At the height of summer, a swimming pool may be considered more an essential than a luxury, but there is a lot to consider before you add one to your property. The cost, obviously, but also size and space, as well as appearance, and other fun features including diving boards, slides, bars and jets. On the less exciting, but essential side, do you go for chlorine or salt? And what do you need to set aside for monthly maintenance?

When it comes to designing the perfect pool, Jacob Hocking, owner of CTX Design Group, has seen and done more than most, from the basic rectangle to infinity edges, swim-up bars, hot tubs and slides going down into man-made caves. The most cost-effective option, he explains, is a fibreglass swimming pool. However, there are limitations: “Fibreglass pools are significantly less expensive and install much faster than masonry pools, but you’re limited to size, depth and shape. You’re basically buying out of a catalogue, as opposed to a masonry pool that is only limited by your imagination, space and budget. Fibreglass pools are prefabricated in the US, come in on the ship and are craned into place.”

The first consideration is how you want to use your pool. That will then dictate the size and design. A lap pool, for example, is usually around 40 feet long, but only 10 to 12 feet wide. For a decent-sized family pool, Hocking recommends 18 by 36 feet. A small plunge or bathing pool only needs to be around 12 by 12 feet. Depth also depends on use, such as whether or not you want a diving board, a shallow area for kids to play or a “beach” area to relax partially submerged. You also may not need as much area to work with as you think: “Your main concerns are setbacks from boundaries. After that I’ve designed pools right up against doors and rock cuts. I’ve designed pools that come into peoples’ houses. We’ve filled entire courtyards with pools.”

In addition to setbacks, the other obligation is personal safety. The pool must be designed so a person can’t accidentally wander into the pool area and come to harm. This is critical and must be considered at the outset. Another factor is that for a few months of the year you are less likely to be swimming in your pool, so it becomes more of a water feature. In which case, continues Hocking, it’s worth making it an attractive one to compensate for the cost of cleaning and maintenance. “Depending on the placement of the pool and how proximate it is to your living spaces, the infinity or knife edge are all fantastic features,” he says. “They raise the water level of the pool, and become reflecting pools when you’re not using them.” Having these edges, however, adds not just to construction costs but can also add to maintenance costs because it increases the amount of equipment, has more water loss and can be more difficult to clean. Is it, therefore, worth it?

“In coastal locations, it is undoubtably worth the cost,” says Hocking. “It’s very dramatic and adds to the value of the pool beyond just being able to swim in it. In areas where you’re trying to hide road or other noise, the splashing water of the horizon edge helps to mask the surroundings.” If you want the “horizon look” but don’t have the budget, there are some tricks of the trade that will still give you a beautiful pool. These include more contemporary tiling techniques at the edges, keeping the water level up as high as possible and, if you have a water view, matching the Diamond Brite or Hydrazzo colour to that of the water beyond. Hocking also recommends a saltwater system over a chlorine one: “Saltwater are chlorine pools, they’re just using salt to generate chlorine through a natural process in comparison to traditional chlorine pools which rely on manually adding chemicals. It’s a more accurate system.”

Back to the budget. Hocking warns that the costs of installing a swimming pool are exponential, not linear. If the pool is 10 percent bigger, it doesn’t mean it only costs 10 percent more. As a starting point, he suggests allowing at least $100,000 for fibreglass and $200,000 for a basic masonry pool. In terms of the monthly costs for electricity and cleaning, these will vary depending on the size and use of the pool but will likely start at around $200–$300 per month.