Should You Consider a Transparent Pool?

girl swimming in transparent pool

Perhaps at this very moment, there are people swimming 500 feet above a city sidewalk. They might be hanging out over the Market Square Tower, a beautiful Houston, Texas high-rise. When it opened in November 2016, it was the tallest clear, cantilevered pool in the entire U.S. And it's just one example of how amazing a transparent pool can be.

Even when they aren't suspended in the air, hanging off a building, transparent swimming pools look amazing. They make a stunning impression and they offer all kinds of cool visuals.

But are they safe? What are they made of? And can you really have one installed for your own personal home use or is this just a fancy hotel type of thing? There's a lot to learn about transparent pools when you're thinking about your home swimming options.

How is This a Thing?

The swimming pool floating in the air is no fairy tale. It's an actual swimming pool that exists. This particular pool in the sky is at the top of a sky-rise building and it's in the heart of a busy downtown area. It's actually attached to a more typical rooftop pool.

But at the edge of the building, the pool is extended with a section that is made from 5.5-inch clear acrylic plastic. The pool is reinforced with waterproof concrete and rebar coated with epoxy. This section hangs off the building to create a truly breathtaking architectural detail that is also a functional, enjoyable space and truly a lifetime experience for all who swim in it.

Market Tower transparent pool

How strong are these clear sections of pool? Pretty darn strong. They're actually built to withstand hurricane weather conditions. The Texas pool was created by an engineering firm and an aquarium specialist who collaborated on creating the design. Together, they designed a safe, stunning swimming space that's a true marvel.

The pool has been the focal point of many thrilling and gorgeous social media photos. However, this is not the only "sky pool" out there. More and more of these transparent pools have appeared on top of buildings.

In fact, there's one in London that's known as a "swimmable bridge." This pool isn't just in the air. It goes between the roofs of two buildings, so visitors can doggy paddle over the wrong-sided traffic far below.

It's on the 10th floors of two residential buildings in London and yes, it is a sight to behold. It is two blocks long and it has two steel tubs on either end to provide support and house pool equipment. When it was built, it was the largest load-bearing structure in the world made from acrylic.

transparent pool between buildings

You pretty much can't see this thing without gasping right out loud. But is this technology feasible for home construction?

Building with Acrylic

Acrylic swimming pools are actually quite a workable option. More and more pools made from acrylic are springing up in hotels and residential buildings because of the "wow" factor they create. Some have transparent bottoms or transparent sides, while others are fully transparent everywhere. And though it may seem quite odd, acrylic was made for this.

Well, sort of. Acrylic was actually first invented in 1928 and back then, it's not likely that people were thinking of how it could be used for swimming pools. Because of its strength and transparency, it quickly caught the eye of the U.S. military.

Acrylic was used by the U.S. Navy to make periscopes and binoculars that were ultimately used in WWII. It also quickly became the go-to material for airplane windows and other items that needed to be both transparent and highly durable.

But in more recent years, acrylic has become the hottest pool building material. Everyone is designing with it and the pools they're creating are breathtaking.

Acrylic is a type of plastic that has the exact same transparency as fine optical glass. You can see through it quite easily and it has beautiful clarity even though it's plastic.

It's also stronger than glass. Acrylic sheets have six to 17 times the strength and impact resistance of standard glass. And when acrylic shatters, it usually breaks into dull pieces, as opposed to the sharp shards that result when glass breaks.

It's highly resistant to temperature and humidity variations, which makes it a perfect outdoor material, and it defies corrosion from acids and bases, which makes it convenient for holding water. If that all sounds pretty good, that's exactly what builders and designers think, too. Acrylic is a pretty amazing material.

Thanks to these qualities, pools made with acrylic walls, floors and panels are becoming more common in home use, too. In fact, they're appearing all over the place. So should you consider a transparent pool for your home?

girl underwater in pool

Transparent Pool Options

Aren't your options pretty limited when you build a transparent pool? Doesn't this mean that you can only have an above-ground design of some kind, or maybe an indoor/outdoor design? Does it mean you can only have an indoor pool? And... they don't all have to be on a roof, right?

Actually, you have a ton of options when it comes to building a transparent pool on your property. Transparent pools can be made in both in-ground and above ground designs and they're found in both indoor and outdoor pools.

Because transparent pools can be fully see-through or simply have transparent panels, design options are pretty unlimited. Hotels and high-rises might build them up in the air, but acrylic pools can be built on the ground and below it just as easily.

Designers have been playing around with the myriad possibilities transparent pool construction provides. Imagine a rooftop pool with a transparent bottom right above your kitchen, or an in-ground pool with a huge transparent wall you can see when you're in the basement.

An above ground pool looks even more stunning and sparkling when you can see right through it when you look into the backyard.

group swimming in pool with transparent side

How They're Made

Acrylic panels have become the material of choice for homeowners who want a transparent bottom or walls for their pools because acrylic is so strong. However, it isn't perfect. Acrylic is made in a hot furnace and therefore, it's difficult to find pieces of thick, building-grade acrylic that are longer than 24 feet.

If your pool design requires a length of more than 24 feet, there are some options. You can choose to have acrylic panels fused together so that they appear seamless. You also use separators, such as steel beams, between the panels.

The most challenging aspect of acrylic pool design is, as you might imagine, the corners. Acrylic must have a certain thickness for it to be fused at 90-degree angles at all. This is a stress point for the pool, so some designers add material at the corners to strengthen this design.

Commonly, acrylic pools are supported by a concrete foundation. The foundation for the pool must be very deep in order to provide enough support and strength for the acrylic.

Special waterproof caulk, grout, and other materials must be used everywhere because the entire design must be water-tight. All of these materials must also be flexible. Why? Because acrylic moves a lot more than concrete.

In responding to various temperature changes, acrylic expands and contracts. This means that any materials used to hold acrylic pools together must be able to mimic this behavior in order to keep all the seals secure.

It's possible to include acrylic panels in pools made with several different materials. That includes stainless steel pools, concrete pools, and liner pools. This means the options for your pool design are unlimited. You can choose a mix of more traditional pool materials, play around with different looks and really explore the different design possibilities.

man swimming in transparent pool

What About Glass?

In the past, glass has been used to create transparent pool walls and pool bottoms. For the most part, this is no longer done in modern pool designs. Acrylic is stronger, easier to work with, and absolutely less dangerous than glass. When glass shatters, it creates piercing shards that can easily rip human skin.

That's a graphic description and yet it hardly does the dangers of glass any justice. Acrylic, on the other hand, tends to shatter into balls. The treatments applied to acrylic when it's used in pool construction further keep it from shattering into dangerous pieces.

Acrylic is the much better option when it comes to pool construction, and for the most part, you'll have a much easier time finding a company to install a pool made with acrylic, rather than one made with glass.

Should You Consider a Transparent Pool?

Now that you know about some famous transparent pools and you have more information about how they're made and what they're made from, you can get back to the main question—should you consider a transparent pool? Is this a design that's going to work for your home or are you a more traditional type?

It all depends on what the pool of your dreams looks like. When you close your eyes and envision your pool, do you want to be able to see through it?

Transparent pools are great when you want to make a stunning impression. The beauty of the water and the bodies inside makes the pool look even more inviting and enticing. And if the pool is used somewhat regularly by a single person or a few people, it will keep on being beautiful.

One thing to consider is that if a pool gets a lot of use from multiple people, it's going to take a lot of extra work to keep your water clean. When the pool is transparent, it's much easier to see the water, and pools that see a lot of heavy use might end up with cloudy and dirty-looking water.

That's just to say that you may have to do some extra maintenance to keep the water pretty and keep a transparent pool looking nice. Since maintaining any type of pool is already a lot of work, you might decide that you don't want to add extra maintenance to your chore list.

If a little extra work seems worth it to make a truly stunning impression and have a great place for photo ops, we say yes, you should consider getting a transparent pool, or at least play around with the idea of a transparent wall or bottom.

But if extra maintenance distresses you and the visuals matter a little less, stick to more standard pool designs. You can still play around a lot with the design and add plenty of visually stunning elements even without transparency. Whatever you choose, just remember you’ll be living with it for a long time!