Tanning Ledges: Should You Add One to Your Swimming Pool?

Kenneth Wilson

Once the summer season rolls in, many want to lounge by the pool. It's only natural for people to spend more time outdoors, basking in the sun… but what if you can sit in it instead of sitting by the pool? Yes, you can do this using a tanning ledge.

What is a Tanning Ledge?


You may have spotted a tanning ledge before, but you're likely unaware of it. Commonly known as a tanning shelf, Baja shelf, or sun shelf, it refers to a shallow shelf in the pool measuring at least 5 feet wide and 9 inches deep.

The shelf design acts as the entry point to the pool and may commonly span its total or partial width. Its design is made to be just deep enough for pool users to soak themselves in the water without needing to swim or float around. In most cases, it is commonly used as a relaxation lounge where people can read a book or keep cool. Some homeowners also like putting furniture in their tanning ledges, such as small tables, lounge chairs, and umbrellas.

Tanning ledge pools are nothing new. The design has been around for many years now. But it's seeing an increase in popularity nowadays due to its aesthetic appeal.

How Much does a Tanning Ledge Cost?


Now, let's talk numbers. Depending on the most common tanning ledge materials, here's how much you'll typically pay. This will also greatly depend on your particular pool type.

Vinyl Pool Tanning Ledge


Average Cost

$2,000 to $3,000

Installing a tanning ledge on an in-ground vinyl swimming pool will have a few additional building and liner customization costs. It replaces the traditional drop-in white thermoplastic steps found in this particular pool type.

Pros:

  • It is considerably cost-effective to build

Cons:

  • The liner is susceptible to wear and tear. If you have a tanning ledge with furniture, this may put you at an increased risk of leaks, leading to costly replacements.
  • Building a ledge will only increase the project costs. Therefore, it may defeat the purpose of choosing a cost-efficient vinyl liner pool.
  • Vinyl pools are not known to be as durable as concrete. You may need to have them replaced periodically.

Concrete Pool Tanning Ledge


Average Cost

$8,000

Installing a tanning ledge in your concrete pool will cost you additional dollars, depending on the ledge’s total square footage. The local crew may also charge you extra, especially if building the ledge extends the project’s original timeline.

Pros:

  • Fully customizable: You can create any shape or size of your liking
  • You can easily integrate it anywhere in the design

Cons:

  • The rough surface (made of gunite) is not ideal for long stretches of sitting and playing. Children may be prone to scrapes because of this. It may also cause discomfort to those with sensitive feet.

Fiberglass Pool Tanning Ledge


Average Cost

$400 (Built-in tanning ledge installation)

$5,000 to $15,000 (separate fiberglass tanning ledge)

A fiberglass pool shell with a tanning ledge will be cheaper if you have it installed built-in. But if you have the budget to take the aesthetics of your pool to the next level, you may opt to buy a separate one which will undoubtedly cost you a few more thousand dollars. Homeowners looking to cut costs may want to choose a model with the ledge built in.

Pros:

  • The ledge's surface is designed to be as smooth as possible to ensure your comfort while maintaining a high slip resistance.
  • It is known to be low maintenance. The non-porous surface reduces the time it takes for you to balance the chemicals and scrub the walls clean. Typically, you won't need acid washing, vinyl lining replacement, or patching holes in the liner.
  • You may add a separate fiberglass ledge to have more swim space.

Cons:

  • The manufactured pool or separate ledge cannot be customized to your preference.
  • Its smooth surface may be more slippery, where users risk slipping or falling.

Do you need a Tanning Ledge in your Pool?


If you find yourself hosting frequent pool events, outdoor activities, or social gatherings by the pool, then a pool tanning ledge is a good project to consider. Other benefits to expect are as follows:

  • Safe entry for kids: Considering the depth of the sun shelf, this doubles as a safe spot around your pool.
  • Allows you to feel refreshed without the need to swim: Not the biggest fan of swimming? You can spend more time relaxing in your pool with a tanning ledge.
  • Easy tanning: Achieve the tan you want by simply laying down your furniture on the tanning ledge. There's no need to go to the beach anymore!
  • Customizable atmosphere: You may install bubblers and lights to turn them into a fountain area
  • Pet-friendly: Adding a tanning ledge to your pool gives your pets a safe area to hang out without entering the depth of the pool.

However, if any of these situations apply to you, you may not need a pool tanning ledge:

  • You focus on doing laps and swimming training in your pool
  • You do not have young children at home
  • The pool is rarely used
  • You don't like the idea of chilling by the poolside

Aesthetic Plans for Pool Tanning Ledges


Your pool tanning ledges can be customized depending on your preferences and the aesthetic you're going for. So, if you're browsing through various ideas and themes, start with the following:

  • Open shelf: This is an excellent idea if adults frequent your pool regularly, as it fits about 2 to 3 pieces of furniture with extra tables.
  • Enclosed shelf: This resembles a traditional pool design, save for less deep and low walls. An enclosed shelf is commonly attached to a bathtub.
  • Slope or tiers: These pool tanning ledges have a sloped shape, which leads to the deeper parts of the pool

Overall Verdict


Homeowners who tend to spend long hours lounging in the pool may want to consider having a tanning ledge installed. This is ideal if you plan to include various pieces of in-pool furniture or if you have small kids or furry pets playing in the pool often.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Is there a difference between a tanning ledge, tanning shelf, Baja shelf, and sun shelf?

All of these terms mean the same thing and may be used interchangeably. Depending on the region, it's known as a tanning ledge, sun shelf, Baja shelf, and other names. If you ask your pool builder or manufacturer for one, no matter what you call it, they'll probably know what you're talking about.

What types of pools can tanning ledges be installed in?

Tanning ledges may be customized to fit practically any pool type or design. For example, fiberglass pools come with various tanning ledge selections, some of which are compatible with several models. The trendy Rectangle or Semi Circle layout will go well alongside a pool's straight side if you have a square swimming pool. Furthermore, these shelves may be installed in most inground pools, including fiberglass and vinyl pools.

How deep should a tanning ledge be?

We recommend a maximum of 9 inches of water on your ledge, which implies it should be no more than 12 inches deep.

What do people use tanning ledges for?

Of course, a tanning ledge's broad, shallow area is excellent for tanning. Sunning yourself while lounging in a chair with a favorite beverage or book is one way to use a sun shelf. Additionally, these shelves are perfect for:

  • Allowing little children to play in your pool (while supervised)
  • Letting your dog splash around the water with you
  • Staying cool while enjoying an outdoor yoga session
  • Allowing older people to enjoy your pool without having to use ladders or stairs
Kenneth Wilson
May 17, 2022
Pool

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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