Custom homebuilder Landmark Inc. in Fairbanks built this luxurious 20' x 40' indoor pool, enjoyed year-round by the homeowners. The pool is housed in its own wood-framed building built to replicate the home's architecture. © Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics

Liquid Luxuries

By Carly Horton

Even when it's chilly outside, some Alaskans are taking a rejuvenating dip in the water – in their own homes.

These homeowners have taken the plunge by building indoor pools for laps and lounging year-round – from full-fledged pools sizeable enough for a pool party or game of Marco Polo, to smaller lap pools and spas.

By keeping the signs of summer indoors, winter somehow seems shorter, say Alaska's pool owners. "The temperature in our pool room always hovers around 80 degrees, so it can be snowing like crazy and we'll still be warm and comfortable," says pool owner Irene Petersen. "It's like having an oasis in the next room."

And if you're looking for a heart-healthy exercise plan, an indoor pool may be just what the doctor ordered. "My husband and I are able to reap the benefits of a low-impact workout without making a special trip to the gym," says Petersen.

Swimming is a year-round activity in the Petersen home, making their indoor pool a great investment, they say. "A neighbor bought a motor home last year that cost a bit more than our pool did, and I think he took it out a total of three times last summer," says Petersen. "We swim every day. Our grandkids and great-grandkids come over and bring their friends with them. It's well worth the money – and it keeps us healthy."

Going under-cover

Architect Mark Ivy has designed indoor pools for several Anchorage clients. "A lot of my clients think they need to invest in a high-tech air exchange system if they want to install an indoor pool. Not so," says Ivy. "A pool's temperature range is generally in the high 70s to low 80s, so it's akin to having a teapot boiling in your home 24/7. I can't emphasize enough the importance of having a pool cover. If clients behave themselves with a pool cover, they don't need expensive mechanical vents and air exchangers."

Dave Miller of Landmark Inc. agrees: "Many indoor pools have ventilation systems, but you can keep your pool from evaporating if you cover it when it's not in use. (A pool cover) is one of the cheapest and most important investments you can make. Covers can cut down on humidity by 98 percent."

Liner notes

Another wise and relatively inexpensive investment owners can make is a vinyl pool liner. Forget expensive tile that can buckle and break – your best bet is vinyl. "Vinyl is economical, attractive, softer than concrete and it can withstand earthquakes," says Miller.

Mark Ivy's mother has had her pool since 1968 and has changed her liner only twice. "In terms of longevity and ease of maintenance, vinyl liners are simply the best," says Ivy. "They really stand the test of time. You wouldn't get the same performance out of concrete or tile."

Laps of luxury

Not all homeowners have the space, deep pockets and commitment to care for a full-size indoor pool. For them, the answer may be a "treadmill" style pool, about the size of a large hot tub, where a steady flow of water allows them to swim in place.

A favorite in the genre is the Endless Pool, a scaled-down version of the wave pools at theme parks. It can be installed on the floor, partly in ground, or in ground, needing only a level surface that will support 200 pounds per square foot.

"I've dreamed of having my own pool my entire life," says pool owner Judy Warwick. "The only exercise I enjoy is swimming and water aerobics, so a lap pool seemed like the perfect solution."

Warwick hired Aurora Builders to install an Endless Pool on the main floor of her home. Measuring just 8' x 15', Warwick's pool has a 6.5' section for treading water and a 4.5' section for water aerobics. She incorporated air vents and invested in a cover, and adds half a cup of bleach to her pool each week. "Really, the chlorine smell isn't a problem," she says.

The best part for Warwick? "I've been able to exercise without ever leaving my house."

Designer touches

Radiant floor heat, fiber-optic lights and sunken speakers are just a few of the features that turn an ordinary pool into a feast for the senses.

Mark Ivy is in the process of designing an Olympic-size indoor/outdoor pool with several cascading water features; Dave Miller designed a pool that is housed in an 18' x 40' prototype wood frame building. "Housing the pool in its own separate building really cuts down on the chlorine smell," says Miller. Personalizing your space might be as simple as adding a few artistic touches, such as a free-standing sculptural piece or decorative glass tile.

"I found the pool room is the one place I'm able to completely relax," says Petersen. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."