In my 40+ years in the pool business, I've been involved with several pool enclosure projects. Some were simple affairs that were installed in a day, and other more structural enclosures that took weeks of construction.
If you've ever thought of enclosing your pool for the winter, and enjoying your pool year around, read on. There's really 3 ways to enclose an inground pool, so I'm calling this Pool Enclosures: Good, Better and Best...
Good Pool Enclosures
The inflatable pool enclosure, sometimes called a bubble or dome - is the simplest way to enclose a swimming pool, and also by far the cheapest method. Pool Domes, similar to small Tennis Domes, are inflated with a large air blower that operates to keep the 'bubble' inflated. They are held in place with a water weight system, or a cable that runs thru eye hook deck anchors. Inflatable pool enclosures are ordered in a rectangular size to cover the pool and deck portions, and fit perfectly over our inground vinyl pools! An airlock door (optional) or a zipper door, can be placed in any location.
Inflatable enclosures aren't perfect however - they should be deflated in heavy winds, snow or ice storms, or the weather will do it for you. Afterwards, you pump off the snow melt with a cover pump, and then turn on the blower to re-inflate the bubble. Annual installation takes 2-4 people and spring storage is a half day project of cleaning, drying, folding and storing the bubble.
However, at an entry point of less than $5000, inflatable pool enclosures bubbles are an attractive option for many pool owners, and do not represent a long term investment for most folks.
Better Pool Enclosures
What's better than an inflatable dome? A tubular frame structure, with fabrics stretched tightly over the roof and walls. A rigid frame structure means that it can withstand heavy snow and winds, and barring a hurricane, these pool domes stay put all winter long. If you've ever put together a canopy shade tent for a summer barbeque, the concept is the same only on a larger scale.
In a fabric pool enclosure, the tubes for walls and ceiling connect and lock together, and are locked into a base rail that runs around the perimeter of the pool deck. Durable reinforced vinyl fabrics, colored, clear or opaque, are used to let the sunlight in but block out the cold. Some types or models can be equipped with hung lighting and central air, or upgraded insulation.
Costs on a stretched fabric pool enclosure? Depends what you buy, because as usual, you get what you pay for. For example, a SunDome Enclosure is comparable to an inflatable dome for a small inground pool, but other brands such as Weatherport will cost you around $15K. Want something special? See Sprung for an engineered tension fabric pool enclosure starting at $25K.
Best Pool Enclosures
If you want something even more classy, you're going to have to build it custom - or hire someone to do it for you. A permanent roof structure with light panels offers permanence and strength. Walls can be opened up with sliding glass doors or roll-up canvas or rolling screens. The possibilities are endless, and a constructed pool enclosure offers a true year round swimming experience, without worries about weather.
To be even more free of worry, the best pool enclosures will be constructed of materials to ward off the effects of moisture and chloramines - this means no wood, drywall, steel or painted surfaces. Walls framed with steel studs, wrapped in moisture barriers, and covered with concrete boards, more vapor barriers and finished with panels of plastic, stone or tile. A dehumidification system and/or an automatic cover are also advised, especially if the pool house is adjoined to the main house.
Cost for constructing a pool enclosure for year around swimming depends on what part of the country you are in. Pools in the northern half of the US will need more insulation and a substantial structure, to keep heating costs down. Below the Mason-Dixon line, you can build a lighter structure. Prices generally start at $50K for the best pool enclosures, and can easily balloon to six figures.
What's the best type of pool enclosure? Whatever fits your budget and meets your expectations.
SPP Pool Expert