Dodson, CCSI, the manufacturer of Garden Prairie residential enclosures, uses aluminum framing from proprietary extrusions and powder coats each piece of aluminum. Powder coating gives it a color, and it's a very durable finish, adds Dodson. "Powder coating has taken over the world of finishes on metal, and it's far superior to painting."

For that reason, Dodson says, his enclosures do not need dehumid-ification, "because there's nothing in there that's going to rust or be affected by the moisture. Everything is either powder-coated aluminum or stainless steel that won't rust."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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