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Builder ShelfLounger
The Shelf Lounger can be retrofitted to existing pools.

Beyond the Basics

Installing sun shelves and other cost-effective pool upgrades

When considering trendy and stylish pool features, it’s natural to envision newly constructed pools, but there are plenty of upgrades for existing pools that can elevate the swimming experience. One increasingly popular option is a sun shelf. 

A sun shelf — also known as a tanning shelf, Shamu shelf, Baja bench or tanning ledge — is the flat and shallow part of a pool that creates an area swimmers can lounge in without needing to tread water. Sun shelves can be installed with a new, custom pool — some fiberglass pool models even come with them — but now they’re also an easy upgrade to existing pools. 

The Lambertville, Michigan-based company B Squared Pools first introduced its sun shelves at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in November 2023. 

sun shelves
B Squared Pools displayed its freestanding sun shelves at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo.

“It’s freestanding, self-supporting, plug and play,” says Bob Coberley, Sr., owner of B Squared Pools. “It does not require any structure built around it for support. Just set it at the edge of your pool, tie it into your existing pump system by running a separate line to the unit and enjoy.” 

This means the sun shelf can be added to an existing pool without tearing up concrete. 

For pools requiring a unique or specific upgrade solution, Coberley recommends custom-built sun shelves, benches or steps.

“Our team can quickly custom build the options and ship to the site to add to an existing pool, saving major renovation costs,” he says. “The materials we use are strong, lightweight and noncorrosive, providing years of worry-free use.”

Spillway Pool Products makes the Shelf Lounger, a prefabricated tanning shelf — but it doesn’t stop there. Owner Peter von Hopffgarten says he wanted to introduce a product that encompassed the hottest trends in the pool industry and then some. So the Shelf Lounger has built-in lounge chairs, a negative-edge water feature, therapy jets and bubblers and can spray a cooling mist. “We were trying to blend these hot trends into one product and make it as easy as humanly possible to install,” von Hopffgarten says. 

With straight and radius models available, the Shelf Lounger can be added to any number of existing pools including above-ground and semi-inground. “The idea is that this can go onto the side or the edge of a pool,” von Hopffgarten says. “You can wrap its edge with stone, tile, wood — you name it. There are no limitations on how you want to wrap it.”

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In Dallas, Nick Hauk’s pool design and construction firm, Pure Design, caters mostly to clients with older pools. Whether they do a remodel or full pool replacement, many clients want a sun shelf, Hauk says. 

“I believe this is a very common trend, no matter where you are in the United States,” Hauk says. “As a family matures and children leave the house, many of our clients change their diving pools to shallow or play pools with the anticipation of grandchildren swimming in the future.”

Builder PDG HouseSpa
Acrylic window features are popular additions for Pure Design’s clients.

Pure Design’s most popular and common upgrade, though, is the addition of an acrylic window feature on a spa spillway. 

“This is a cost-effective way to modernize a tired and old concrete spa,” Hauk says. 

R’nelle Lazlo, vice president of national marketing and business development at Blue Haven National Management, says they’ve also seen more interest in sun shelves. 

“Tanning shelves have surged in popularity,” Lazlo says. “The majority of gunite pools now include this option, or they have an enlarged first step that performs double duty as a small shelf.”

For even greater comfort, builders can integrate an umbrella sleeve into the structure, which delivers flexibility for adding shade over the ledge.

The perch is a home run for the whole family. Adults can catch some rays lying on chaise lounges, and kids and those still learning to swim can hang out and play in shallow water.”

R’nelle Lazlo, Blue Haven National Management

“The perch is a home run for the whole family,” Lazlo says. “Adults can catch some rays lying on chaise lounges, and kids and those still learning to swim can hang out and play in shallow water.”

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