Considerations in Building a

A vanishing edge, also commonly referred to as an "infinity edge" or "negative edge," is a swimming pool design feature where one or more sides of the pool appear to merge with the horizon, creating an illusion that there's no boundary. While they offer spectacular aesthetics, there are unique hydraulic considerations and challenges to be accounted for when designing and constructing such pools.

Hydraulic Considerations:

Catch Basin Design: The water overflowing the vanishing edge is collected in a catch basin or surge tank. The size of this basin is crucial; it must be adequately sized to handle the water volume displaced when the pool is in use to avoid water wastage or potential damage.

Effective Skimming: Due to the overflow mechanism, infinity pools often provide better skimming of debris off the water surface. However, the flow rate and water level need to be maintained correctly for this to work effectively.

Pump and Circulation System: Dedicated pumps are typically required for the vanishing edge section of the pool. The pump needs to be powerful enough to handle the flow rate and head pressure required for the pool's design.

Return and Inflow Rates: The rate at which water returns to the main pool and flows out to the catch basin must be balanced to maintain the visual effect and ensure efficient water circulation.

Water Level Control: Automatic water level controllers are essential to maintain the desired water level and the illusion of the vanishing edge.

Filtration and Treatment: Since the water from the main pool and the catch basin often mix, it's crucial to ensure consistent and effective filtration and chemical treatment for the entire water volume.

Common Problems and Oversights:

Insufficient Catch Basin Size: Underestimating the amount of water displaced, especially during peak use, can lead to the catch basin overflowing, leading to water wastage and potential damage.

Inadequate Pump Capacity: If the pump for the vanishing edge isn’t sized correctly, it can result in uneven or insufficient flow, disrupting the illusion of the infinity edge.

Poor Level Control: If the water level isn’t maintained correctly, it can break the visual illusion, which is the central appeal of such pools.

Structural Concerns: The vanishing edge design places unique structural demands on the pool, especially at the edge. If not constructed correctly, it can lead to leaks or even structural failure.

Increased Maintenance: The design complexity means more potential points of failure. Without regular checks, issues like leaks or pump failures can go unnoticed until they become major problems.

Cost Overruns: Given the complexity of the design, construction, and maintenance, there can be unforeseen expenses that owners might not have anticipated initially.

Environmental Considerations: There's potential for water wastage if systems aren’t balanced properly, especially in regions where water conservation is crucial.

Inefficient Skimmer Function: While designed to be effective, if not maintained or constructed properly, the skimmer function can be compromised, leading to a build-up of debris on the water surface.

While vanishing edge swimming pools offer a unique and breathtaking aesthetic, they come with their own set of challenges. Proper design, regular maintenance, and a keen understanding of the hydraulics involved are crucial to ensuring that these pools function effectively and remain structurally sound.

Let's Do The Math

When designing a vanishing edge pool, the hydraulic calculations are key to ensuring efficiency and functionality. Here are the essential formulas and considerations for calculating flow and pump sizing:

Flow Rate:

Flow rate is the volume of water that flows through a system per unit of time, typically measured in gallons per minute (GPM) or liters per minute (LPM).

Formula: Q=A×VQ = A \times VQ=A×V


  • QQQ = Flow rate (GPM or LPM)
  • AAA = Cross-sectional area of the pipe or channel (sq. ft. or sq. m)
  • VVV = Average velocity of the water (ft/min or m/min)

For vanishing edge pools, you'll want to ensure that the flow rate matches the designed overflow rate to maintain the illusion of the vanishing edge.

Pump Sizing:

Pump sizing is dependent on two main factors: flow rate (Q) and total dynamic head (TDH).

Total Dynamic Head (TDH): It's the total equivalent height that a fluid is to be pumped, taking into account friction losses in the pipe.

TDH=StaticHead+FrictionLoss+VelocityHeadTDH = Static Head + Friction Loss + Velocity HeadTDH=StaticHead+FrictionLoss+VelocityHead


  • Static Head is the vertical distance the water needs to be pumped.
  • Friction Loss is the loss of energy or “head” that occurs in pipe flow due to viscous effects generated by the surface of the pipe. It can be calculated using the Darcy-Weisbach equation or Hazen-Williams equation, depending on the specifics of the situation.
  • Velocity Head is the energy associated with the velocity of the fluid flow.

Once you know the flow rate (Q) and TDH, you can select a pump that meets these requirements from a pump curve, which is typically provided by pump manufacturers.

Catch Basin Volume:

It's vital to size the catch basin to handle the volume of water displaced by users. The volume should be enough to account for water displaced by swimmers and to prevent the main pool from running low.

Vbasin=Vdisplaced+VbufferV_{\text{basin}} = V_{\text{displaced}} + V_{\text{buffer}}Vbasin=Vdisplaced+Vbuffer


  • VbasinV_{\text{basin}}Vbasin = Total volume of the catch basin.
  • VdisplacedV_{\text{displaced}}Vdisplaced = Volume of water displaced by swimmers. This is typically considered as a percentage of the pool's volume based on expected occupancy.
  • VbufferV_{\text{buffer}}Vbuffer = Additional volume to prevent the main pool from running low. Typically, this is a fixed volume or a percentage of the pool's volume.

Turnover Rate:

This rate defines how often the water in the pool is circulated through the filtration system. For residential pools, a common turnover rate is once every 12 hours, while commercial pools often aim for a turnover rate of once every 6 hours.

Q=VpoolTQ = \frac{V_{\text{pool}}}{T}Q=TVpool


  • QQQ = Required flow rate (GPM or LPM)
  • VpoolV_{\text{pool}}Vpool = Total volume of the pool (gallons or liters)
  • TTT = Turnover time (minutes)

These formulas provide a foundational understanding for designing the hydraulics of a vanishing edge pool. Collaboration with hydraulic engineers and/or specialists is recommended to ensure the pool functions efficiently and safely.

Let's Look At The Maintenance Challenges

Vanishing edge pools, while providing an unparalleled aesthetic experience, come with their own set of maintenance challenges that set them apart from conventional pools. Here are the main maintenance challenges associated with vanishing edge pools:

Catch Basin Maintenance:

  • Debris Accumulation: Since overflow water, along with floating debris, is collected in the catch basin, it can become a collection point for dirt, leaves, and other contaminants.
  • Algae Growth: The catch basin, especially if situated in shaded areas, may become prone to algae growth, requiring regular cleaning and chemical treatment.

Water Level Management:

  • Consistent Monitoring: The illusion of the vanishing edge is maintained by precise water levels. Too high or too low water levels can disrupt this, requiring frequent monitoring and adjustment.
  • Automatic Fill Systems: These systems can malfunction, leading to overfilling or underfilling of the pool.

Increased Chemical Usage:

  • The constant movement and overflow of water can lead to quicker dissipation of pool chemicals, requiring more frequent chemical additions to maintain water quality.

Pump and Filtration System:

  • Regular Inspections: Given the additional hydraulic complexity, pump systems for vanishing edge pools require regular checks to ensure they're functioning efficiently.
  • Filter Cleaning: Since the water from both the main pool and catch basin circulates through the filters, they might require cleaning more frequently.

Edge and Tile Maintenance:

  • Calcium Buildup: The continuous flow of water over the edge can lead to calcium deposits, especially in hard water regions. These deposits need regular cleaning to maintain the pool's aesthetic.
  • Tile Integrity: The constant water flow can wear down grout and adhesive, potentially loosening tiles over time. Regular inspection and maintenance are essential.

Structural Integrity:

  • Given the unique design and structural demands, there's a need for periodic checks for signs of wear, cracks, or potential leaks, especially at the vanishing edge.

Energy Consumption:

  • Infinity pools typically require more energy due to the constant need for water circulation to maintain the vanishing edge effect. As a result, equipment must be checked for efficiency regularly to prevent exorbitant energy bills.

Temperature Regulation:

  • The constant circulation and exposure to the atmosphere might make it challenging to maintain consistent water temperatures, especially in cooler climates. This might require more frequent use of pool heaters.

Environmental Concerns:

  • In areas prone to water shortages, the potential for water loss due to evaporation or system inefficiencies can be a concern. Regular checks for leaks and optimizing water usage become crucial.

Specialized Knowledge:

  • Due to the complexities involved, pool service personnel need to be well-acquainted with the intricacies of vanishing edge designs. Standard pool maintenance knowledge might not always suffice.

While vanishing edge pools are undeniably stunning, their maintenance requires a diligent and knowledgeable approach. Regular checks, combined with timely intervention, can ensure they remain functional and visually appealing for years to come.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of Pool Genius Network to add comments!

Join Pool Genius Network