What Are Infinity Edge Pools and How Do They Work

Infinity edge pools have become very popular in recent years. They give you a visual illusion that the pool is extending towards a large water body like the ocean or into the sky. On top of that, aesthetically they are very pleasing. This leaves the question, how do infinity edge pools work?

The infinity-edge pool creates this type of illusion by using ingenious architectural tricks. Proper setting of the pool, making one or more edges shorter than the water level of the main pool to create the waterfall effect, making the pool reflect the sun more to hide what’s inside the pool, and producing a much more realistic illusion are some of these tricks.

If you are reading this article, you must be interested to learn more about infinity edge pools. Through this article, I am going to briefly explain what infinity pools are, how do they work, and where they originated.

I will also discuss the things you need to know about building an infinity-edge pool and its maintenance procedures. So, let’s begin!

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What Are Infinity Edge Pools?

Vanishing edge pool, infinity pool, an infinity-edge pool, or negative edge pool, people refer to it by many names. But they are essentially the same thing. You must’ve noticed them in luxurious resorts, hotels, or exotic photoshoots that you can find on the internet.

In this type of pool, the water flows over one or more edges. As a result, it produces an illusion that the pool has no boundary. Thus, the name became Infinity pool or infinity-edge pool.

The History of Infinity Edge Pools

Have you ever wondered where and when the vanishing edge pool first originated? Well, nobody can answer this question with a hundred percent certainty.

But some people believe that this type of pool was first built in France. Stag Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, France was the first structure with a vanishing edge design. This was built in the late seventeenth century.

More than a century later, architect John Lautner introduced the concept of infinity edge pools in the United States in the early 1960s. Since then, he has worked on various infinity pool projects.

He is also the creator of the infinity-edge pool that can be seen in the famous James Bond movie, “Diamonds Are Forever” released in 1971. 

How Does an Infinity Edge Pool Work?

Unlike traditional pools, infinity edge pools or vanishing edge pools are made using clever architectural tricks that give an illusion of a never-ending pool.

Down below, I have discussed all the secrets behind a typical infinity-edge pool so that you can understand how the illusion works:

The Pool’s Vanishing Edge is Slightly Below the Pool’s Water Level 

This is the first trick that is used in the case of infinity-edge pools. In traditional swimming pools, all the edges are kept higher than the pool’s water level.

But that is not the case with infinity pools. In this case, one or more edges are kept a bit shorter than the pool’s water level.

As a result, the water can go over the pool’s edge. And because of that, the distinction between the horizon and the edge of the pool becomes blurred which gives the illusion that the pool is extending to infinity.

A Slightly Slanted Edge to Produce the illusion of a Waterfall

The infinity edge of the pool is sloped slightly downwards. The shorter height of the edge and the slanted slope allows the water from the pool to pour down. This produces a visual effect that the water is continuously moving toward the horizon.

The water that pours down from the pool is not wasted. Rather, this water is collected into a catch basin. Then the collected water is transferred to the pool using a water pump. Thus, it creates an ever-flowing waterfall effect.

A Flat Surface to Reflect the Sun

One of the features of infinity edge pools is that it is built in such a way to reflect the sun. This makes the illusion much more realistic.

Also, the reflection of the sun makes it harder to see the pool inside from above, and to create a convincing illusion, the pool’s surface has to be calm and flat. This is very important.

As mentioned before, the water from the catch basin is transferred to the pool using a water pump. And to keep the water flow seamless, you will need to use special pumps. 

These pumps will transfer the water from the basin to the pool without disrupting the seamless flow of water over the vanishing edge.

Using regular water pumps will create ripples in the pool’s water, which will disrupt the illusion. 

View from the Pool

This is the most important feature of the infinity-edge pool. You might want to place your pool on a raised surface like on a hill. This will give you the illusion that your pool is meeting the horizon.

Or you can place it nearby a large body of water like a lake or ocean which will make it appear as a part of that ocean, even if it is not.

Beautiful blue fresh infinity swimming pool in a villa in sunny Spain with sea views
Beautiful blue fresh infinity swimming pool in a villa in sunny Spain with sea views

You can place your vanishing edge pool in any place you want. But the illusion will be not as great as in the cases mentioned above.

Then again, no matter where you place it, the view will be magnificent, I can assure you that much with a hundred percent certainty.

How to Construct an Infinity Edge Pool?

Since the first introduction of infinity edge pools in the early 1960s, they have become very popular all over the world, especially in the United States.

Building an infinity-edge pool in your backyard will surely elevate the aesthetics of your house to a whole new level. But how can you build one?

Well, I am here to answer this question. Vanishing edge pools are different from traditional pools and as such there are lots of specialized tools and processes involved.

While building an infinity pool that is not required for a traditional one. I have discussed all the things that you need to know about building an infinity-edge pool.

Hopefully these infinity edge pool construction details will help you get a further understanding on what goes into the process.

Choosing a Suitable Location

While building a vanishing edge pool, location is the most important part. One of the key features of such a pool is the visual effect it produces. The pool has to be in such a place so that you will have a magnificent view of the surroundings.  

This is an extremely important design element of an infinity-edge pool. Consider building your pool near a waterfront or on a raised surface like near a hill or top of a skyscraper.

This will provide you with a great illusion that your pool is extending toward an infinite horizon or will appear to be a part of the large water body like an ocean or a lake.

You can also place your pool near a forest. But no matter where you place the pool, it will surely be a magnificent addition to your house. Consult with an architect for the proper setting and design of your infinity-edge pool.

Catch Basin

The main difference between a traditional pool and an infinity pool is that the infinity pool’s edges are shorter and have a slanted slope.

As a result, water can pour over the vanishing edges. And to capture the water, you will need to build a water basin.

The shape and the size of the basin must be appropriate so that it can house all the water that pours over the infinity edges.

While determining the basin size, you will need to consider three important factors. They are- bather-surge, water-in-transit, and finally wind.

Here the water-in-transit indicates the volume of the pool water that is required to raise the pool’s water level high enough so that the water can flow over the vanishing edges of the pool.

This volume also includes the water that is pouring over the edges. The higher the water level in the pool is, the further the water will fall from the edges.

This is why the size of your pool’s basin has to be such that it can catch all the water that keeps spilling over the vanishing edges. Once you have considered the water-in-transit, the next important factor is the water displaced by the bather. 

And the final factor is the wind. If the location of your infinity-edge pool is a bit windy, the water can spill a bit further than if there was no wind.

So, the basin has to be wide enough so that it can catch the water pouring over the infinity edge even when the weather is a bit windy.

Determining the water-in-transit is easy. It just requires some basic hydraulic calculation. Determining the bather surge is also not that hard. But in this case, you might have to make some assumptions as not all humans are equal in size and shape.

In this case, you might want to consider the average size of a human being and how many people you are expecting to get into your pool to give you an approximate result. 

The calculation of the wind factor might be a bit tricky, as the wind velocity and direction change frequently. So, it is very important to know which direction the wind will be coming from and what the average velocity will be. Depending on that, make your calculation.

Once you have completed all the calculations, you will have a rough idea about what size and shape your basin has to be to catch all the water that will be spilling from your pool.

You cannot ignore any of the factors while determining the basin size and shape. Otherwise, the consequences will be dire. 

You might also want to create small contours or baffles on the end of the vanishing edges. This will make sure that the water that is pouring over the edges is going where it’s meant to go.

Water Recirculation, Auto-Fill, and Water-Levelling System

In an infinity pool, you have to transfer the water that is collected in the basin to the pool to produce a visual effect that the water is continuously moving toward the horizon.

Otherwise, the basin will not be able to hold all the water that is spilling over the vanishing edge. And eventually, water will fall outside the catch basin.

This can cause structural damage to your pool. So, it is very important to install a water recirculation system to transfer water from the basin to the pool.

Typically, infinity edge pools are equipped with an auto-fill system. This is required to compensate for splash out and evaporation of pool water.

Usually, the auto-fill system is installed on the catch basin wall, not on the pool. This is because the water level in the catch basin keeps changing. On the other hand, the main pool remains full. 

In addition to the auto-fill system, you will also need to install a water leveling system. You can get either an electric water leveling system or float valves. Float valves are a bit cheap compared to the electric ones. 

Water Filtration System and Variable Speed Pump

You can use a variable speed water pump with a filtration system for your infinity-edge pool’s water circulation. The variable speed pump will help you to save some energy and the filtration system will filter the main pool’s water to prevent debris from falling over the vanishing edge into the catch basin.

Also, you can use a second variable speed pump and filter to prevent water from overflowing over the infinity edges of your main pool. This will keep the weir wall sufficiently wet and at the same time reduce mineral buildup in your pool’s edges.

Pest Control

When building an infinity-edge pool, most of the time the aspect of pest control is overlooked. But it is very important to keep your pool safe.

In most cases, you are going to install your pool outdoors like on a hill. And in such a case, installing a pest control system is a must.

Rodents like gophers can tunnel more than a hundred feet a day and if your pool is placed in a hillside location, these pests can seriously damage the structural integrity of your pool.

Typically this is done through tunneling near it and making the soil loose. So, a rodent prevention system is a must to protect your pool.

The Costs of a Typical Infinity Edge Pool

As mentioned before, infinite edge pools require several specialized systems installed like the water recirculation, leveling system, catch basin, etc. that is not required for traditional swimming pools.

All these systems make building a vanishing edge pool very difficult and at the same time, a bit costly compared to traditional ones.

Infinite edge pools cost roughly thirty percent more compared to a traditional swimming pool. And depending on the location and the design of the pool, the construction cost can go up. 

The base cost of an infinity-edge pool in the United States is around 80 USD per square foot. The cost of a typical infinity pool ranges from 55,000 USD to 1,30,000 USD and the average cost is roughly 79,000 USD. 

Are Infinity Pools Dangerous?

The answer is, “No.” They are as safe as any other traditional pool. In the case of an infinity-edge pool, it just gives you an illusion that the water is extending towards infinity. That doesn’t mean that the edges have disappeared. 

If you swim up to the edges of an infinity-edge pool, you will find that there is a wall present. So, you don’t have to worry about falling.

Even if you fall over the edges of the pool, there are always some extra platforms installed beneath the catch basin as an additional safety measure. So, there is no chance of getting hurt.

These pools are built as strong as any other swimming pool. So, there is nothing to worry about.

Maintenance of An Infinity Edge Pool

Infinity edge pool is a relatively modern technology compared to traditional pools. Infinity pools are also equipped with many specialized systems that you will not see in a traditional pool.

So, they require a lot of maintenance to make sure that the water flow in your infinity pool remains uninterrupted.

You will need to clean not only your pool regularly but also the catch basin. This means extra work. Again, you will need to regularly monitor the pumps, water lines, and filtration system so that nothing clogs the water recirculation system of your pool. 

When and if minerals build up in the pool edges, you will need to clean them too.

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Final Thoughts on How Do Infinity Edge Pools Work

Infinity edge pools add a new dimension to the aesthetics of your house. Although they are a bit costly compared to traditional swimming pools, they are increasingly becoming more popular.

They also require a lot of maintenance work, but what they offer in return makes it worth the extra effort.

By reading the entire article, hopefully, you have found your answer to the question “How do infinity edge pools work?” Have a nice day and thanks for stopping by.

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