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Tanning Ledges: Everything You Need to Know

By: Jason Hughes on May 24th, 2019

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Tanning Ledges: Everything You Need to Know

Fiberglass vs Concrete vs Vinyl Liner  |  Options and Accessories  |  Tanning Ledges

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. With summer right around the corner, you might be tempted to ditch work, grab a lounge chair, and go sit in the pool. You read that right. In the pool, not beside it. That's just one of the many cool things you can do with a tanning ledge.

 

What's Inside 

What is a tanning ledge?

Swimming pool tanning ledge activities

Is there a difference between a tanning ledge, tanning shelf, baja shelf, and sun shelf?

How big should a tanning ledge be?

How deep should a tanning ledge be?

Customizing your tanning ledge

Fiberglass tanning ledge options

Comparing tanning ledges: Concrete vs. Vinyl Liner vs. Fiberglass

Installing a tanning ledge

How much does a tanning ledge cost?

Is a tanning ledge right for you?

 

What is a tanning ledge?

You've probably seen it before but may not know it by name. A tanning ledge (also called a tanning shelf, baja shelf, or sun shelf) is a very shallow shelf in the pool that is usually at least 5 feet wide and 9 inches deep.

This shelf acts as an entry point to your pool and can span its full or partial width. It should be just deep enough for you to be in the water without having to swim or float.

Many people use it to relax, keep cool, read a book, or play. People also like to put furniture in their tanning ledges, including lounge chairs, umbrellas, and even small tables. This type of design has been around for a few years, but it's becoming increasingly popular thanks to its versatility and aesthetic qualities.

What is a tanning ledge?

At River Pools, we manufacture, sell, and install fiberglass pools, but in this article, we’ll break down tanning ledges across all three pool types to give you a better idea of what your options are and what to expect. By the end of this article, you should have a good sense as to whether a tanning ledge is the right feature for you and your family.

 

Swimming pool tanning ledge activities

Tanning ledges are for everyone. Kids love to splash around in them. Adults use them for reading, relaxing, and socializing. Even dogs like to jump in and play! Imagine napping in your lounge chair or having a full meal at the table without having to leave the pool. Swim, eat, nap, repeat. Now that sounds like the life!

Ever feel like getting in the pool, but you're not up for the exercise? We know the feeling. Your tanning ledge gives you the perfect place to cool off on days like these. Besides, with a traditional pool, you would spend most of your time next to the water rather than in it. The tanning ledge gives you the best of both worlds.

 

Is there a difference between a tanning ledge, tanning shelf, baja shelf, and sun shelf?

These terms all refer to the same thing, and you can use them interchangeably. People typically call it a tanning ledge, a tanning shelf, a sun shelf, a baja shelf, and other names depending on the region. If you ask your pool builder or manufacturer for one of these, they'll likely know what you're talking about no matter what you call it.

 

How big should a tanning ledge be?

The size of a vinyl liner or concrete pool tanning ledge will vary based on the builder and the design. Generally, it will be at least 5 feet wide with enough space for one or more lounge chairs. You can expect a fiberglass pool tanning ledge to be between 5 and 8 feet wide, mainly because this range is what most homeowners prefer as it gives you the best of both worlds. For example, that offers enough space for a few chairs, an umbrella, a cooler, and more.

Tanning ledge furniture

The depth of your ledge will also vary based on the builder if you’re working with concrete or vinyl liner, but generally, you can expect it to be between a few inches to more than a foot deep. Fiberglass tanning ledges are typically offered from 9 inches in depth to 18 inches and up.

It’s important to remember that the depth of your tanning ledge will determine the amount of water that is in it. Typically, there will be about 3 inches of space between the surface of the water and the top edge of the pool. So, a 9-inch deep ledge will give you 6 inches of water.

 

How deep should a tanning ledge be?

We recommend no more than 9 inches of water, which means that your ledge should be no more than 12 inches deep.

There are several good reasons for this. First, this is the perfect water depth for small children and pets. It’s also the maximum depth recommended if you ever plan to have furniture (like a lounge chair) in the water. Any more than 9 inches of water and your furniture can float! Not an ideal situation.

Take a look at the illustration below to see how the water depth in your ledge impacts your children, pets, and furniture:

Tanning ledge depth illustration 2

We drew the dog to have the same height as a golden retriever, which is known to be a relatively large breed. If your pet is smaller, try to avoid ledges that are over a foot in depth.

At River Pools, we always strive to create our designs with our customers' needs in mind. That means that all of our tanning ledges are either 9 inches or 12 inches deep, leaving the water at a perfect height for everyone.

Deeper tanning ledges are similar to benches, which offer seating with much more submersion. Some of our models, like our D Series and C Series pools, have benches and a tanning ledge built in so that you can experience them separately and enjoy your pool in a variety of ways.

Benches and  tanning ledges diagram

 

Customizing your tanning ledge

While you generally have free reign to customize the shape and size of your ledge in a concrete or vinyl liner pool, there are other customization options across all three pool types.

Lights and bubblers are some of the most popular add-ons for tanning ledges. Most people opt for at least one light, but many install two or more.

Bubblers do just what the name implies - they shoot a stream of bubbling water above the pool's surface, creating a fountain effect. Some even come with a light built-in, but these are more expensive than the traditional stand-alone bubbler. As you can probably imagine, kids love to play in these, and they also create a calming atmosphere in your backyard.

 

Comparing tanning ledges: Concrete vs. Vinyl Liner vs. Fiberglass

You might think that a shelf in a pool is a shelf in a pool no matter how it's made. A lot of people are surprised to learn what a difference the building materials can make and how much they can change their overall experience as pool owners. Read on to discover some pros and cons of putting a tanning ledge in each type of pool.

Concrete

Pros:

  • Fully customizable dimensions - create any shape or size.
  • Integrate it anywhere in your design.

Cons:

  • The rough surface is less than ideal for sitting and playing. Be prepared for scrapes.

Vinyl Liner

Pros:

  • Vinyl liner pools are a little bit cheaper to build.

Cons:

  • The liner is sensitive to wear and tear, and having a ledge with furniture or pets puts you at risk for leaks, which can result in costly liner replacements.
  • Adding a ledge increases the cost and minimizes the money-saving benefit of building a vinyl liner pool.

Fiberglass

Pros:

  • The surface of the ledge is smooth to maximize comfort while still being slip-resistant. No more bloody toes.
  • You can add a separate fiberglass ledge to your favorite design and gain more swim space.

Cons:

  • The shape of the manufactured pool or separate ledge is not customizable.
  • Not all fiberglass pools are created equal - some manufacturers make tanning ledges that are too deep for furniture, pets, and small children.

 

In general, there are two main options when it comes to fiberglass tanning ledges:

  1. Choose a model with the tanning ledge built-in
  2. Install a fiberglass tanning ledge beside the main pool shell

Some people find that they get more use out of their pool when they opt for one with a tanning ledge built-in. Let’s be honest, swimming and floating is a real workout! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place in the pool where you can rest? These models also save space and are simpler to install.

Separate fiberglass tanning ledges are also a popular choice because you can choose the placement of the ledge and decide whether you want it level or slightly elevated (elevating the ledge creates a cool waterfall effect!).

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Installing a tanning ledge 

When it comes to installing a pool with a tanning ledge, there is a distinct advantage to choosing fiberglass over concrete or vinyl liner...TIME. Installing a fiberglass pool with a tanning ledge adds only a couple of hours as opposed to vinyl liner or concrete which could add a day or more to the project.

Keep in mind that the building process should be thoroughly discussed upfront during the design phase before the construction of the pool begins.

The installation of a fiberglass pool with an integrated tanning ledge is different from traditional pool shell installations. It’s crucial to find out how your installer does this beforehand so that you can assess whether they are doing it right.

As always, we install the shell the River Pools Way, but we need to take some additional steps to secure the tanning ledge and provide a sturdy foundation. We do this by leaving some earth under the ledge and laying clean, crushed stone underneath. Then, we support the shelf with concrete blocks at strategic points and pour grout so that it feels solid while walking across it.

Learn more about how it’s done the right way so that you can compare it to your installer’s method.

 

How much does a tanning ledge cost?

You deserve to know the cost of every part of your pool project, so get out your ledger because here's where we talk numbers.

Vinyl Liner

A vinyl liner tanning ledge will bring additional building and liner customization costs. You can expect a price increase of at least a few thousand dollars to add one to your pool, but only your builder can provide an exact estimate. This does not include the extra hours that you will need to pay the building crew.

Concrete

Integrating a tanning ledge into your concrete pool will naturally cost extra, depending on the square footage of the ledge. For example, let's say that your tanning ledge is going to cover 80 square feet. If your pool costs $100 per square foot, you're looking at an $8,000 tanning ledge. Additional building crew charges will also apply as incorporating the ledge will extend the timeline of the project.

Fiberglass

Choosing a fiberglass pool shell with a tanning ledge built-in will add around $370 more for installation. The cost to buy a separate fiberglass tanning ledge can be between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on if it's elevated. If you're looking to save money, your best option might be to choose a model with the ledge built-in.

Additional features like bubblers and lights can cost you several hundred more and up per piece across all three pool types, so be sure to save room for them! Even if you'd prefer not to have these things, plan on installing at least one light in your tanning ledge. Summer nights can be perfect for relaxing in the pool, and you won't want to be in the dark.

 

Is a tanning ledge right for you?

If you plan on spending a lot of time relaxing in the pool, you may want to consider getting a tanning ledge. We especially recommend it if you plan to have in-pool furniture or if you'll have small children or pets in the water.

If you want to maximize your swimming space for exercise or play, you might want to install a separate ledge next to your pool or skip it altogether.

 

As manufacturers of world-class fiberglass swimming pools, we have a large selection of models with and without tanning ledges. View all of our models and check out our pricing guide today to learn more.

If you have questions about our fiberglass pools with tanning ledges, or any of our models, contact us directly or leave a comment below!

Want to know more about how fiberglass pools compare to the other two types? Download our free e-book for all the details.

 

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