By Mike Farley
Safety is never far from my mind as I design for my clients, but as important as it is, it’s seldom the only thing on my mind as a project comes together.
In fact, balancing the need for features we must include for safety’s sake with our everyday passion about never compromising on aesthetics is something I consider with every detail. Whether it’s the extent to which scuppers extend from raised pool walls or the layout of step systems, the slipperiness of decking materials or the presence of places to grab around the full perimeter of the pool, these details flash through my mind as instances where I want to make the safe solution look as good as can be.
In the video linked below, the focus is on finger ledges – the little protrusions to which hands both little and big will reach out when there’s a need – and on one solution I’ve found to make them both worthy as a safety device and presentable as a design detail.
For generations, this ledge was almost always provided by hanging bullnose coping a bit proud of the pool wall’s plane. This was so ingrained that, for decades, concrete spas were built with protruding bullnose details that meant anyone sitting in the bubbling, soothing water had to deal with an unwelcome poke in the back, shoulders or neck instead of being able to kick back and relax.
It was all about safety (and habit) back then, with no balance and few gestures to comfort or aesthetics. And I’m happy to say that this situation has changed entirely and for the better, with lots of attention paid not only to how finger ledges perform, but also to how they look.
As can be seen in the video, it doesn’t take much to meet the safety need. For the most part, the swimmer who needs to grab the ledge is looking for a way to pull his or her head up and out of the water. No big protrusion off the plane of the wall is required for this simple use: All it takes is a little shelf.
To see a nicely appointed finger ledge in place, click here.
Mike Farley is a landscape designer with more than 35 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A member of Genesis 3's Society of Watershape Designers since 2012, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.