Healthy lap pool

Lapping It Up: Long, Narrow Lap Pools
are the Rage in Healthy Circles

Penny Swift chats to seasoned swimming pool builder Peter Sulston about lap pools

Lap pool with deck
On the straight and narrow. An attractive 10 m x 2 m-long lap pool with reinforced concrete walls and a gunite shell. It also features a black-tiled lane line and simple tiled coping around the edge.

As more and more people turn to a healthy lifestyle, the value of  water exercise becomes increasingly evident. Instead of (or quite often as well as) running, cycling or doing aerobics, a growing number of people of all ages are spending more time in the water in a positive move to improve their health and fitness.

“As pool builders, we have found that ‘lap pools’ have become more and more popular over the past few years,” says Peter Sulston of Suburban Pools, a leading pool construction business in Cape Town.

Defining the term ‘lap pool’, Peter says it is generally used to describe a swimming pool that has a length “somewhat disproportionate to its width, the length to be used for swimming laps.” Whereas the average length of a swimming pool would be twice the width of the pool (6 m x 3 m; 8 m x 4 m; 9 m x 4,5 m; 12 m x 6 m and so on), lap pools of the same length would be much narrower (for example, 6 m x 1,5 m; 8 m x 2 m; 9 m x 2,5 m or 12 m x 3 m).

“While a professional swimmer might consider a length of anything less than 25 m  not worth swimming in, a lap pool that fits into your garden is worth consideration. “I admit that the aesthetic effects are attractive to some, and ugly to others, but they do offer specific benefits, even if you don’t like the way they look,” says Peter. “In these days where property sizes are often drastically reduced and there is an increased awareness of the need for a healthier life style, you may find a solution in a long, narrow, lap pool. It takes up much less space than a conventional pool and provides a healthy facility at home where you can exercise by swimming lengths.”

Lap pool with island
Urn island. An unusual water feature adds to the dramatic impact of this extra-long 20 m x 2,5 m heated swimming pool which was built by Suburban Pools. The feature, created with a large white urn set on an ‘island’, is set at the far end of the narrow lap pool. Not only does it provide a formal end to the swimming length, but it also enables swimmers to touch and tumble-turn at the urn. This ‘urn island’ also forms an effective barrier between the main swimming pool and a small children’s play area which is connected to the pool steps. Constructed using gunite, this swimming pool won an NSPI gold award in 2004 in the gunite category for pools measuring 42 square meters and more – with a surround other than brick or tile (in this instance, wooden decking).

There are also cost savings having a lap pool

While a 10 m x 2,5 m lap pool provides the equivalent swimming length as a 10 m x 5 m pool, it will obviously cost a lot less to build. It will also be much easier to maintain, since half the size of pool will be easier to clean,  requiring only half the amount of pool chemicals –  at half the cost.” By their very nature, lap pools are custom built for each client, and are therefore not available in pre-moulded fiberglass.

Peter advises that there are several practical aspects to consider before the construction process begins.

Pool depth for a lap pool

It is very popular for lap pools to be built to one depth throughout. As many of the health club pools in our cities are built specifically for swim training at a water depth of 1,2 m, this depth is deemed to be the most popular. Pools of this depth also seem to be a bit warmer than deeper pools.

Pool steps

Building steps in the corner of the pool is standard, but sometimes considered to be a hindrance to swimming laps. Building steps at the end of the pool makes it impossible to ‘touch and tumble-turn’. While a removable stainless steel ladder on the side will take up less space, this is a quite an expensive accessory.

Lanes in a lap pool.

For competitive swimming in large commercial or school pools, ‘racing lane’ lines on the pool floor and ‘end markers’ on the pool’s end walls are usually demarcated using tiles. For home pools, the narrow width of the pool is generally considered to be a sufficient guide for most swimmers. Lane markings are not standard, and cost extra.

Caption for the featured image at top of page:

It’s the length that counts. A 10 m x 2 m, single-depth gunite pool, fits perfectly into a long, narrow garden. Constructed by Suburban Pools, the pool extends along the side boundary of the property, utilising an area of the garden that had previously been difficult to maintain. Instead of a traditional brick or tile surround the pool is trimmed with a single row of Revelstone coping tiles which match the patio area between the pool and the house. Most of the original lawn area adjacent to the pool has been left undisturbed.

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