This article appears in Summer Home & Garden 2018.

A hybrid that combines the best of two worlds, a spool is part spa, part pool and all the rage for a certain segment of homeowner.

“Spools were born out of necessity,” said Joseph M. Vassallo, president of Paragon Pools in Las Vegas, Nevada, a custom, in-ground swimming pool and spa design and construction company. “They’re for people who don’t have room (for a pool) or are not willing to give up the yard space. It’s a condensed version of a spa and pool.”

Spools work really well for people with small or oddly shaped backyards, said Vassallo, author of “The Al Fresco Life: Pools, Spas, Bars and Kitchens.”

These versatile spaces can be designed to fit many needs or desires. For example, a cocktail spool is a great place to entertain around, as in, “I’ll meet you for a drink by the spool.” They’re great for relaxing as in a traditional spa, and for cooling off and enjoying the water for adults or families with children, Vassallo said. They can even be outfitted with a powerful pump to create a lap pool where users can swim against a strong current or a water treadmill for a healthy workout.

Small but mighty

Typically, a spool will be about 8-by-14 or 8-by-16 feet and about 3½ to 4 feet deep, said Vassallo, who currently serves on the Builders Council Education Committee of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.

“It’s a body of water that heats up reasonably quickly and economically, so it can work as a spa in the evening year-round, but you can throw a float in it” and enjoy it like a small swimming pool, Vassallo said.

One advantage for many families is that in a typical 30-foot swimming pool, most people tend to congregate at the shallow end and the deep end is rarely used.

Alternatively, spools are not usually conducive to swimming laps or playing volleyball, Vassallo said.

Spools can accommodate almost any special feature, from wrap-around benches and hydrotheraphy jets to waterfalls, rockwork, lighting effects and fire features, Vassallo said. They can be any shape, from geometric to freeform, and designed to suit your personal style. You can have a contemporary design with stainless steel or copper faucets or freeform shape with natural-looking boulders and waterfalls.

One thing most homeowners agree on is that they want their spool to be aestetically pleasing.

“They want it to be an enhancement of their yard,” Vassallo said. The water feature brings an element of “peace and tranquility. They enjoy using it, but also just being near it, looking at and hearing the water.”

Cost savings

Spools may be less costly and easier to maintain than larger swimming pools, but the savings are not cut in half, Vassallo said.

“The downside is, people think they’re half the size so they will be half the price, but that’s not true,” he said.

Usually the cost savings is about 10 to 15 percent over a traditional in-ground pool because a spool requires less tile, concrete and other materials, but the same plumbing and electrical equipment, Vassallo said.

“It’s the perfect body of water to be used as a spa, to relax in, to sit poolside by,” he said.