Move over cattle, stock tank plunge pools are the new cool trend

A large steel tank filled with water and a small ladder sits in a garden.
A stock tank supplier created a pool about two years ago, now they’re selling like hotcakes.(Supplied: David Mortimer)

They are normally used as water tubs for livestock to drink out of, but people have found a new use for stock tanks — a stylish, functional, and cheap version of a plunge pool.

Key points:

  • People are jumping on a new trend using livestock and water tanks as plunge pools 
  • A Sydney tank supplier diversified his business when asked to make a pool about two years ago 
  • He’s since developed the product to be a fully functioning pool with everything a normal pool has

When David Mortimer started his custom tank building business 15 years ago he never expected to be making pools.

“We build stainless steel water tanks for residential, commercial, and rural customers,” he said.

“But about two years ago we started getting some customers in asking if we could build a tank without a lid on it.”

Curious to see what all the fuss was about, Mr Mortimer started experimenting with a range of different sizes and structures that would best work as pools.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities and areas to diversify … so we ran with that concept and developed the product further,” he said.

“We got it [the stock tank pool] fully engineered and certified, and made sure it’s able to withstand the forces of people jumping in it.

“Since then it’s gone off like wildfire.”

A wooden deck surrounds a steel tank filled with clear, blue water.
The pools are designed to stay above ground and are ideally suited for building a timber deck around for access and presentation.(Supplied: David Mortimer)

Price point the big seller

Mr Mortimer said a lot of his customers are looking for a cheaper alternative to the standard in-ground pool.

Pool safety:

  • Owners of properties with swimming pools must at all times ensure that pools are surrounded with a child-resistant safety barrier that separates the pool(s) from any dwelling and place adjoining the property
  • Keep closed the doors and gates that provide access to the swimming pool
  • Ensure that fences surrounding pools are designed, constructed, installed and maintained to comply with the relevant Australian Standards

Source: NSW Government

“You’ve got your pools where you dig a hole and you build the pool and they start around $50,000,” he said.

“Then you’ve got your concrete plunge pools that generally hover around the $12,000 mark, but you need quite a significant crane to get those in.

“But the tank pools sit around the $5,000-$7,000 mark.”

Mr Mortimer said the tanks also fitted in most small backyards which had made them widely popular in metro areas.

“We do get the customers that come in with a really small backyard and they think their only option is to get a spa or something like that,” he said.

“But the beauty is they can choose the size they’d like and we build the pool to fit.”

Man in fluro rolls huge steel tank through hole in fence.
Compared to concrete plunge pools, the tanks are lightweight and can be installed by rolling them into position.(Supplied: David Mortimer)

Growing trend in cities too

The Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Australia’s (SPASA) chief operating officer Spiros Dassakis said the niche small pool trend had taken off in New South Wales and Queensland. 

“We have seen in the last couple of years stock tanks becoming more appealing in rural settings but also in urban settings where you’ve got a minimalistic feel to the dwelling,” he said.

A steel tank filled with water sits on concrete slab next to windmill.
Stock tanks are also popular in regional NSW. Pictured here is a tank freshly installed at Eurabalong.(Supplied: David Mortimer)

Mr Dassakis said the small pool trend was not limited to stock tanks.

“As the urban dwellings get smaller in space there’s a real move to the desire of a smaller type of pool,” he said.

“There’s pre-fabricated plunge pools, container pools, and plunge pools made of fibreglass for example.”

‘Fully functioning pools’

Not all tank manufacturers have taken to the trend like Mr Mortimer, who developed the tank pool to have everything a normal pool has got.

“The pools are fully functioning pools — they have filters, chlorinators, pumps, you can get water heaters as well,” he said.

“Some people are really decking them out and getting creative with it, adding LED lights and all.”

Smooth steel rim of stainless steel stock tank pool.
COVID-19’s impact on international travel has meant more people have money to spend on renovating their homes. (Supplied: David Mortimer)

Mr Mortimer said his pools were made from corrugated stainless steel and did not require plastic liners which could be prone to damage as per typical above-ground pools.

“Stainless steel is quite thin so its thermal performance against the water is pretty small,” he said.

“You won’t get like a thick bit of steel warming all the water up, it sticks pretty close to the ambient temperature.”

Difficult to DIY

Mr Dassakis said it was important people sought out properly manufactured alternative pools.

“We discourage anyone from doing their own hydraulics, which deals with the pump or the heart of the swimming pool,” he said.

“We don’t want someone tackling this on the weekend thinking they can turn any sort of vessel into a swimming pool.”

Mr Dassakis said any pool over 2,000 litres could not be installed without going through the permit process.

“Products that you buy from reputable dealers that are installed correctly meet relevant Australian standards to keep Australians safe,” he said.

“It’s an exciting new trend that we think will continue.” 

In Victoria, any swimming pool (defined as being able to hold 300mm of water or more) must be registered with the local council and have appropriate safety barriers in place.

Different regulations apply in different states and consumers are advised to check with their local council before installing any pool.

Source: ABC Rural / By Keely Johnson

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