Ideas for Pool Fire Features

Fire and water make for a stunning contrast. Adding a touch of fire to your custom pool can take it to the next level of luxury and elegance. We can incorporate a variety of different pool fire features into your design. As the only member of the Master Pools Guild in Tucson, we have the expertise to bring your wildest dreams to life.

The Process of Choosing Pool Features

At the start of the pool design process, we will meet with you and discuss every element from the big picture down to the smallest details. During this time, we can help you decide which features to add to your pool. This can include water features such as fountains, waterfalls, or grottos. In many cases, pool fire features are directly tied with water features, such as fire bowls with fountains of water flowing down from them. You may also want to include fire in your outdoor living space separate from your pool, such as a fire pit. Let us know how you envision your backyard oasis and we will make a plan to turn your ideas into reality.

Inspiration for Pool Fire Features

To help give inspiration for your pool, here are some of our favorite pool fire features that we’ve created:

Fire Wall With Rain Curtain

A pool fire pit wall with a rain curtain flowing over it

This fire pit is built into a gorgeous wall with iridescent tiles. The blue of the tiles and water create a lovely contrast with the orange flames. A rain curtain falls from the wall in front of the fire. Two bowl fountains on either side help frame the feature.

A pool fire feature with blue glass fragments and water flowing over the back

In this photo, you can see the water from the other side. The blue glass fragments within the fire pit add to the color contrast.

Pool Fire Features with a Poolside Fire Pit

A beautiful custom pool in Tucson, AZ with fire features near the water and poolside

For this pool, there are fire features that integrate with water fountains in addition to a poolside fire pit. This helps visually connect the pool to its surroundings and the fire adds an exotic, resort-like feel.

A close up a pool fire feature with blue glass fragments built by our Tucson pool builders

Twin Fire Pillars

Twin fire pillars pouring water into a custom luxury pool in Tucson

In this design, two twin pillars have fire bowls on top that pour water into the pool. The use of natural stone keeps the aesthetic grounded while the fire brings a hint of exotic flair.

A close-up of lava stones in a pool fire feature

Instead of the blue glass fragments featured in the previous designs, these fire bowls use textured lava stones.

Metal Fire Bowl

A metal fire bowl in a Tucson custom pool

This metal fire bowl has a modern look and is an excellent choice for a contemporary pool design. The darker glass fragments give this feature an elegant and elevated aesthetic as the water flows gently into the pool.

Luxury Outdoor Living

A luxury outdoor living area with a fire pit in Tucson, AZ

In addition to fire features that are directly incorporated in your pool, you can add a fire pit to your backyard that is separate from the pool deck. This is one example. For this design we used a classic and natural look.

Start Designing Your Dream Pool

At Pools by Design, we can help you transform your backyard. We have experience with fire features and can add these into your design for the ultimate beauty and luxury.

To discuss pool fire features, contact us today.

What is a Pool Grotto?

There are many luxurious features that you can add to your custom pool. Grottos used to be only found in resort pools, but these are beginning to become a more popular addition for high-end lagoon-style pools. Would a pool grotto be a perfect feature for your new swimming pool?

Pool Grotto Basics

A grotto is a waterfall with a space underneath it. Swimmers can move under a cascade of water and into the cool interior of the grotto. The rock is usually artificial and reinforced to create a strong and stable structure, although natural rock options may also be available. The possibilities are endless for how to customize the exterior as well as the cave inside. This can range from a classic rock waterfall with a small interior swimming area to a secluded and fully-customized lounge.

Some ideas you could use for your pool grotto include:

Grotto Hot Tub

A grotto can be the perfect place for an inground spa. One way to do this is by having the grotto partially on the pool deck, with a portion extending into the pool and a cool stream of water flowing to connect the rock with the pool below. This allows you to have an entrance to the spa on dry land for ease of access. You can also build a spa on the same level as the pool and enclose this within the grotto.

Lounging Area

You can place an in-water bench in your grotto for swimmers to relax and socialize. Depending on the size and shape of your pool grotto, there are many different designs and features you can include. The cool interior paired with the sound of the waterfall make this area the ultimate space to unwind.

Pool Grotto Waterslide

In addition to customizing the interior of your pool grotto, you can add different elements to the waterfall itself. One possibility is building a waterslide into the outside of the grotto. Kids love this exciting pool feature and adults can also enjoy the nostalgic fun of a waterslide.

Small Grotto

Not all pool grottos have to be extravagant. If you prefer a simple elegance, you can add a small grotto that offers just enough space for swimmers to move under the waterfall. This gives you all of the visual appeal of a waterfall while providing an additional shaded swimming area.

A Pool as Unique as You Are

At Pools by Design, we build luxury pools that can include a wide variety of features. We are the only member of the Master Pools Guild in Tucson and have the expertise necessary to turn your dreams into reality.

To discuss building a pool with a grotto and/or other high-end features, contact us today.

Reasons to Build an Inground Spa

Relaxing in a hot tub is a great way to unwind on cool evenings. If you are interested in having a spa in your own backyard, you have two main choices: a portable or an inground spa. There are many benefits to a custom inground hot tub compared to the aboveground option.

These include:

Integrate Your Spa and Your Pool

With an aboveground hot tub, your spa is separate from your pool and may even be located across the yard. It may also look different than your pool and clash visually. With an inground spa, it’s easier to fully integrate your hot tub with your swimming pool. A spillover spa is one way to accomplish this and there are also many different options depending on the style of your yard and your personal preferences. Even if you place your inground spa in an area slightly further away from your pool, you can use similar design elements to visually connect them.

High-End Look and Feel

At Pools by Design, we construct inground spas using only the highest-quality materials. This creates a high-end aesthetic that will elevate the look and feel of your backyard. Compared to a portable hot tub, a custom spa is more luxurious and can help you create the oasis of your dreams.

Make Your Spa Truly Unique

While aboveground pre-made hot tubs may have some options for customization, an inground spa offers nearly limitless design possibilities. You can include features such as colored lights, jets, bubblers, fountains, a Pebble Tec finish, and more. We can help you design the perfect spa for you, down to the smallest detail.

Enjoy Your Spa For Years to Come

A portable aboveground hot tub does not generally last as long as an inground spa, even with the most diligent care. When you invest in a custom hot tub, you and your family will be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Add Value to Your Home

If you sell your home in the future, your spa can be an attractive amenity for potential buyers. A luxurious custom hot tub adds value to your home in addition to improving the quality of your life.

Building Your Pool and Spa

Although you can construct a hot tub separately from your pool, building these two elements at the same time is often the best option for cost and efficiency. This also allows you to completely transform your backyard. When you work with Pools by Design, the process starts with a consultation where we will discuss how you would like the finished pool and spa combination to look. We will discuss big-picture elements as well as water features and add-ons.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready to build a beautiful inground spa and pool, contact us today.

A Guide to Pool Water Features

When you are building a custom swimming pool, you can add many different elements to make it truly your own. At Pools by Design, our expert designers and builders can bring your dreams to life. We can incorporate a wide variety of pool water features that add luxury and beauty to your backyard.

Some of the water features we can design and build include:


A waterfall made with natural rocks, a popular pool water feature

Waterfalls are a popular feature because they help connect pools to their surrounding landscapes. The gentle flow of water is incredibly relaxing to watch and the rocks can create a natural aesthetic. You can customize the design of your pool waterfall to match how you want your backyard to look and these can range from simple to elaborate.


A grotto with a natural rock waterslide in a luxury pool

Grottos are similar to waterfalls but with an opening in the front so swimmers can enter the area under the rocks. Water can flow over this entrance and the cool interior of the grotto is a great place to put a seating area or even a hot tub. Adults and kids alike will enjoy this pool water feature.

Spillover Spas

A beautiful spillover spa created by our Tucson pool and spa designers

If you are building a pool and spa combination, it is often beneficial to visually connect these two elements to create a seamless design. One way to achieve this is with a spillover spa, which is a stream of water that flows from your hot tub into your pool. You can do this with a curtain or with a series of ledges depending on the type of aesthetic you prefer.

Rain Curtains

A rain curtain, a popular pool water feature, falling over a fire pit with colorful pool tiles

A rain curtain is a thin sheet of water that falls from a wall or ledge into a pool. This feature can create a focal point in your pool and you can place them strategically to draw attention to different elements. When combined with fire features, such as in the photo above, rain curtains offer a pleasing visual contrast.


Pool scuppers flowing into a luxury custom pool

Scuppers are small openings in a wall that water flows out of. Multiple scuppers are often placed together and can be designed with nearly any configuration you can imagine. These streams of water create a relaxing sound and are calming to watch.


Pool water features known as gushers with blue LED lights under them

Gushers, also called bubblers, are a type of fountain and these are generally placed on a sun shelf. They shoot small jets of water upward and make a pleasant bubbling noise. Adding colorful lights under gushers helps this design element stand out.

Which Pool Water Features Should You Include?

The above list represents just a few of the most popular water features we can include, but there are many more possibilities. You can add a swim-up bar, pencil jets, and much more. With so many options, you may not know where to start. Our pool builders can discuss how you plan to use your pool and what your ideal design includes. We can help you determine which features will be the most beneficial for you.

Start Designing Your Dream Pool

Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss custom pool water features.

Benefits of a Swim-Up Bar

Having a swimming pool in your backyard is a luxury that not everyone gets the chance to experience. During the build process, you have the opportunity to choose what elements to include to create the pool of your dreams. If you are interested in a high-end pool, a swim-up bar is one of the most luxurious features available.

What is a Swim-Up Bar?

A swim-up bar includes two parts: a wet side and a dry side. The wet area includes any number of barstools that are submerged in the water. In most cases, it is best to build these in a shallow area that is between 30 and 42 inches deep. This is ideal for swimmers to stay partially submerged while still having enough space. You can add this area in your pool or in your spa/hot tub. In front of the barstools, there will be a flat surface for serving. This is typically six inches above the pool coping. This is to provide enough knee room and you can design the bar in nearly any shape and style.

The dry side of the swim-up bar can include as many or as few features as you would like. A full outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator, barbeque grill, and other amenities helps make serving easy. You can even add a television in this area for swimmers to watch while enjoying food and drinks. It’s also possible to incorporate additional seating on the dry side so guests in and out of the pool can socialize.

Swim-Up Bar Benefits

Perfect for Entertaining

Adding a bar to your pool can take your parties to the next level. Your guests can stay in the water while enjoying drinks, appetizers, or meals. If you add a TV, you have even more options for entertainment.

Great for Kids

Many people associate the “bar” in swim-up bar with alcohol, but this feature is a general serving area and works just as well for non-alcoholic drinks and food. Kids can enjoy swimming while you barbeque or cook in the outdoor kitchen and then can enjoy a meal or snacks without needing to get out of the water.

Saves Space

You may not associate adding a feature with saving space, but one of the benefits of a swim-up bar is that it connects your pool to your outdoor kitchen. This can save space because you don’t have to create a separate area for the kitchen and seating.

Makes Your Backyard Feel like a Luxury Resort

Adding a seating area to your pool makes your backyard feel like a luxurious vacation destination. With a custom pool, you can get away from the stress of day-to-day life without even leaving your home.

Experienced High-End Pool Builders

At Pools by Design, we have extensive experience building luxurious custom pools. We can help turn your dreams into reality and can incorporate a wide variety of features to create a pool that is truly unique and your own.

To learn more about building a pool with a swim-up bar, contact us today.

All About Pool Depth

When you are building a custom swimming pool, you will need to consider many factors. One of the big-picture decisions you will need to make is the depth of the pool. Determining the ideal depth is similar to determining the ideal size overall. You will need to consider who is using your pool, how they are using it, and if this is likely to change in the future.

Standard Pool Depth

Although pools are by no means one-size-fits-all, it can be helpful to consider the most common pool depth as a starting point for your design. The most common depth for residential pools is a shallow end that is three feet deep. This transitions through a gentle slope into a deep end which is five or six feet deep. This structure works well for a variety of different swimmers. It’s possible for children to play in the shallow end while adults can swim in the deep end. This basic structure can be adapted to match your needs.

Depth Transition

Using a slope is the most common way to transition from the pool’s minimum depth to its maximum depth. Keep in mind that if you increase depth for the deep end while keeping the shallow area the same, you may need to increase the length of your pool to accommodate the slope.

The major exception to the practice of using a slope to change depths is a sun shelf. This is a very shallow shelf at the entrance of your pool that immediately drops into a deeper area below. This can be a great addition for lounging or to allow young children and pets to play in a safer shallow area.

It is also possible to maintain a consistent swimming pool depth, although this is less common. The main reason to consider a multiple-depth pool is that it can accommodate more types of swimmers. However, a single-depth pool can be appropriate if you only plan to use your pool for one purpose. For example, a dedicated lap pool can be approximately four feet deep throughout and still provide an optimal experience.

Decreasing Minimum Depth

If you have young toddlers, you may be considering having a more shallow minimum depth to give them a safe area to play. In many cases, a sun shelf is a more effective way to accomplish this than using a smaller minimum depth in a sloping design. This is because anything less than two and a half or three feet can be difficult for adults to use and you will need to increase the length of the pool to accommodate the transition.

Increasing Maximum Depth

While the standard five/six feet deep end is enough for swimming or jumping in feet-first, this is not a safe depth for diving. A diving pool should be eight feet deep at a minimum and the slope must angle appropriately to reduce the risk of injury. Local ordinances can also impact whether or not you can install a diving board. Your pool company can incorporate a deeper area into your pool design and can help you determine how deep this needs to be.

Depths greater than eight feet are not common in residential pools due to increased construction and maintenance expenses. However, building a very deep pool is not impossible and you can discuss this option with your pool builder to get more details.

Build a Custom Pool

At Pools by Design, we can help you determine the best water depth for your pool and we will work with you to bring your dreams to life. We will discuss all of the details that could impact how you use your pool and we will use our expertise to create pool designs that are gorgeous and functional.

To discuss the best pool depth for you, contact us today.

Large vs Small Pools: Choosing the Right Pool Size

One of the many decisions you will make when designing your own custom pool is how large you want your pool to be. Small pools give you more patio space and may allow you to add more features, whereas large pools are best for entertaining or if you have a large family. As with any other choice, it can be very helpful to discuss your options with a professional. However, you may want to have a basic idea of your preferences before you begin planning.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine the best pool size for you:

How Big is Your Backyard?

The size of your backyard can be a limiting factor in determining how big your new swimming pool can be. Keep in mind that you will need space not only for the pool itself but also for the deck and any outdoor living areas you wish to incorporate. Your pool company can help you determine what size is reasonable. You should be aware that a very small backyard can be more difficult to build in, so this can affect the feasibility of your project and the final estimate. If you have any questions or concerns about your backyard size, it’s a good idea to discuss this early on with your contractor.

How Many People Will Typically Use Your Pool?

One of the major factors that will help you determine the best size for your in-ground pool is how many people will typically use it. To start, consider how many people live in your household. Then, think about anyone who would visit frequently, such as grandkids. Finally, consider whether or not you often host parties and how many guests you usually invite. It’s important to remember that not everyone will be swimming at one time at large gatherings, so you should save enough space for your guests to lounge poolside.

A well-built pool should last for many years to come. As a result, you should take some time to consider not only who will use your pool now, but also who will use your pool in the future. For example, do you plan to grow your family, or do you have young children that will soon be swimming and inviting their friends over? If your children are no longer staying with you, are grandkids a possibility in the future?

How Do You Want to Use Your Pool?

Imagine the perfect day with your dream pool. What do you picture? This mental image can help you get a good idea of how large your pool should be. If you imagine sitting in a lounge chair and dipping your toes in the water, a small pool with a luxurious outdoor living area might be best. If you see yourself swimming laps or playing in the pool with your family, a larger swimming area could be better for you.

The Value of a Pool

It’s important to keep in mind that your pool is an investment that you should be able to enjoy for a long time. Working with a professional designer and taking the time to consider exactly what you want can help ensure you love the final results.

Choosing the Best Pool Builder

At Pools by Design, we have the expertise to turn your dream pool into a reality. We consider every aspect of the design, including large-scale decisions such as pool size and down to the smallest details.

To discuss whether a large or small pool is best for you, contact us today.

How to Choose a Pool Company

If you are ready to build a custom pool, the first step is choosing a pool builder. It’s important to make this decision carefully. A pool is a big investment, so you want to make sure the contractor you pick has the expertise to exceed your expectations. Additionally, your pool company will be spending a lot of time at your house, so you should be sure you can trust them. Doing your research before making a decision can help ensure that you are happy with the final results.

Here are some things to look for when choosing a pool contractor:

Licensed and Bonded

You should make sure that the pool company you are considering has a valid license. You can verify this by visiting the website for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) and can search by name or by license number. On this site, you can confirm that the license is current and can get more information on the owner of the company. You should also see if there are any complaints against the contractor. The ROC site also allows you to see if the company is bonded, which is important to make sure you are protected financially if there are any issues with the project.

You can view license information for Pools by Design here for residential pools and here for commercial pools.

First Impression

When you meet with your potential pool builder, you should pay attention to your first impression. Are they organized and on time? You should also consider whether or not the designer and any other staff you interact with are friendly and polite. If you visit a worksite, consider whether or not it is clean, if the workers are parked respectfully, and what your overall impression is.


Referrals are essential for determining whether a pool company is the best fit for you. They should be able to provide you with contact information for past/current clients as well as subcontractors and suppliers. You should reach out to these individuals and ask them about what it was like to work with the contractor. For clients, ask why they chose this pool company and if they would do so again. For subcontractors and suppliers, ask who they would want to work on their own pool. If they name the contractor you are thinking of working with, ask why. If they do not, ask them if they know anything about your potential contractor.

What About Price?

It can be tempting to choose the swimming pool builder who gives you the lowest bid. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should be able to enjoy your new pool for many years to come. It is often worth it to pay more upfront to avoid problems in the long run. Your contractor should be able to explain what is included in your estimate. If the price seems too high or too low based on what you’ve seen from other companies, ask questions to figure out why that is the case.

High-End Pool Building in Tucson

Pools by Design is a luxury pool builder in Tucson. We have extensive experience designing and building beautiful custom pools for our clients and are happy to answer any questions you may have about the process of creating your dream pool.

To learn more about our pool company, contact us today.

Choosing the Right Pool Finish

A pool finish covers the concrete pool shell and prevents water from leaking into the ground. It is an essential feature for the function of your pool and can also be used to enhance its appearance. There are many different finish options available and choosing the right material and color can help improve your pool’s aesthetic.

Here are some of the different options:

Pool Finish Materials

The material you use for your finish should be durable enough to handle constant exposure to pool water and chemicals. There are many different choices that fit these requirements and which you use will depend on your budget and preferences.


Plaster is among the most common types of pool finishes. It is made from a mixture of cement, water, and either silica sand or marble dust. White plaster is the traditional choice and the most inexpensive, although colored options are also available.

Aggregate Pool Finishes

Aggregate finishes have become more popular in recent years. These combine plaster with small pieces of granite, quartz, river stones, or glass beads. You can either opt for polished aggregate (which creates a polished surface with the shine of the stones) or exposed aggregate (which results in a more textured surface).

Pool Tiles

Tiles can be made of glass, stone, ceramic, or other materials. These can be more costly to apply, but they give you the ability to completely customize how your finish looks. You can use one type of tiles throughout your pool or use different options to create unique designs.


PebbleTec pool finishes are one of the best options for longevity, aesthetics, and texture. Whereas plaster will usually need to be replaced every 5-10 years, PebbleTec can last upwards of 20 years with proper care. There are many different choices for color and the surface is slip-resistant, making it great for hot tubs.


In addition to choosing the material for your pool finish, you can also customize the color.


White is a common color for pool finishes and if you are building a traditional pool, this can be an excellent option.

Neutral, Natural Tones

Using neutral colors such as brown gives your pool a more natural look. This works well with materials like stone tiles or PebbleTec.


Many pool owners choose blue pool finishes because they enhance the color of the water and make the pool look more inviting. You can do this with PebbleTec, pool tiles, or even colored plaster.

Bold Colors

Not every pool has to be traditional and you can choose bolder colors for your finish. This often works well in isolated areas and you can create pops of color using tiles in fun patterns.

Build Your Dream Pool

At Pools by Design, we can design your dream pool and will work to make every feature reflect your vision. This includes helping you choose the best material and color for your finish.

To schedule an appointment to discuss your pool finish and other design elements, contact us today.

What is Pool Coping?

There are many elements involved when building a custom pool. One example is pool coping, which forms the edge of your inground pool. It directs any water that splashes out into the deck drains and can visually distinguish your pool from its surroundings. You should consider what type of coping you want to use and how it should look when you are designing your new pool.

More information about pool coping:

The Purpose of Pool Coping

During the pool building process, the upper surface (bond beam) of the pool wall will usually have exposed metal. The coping covers this while creating a protective cap at the edge of your pool. It also provides swimmers with a sturdy surface for exiting the water. Pool coping often slants slightly outward to help direct water into drains. It is also designed to prevent water from getting behind the pool shell. In addition to the functional purposes of coping, it can create a pleasing visual contrast.

Coping Options

There are multiple different options for coping. Consulting with your pool designer can help you determine which will work best for your aesthetic and functional desires.


Coping should work with the other elements of your pool to create a beautiful design. It should also match with the overall style of your pool. Many people choose coping that stands out as a strong visual border. This can be accomplished by using a different color, material, or shape than the rest of the pool deck. However, some pool owners prefer coping that blends with the rest of the deck. You can either match the pool coping with the deck or extend the deck to serve the same purpose as coping, depending on your specific design.


Coping needs to be able to withstand exposure to water and pool chemicals. It also expands and contracts frequently as it gets wet and then dries out again. As a result, you should choose a material that is durable.

Some choices include:

  • Travertine: Travertine is an excellent material for around your pool because it is slip-resistant, durable, and cool to the touch. You can also customize the shape, color, and size of these natural stone tiles to match exactly how you want your pool coping to look.
  • Brick: This is one of the most common choices for coping because it is durable, affordable, customizable, and easily available. Another benefit is that it’s easier to replace individual bricks if there is any damage.
  • Concrete: Concrete coping is sturdy and water-resistant. You can choose concrete pavers or can use custom-poured concrete. Although poured concrete has a higher cost than pre-cast, it creates a more seamless blend with the pool deck.

Build a Beautiful Custom Pool

At Pools by Design, we create gorgeous custom pools and we pay attention to every detail, including coping. We will work with you throughout the design process to help create a pool that is beautiful, functional, and unique to you.

Contact us today to schedule a free pool design consultation.