Beautiful Basements: Like a Spa

A Potomac homeowner wanted a pool. His house’s steep lot made it perfect for adding one to the basement.

By: Ann Cochran

If You Want to Put in an Indoor Pool

Drain efficiently
Instead of having a few drains near the pool—a system prone to puddles—install a trough system that surrounds the entire pool and collects any water that splashes out.

Keep it separate
A pool room needs its own HVAC system with dehumidifiers and exhaust fans; otherwise, moisture can damage ductwork throughout the house.

Less is more
An automatic cover that retracts is unnecessary for a pool this small. To keep humidity in and the water clean, you can buy a portable, floating cover for a fraction of the cost. It looks like bubble wrap and offers great insulation, can be cut to fit any size pool, and easily rolls up to be set aside when the pool is in use.

A nature lover, David Stang had hoped to build an outdoor lap pool at his new home in Potomac. But when he began working with architect Jim Rill on the plans, he realized how many of the house’s beautiful, mature trees would have to be cut down to make room. “We also realized that heating an outdoor pool would use a great deal of energy,” says Stang, “and it would only give us one season of use.”

Because the house is built into a hill, it turned out to be ideal for a walk-out basement. “We were able to do an about-face and move the pool inside,” says Stang.

Rill proposed a 9-by-15-foot indoor soaking and exercise pool surrounded by three floor-to-ceiling glass walls that can slide open in warm weather. Much of the rest of the basement—which includes a guest suite, a family room with a TV, a kitchenette, and a workout area—is underground.

To exercise, Stang attaches to his water shoes or waist a bungee cord affixed to the edge of the pool: “My wife and I use it individually for workouts, and perhaps once a week the two of us hop in together just for the fun of it.” The saline pool is typically heated to 78 degrees, but if guests want to take a soak, the couple can bring the temperature up to 82.

The look is spa-like and organic: Cedar ceilings meet glass walls, and natural flagstone floors extend to a terrace with a koi pond. “The glass walls put us in nature,” says Stang. “We took painstaking efforts to keep the trees alive through the construction process, retaining a rich habitat for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.”

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This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.