Are you dreaming of the convenience and fun a swimming pool could bring to your backyard? The cooler months are the perfect time to begin planning a swimming pool project, so that you can have your new outdoor living space ready for the summer season.
However, you also have a lot of decisions to make. Is your backyard suitable for the design you want? Must you modify it to suit your yard size and terrain? How can you ensure the safety of children and pets around your new installation? Will the pool be the focal point of your layout, or do you have a more extensive remodel planned?
Careful designing now can save you heartaches and cold, hard cash rectifying your mistakes. Here’s everything you need to consider before you begin your swimming pool project, as well as what the swimming pool planning process looks like.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we help people every day to better understand the costs, scope, and details for their prospective projects – below is an overview of what the swimming pool planning process should look like.
1. Start With the Complete Layout
Before breaking ground for your new swimming pool endeavor, there is a significant amount of planning and research that must be done first.
Performing a site survey is one of the first things to tackle when planning a new project. Take a look at your existing backyard. What is the topography of the land – do you have slopes and uneven grades? Is there an existing waterway on your property? Where is your property line? You don’t want neighbor disputes disrupting your project, and many jurisdictions specify how far your structure must be from the border.
Many people prefer the convenience of building a deck attached to their home, providing a clean walkway from their backdoor to their pool. That way, they aren’t dragging leaves, grass clippings, and debris back and forth on wet feet.
However, this isn’t your only option. You could also go with an elegant stone walkway, perhaps one that weaves from your backyard to your pool while branching off toward a she-shed or gazebo.
Ask yourself the following questions when surveying your property and designing your complete layout:
- Are there existing structures on the property? Do you already have a deck, shed, or both? Do you plan to keep these structures, renovate them, or get rid of them? Perhaps you don’t want to disturb an existing retaining wall that keeps water out of your basement. How will it integrate with your pool?
- What else do you plan to include? Do you also need space for a vegetable garden? A backyard accessory dwelling unit that doubles as an in-law suite? A dog run? How will all these diverse elements fit into your available space?
- What natural features must you work around? Hills, streams, and rock outcroppings all present barriers. Trees may require you to rent heavy equipment for removal or call in the pros
Related: Backyard Remodeling Tips
2. Decide: Above-Ground or In-Ground?
Your next consideration: Do you want an in-ground or above-ground swimming pool? Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Above-ground pools offer unparalleled affordability. You can find simple models at big box stores, often for under $1,000. However, a quality version with a surrounding deck will set you back between $8,000 and $10,000, which is still a bargain compared to $50,000 to $100,000 for an in-ground installation.
Another factor to consider is the ease of installation. In-ground pools require excavation, so your yard has to be large enough to allow for heavy construction equipment without disturbing your neighbors’ properties. You can install an above-ground pool in a day or two, although constructing the surrounding deck could take longer.
Neither option will likely provide a stellar ROI. An above-ground pool certainly won’t – it’s not considered a permanent fixture, so it’s unlikely to increase your property value. An in-ground pool generally doesn’t bump your appraised value beyond the installation cost, but still, the in-ground pool adds value to your home.
However, the recent pandemic saw a renewed interest in homes with quality outdoor living spaces, so you could net more when you sell. If many other homes in your neighborhood have swimming pools already, you may consider building one to stay competitive.
In terms of aesthetics, above-ground pools look like, well, pools. They come in standard round, square and oval designs. In-ground pools can be any shape you like – many homeowners prefer them to look like lakes or ponds. You can also go with a negative-edge model, especially if you have a property with a gorgeous natural view you want to maximize.
3. Safety Is Number One
Are you planning on installing an above-ground model the DIY way? If so, please ensure you call 811 before you dig. While you won’t have to excavate, you may need to level existing land and dig post holes to sink decking. You don’t want to hit a gas line and create a hazard that causes you and possibly your neighbors to evacuate.
Furthermore, please ensure you know the fencing rules in your jurisdiction. Child drownings are the second most common cause of death among those under 5 and toddlers can slip out of sight in a heartbeat. You may also need to include signage on your property – call your local city offices to be sure.
Finally, contact your homeowner’s insurance company. You may need to extend your liability coverage, as the law considers your structure an “attractive nuisance.” You may also want to add to your policy to cover the replacement cost of your new swimming pool in case a natural disaster strikes.
4. Prepare for the Upkeep (and Cost) of a Swimming Pool
As a proud pool owner, your installation fees aren’t the only costs you’ll incur. You’ll also have to budget for the following:
- Increased utility costs: Your electric bill will go up, thanks to running the pump. You’ll see an initial bump in your water bill when you first fill your pool and possibly a slight increase if you add liquid to replace what gets lost through splashing, etc.
- Protective chemicals: You’ll spend a small fortune on pool chemicals. You’ll need chlorine or a saltwater system that you’ll have to maintain and balance to keep your water safe for swimming and deter algae growth.
- Professional cleaning: If you’ve ever experienced a Phoenix, AZ, monsoon complete with a dust storm, you’ll know there’s no way you’re getting your pool cleaned afterward by yourself unless you have a lot of time and tools. Plan for the occasional professional cleaning after severe storms, no matter where you live.
5. Get Creative With Design Features
Here’s the fun part: Getting creative with the details. Once the initial swimming pool and deck or patio portion is completed, you’re ready to go a little wild with the DIY.
For example, why not install an outdoor kitchen? The pitmaster in your family will adore a souped-up barbecue with plenty of cabinets for keeping their tools. Furthermore, such gatherings are a far safer way to socialize in the pandemic age.
Other ideas you might explore include the following:
- A meditation spot: If you don’t roof your entire deck, consider a small gazebo-style area where you can throw down a yoga mat and find inner stillness.
- A puppy play area: You might have put decking or patio stone over much of your yard, but what about Fido? A small space with natural grass provides a potty spot. You can even use artificial turf if you say yes to xeriscaping and no to the lawnmower.
- A playground for the kids: A few swings or a small climbing gym encourages your littles to get their exercise. Just ensure it’s outside the fenced pool area.
Of course, you can also go wild with gardens galore, leaving plenty of plots around your original layout. Plants like tomatoes and beans grow well in containers if you plan to plank or stone much of your property. Building a little food self-sufficiency is a wise idea in a time of supply chain issues.
Related: Backyard Remodel Costs
Planning Your Swimming Pool
A backyard swimming pool is a dream for many homeowners. It helps you get more exercise and enhances your outdoor living space with the soothing effects of water.
However, you must weigh the above factors first. Now that you know everything you need to consider before you begin planning your swimming pool, how will you make your backyard dream a reality?
GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.
Submit your project to be connected with several fully vetted, trustworthy contractors who are experienced with all sorts of home remodeling projects. For more info, visit www.GreatBuildz.com or call 818.317.3567 today.
Rose Morrison is a home & construction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She’s the managing editor of Renovated, a web magazine for the real estate industry. She’s most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.