What Is a Pool House?

Timber Clad Summer House next to Swimming Pool, Belgium
Francois De Heel/Photolibrary/Getty Images

When movie stars started having private pools built at their Hollywood estates back in the 1930s, the pool area usually included a small structure just a few feet from the water. Many of these pool houses were built to echo the architecture of the main residence. The primary purpose of a pool house was—and still is—to provide a private space near the pool in which to change in and out of swimsuits, go to the bathroom, shower, take a nap, enjoy a beverage, and entertain friends or family

A Playhouse for Everyone

Above all else, a pool house makes pool ownership and swimming more enjoyable by having everything you could need within reach, or at least a few steps from the pool. This may range from a well-appointed shed to a sizable guest house complete with bathroom and kitchen facilities, a sitting area, and even bedrooms. Many pool houses feature an open patio area in front, perhaps with a solid roof or a shade cover. It can become an outdoor entertaining area much like a patio or deck behind your house, except that this one is way more convenient. Adding an outdoor kitchen or a lounge surrounding a fireplace makes the "pool patio" that much more of a destination. 

Storage and Other Practicalities

Pool houses are also attractive ways of harboring pool and spa equipment, which are often unsightly elephants in the backyard. Larger pool houses include enclosed space for storing assorted oddly shaped and sized pool toys and all sorts of maintenance supplies. If big enough, it can be the perfect place to house pumps, filters, and other essential pool equipment. With smaller structures, a simple storage closet off to the side or back of the pool house might be helpful.

Construction Plans

In most regions, a pool house project will require a building permit, which can be obtained at your local city or county government office, usually from the planning department or planning commissioner. The new outdoor structure must conform to local zoning ordinances and codes. In some areas, small structures that measure 120 square feet or less don't need to be permitted, provided they don't require utility hookups. An outbuilding with electricity and plumbing is considered a "habitable" structure and typically is subject to many of the same requirements as any other residential building.

Zoning laws govern the use of permanent structures on a property. In the case of a pool house, local zoning rules may dictate how close the house can be to the pool's edge, an important consideration for safety and usability of both the pool and the pool house. Just imagine stepping out of the pool house door, looking across the yard, and accidentally ending up in the pool! There are good reasons why ordinances and building commissioners exist.

A Pool House by Any Other Name...

Depending on the region or sometimes to make it sound more intriguing, a pool house can also be referred to as a casita, villa, detached guest house, or cabana.