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What is a Sun Shelf in a Swimming Pool
& Are They Worth It?

When the weather starts to heat up, there’s nothing quite like taking a refreshing dip in your swimming pool to cool down.

Personal swimming pools can upgrade a home – from offering endless hours of summer playtime fun for the kids to providing a luxurious spot to relax and entertain guests.

But if you’re considering upgrading your pool, you may have heard of something called a sun shelf or tanning ledge. But what are they? Do you need one? And how much do they cost?

If you’re considering adding a sun shelf to your pool, there are a few things you should know before investing.

In this guide to sun shelves, we’ll cover everything from the basics of what they are and how they work to the benefits they offer and some design ideas to get you inspired.

Read on to learn all about sun shelves and whether or not they might be right for your pool.

What is a Sun Shelf for a Swimming Pool?

A sun shelf is a shallow area of the pool that allows swimmers to sit and lounge in the water without having to tread water. Sun shelves are usually located at the pool’s shallow end and can be either built-in or added on later as an aftermarket feature.

While they offer a place to relax and enjoy the water, sun shelves can also be used for other activities like reading, playing games, and enjoying drinks with friends.

Also known as a tanning ledge or Baja shelf, sun shelves are a popular pool feature that’s becoming increasingly common in both new construction and existing pools.

Plus, they make an excellent kiddie pool for little ones to splash around and stay cool without getting in over their heads.

How Is a Sun Shelf Different From a Baja Step?

Sun Shelf on Shallow EndBaja Shelf on Deep End with chairs and steps

A sun shelf is sometimes also called a tanning ledge or Baja shelf. However, there is a slightly similar concept known as a Baja step.

While they are all similar in that they offer a shallow spot to lounge in the pool, there are some key differences between sun shelves and Baja steps:

  • Sun shelves are usually located at the pool’s shallow end, while Baja steps are typically located at the deep end.
  • Baja steps generally have a built-in seat or ledge, while sun shelves do not.
  • Baja steps tend to be more like a mini diving board or swimming platform, while sun shelves are more like an extended pool deck.

While both options can offer a place to relax and enjoy the water, sun shelves are more versatile and can be used for various activities.

What Are the Benefits of Adding a Sun Shelf to Your Swimming Pool?

One of the reasons that sun shelves have become so popular is because they offer several benefits for pool owners. Here are just a few of the advantages that sun shelves can offer:

1. Extra space for relaxing and entertaining

If your swimming pool is on the smaller side, adding a sun shelf can give you some much-needed extra space for relaxing and entertaining. Sun shelves are the perfect spot to enjoy a book or magazine, have a conversation with friends, or take a nap in the sun.

2. A place for little ones to play

Many families enjoy having a sun shelf in their pool because it offers a safe and shallow spot for little ones to play.

This kiddie pool is an excellent place for toddlers and young children to enjoy a swimming space with greater safety. Plus, they offer a unique way for families to engage in the pool without fear of deep water.

3. Greater swimming pool accessibility

A Baja shelf also offers greater accessibility for swimmers of all ages and abilities. They provide an easy way to get in and out of the pool and can be used as a stepping stone to enter the water from deeper areas.

A custom pool tanning shelf can offer a safe spot for elderly swimmers or those with limited mobility to enjoy the water without having to worry about getting in over their heads.

4. Increased pool usage

Another big advantage of sun shelves is that they can increase the amount of time your family spends using the pool.

Because sun shelves offer a place to relax and play without getting wet, they can extend the swimming pool season by giving you a spot to enjoy the water even when you’re not swimming.

5. Enhanced pool aesthetics

In addition to all of the practical benefits that sun shelves offer, they can also enhance the overall look of your dream pool. Sun shelves can be designed to seamlessly blend in with your existing poolscape or to make a bold statement as part of a new pool design.

They can also be customized with a variety of features and accessories, like umbrellas, sun beds, and more, to create a unique and stylish poolscape that will make your neighbors jealous.

How is a Sun Shelf Designed and Installed?

Sun shelves can be designed and installed in various ways to meet your pool’s specific needs.

The first step is to consult with a pool professional to discuss the best location for your sun shelf. Once the location has been determined, the pool will be excavated to create a shelf that slopes gently into the water.

The tanning shelf can be made from a variety of materials, including concrete, fiberglass, and gunite.

After the tanning shelf has been installed, it will be covered with a layer of tile or stone to match the surrounding poolscape. In most cases, sun shelves can be added to an existing pool with minimal disruption.

What Are the Different Types of Sun Shelves?

Sun shelves come in various shapes and sizes to meet your pool’s specific needs. Here are a few of the most popular types of sun shelves:

1. Infinity Edge Sun Shelf

Resort Style Infinity Edge Sun Shelf

One of the most popular pool designs is the infinity edge sun shelf. This type of sun shelf slopes gently into the water, giving the illusion that the pool water is spilling over the edge.

2. Tanning Ledge

Luxury Tanning Edge Sun Shelf

A tanning ledge is a shallow sun shelf that is typically only a few inches deep. Tanning ledges are the perfect spot to soak up some sun without getting too wet. They are often equipped with chaise lounges, umbrellas, and other poolside accessories.

3. Baja Shelf

Baja Shelf on Deep End with chairs and steps

A Baja shelf is a type of sun shelf that is designed for swimming and playing. Baja shelves are usually around five feet deep and can be equipped with a variety of features, like stairs, slides, and fountains.

Can I Add a Sun Shelf to an Existing Pool?

A common question that many pool builder professionals hear is, “can I add a sun shelf to an existing swimming pool?”

The answer is yes! In most cases, a shallow shelf can be added to an existing pool with minimal disruption.

While sun shelves can easily be added when a new pool is being built, they can also be retrofitted into an existing pool. Once you decide on the type and design of the tanning shelf or Baja shelf that you want, a pool professional can excavate the area and install your new sun shelf.

How Deep Should a Pool Sun Shelf Be?

To ensure that your sun shelf is safe and functional, excavating the area to the proper depth is essential. The depth will depend on various factors, including the type of sun shelf you have, the climate, and the intended use.

The recommended depth for a pool sun shelf is at least 9 inches deep and no more than 12 inches deep. This will ensure that the sun shelf is deep enough to be used as a seating area and shallow enough to prevent swimmers from getting hurt.

Can I Add Additional Features to My Sun Shelf?

Yes! There are a variety of features and accessories that can be added to sun shelves to create a unique and stylish poolscape.

Some popular sun shelf upgrades include:


Umbrellas provide shade and protection from the sun. They can be freestanding or mounted on the sun shelf.

Sun Beds:

Sun beds are a type of chaise lounge that can be added to sun shelves. They are the perfect spot to relax and soak up some sun.

Water Features:

Water features, like fountains and waterfalls, can add a touch of luxury to your poolscape. They can be added to sun shelves or built into the pool itself.

Lounge Chairs:

Adding lounge chairs is a great way to create a poolside oasis. They can be added to sun shelves or placed around the pool deck, offering pool owners even more ways to enjoy their dream pool.

No matter how you want to design your poolscape, there are several ways to customize sun shelves to meet your specific needs.

Fun Pool Sun Shelf Ideas

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your pool sun shelf, here are a few fun ideas:

1. Create a Kiddie Pool Play Area

Consider creating a dedicated play area on your sun shelf if you have young children. The options are endless, but some popular ideas include splash pads, slides, and fountains.

If you don’t want to add any features to your sun shelf, you can also create a play area with toys, floats, and pool noodles.

2. Add a Nearby Fire Pit

For a touch of luxury, consider adding a fire pit near your sun shelf. This is the perfect spot to relax on cool evenings. You can also use the fire pit to roast marshmallows or make s’mores. Just make sure you have plenty of safe space between the swimming space and the fire!

3. Set Up an Outdoor Movie Theater

If you love spending time outdoors, consider setting up an outdoor movie theater on your sun shelf. All you need is a projector, screen, and some cozy blankets. You can also add a few string lights to create a magical ambiance.

4. Install an Outdoor Kitchen

Those who like to entertain may love adding an outdoor kitchen to their swimming pool. This is the perfect spot to host BBQs, pool parties, and family gatherings. You can also use the outdoor kitchen to prepare meals for your family or friends.

5. Create a Relaxing Spa Area

Want a pool tanning space that is just for you? Make your sun shelf into a private spa! This is the perfect spot to relax and unwind. Throw in a mini fridge to keep your drinks cold and some candles to set the mood. A tanning ledge adds incredible new ways to enjoy your custom pool!

No matter your style or budget, there are several ways to design a sun shelf that is perfect for you. The next step is to partner with a pool expert who can help you bring your vision to life.

Build Your Dream Sun Shelf with Sublime Pools & Spa

A pool sun shelf offers plenty of benefits and can be customized to fit any budget or style. If you’re ready to install a sun shelf in your pool, partner with Sublime Pools & Spa experts.

Our team of pool professionals has years of experience designing and installing sun shelves. We will work with you to create a sun shelf that meets your specific needs and fits your budget.

Plus, we can offer expert guidance on other pool upgrades, from materials to cleaning systems. Contact us today to get started on your pool sun shelf project! Visit us online or give us a call at 754-260-7193.

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