What Is A Baja Shelf? Cost, Depth & Design Options.

What Is A Baja Shelf? Cost, Depth & Design Options.

When you’re building a pool, you might hear a lot of words that you’ve never heard before. Scupper, bond beam, baja shelf; we promise we aren’t making up words!

At California Pools & Landscape we’ve been building custom pools in Arizona for 34 years. Over the years we’ve seen design trends come and go, but a baja shelf is one that stands the test of time!

In this article we’ll introduce you to a baja shelf, cover the standard cost and go through all of the design options you could include on yours. By the end of this article you’ll be a baja shelf expert!

What Is A Baja Shelf Or Tanning Ledge?

A baja shelf is an extended step into a pool that creates a shallow area in the water for lounging and play. It’s also referred to as a tanning ledge, extended step, sun shelf or baja step. It is the perfect middle ground between pool and poolside where you can partially submerge a chair and relax in the water.

Picture this: Two lounge chairs sitting in your swimming pool, hovering just above the water line — perfect for sipping an umbrella drink and dipping your toes in occasionally, without having to submerge yourself.

Sounds perfect, right? This is the delightful scene a baja shelf provides — and it’s not just relegated to high-end resorts. A baja shelf can create an instant resort vibe in your backyard environment.

A Baja shelf’s shallow waters also make it a built-in kiddie pool. Instead of having to lug the kids around the deep end with you, they can perch on the shelf, splashing and playing to their heart’s content.

How Deep is A Baja Shelf?

Baja shelfs sit submerged under water, but how deep under the water do they typically sit? A baja shelf can sit anywhere from 6” – 18” under the waterline depending on your preference.

If you’re looking into a baja shelf, it’s important to keep in mind that any custom pool builder will offer various options for the depth of a baja shelf. Depending on your preference for functionality when using your baja shelf, having the water at a shorter depth might make sense for you.

At California Pools & Landscape, we typically build a baja shelf to sit at 6”, 12” or 18” below the waterline of the pool.

6” Baja Shelf

Building a baja shelf that is 6” below the waterline would allow the water to cover your legs while seated on the shelf. This shallow shelf is a popular option for homeowners with small dogs.

12” Baja Shelf

Building a baja shelf that is 12” below the waterline will allow the water to come up to your midsection while seated. This is a nice depth for you to be able to kick out your legs and relax. This is a very popular depth for those looking to create a kiddie pool water height for children to be able to splash around in the shallow water.

18” Baja Shelf

Building a baja shelf that is 18” below the waterline will allow the water to come up to your arms while you are seated and is at the same level that a pool bench is at. This is a popular selection for pool enthusiasts that are wanting to put a lounging chair on the baja shelf and relax with the lower half of their body in the water while the top of their body is above the surface.

How Much Does A Baja Shelf Cost?

Sure a baja shelf sounds great, but is it expensive to have one in your pool? The price of a Baja shelf can range greatly based on the size of the elevated shelf and any special design features added.

A Baja shelf of a typical size will cost somewhere between $1,000 – $1,500.

For example, at California Pools & Landscape our standard baja shelf is somewhere between 40sqft – 100sqft which would roughly amount to $800 – $1,400. Of course as you add to the size of the shelf or add things like water features or specialty tiles, the price will increase.

What Design Options Are Available For A Baja Shelf?

When it comes to the design of your baja shelf, there are a multitude of options for you to consider. The shape, size and depth are all important decisions to make.

This means the choices are endless when designing a Baja shelf, because the configuration can be completely customized to fit geometric or freeform pools. Your baja shelf should mirror the design characteristics of your pool with either straight lines & sharp angles or a free flowing feel with round curves.

First Step Baja or Second Step Baja?

Do you want your baja shelf to be the first step into your pool? This initial entry to your pool is a popular option. Another trending design option is having a normal entry step and then having your baja shelf below that. You likely haven’t thought about this decision before, but there is a different appearance between these two options.

First Step Baja Shelf

A first step baja shelf is an extended entry step into your pool. This design choice provides an immediate large landing zone for entry and exit out of your oasis. Typically these are created with a shallower depth than a second step baja shelf.

Second Step Baja Shelf

A second step baja shelf typically will sit deeper than a first step baja shelf. These are also customizable to be the size and shape of your choice. A first step will be connected to the baja shelf and can be small or large and located at a preferred entry point into your pool.

There are several cosmetic options that can enhance your baja shelf. You could potentially add water features, umbrella sleeves or specialty tiles to add a personal touch to your pool.

Baja Shelf With Umbrella Sleeves

Adding umbrella sleeves into the design of your baja shelf will enable you to easily add an umbrella into your environment. This can be a great addition whether the kids are playing on the baja shelf or if you’re looking to escape the sun and relax.

Depending on the size of your baja shelf, you might be able to include multiple sleeves in your design. This would allow you to create an option for extra relief in places that get a ton of sunlight year round, like Arizona, while relaxing in the water.

Baja Shelf With Water Features

Water features are another popular design feature to add with your baja shelf. These can be added for design symmetry and for additional ambiance in the yard.

Parascoping fountains are popular additions to a baja shelf as they will shoot water up above the pool’s water line, creating a relaxing look and sound in your backyard environment.

Baja Shelf With Specialty Tiles

If you’d like to enhance the design of your baja shelf with some specialty tile, there are several that you could add. We’ve seen rows of tile added near the step edge, mosaic designs and custom creations over the years.

Tile options provide you a chance to add some flair or personality into your project. A baja shelf is prime real estate for a specialty tile because it sits so close to the surface. Oftentimes these tiles will be an upgrade and add to the cost of your project.

Baja Shelf With A Pool Table

You can also enhance the design of your Baja shelf with a raised table to sit around in your baja shelf. This will instantly create a popular watering hole to congregate around in the shallow water.

It is also possible to insert planters, creating an island effect in the middle of a baja shelf. This can add a dramatic design pop, adding a tropical feel and offering a ledge for sitting on resting drinks on.

Is A Baja Shelf Worth The Investment?

Now that you know more about a baja shelf, can you envision one in your pool? This can be a tough decision to make, but ultimately we’d encourage you to strongly consider the functionality that you’re seeking from your pool.

If lounging in shallow water while catching some Arizona sun is how you can picture enjoying your pool, a Baja shelf is a great investment. If having a shallow area for children to enjoy is high on the list, a Baja shelf is worth including in your pool budget.

Is A Baja Shelf For Me?

A Baja shelf will be a good fit for you if:

  • You enjoy relaxing in shallow water
  • You want a shallow section for children to play
  • You want a variation of depths in your pool

A Baja shelf might not be the right fit for you if:

  • You are looking for a lap pool
  • You enjoy swimming in deep water

If a baja shelf isn’t high on your wish list, there are other ways of forming shotcrete to create benches, entry steps, various depth areas, stools and tables, and more. This stunning Peoria backyard features several other design inspirations.

After reading this article you now have a better idea of what a baja shelf is and if it is right for you in your pool. Creating a custom backyard living area is a fun, yet detailed process. Figuring out what design features are right for you and how you’d best enjoy your backyard is important.

Ultimately establishing a budget for your pool and backyard project is something that you need to do before meeting with a contractor or pool company. Adding a feature like a Baja shelf can increase the cost of your project, but also increase the enjoyment of your own personal oasis.

Meet with one of our designers to discuss your pool with a Baja shelf.

*Please note that this article reflects 2022 pricing.

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    Considering how to finance your backyard vision? Mortgage financing is a popular and economical way to pay for your pool. Read on and let us guide you through this cost-effective...
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    The California Pools and Landscape Story
    How We Began California Pools & Landscape was founded on the principle of making pool building a better experience for people. We were motivated by a sincere desire to create different...
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    What Our Customers Are Saying
    At California Pools & Landscape, we take immense pride in our approach to customer service. Service is at the very heart of our business and we go to great lengths...
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    California Pools and Landscape
    California Pools & Landscape is your ultimate dream backyard builder! With our 34 year legacy of craftsmanship, quality, and customer service, we have the experience to bring your backyard vision...
  • Artificial Turf is the New Pool Deck
    Artificial Turf is the New Deck
    For a fresh take on designing your new swimming pool and patio area, consider an artificial turf lawn for the deck instead of traditional materials like pavers or concrete. A...
  • Swim Up Swimming Pool Bar
    Swim Up Bars and Sunken Structures
    If your family is craving a reprieve from the relentless Arizona sun, consider a shade structure over a swim-up bar. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that was...
  • Sea Glass Pebble Interiors
    Sea Glass Pebble Interiors
    From sparkle and durability to colors and value, this interior pool surface is a dream come true Looking for a smooth, durable and sparkly interior surface for your pool and spa?...
  • Pool Light Shows and Themes
    Pool Light Shows and Themes
    Pool lighting can transform your outdoor environment and enhance your family’s pool experience. Customized lighting options allow pool owners to change the mood and highlight water features and architectural elements....
  • Five Backyard Design Ideas For Fun Under The Sun
    Five Backyard Design Ideas for Fun Under the Sun
    Your backyard should be an enjoyable retreat your entire household can appreciate. However, homeowners with children often choose to redesign the backyard to accommodate the needs of their little ones...
  • Pool Water Features
    Everything Water Features
    It’s one thing to install a functional swimming pool to help get you through the long, hot summer. It’s another thing entirely to build a true backyard oasis — one...
  • Fire Pits and Fire Places
    Fire Pits and Places
    Let’s face it; fire is something we humans have been gathering around for ages. It’s warmth, and bright snaps of flame and loud crackles is what makes it easy for...
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    Planning the Perfect Outdoor Living Environment
    When the homeowners of this Chandler property contacted California Pools & Landscape, they had a pure grass backyard and a plethora of inspirational pictures to help articulate their vision. Their...
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    Financing your Backyard Dream is Easy
    At California Pools, we know that a pool is an investment — in your home and in your family’s lifestyle. That’s why we offer pool funding options to help make...
  • Benefits of Having One Contractor Design & Build the Entire Yard
    Pros to Using One Contractor for Design and Build
    To make your house into a home that you and your family can truly enjoy, you need to make it a comfortable and safe place to be. Although interior decorating...
  • The California Pools and Landscape Experience
    California Pools & Landscape seeks to improve the lives of our clients by building premier outdoor living areas. We believe that the experiences our clients enjoy with family and friends...
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    Creating the Good Life
    What’s your idea of the perfect backyard haven? Is it the greatest barbecue and pool party setting ever? Is it a tranquil garden designed for relaxation and the enjoyment of...
  • Happy Couple After Pool Financing
    5 Best Sources for Swimming Pool Financing
    If you’re like most homeowners who are interested in installing an in-ground swimming pool, paying cash would be a difficult (if not impossible) proposition. It is quite common for pool owners to finance the cost of building a swimming pool,...
  • 4 Secrets to Your New Pool
    4 Secrets Most Pool Companies Won't Tell You
    Whether you have just begun thinking about a pool installation or you are nearly ready to sign on the dotted line, make sure you check out the following secrets about...
  • Get Your New Pool
    Using Your New Pool: What to Ask Your Pool Company
    Whether you’re just seeking information about building a swimming pool or you’re nearly complete with your pool project, there is a critical last step to take before you dive in:...
  • Amazing custom pool deck
    5 Deck Options Your Pool Company Should Offer
    If you’re in the process of looking for a pool company to build your in-ground swimming pool, no doubt you’ve carefully researched and thought about different construction options for your...
  • 10 Questions About Your New Pool
    10 Questions Your Pool Builder Should Ask About Your Lifestyle
    People have different reasons for wanting a pool, and your reason is crucial to ensuring you choose the right options. A savvy pool builder will ask the right questions about...
  • Inground Pool Material
    What Type of Inground Swimming Pool Is Best for the Arizona Heat?
    Arizona’s dry heat is one of the many reasons that people enjoy living in this southwestern paradise. However, you need to consider the weather when choosing your landscaping and swimming pool...
  • Pool Building 101 Learn The Lingo
    Pool Builder 101: Learn the Lingo
    If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re conducting research about installing an in-ground swimming pool. Below is a handy list of basic pool construction terms you are likely to...
  • 5 Ultimate Backyard Ideas
    5 Backyard Design Ideas for Families
    Your backyard should be an enjoyable retreat your entire household can appreciate. However, homeowners with children often choose to redesign the backyard to accommodate the needs of their little ones instead...
  • Your Pool Company Guide
    Your Guide to Hiring a Reputable Pool Company
    Selecting the right pool company to design and build the swimming pool you’ve always wanted is a big decision and probably the most pivotal one you’ll make in the whole...
  • Hidden Costs of a New Pool Build
    Hidden Costs Your Pool Builder Should Include in Their Quote
    Before moving forward on that beautiful swimming pool you’ve fantasized about installing for ages, it’s imperative to meet with and obtain quotes from several pool builders. Otherwise, you may not be...
  • Hire a Professional Pool Builder
    6 Things You Must Decide Before Hiring a Pool Company
    While you may impulsively purchase a new bathing suit or a pair of sunglasses, you likely aren’t going to build a new swimming pool on a whim. It’s a major...
  • How Long Do Pool Companies Finance For
    How Long Do Pool Companies Finance For?
    A backyard swimming pool can transform any house into an enjoyable home if chosen correctly. A backyard swimming pool can transform any house into an enjoyable home if chosen correctly. However,...
  • 5 Things to Ask Your Pool Builder About Excavation
    5 Things to Ask Your Pool Builder About Excavation
    When it comes to installing a swimming pool, one of the most important stages happens before construction even begins: excavation. What many people sometimes don’t initially think about is that construction...
  • Desert landscape and custom pool build
    Go Green: Ask Your Pool Company About These Energy Saving Options
    Nobody wants to think about splashing around in a green pool — ew, algae! But that’s not the kind of green we’re talking about here. Instead, green means eco-friendly and...
  • 8 Fun Features Pool Builders Offer
    8 Fun Water Features Pool Builders Offer
    It’s one thing to install a functional swimming pool to help get you through the long, hot summer. It’s another thing entirely to build a true backyard oasis — one...
  • benefits of having your pool custom designed
    Backyard Designs: Fire Pit vs Fireplace
    Let’s face it; fire is something we humans have been gathering around for ages. It’s warmth, and bright snaps of flame and loud crackles is what makes it easy for...
  • Commercial Luxury Swimming Pool
    International Torch Award Winner: BBB Interviews Jeremy Smith, California Pools
    Jeremy Smith, President of California Pools, talks about what makes his company worthy of a Better Business Bureau International Torch Award. California Pools & Landscape – Through The Eyes Of The Judges California...
  • Mike and Jeremy High Fiving After Receiving Award
    Phoenix Pool Contractor is a 2014 BBB Business Ethics Award Winner
    The Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern and Western Arizona announced the winners for the 2014 BBB Business Ethics Awards Wednesday night at its 13th annual dinner celebration.  California Pools...
  • AZ Pool Builder Is a 2014 BBB Business Ethics Awards Finalist
    AZ Pool Builder Is a 2014 BBB Business Ethics Awards Finalist
    2014 BBB Business Ethics Awards Better Business Bureau (BBB) announces that California Pools & Landscape is one of only 15 Arizona companies selected as a finalist for the 2014 BBB Business...
  • Amazing Pool & Landscape
    Swimming Pool Builder Gets Best Of Houzz 2014 Award
    Annual Survey and Analysis of 16 Million Monthly Users Reveals Top-Rated Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals Chandler, AZ, February 4, 2014 – California Pools & Landscape, swimming pool builder of Chandler, AZ...
  • Inground Pool Material
    AZ Pool Builder Donates Pool To Conservation Center
    By David Brown.  Mike Smith, founder of California Pools, will be out at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale April 17 to build a pool for its resident bears. The...
  • Queen Creek, Here We Come!
    California Pools & Landscape Opens Largest Pool Design Center in Arizona
    We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our new state-of-the-art Arizona pool design center located at 4320 W Chandler Blvd Suite 1 in Chandler 85226 conveniently located close...
  • zero edge swimming pool next to lake
    Review of California Pools
    We had a pool built about 2 years ago. The entire process was very smooth from the start. The salesman listened to what we wanted and listened to our budget....
  • How Much Does a Pool Cost?
    California Pools Not Affected in Drain Recall
    The MDX and SDX safety drains that California Pools installs on all new pools ARE NOT involved with the recent recall. In case you have a pool built by another pool...
  • California Pools & Landscape featured in House 2 Home Magazine
    California Pools & Landscape featured in House 2 Home Magazine
    California Pools Helps Create Cherished Memories By Tinka Davi, Contributing Writer At the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions is “spend more time with family and friends.” I know that’s...
  • arizona dream pool and backyard
    Arizona Dream
    Family Fun Poolside Do you have that “Arizona dream” that includes enjoying sunsets and starlight from your own back yard paradise?  Can you picture yourself barbecuing in a complete outdoor kitchen...
  • House 2 Home Magazine features California Pools
    California Pools is being featured in the October edition of House 2 Home magazine. I thought our loyal readers would like a sneek peak! Is Your Pool Builder Learning with Your...