While a full-size swimming pool is lovely if you have the space and the money, there are plenty of other water features that will help you soak tired muscles, cool off and stay in shape.
Compact, space-conserving hot tubs, lap pools and swim spas have expanded aquatic options for homeowners. Forget the cliche of the 1970s-era party animal hot tub. Today's hot tub owner is more often an empty-nest baby boomer looking for decompression instead of action, architects and retailers explained. "The No. 1 reason people own hot tubs is for relaxation and stress relief because from a physiological standpoint it actually does dilate the capillaries, lowers your blood pressure. It does relax you," said Adam Burke, the owner of two locations of Atlanta Spa & Leisure.
Burke carries a variety of hot tubs and jetted swim spas, including the Michael Phelps line of high-performance swim spas, which use propellers to create a current to swim against.
"The swim spas have had a big uptick as the baby boomers have moved into retirement," Burke affirmed. "They have those aches and pains, hip replacement, knee replacement, old sports injuries," making swim spas and hot tubs an ideal zero-impact workout.
Many older customers also are choosing water features to create a vacation-worthy experience at home, said Moon Bros. architect and co-owner Mark Fosner.
Fosner is installing a hot tub and enclosing a 20-foot long jetted swim spa in one home. "And that's their retreat," he said.
Architect Michael Gamble of Gamble and Gamble Architecture says he has seen a definite increase in clients wanting water features like lap pools or hot tubs, which are far more affordable than a traditional swimming pool.
"You can build a small water feature in the backyard for a very reasonable amount of money _ less than $10,000," Gamble said.
Whether your hot tub or swim spa is placed inside or outside, architects and retailers recommend that you treat a water feature not just as an experience to enhance your quality of life, but as a design element within your home. Consider your view from the water, privacy, when you will be most likely to use it, sun angle and maintenance.
"You're using it to enhance the experience of the house," Gamble said.
HOT TUB TIPS
_Check local codes to see how to keep your hot tub or pool safe. Most areas require at least a 5-foot fence surrounding the pool. Locking safety covers also can help. "Covers have improved considerably," said Moon Bros. co-owner and architect Mark Fosner. Many covers are now placed down at the water level and disappear into a vault when not in use, to make them less obtrusive, and can support substantial weight if someone accidentally steps onto the tub cover.
_When placing a hot tub inside a home, "you have to control the humidity," most often with a permanent dehumidifier. _ Mark Fosner
_Adam Burke prefers not to recess hot tubs to prevent accidental falls into the hot tub and to make the tub mechanics easier to access. And when it comes time to sell, "If you don't sink them into the deck, they're a bargaining chip, because you can actually take them away."
_Make sure that your deck or foundation can support the combined weight of the tub, water and occupants, Burke said. That extends to any retaining walls built to support a tub or pool. "The classic mistake is people put it in a pretty steep site and they don't do their retaining wall correctly," Fosner said.