4 Most Popular Spa Spillway Ideas

blue pool and spa connected by a long flat spa spillway in between

When you make the choice to build a spa with your gunite pool, you probably don’t realize how much this little change is going to impact your lifestyle. If you have a pool / spa combo it stretches your swim season automatically, not to mention your use of the pool area in the evening. When connecting a pool and spa there is one piece you’ll need to figure out, and that is the spa spillway. In this article we’ll discuss some spa spillway ideas to help you determine how you can join your pool and spa together best.

How Do Spa Spillways Work?

First, you’ll want to determine whether your spa will be ‘raised’ or at the same level as the pool. In the industry we say ‘at the same level’ as the pool, but that’s not true. The spa will always be slightly higher than the pool even when built ‘at the same level’. If we don’t design the spa this way, what can happen is the cold water of the pool will splash over the spa spillway into the spa itself. Because of this, the spa is always at least 1/2” higher than the pool in proper installations.

Here is an example of a spa being flush with its neighboring pool.

When the spa is not raised, or only raised 1/2”, the spillway is actually not necessary. You can accomplish the hydraulic connection with the pool by introducing ‘balance lines’ between the spa and the pool. These are pipes which connect the spa to the pool underwater.

However, we only recommend using this when a spillway is specifically not desired architecturally. A spillway is the best way to connect a spa to a pool for debris load reasons. When you have a spa spillway, the debris that lands on the spa will for the most part flow over into the pool instead of sinking to the floor of the spa.

What Makes Different Spa Spillway Ideas So Popular?

One of the big reasons you might want a large spillway on a spa at the same level as the pool is to make it easy to transfer between the pool and the spa. One nice way to do this is to design an underwater bench in the pool on the other side of the spa spillway. This gives you the perfect step over surface from the spa to the pool and back again. If you’re like me, you probably enjoy heating up in the spa, cooling down in the pool, then going back to the spa and so on. A spa spillway makes it easy and you don’t need to get out onto the pool deck.

4 Most Popular Spa Spillway Ideas

When the spa is raised, there are other spa spillway ideas to consider. First, do you want there to be a ‘water feature’. That is, do you want there to be noise, visual flowing or sheeting of water? Alternatively, do you want the water to seep over the edge like a weeping wall?

Natural Rock Spillway

One of the most dramatic spa spillway ideas is best used on natural or lagoon style pools where using boulders might be commonplace. This would be a natural rock spillway. This gives you a stream style waterfall between your spa and your pool. What you are doing is taking advantage of the fact that while your pool and spa are in ‘pool mode’ your spa is spilling into your pool. This water flow can be used to create a natural rock waterfall among many other water feature types.

Sheet Flow Spillway

Another of the common spa spillway ideas is the sheeting waterfall. This usually requires you building a smaller spillway to make sure you can achieve the sheet flow necessary to sheet the water, or adding a feature pump on a larger spillway.

Perimeter Overflow Spillway

In the last few years you have seen more and more perimeter overflow spa spillways. This is a spa spillway which encompasses the entire perimeter of the spa itself. This is a modern look and can be an impressive addition to your backyard pool. However, make sure you consider the fact that you will have nowhere to set down your phone, drink or book. This is especially important if you plan on spending a lot of time in the spa itself.

Tishway Spillway

black and gray tiled pool showing the tishway style as one of many spa spillway ideas

One of the most elegant ways to build a spa spillway is to introduce what are called ‘Tishways’. These are named after legendary pool designer David Tisherman who was the progenitor of this method.

Spa Spillway Ideas Summary

As you can see there are numerous spa spillway ideas. This article should only be considered to scrape the surface of what’s possible. Don’t forget to get creative. Sometimes a pool designer will get lazy and just design in the same thing they did the day before. Don’t let them get away with it! Scour the internet for character images, and gather together what it is you like and make sure you create a spa spillway which reflects your individual personality.