Make a big splash! What you need to know about pool construction

Exscape Designs
July 30, 2019
last modified: July 30, 2019

Whether you go big with a 20- by 50-foot resort-style pool or small with a swim spa, building an in-ground backyard pool is a major project. It’s best to know your options before dipping your toe in to the pool design and construction process.

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First and foremost is budget, according to Jason Lex and Allen Guenthner, landscape designers and project directors for Exscape Designs, a full-service landscape design/build firm in Novelty, Ohio. Pools are a big investment upfront and they increase utility and maintenance expenses during the summer when you’re using them, they say.

One mistake Lex sees homeowners make is dialing back their original vision to reach a lower price point—and regretting the decision.

“We want you to be happy with the end product, and if it’s necessary to phase in certain things we can do that,” he says. “It’s more pertinent to ultimately get what you want then to end up not being satisfied.”

For example, a multiphase pool project could mean your contractor installs the pool and surrounding patio the first summer, and then adds other outdoor elements like a pavilion, outdoor kitchen and landscape plantings the second summer.


The next consideration is use. Think about how you and your family will spend your time at the pool and surrounding outdoor living space, Exscape’s designers say.

“Envision what you want that space to be like and try to communicate it as best as you can, so we can hit the ground running as we develop the concepts and final plan,” Guenthner says.

Do you plan to have large parties with poolside entertaining? Do you have teens who are looking forward to hosting water volleyball matches? Or do you seek a sun shelf for lounging? Discuss these scenarios with your designer early in the process.

Size and orientation

Going hand in hand with how you’ll use the pool is the pool size and how it will be oriented on your property. This is where it pays to have professional landscape designers on your team. They can bring a level of knowledge and detail that a standalone pool construction firm may not be able to match.

“It’s about making sure your pool and surrounding deck are situated properly, so if your goal is to get a tan, you’re not sitting in the shade,” Lex says.

Your landscape designer also will consider your yard’s grade to identify if there will be additional retainage needs and costs early in the project.

Outside of physical constraints like your property size, grade and shade issues, personal preference and budget will help determine pool size.

“The typical backyard pool size is usually somewhere in the 18- by 36-foot or 20- by 40-foot range, but that’s not to say you couldn’t go much larger or smaller,” Lex says.

Customizations and trends

When it comes to customizations, the options are endless, Lex says. Optional features include:

· Built-in platforms or seating

· Finish (colors, tile)

· Heating

· Covers (automatic vs. manual)

· Bubblers or water features

· Shapes

· Depths

· Lighting and more

Features that evoke a resort-style look and feel are popular today, Exscape’s designers say. These include the addition of seat walls, platforms and sun shelves where you can relax with your chair in the water.

Lighting features—which can be controlled by a smartphone app—are in demand, as well. They add ambiance while extending the amount of time you can spend enjoying your pool into the nighttime hours.

While depths and shapes are driven by homeowner preference, Lex and Guenthner say rectilinear pools are more common today than curvilinear designs because they’re often a better use of space. Additionally, fewer homeowners are putting in true deep ends, Lex says.

“We’re doing more game-style pools where the deep end is in the middle at 5.5 feet and it’s 3 or 3.5 feet deep on each side,” he says. “That way you can do a volleyball net or basketball hoop in the middle.”

Another trend is toward automatic covers rather than manual covers. “They are really big right now in terms of safety, cleanliness and reduced utility costs because they help control the water temperature,” Guenthner says, noting some municipal regulations allow you to forgo a fence if you have an automatic cover.


When homeowners decide they’d like to install a pool, they often envision themselves swimming right away, although that’s not realistic. You should expect it to take a minimum of six to eight weeks from initial consultation to project start date, Lex says. There are many other factors that determine the construction timeline, such as weather, pool size and options.

Lex advises, “If you want to swim in 2020, start planning as soon as possible—or by the fall of 2019 at the latest.”


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