What Is a Pool House?

Pool and poolhouse
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A pool house serves as a convenience building for swimmers.

The pool house: It's not a cabana or shed and it's not a guest house; it's somewhere in between. With the term "pool house" serving as a general designation for a building dedicated to the poolside lifestyle, it can be anything from an elaborate structure nicer than some homes to a simple yet tidy building that looks like a shed with windows.

Pool House Basics

In real-estate terms, a pool house can be defined as an "outbuilding designed to enhance the poolside experience" by minimizing the need to enter the actual house during pool time. At its simplest, it's the place where guests can change into swimwear and where the homeowner might store the plethora of pool toys and pool-maintenance accessories. The pool house is usually a free-standing building, not attached to the main house or garage. It's typically more elaborate than a shed or cabana and may have a bathroom, complete with shower facilities.

Convenience is Key

Pool house.
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A pool house offers space to change clothes and store towels and pool accessories.

The main purpose of the pool house is convenience geared specifically towards pool activities. It's the place for guests to change clothes, and also a place to store anything a person might need while enjoying the pool. The pool house is a great place to store beach towels and bath towels, as well as pool toys, goggles and spare lawn chairs. If the building is really just a shed used to store the lawnmower, with a little space dedicated to poolside activities, then it's not really a pool house.

Size Doesn't Always Matter

Pool and poolhouse.
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A pool house may include an outdoor shaded area.

In real-estate listings that include pool houses, there are no minimum or maximum size requirements for such structures, nor for their overall value compared to the house itself. What qualifies as a pool house is relative to the scope of the house itself.

In a listing for a mansion with a sizable outdoor pool, the term "pool house" most certainly refers to a building that matches the home's style and color scheme. Its smaller than the main house and may be built of the same materials. It may have have so many rooms that it may seem like a guest house. This type of pool house is decked out for entertaining and may have a bar or, at very least, electricity and running water, seating areas, a refrigerator and probably a sound system. It's the place guests hang out during a poolside party, keeping the main house free from tracked-in water after guests swim.

For a modest home, a pool house may be a prefabricated shed from a home-improvement store and repurposed for poolside use. Some companies also sell wooden cabin-style structures designed as pool houses. These usually offer just one room and may be shaped like a shed, but with windows and a home-style front door. These look like miniature cottages or tiny homes. This small type of pool house probably does not include a shower or running water, unless the homeowner customizes the space to include these features. In either case, a well-planned pool house also has a paved area leading to the pool to prevent tracking dirt, grass and debris to and from the pool.

Pool House Versus Cabana

While some use the terms interchangeably, a pool house and cabana aren't the same. The most basic cabana may even be a temporary tent-like structure, offering enough space to change clothes, and that's about it. Some are more elaborate, but most cabanas have one open end facing the pool; this space may be covered by the roof to combine indoor and outdoor usage. The simplest temporary cabanas do not require building permits since they're not permanent structures. A pool house, on the other hand, is always a more permanent structure with actual walls.

Getting More Information

Amazing mansion home with swimming pool and pool-house
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An elaborate pool house may have as many rooms as an actual somewhat small home.

If interested in buying a home listed that a pool house, ask the real-estate agent for more information since real estate listings may not specify this. While even a modest pool house is useful, one with running water and electricity is obviously more desirable and valuable as an on-site getaway space. Ask for specifics as to the total square footage, the number of rooms and the features of each room, if applicable. A floor plan of a multi-room pool house also comes in handy.


Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.