The Critical Role of Safety Trim Tiles in Swimming Pool Design

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The Green Scene

Landscaping & Swimming Pools

When it comes to swimming pool design, aesthetics often take the forefront. However, the significance of safety features, such as step trim tiles on the edges of steps and benches, cannot be overstated. Scott Cohen and his team at The Green Scene prioritize both beauty and safety in their designs, treating safety trim tiles not merely as a safety feature (not currently a regulatory requirement) but as an essential decorative detail that enhances both the function and appeal of swimming pools.

Step trim tiles are essentially a row of colored tiles that mark the edge of a step or bench within a pool. Their primary purpose is to identify these edges clearly, making them visible through the water, which can often distort perception and hide potential hazards. This is especially pertinent in pools with pebble finishes, where steps can be even harder to discern than in pools with colored plasters. Factors like the time of day and resulting shadows can further obscure the visibility of steps, not to mention that as we age, our ability to detect such hazards diminishes.

In this photo we can easily see the steps and benches identified by trim tile.

The necessity of these tiles goes beyond the daily use by familiar swimmers; it becomes crucial for guests, children, and the elderly, who may not have the spatial memory of the pool’s layout. Spatial memory, a cognitive process allowing us to remember the locations and physical properties of our environment, plays a key role in how we navigate spaces and avoid dangers. Step trim tiles aid in reinforcing this spatial memory by providing clear, visual cues that can help prevent accidents.

Recognizing the importance of visibility, Cohen advocates for the use of contrasting color banding at the leading edge of step and bench surfaces. This not only aids in delineating the edge more clearly for users, thereby reducing the risk of missteps and falls but also integrates seamlessly into the pool’s design as an attractive feature. Cohen prefers ceramic tiles for this purpose due to their durability and slip-resistant qualities provided by the grout joints. The recommended width for this contrasting stripe ranges from 1 inch to 3 inches, striking the perfect balance between visibility and aesthetics.

The placement of these tiles is crucial. They should be positioned on the leading edge of steps, benches, and submerged ledges within the pool to mark transitions between different depths and to outline perimeters for enhanced safety. While not currently mandated by code in residential pools, Cohen strongly recommends their inclusion in all pool designs. For a relatively minimal cost, typically less than $1,000 per pool, the addition of safety trim tiles can significantly improve safety and potentially prevent severe accidents.

Moreover, for homeowners who rent out their properties through platforms like AirBnB or other short-term rental services, there is a compelling argument that pools should comply with commercial code requirements, especially regarding safety features. The integration of safety trim tiles into the pool design not only meets this criterion but also adds to the pool’s visual appeal, serving as a decorative detail that complements the overall aesthetic.

In conclusion, safety trim tiles are a critical component of swimming pool design, offering both functional safety benefits and aesthetic appeal. As Scott Cohen aptly puts it, these features are not just about adhering to regulations; they are about prioritizing the well-being of all pool users without compromising on design. It’s a testament to The Green Scene’s commitment to “The Wow Factor Contractor” ethos, marrying safety with style to create truly exceptional outdoor spaces.

Scott Cohen is a nationally respected expert witness in pool-construction defects cases. He currently serves as Chairman of the California Pool and Spa Association (CPSA). Cohen is a “Graden Artisan” and President of The Green Scene Landscaping and Swimming Pools, a Watershape design and construction firm based in Chatsworth California. A widely published author and popular speaker, Cohen is known for his gardens that combine outdoor living with inspired artistic details.

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