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What Is an Infinity Pool?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An infinity pool, sometimes called a negative edge pool, is a swimming pool that has been constructed with the illusion of extending all the way to the horizon. From the right perspective, this pool seems to stretch on endlessly, and contractors often place the pool strategically so that it appears to merge with a larger body of water, like the ocean. This eye catching pool design started to catch on in the 1990s, and was adopted by many luxury resorts, which tout their infinity pools in brochures and other promotional material.

The construction expertise required for an infinity pool is considerable. Although the basics of the pool are the same as those for a regular pool, the contractor must be especially careful at the "infinite" edge of the pool. The edge of the pool is actually below the water level, allowing water to sluice over it and into a trough that collects the water and circulates it back into the pool. The filtration and cleaning systems can be incorporated into this trough, so that the sound of falling water will cover up the noise of a pool filter system. Essentially, every pool of this type is a custom design, which allows the designer a wide range of flexibility in shape and placement, but also makes it more complex to install.

When installing an infinity pool, caution should be taken. The infinite edge of the pool will draw the eye of the observer, so it is important to make sure that there is something beautiful beyond it, rather than the neighbor's house, a privacy fence, or an empty lot. In general, this type of pool is best suited to a sweeping natural landscape like the ocean, sky, or mountains. On a smaller lot, the builder may want to consider cooperating with the landscaper to create a pleasing backdrop for the pool.

The cost to install a pool of this type is higher than that for a conventional pool, although some pool companies are have developed standardized infinity pool designs to make them more accessible to average consumers. Custom pools can vary widely in size from extremely large irregularly shaped pools to much smaller rooftop pools in urban areas.

How Do Infinity Pools Work?

Infinity pools are also sometimes called vanishing edge or zero-edge pools. All are accurate descriptions of how these unique structures work. Their stunning aesthetics come from careful engineering to create an optical illusion. But to better understand their construction, a quick review of pool coping edges can be helpful.

What Is Pool Coping?

As you may know, every in-ground concrete swimming pool is constructed with a border around its outer edges. That border improves the pool’s appearance and helps integrate it into the surrounding concrete, but it’s more than just decorative. The proper term for it is coping. Installed on top of a pool’s bond beam, coping serves as a cap for the pool’s edges.

Coping covers a pool’s concrete edges, along with the steel that projects from the pool’s walls. It also stops water from trickling into the area behind the pool shell. When professionals install coping, they tilt it slightly away from the pool. This permits any water that’s splashed out to flow into the drains located on the deck.

Coping and Infinity Pools

When your infinity pool is installed, the infinite edge has a portion of the original wall removed. This portion is near the top of the pool or at its coping level. Depending on your property’s location and topography, you can either hide this edge or leave it exposed.

Aesthetics should play a major part in designing the pool's infinite edge. While many pools use optical illusions to merge the edge with a larger body of water, you don’t need to live near a lake or an ocean to make it work. Designers can create an exposed edge and catch basin with a sleek modern look, resembling a fountain or waterfall. The edge can face a gorgeous mountain landscape or an iconic city skyline in the distance.

How Much Does an Infinity Pool Cost?

With all the unique requirements to make an infinity pool work, it’s no surprise that installing one can cost quite a bit. Its costs depend largely on the property location and modifications needed. Gently sloped land works well for an infinity pool, especially since the outermost wall is level with the water. Building this type of pool on flat or steep terrain requires some extra engineering, which can add to its price tag. A few other factors impact the cost of installing an infinity pool:

  • Pool area size
  • Landscape conditions
  • Tree and plant removal
  • Permits and insurance
  • Pool shell materials
  • Adding glass walls
  • Indoor vs. outdoor installation

Pricing ranges between $55,000 and $130,000, but you can expect to pay an average of $80,000.

How To Build an Infinity Pool

Constructing an infinity pool is a significant undertaking. Aesthetic considerations are important, but the pool itself must be structurally sound. It must also comply with state and local building ordinances. And if you live in a community with a home or condo owners association, your pool must meet its guidelines as well. As such, building your pool involves some critical steps.

Design, Permits, and Approvals

Your pool contractor will create a design that works for your property. The design should also meet your aesthetic and budget goals as closely as possible. The contractor also obtains permits and approvals from applicable government bodies and your HOA.

Excavation, Plumbing, and Equipment

After approval, your contactor will map out where the pool will be placed. Once soil excavation is complete, plumbing and filtration equipment can be installed.

Structural Steel Reinforcements

Your pool’s shell is reinforced with a structural steel grid. This construction must be placed before the shell is created, with horizontal and vertical bars precisely placed for optimal support.

Utility Lines

Electric power to pool equipment will need connections to function. If your pool has gas heaters, it will also require new gas line connections. Both are installed before the final shell construction.

Shell Construction

Your contractor will install the pool’s shell and cure it for maximum strength and structural integrity. This process could take several days, depending on the materials used.

Tile, Coping, and Water Features

Once the pool shell is complete, your contractor can add standard features plus requested modifications. These include the water recirculation system plus modifications such as waterfalls.

Deck Installation, Landscaping, and Pool Surfacing

Decking is a final step of installing an infinity pool. Most use either concrete or pavers made from brick or stone. Plants, outdoor furniture, and other hardscaping can be placed at this stage. Before the pool is filled, your contractor must apply a finish to its surface.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon84823 — On May 17, 2010

The home I'm considering to purchase has an infinity pool. I'm just reading up as much as I can about them.

By anon53939 — On Nov 25, 2009

I'd prefer a saltwater infinity pool over a clorinated infinity pool!

By anon53789 — On Nov 24, 2009

If you're getting your own infinity pool, don't forget to get an infnity spa too!

By anon53363 — On Nov 20, 2009

An infinity pool is also known as a disappearing edge pool, infinity edge pool, negative edge pool, vanishing edge pool, or zero edge pool.

By anon36085 — On Jul 09, 2009

how wide should be the water canal be for an infinity pool with 4 meter width and 9 m long

By rjohnson — On Jul 27, 2008

An infinity pool is different than an endless pool. Endless pools are small pools that can be used for lap swimming because you can set the water flow against the direction you are swimming, allowing you to swim while staying in one place.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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