Inground Swimming Pool Value and Set up Ideas
Summer days are simply better with a swimming pool in your very own backyard. But before you toe-dip, swan dive, or cannonball into the deep end, you’ll need to do a little planning. To prep you and your backyard for the best pool imaginable, we tapped three experts to share all the nitty-gritty details from step 1 (choosing a liner!) to opening day (pool floats).
“Whether your pool is 10′ x 10′ or 25′ x 100′, the ingredients to building a pool are really the same,” says interior design Jenn Feldman. Some of the things they say you do need to consider before going all in are size, depth, position and location in your yard, and how much sun exposure it gets—not to mention whether or not a pool is a good investment for your property, and if “you can fit a Bobcat back in the yard for things like digging, pouring, and tiling.”
Process: What Goes Into Getting a Pool
Ahead, discover all the non-negotiable steps you’ll need to take to install a pool. From start to finish, the process can take up to six months—so plan accordingly.
Roger Davies / OTTO
1) Assemble a team. You can’t install a pool on your own, so a team who can help you get the job done well is essential. Marmol Radziner, founder of the eponymous Los Angeles-based design-build firm, says, “You can either hire a pool contractor that can do the design and construction, or you can hire an architect that can help design and permit the pool and then hire a pool contractor to build the pool.”
2) Ask yourself what you’ll use the pool for. Is it for laps and exercise? Entertaining the kids and family? Increasing resale value? Just aesthetics? All of these things will dictate your pool design, so consider them before you first meet with your team.
3) Make sure you look over regional codes and restrictions. For example, in California, “You have to have your pool minimum 5 feet from your property lines,” says Feldman, while in other states (or even specific counties) the distance is further. So there are a lot of things to really check before you set the pool’s location; and this is especially true for historic or flipped homes. It’ll all effect the final design: “A handful of inches or a foot makes a big difference.”
Browse our favorite designer pool designs and backyard landscaping—and have your pinning finger at the ready to save the ones you love.
4) Use your space wisely. Don’t let a smaller or oddly-shaped yard stop you. Feldman tells HB there are plenty of ways to use space strategically—one of which is to tweak your landscape design. “Certain trees or plants, like bamboo, can be so deeply rooted that they can make it more difficult to build a pool. So if you opt for something that grows more linear, like ficus trees, you’ll be able to build a larger pool while still creating that vertical allure with greenery,” she explains. Moral of the story? Tightening up your greenery can be worth it to make a pool fit.
4) Start planning several months in advance of opening day. Right now, as a result of COVID-19, construction has been paused in many states—but it’s a great time to get a head start on the planning process because that phase can take a good month or two. “I’ve never seen [a pool] come together in anything under a four-to-six-month timeline, but that also encompasses some other hardscape elements to a renovation, whether it’s footed paths to a garden area or an entertaining area,” says Feldman. But it might not take that long—as Gentzler says, “There is a huge range depending on the approvals, complexity, and amount of prefabrication, but I would estimate about a month to three months.” It’ll all depend on the scope of the project. Bottom line: Plan early just in case!
The Best Time to Install a Pool
- Spring is a great time to break ground on a pool if you want it to be ready for summer, though of you live somewhere rainy, flooding may be an obstacle.
- Fall is another great season for the actual installation process, as the weather is steadier.
- “The only constraint on timing is that, in the north, you don’t want to dig in the winter. The ground is frozen and it makes it very challenging,” architect RD Gentzler tells HB.
Feldman also recommends a long-term approach if you aren’t ready to dive into construction: “Look at a yard opportunity holistically, even if you phase it out. Get it done in a packaged way wherever it’s possible—nobody needs a bobcat or concrete truck coming more than once.”
Design: Choosing the Pool That’s Right for You
Before you begin scheming your personal pool design, get an idea of what pool types are even possible. Maybe you want an infinity edge, for framing the horizon, or a cocktail pool that’s only waist-deep for happy hours. Also note that depth, shape, and landscaping aren’t just for fun—they also all play a pivotal role in the overall safety of your pool. There are three main approaches to consider when building a family-friendly pool and backyard.
Think again about how you’ll use this pool—and how much space to dedicate to certain functions like shallow play space, or a hot tub in the pool. If you’re having a hard time choosing between or balancing the two, “Ask yourself: What matters in 5 minutes? 5 days? and 5 years? Kids’ needs will keep changing, so a jacuzzi has a much longer of a lifespan as they won’t be splashing around for their entire lives,” Feldman advises.
- Slip Factor Even if you have a strict no-running policy, it’s still well-advised to consider non-slip materials around the parameter of the pool to minimize potential for accidents. There are some great non-slip pre-cast concrete pavers, but a good exterior wood, like ipe wood with the right sealant, is a bit easier on the eyes if you love wood decking.
- Fencing There are plenty of ways to fence in your pool to keep pets and toddlers away from the area when there are no adults around to supervise. From hedging (combined with deer fencing, if they’re common in your area) to a more formal iron gate, a good fence also enhances privacy, to boot.
- Pool Covers “Sticking to the rectangular default shape allows you to have a multitude of options in pool covers, especially the motorized ones (which is a nonstarter for homes with young children because it eliminates the fencing needs for safety),” Feldman explains.
On average, you can plan to spend at least $35,000 to install an in-ground pool, according to HomeAdvisor.com—and that doesn’t include the maintenance that follows. “You should be putting in a poo lfor yourself, not because it’s going to make the house more attractive to buyers,” say sNew York area Realtor Robert Khederian.“To take out a pool is a lot of money, too.”
Having direct access to a backyard oasis is an investment in your lifestyle (and your health, if you’re into swimming laps). So if you’re going to do it, do it right, says designer Jay Jeffers: “Taking the lowest bid from a pool installer is asking for disaster—you’ll probably remodel parts of your home before you ever change the pool!”
Pop quiz: What makes putting in a pool so expensive? There’s a ton of labor that goes into it. “You shouldn’t even consider a pool or have that conversations without a serious 30 to 40 thousand dollars. You have to really think about your needs and what the long term. Percentage of investment can really support that.”
Due to the fact that the cost of liner materials varies greatly, and most are sold per square foot, the larger the pool, the more expensive it’ll be, as well. Note: Depending on the material, a pool can take a while to cure and set (about ten days if you use gunite and up to 28 days for concrete).
Cost: $ (starting at $20,000!)
The look: A little plasticky, though a dark color can help make it look more luxe.
How it’s installed: A frame is constructed and paneled, then the liner is attached.
Life span: Five to 10 years, and then a new liner has to be installed.
Best for: Leisure enthusiasts; the vinyl liner can puncture, so it’s not ideal for families or rowdy groups.
The look: Limited to manufacturer-set shapes.
How it’s installed: Choose shape, size, and features, then watch it get craned into your backyard.
Life span: Can last up to 25 years with minimal staining and algae growth. The nonporous surface means less cleaning!
Best for: Families and anyone who hates upkeep.
The look: Matte and modern. Unlimited design potential.
How it’s installed: Shotcrete, whether wet or gunite, is pumped into a rebar-framed hole, smoothed, and plastered.
Life span: Needs to be resurfaced approximately every 10 years.
Best for: Design-minded homeowners who can handle some maintenance (regular chemical balancing, fixing cracks).
It’s not just about pricing. You should also choose a material for your pool based on your regional climate. For example: “You’ll need to use a Pebble-Tec finish in super hot places, like the desert, as a classic plaster finish won’t keep up well in the long-term,” says Feldman. Rely on a trusted pool vendor to make sure your chosen finish is amenable to your climate; beauty is one thing, but it pristine over time is also a factor.”
Pool Trends We Love
Like slides! There’s more to life than diving boards.
Design by Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects.
Shallow pools (four feet deep, all the way across) for cooling off, relaxing, and entertaining are in, says designer Jay Jeffers.
Increasingly popular with families, Baja shelves—i.e., a top step big enough to fit a couple of lounge chairs (left)—are essentially kiddie pools when the loungers are removed.
“Size was not at its premium but the functionality was amazing. We put in a swim jet so the husband, for his exercising is able to blast out and keeps you stationary so you can do laps like you’re in a lap pool but don’t actually need 50 feet. So its an upgrade but a very valuable space-saver to give you everything in a pool where size doesn’t have to matter. Exercise therapy, etc.”
Diving boards are taking a back seat to an arguably more thrilling kid-friendly feature: slides. Adults are also welcome to take a ride, of course.
Most of Radziner’s clients these days want motorized pool covers, which close at the touch of a button and are invisible when not in use. And as Feldman explained, these can also enhance safety conditions.
Robert Khederian, an agent with Stribling & Associates, has seen an uptick in mineral-water pools, which reduce muck and the need for chlorine.
Johnston Vidal says to ask your pool plumber about these but that most pools need them.
A Few Finishing Touches
And if you already have a pool of you’re ready to start planning out the patio in anticipation, shop our favorite pool accessories and outdoor furniture below.
Wacker Market Umbrella
Alvah Reclining Chaise Lounge
Sol 72 Outdoor
Tie Dye Circular Tube Float
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