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Considering a Pool Sheer Descent? (Pros, Cons, Ideas & Cost)

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Do you love waterfalls?

How about luxury pools?

If your answers are anything but yes, I’d be shocked. 

A pool sheer descent waterfall is a pool water feature that adds creativity, natural wonder, and high-end luxury to your pool.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Let’s explore them further.

What Is a Pool Sheer Descent?

A pool sheer descent is, essentially, a waterfall.

While there’s various takes on the classic waterfall look, a sheer descent is unique in how the water falls into the pool – tapering as it hits the waterline.

While natural waterfalls come out like an arched rush of water (think Niagara Falls), sheer descents thin-out the rushing water so it looks like a sheet.

This gives them a smooth, sleek, glass-like aesthetic. Additionally, the thinner water arch doesn’t produce as much noise as a traditional waterfall, adding an increased level of tranquility while you’re in the pool.

Most sheer descents will allow for some control over the water output, so you can still change up the look from time to time.

Sheer descents are usually installed in the mortar joint of a feature wall, between the pool coping and the stonework. Water must be piped into the wall (or the area where the descent is). As they require a good deal of power to operate, a dedicated pool pump for each descent is recommended.

Placement of a sheer descent is usually maxed out at a height of 4 feet. Any higher can compromise the sheet-like look of the water, causing it to fall apart.

The width of them ranges between 8 inches to 8 feet, and they’re available in straight or curved models. You can also get them in different colors to blend into your pool’s decor.

Sheer descents are also very popular in contemporary designs, although you can implement them into any pool quite easily. Additionally, a darker wall will visually highlight the waterfall, whereas a sheer descent tends to lack the intended punch when installed on a lighter-colored wall.

The Pros & Cons

Now that we’ve outlined what sheer descents are, what’s the good and the bad?

Pros

They’re visually striking. There won’t be too many people who aren’t impressed by them when they come over for a swim.

Sheer descents also help to regulate your pool’s water temperature and keep it cool. Cooler water has many benefits – from decreasing chlorine demand, to being more comfortable to swim in.

Waterfalls also move water (duh), resulting in constant circulation through the filtration system. This keeps the pool nice and clean. Circulation also maintains even distribution of the chemicals in your pool’s water.

Sheer descents, while quieter than traditional waterfalls, can also add level of sound blocking. This will insulate you from outside noise while you’re in the pool, adding further relaxation.

Cons

Sheer descents can be costly to install and run. While the unit itself is a few hundred dollars, the labor of building a feature wall, running plumbing, extra pumps, and the monthly water and electric bills can quickly add up.

Keeping them clean will also have to be done by hand, so that calcium and mineral deposits don’t build up over time.

A Cost Breakdown

Depending on size, materials, craftsmanship, and included features (ie. waterfall look, LED lights), sheer descents cost anywhere from $150 to $500.

Installing them is where the cost skyrockets and it all depends on how elaborate you go. Plumbing and building a basic feature wall can cost a few thousand dollars, whereas larger projects will easily climb into the 5-figure range.

The operational costs will also vary depending on how extravagant your sheer descent is, but monthly costs will definitely be incurred as additional water and electricity is required to run them.

Pool Sheer Descent Ideas (And 5 Examples)

Adding a waterfall into your pool design can be tricky, as you want something that looks good but is unique enough to set it apart from all the other pools out there. 

Some common sheer descent designs are:

  • Single Sheer Descent
  • Multiple Sheer Descents
  • Wide Sheer Descent
  • Mid-Wall Sheer Descent
  • Curved Sheer Descent

Let’s look at some real examples:

Example #1: Single Sheer Descent

Image by C & R Pool Plastering

Perfect for those on a budget, this feature wall showcases a single sheer descent against natural stone.

Installed in the mortar joint, a white acrylic model helps it blend into the wall a little better than a dark-colored descent would. As it’s not too high off the ground, the waterfall maintains its integrity for that thin, sheet-like look.

Example #2: Multiple Sheer Descents

Image by Trasolini Pools

Tripling up this water feature seems to be the most popular design when it comes to sheer descents. 

Similar to the first image in terms of height and model choice, this pool uses darker stonework, which helps bring out the waterfalls a little bit more.

Example #3: Wide Sheer Descent

Image by Betz Pools

A wide sheer descent is a really nice look to add to a long wall. 

In this case, they’ve designed a sunken pool with the descent installed just below the deck coping. It’s only a few feet high, maximizing the glassy look this feature is known for.

While a wide waterfall can be created using multiple descents side-by-side, there are 8 foot long models which is most likely what is used here. Additionally, some pools will design sheer descents to cover the entire length of a long wall for striking effect.

Example #4: Mid-Wall Sheer Descent

Image by Alka Pool

Some designs have such a high wall that you can’t install the sheer descent at the top, as the waterfall won’t retain its “sheer” effect. 

In this photo, you can see how the height of these waterfalls is over the 4-foot mark, and probably closer to 6.

The falls still taper, but the water flow becomes more of a natural look (louder too) from this height.

Example #5: Curved Sheer Descent

Image by Betz Pools

With pools coming in many shapes, curved descents work well for those that aren’t designed with 90 degree angles everywhere.

Curved sheer descents can be used on concave feature walls, or convex walls like above. A popular design is to install the descent on the exterior of a connected circular spa that will empty into the main pool.

Ready to Jump In?

Pool sheer descents are one of the best water features to make your swimming pool more interesting.

Adding one (or multiple) will create a more relaxing atmosphere, and therapeutic experience for your guests.

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