Are Infinity Pools Suitable for Backyard Installation?

In the right setting an infinity pool is a wonderful thing. I have swum in a few endless swimming pools in some hotels that I have stayed in that were located in lovely elevated settings and the effect was truly magical.

There is little or no point in having an infinity pool unless you are on an elevated site, with a great view, to incorporate that into the design. If your pool will be in a standard backyard, enclosed by a wall, fence or hedge you will just be paying significantly more for no benefit.

Infinity pools are known by many other names such as a vanishing edge pool, a no edge pool or a zero edge pool. They all refer to the fact that from the water level (ie when in the pool) it seems like one edge of the pool just blends into the landscape without having a defined raised edge.

Some people also call them an endless swimming pool but this term is usually used in a pool with a strong pumped jet of water at one end which allows someone to swim against the current it produces without reaching the end of the pool.

Although infinity swimming pools are a relatively new phenomenon the concept of bringing the landscape into a space is not so new. Garden designers have used what are known as ha-has to bring the distant landscape into the garden by using a sunken wall for centuries.

Infinity pool on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore
One of the most spectacular infinity pools in the world

How do infinity pools work?

Oddly, infinity pools rarely, if ever, are referred to as waterfall pools but in essence that is exactly what they are. The infinity side of the pool acts as a dam, holding back the desired depth of water, but allowing the excess water to flow over its edge. This gives the impression that there is no edge to the pool at all.

Sometimes the water just runs straight over a horizontal edge, sometimes over a 45º edge sloping away from the pool and occasionally it trickles down a sloping side all the way to the overflow tank at the bottom.

The water that drops over the edge goes into a holding tank or pool and then is filtered and is pumped back into the pool so, apart from increased evaporation, no water is actually lost.

Are infinity pools safe?

Although it may seem that they may not be safe they are of course. They are just as safe as any other design of swimming pool.

When you swim and reach the infinity edge of the pool the only difference between that and a normal pool is that you will be able to see over the edge. The retaining wall is there, holding back the water and yourself.

Are infinity pools safe?
Infinity pool in a Las Vegas apartment

Generally the infinity edge of the pool is at the deep end of the pool, rather than the shallow end. This means when you are at that end and stand on the bottom (assuming you can touch the bottom) the top of the retaining wall will be at shoulder height or thereabouts. You will not be able to “fall out” as you might if the infinity edge was at the shallow end.

If children are using an infinity pool then they should not be allowed to climb the infinity edge as there is obviously a drop and they could hurt themselves if they climbed over and fell. But that is no different to any wall they can climb onto anywhere.

Do infinity pools have skimmers?

No, infinity pools do not have separate skimmers as the infinity part of the pool is, in many ways, just like a huge skimmer. Any floating debris, such as leaves or insects, are drawn towards the infinity edge by the current of the water and then flow over the top into the catch pool.

If you had a skimmer in a small domestic infinity pool then the current on the surface of the water would be so much stronger towards the infinity edge than it would be towards the skimmer. This would mean the skimmer would be completely ineffective at collecting debris.

This is pretty much the same way that the weir door in a skimmer works, except that the weir door traps the debris and prevents it from flowing back into the pool. However, in an infinity pool, the debris cannot flow back into the pool as it falls below the level of the pool (and it can’t flow uphill).

Can you swim in an infinity pool?

Well there would be little point in having an infinity pool if you couldn’t swim in it frankly.

You can swim in an endless pool just as well as in any other pool but with the added advantage that when you swim towards the infinity edge it looks like the pool goes on forever (hence infinity). And when you get to that end you normally have an amazing view to look at.

Can you swim in an infinity pool?
Infinity pool in Santorini, Greece

How does the water stay in an infinity pool?

Although at first glance it may seem like one edge of the pool has no retaining wall, this of course is not the case. The wall on the infinity side of the pool just comes up to water lever and the excess flows over the top. This wall holds back the water to the depth it is designed to be at.

The water that flows over the edge lands in a holding tank and is pumped back into the pool so no water is lost.

How much does an infinity pool cost?

This depends on the design and the landscape that the pool will be built in.

It can cost anything from 20% more than a standard pool in an easy site to more than double the cost of an standard pool in a complicated site.

Often this increased cost of construction isn’t an issue for homeowners who live in a location with a spectacular view, that the pool will take advantage of, since homes generally cost much more in these situations anyway.

How much does an infinity pool cost?
Beautiful infinity pool in Cyprus overlooking the Mediterranean Sea

What are the disadvantages of an infinity pool compared to a regular pool?

The only advantage to an infinity pool is the wonderful effect they give when in the right setting. But there are a few disadvantages:

  • Cost to build. They can increase the construction cost by 20% to 100+%
  • An infinity pool will use more chemicals due to the increased movement of water over the infinity edge
  • Because the water will run over the edge and splash into a holding tank it will effectively increase the surface area of the pool exposed to the air. This in turn will increase the overall rate of evaporation so more water will be needed to keep the pool level topped up.
  • Potentially more dangerous for children. If children are left unsupervised (which they should never be in any type of pool) and they climb over the infinity edge then they could fall and perhaps hurt themselves.

How do you clean an infinity pool?

You would clean an infinity pool in the same way as you would a standard pool. The only real difference is that you cannot walk along the infinity edge to clean the walls with a brush or to clean the bottom with a vacuum.

To clean the infinity edge area you would either need to ensure your brush and vacuum pole is long enough to be able to reach or you could use a fully automatic robotic pool cleaner like these available on Amazon. If you can afford an infinity pool then a robotic cleaner is likely to be within your means anyway.

My top 3 pool cleaning tools

These are the pool cleaning tools I have found the most useful since I have had my pool.

Step and corner vacuum brush

This is a really useful tool for getting into the areas that a standard vacuum head simply cannot reach. Aquatix Pro Pool Step & Corner Vacuum Brush

Leaf rake net

If, like me, you get plenty of leaves at the bottom of your pool then a good leaf rake/net is a must. The Stargoods Pool Skimmer Net gets under the leaves easily.

Robotic pool cleaner

These are quite expensive and it was a number of years before I bit the bullet and bought one. I have never regretted it. The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is the most recommended pool cleaning robot on all of the pool forums. It not only cleans the bottom of the pool but also the sides and the waterline.