After a long hard winter, we are finally looking towards summer. Therefore it’s time to think about making the most of the garden this season with pools, spas and hot tubs to give your garden the added wow factor.

Swimming is still the most popular way of keeping fit and healthy.  It provides other benefits such as having fun, which is a lovely way for families to spend some time together.

It is also great to encourage children to learn a life skill and to be sporty and fit from a young age.

There are swimming pools and hot tubs to suit all specifications; here are a few ideas of what you can do with a range of budgets and locations and there is an affordable option for you!

Hot tubs (designed for all year round use) come in a variety of sizes to suit, from 2 to as many as 8 bathers.  The sensation of experiencing the therapeutic massaging affects of the warm water is a wonderful experience.  To soak away the stresses and strains of the day there is nothing quite like a hot tub to ease away those aches and pains,.  They incorporate the heating and filtration systems to maintain your desired bathing temperatures.  Hot tubs are available with additional features that can include perimeter and external lighting systems, surround sound (CD, radio and / or ipod) and they are even available with LCD screens and DVD for that complete aquatic audio visual experience.  Prices start from just a few thousand pounds.

Swim spas are a more cost effective option than most swimming pools.  They take up less space, are quick and easy to install and offer reduced running costs than a typical pool.  They are usually fully self contained and can often be installed in as little as a day.  The features of a swim spa offer the perfect home aqua workout facility, including swimming or jogging against a counter current and there can be other options including rowing and resistance swimming.  As swim spas are portable, they can even be taken with you if you decide to move home.

Swimming pools may be the ultimate dream and there are various options to consider:

Above ground pools are affordable and can be installed very quickly.  Inground pools are either one piece pools, liner pools or concrete pools.     The advantages of one piece pools are that they are stylish and quick to install (as they are craned into position).

Liner pools have opened up the possibility of pool ownership to a far greater section of the leisure seeking consumer market and advances in plastics technology has resulted in highly efficient and economical pools constructed.   The life expectancy of a pool liner is usually quoted as from 8 to 12 years.  . On average, a liner pool takes only about four weeks to install and, given the appropriate skills and experience, lends itself to the self-build approach.

Concrete Swimming Pools are the traditional pool construction material and are either made from Sprayed Concrete (which involves spraying wet concrete onto a pre-formed cage of steel reinforcement.  This method enables pools to be constructed without any sharp angles where the pool walls meet the floor) or Shuttered Concrete (a construction method based on a poured concrete slab or floor with the pool walls poured between retaining panels – the shuttering).  Sprayed or shuttered concrete pool shells are normally rendered internally with sand and cement to provide a smooth and uniform waterproof lining, ready to receive a decorative finish of tiles, mosaic or terrazzo.

Other important options for pool buyers include the choice of installation of pool covers, enclosures, heat sources and for indoor pools the environmental control systems.

The Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association (SPATA) and The British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association (BISHTA) are the trade associations for swimming pools and hot tubs, respectively, which work to ensure contractors and suppliers meet industry standards and their     top tips when buying a pool or hot tub are:

1)   Always choose a SPATA or BISHTA member so that you can expect your purchase will conform to industry standards. Contact BISHTA and / or SPATA by checking their relevant website –www.spata.co.ukwww.bishta.co.uk

2)   Ensure the contractor/retailer can show at least two examples of the type of hot tub or pool that you want, and if you are buying a hot tub, ideally you should try before you buy with a “wet test” to see if the particular model is to your liking.

3)   Find out if there are any Local Authority consents required for pools (e.g. Planning, Building Regulations, etc)

4)   Confirm the preferred method of water treatment being proposed to suit your requirements

5)   Compare warranties between different companies to make sure you are getting the best deal for you

6)  Be very wary of internet bargains, there are many customers dissatisfied with some companies that are not BISHTA or SPATA members, who are trading on the internet.