Do you ever imagine yourself lounging by a shimmering swimming pool in your own backyard? If you have limited outdoor space, it may seem like an unrealistic dream. But pool ownership is not necessarily out of reach!
In fact, with the host of small pool options available today, you and your family could find yourselves taking a well-deserved dip before you know it. By matching what you want with what your yard can accommodate, you’ll be able to identify and install the perfect compact pool for your needs.
Pick Your Pool
The right pool for you should be based not only on the amount of space you have available, but also on the functions you want it to serve. “Small pools are used for a variety of reasons,” explains Evan Horning of Neptune Pools. “The most common reasons are relaxation and general leisure, followed by exercise and therapy.”
There are three types of small pools you should familiarize yourself with as you begin your search for the ideal option. Note: While a standard residential family pool can range in size from 15 feet by 30 feet to 20 feet by 40 feet, these smaller pools take up much less space and often are installed for very specific purposes.
Specifically designed for swimming laps, this type of pool typically is long and narrow with one lane. According to Horning, lap pools usually measure between eight and 10 feet wide and 40 feet long. Features like swim jets for resistance swimming can up the fitness quotient in a lap pool, and heating elements will make it operational year-round. Yet, while a lap pool can be beautiful, the usual bells and whistles (like steps and ladders) frequently are omitted to facilitate swimming laps.
Spa or Hot Tub
The terms “spa” and “hot tub” often are interchangeable when referring to outdoor water features. The real difference has to do with the placement of the tub itself; hot tubs (as well as portable spas) sit above ground, while permanent spas are built into the ground and customarily connected to a standard swimming pool. Additionally, hot tubs or portable spas are made of wood or acrylic, while permanent spas are constructed out of concrete. The size of the spa will be determined by how many people you want to sit in it, while the main function remains pretty straightforward. In a hot tub or spa, the key is relaxation.
Also referred to as a cocktail pool, the term “spool” (a combination of the words “spa” and “pool”) is “used to describe something that is smaller than a typical pool but larger than a typical spa,” Horning says. It has features commonly found in both pools and spas, such as heating elements, therapy jets, lounging or tanning benches and more. The primary purpose of a spool is for general recreation—mainly jumping in and cooling off quickly on a hot summer day. “These pools are designed more for Olympic loungers and not Olympic swimmers,” Horning adds.
A spool usually measures about 12 feet by 14 feet and is ideal for small backyards and homes within city areas. “The idea of a small pool is definitely becoming a popular request, especially now that more people are downsizing and may not have the large-scale yards they once had,” notes Hannah Seaton with Ed Castro Landscape.
Although you’re dealing with a smaller footprint, a small pool option is still a significant investment. For instance, hot tubs and portable spas cost between $2,000 and $12,000; an in-ground spa will range from $15,000 to $20,000.
And when it comes to lap pools and spools, the price can be comparable to that of a large family pool. According to Horning, smaller pools can easily cost upwards of $40,000 or more. “Homeowners need to understand what they are getting and be comfortable with having a small pool,” he says. “Sometimes the available space dictates a smaller pool, but if space is available, it is cheaper to build a larger pool to start with than to increase the size of the pool after it has been built.”
However, if a small pool is your still best option, Seaton notes that a safe estimate would be about $35,000. (This figure should include all surrounding features.) She observes, “We usually recommend that you double the cost of the pool itself to account for pool decking, landscaping and such.”
She also reveals that many pool companies have a set minimum price for constructing a small pool. “For example, if you want a 10-foot by 10-foot pool, you are going to pay the same as you would for something closer to a 12-foot by 30-foot pool,” she explains. Therefore, it’s important to understand the pricing models used by the pool installation companies you consider hiring for your project.
Fortunately, when it comes to costs, a smaller pool does yield less overall water usage, including during the initial stage of filling it. Your water bill most likely won’t take as big of a hit as with a standard pool, but costs will exist and should be accounted for when a pool—of any size—is installed.
A smaller pool means less maintenance, right? Yes and no. “The type and frequency of maintenance is the same, but the amount of time should be reduced due to the size,” Horning says. And if the pool is heated or experiences heavy usage, it may even require more frequent attention. As Seaton explains, a pool must be kept clean and chemically balanced regardless of its size. The same is true for a hot tub or spa, which, in addition to chemicals and sanitizers, also has filters that need to be cleaned (or replaced when necessary) and a cover that is exposed to the elements, calling for additional care.
These days, surrounds are just as vital to the aesthetic of a pool installation as the pool structure itself. Hardscapes include everything from natural stone accents and pavers to well-crafted lighting designs and outdoor living spaces (with fireplaces, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, barbecues and more). And the right landscaping can turn an installed pool into the centerpiece of a spectacular garden. This applies to small pools as well as standard family pools. You just need to keep size in mind. As Horning states, hardscape and landscape plans “need to be designed and scaled to the space.”
Seaton concurs, adding that with small pools, it’s common for people to want to keep the overall design simple yet appealing. “The most important thing to keep in mind is to work with a landscape designer or architect so that you can really design something that will be functional and timeless,” she says.
Timing Is Everything
With the ability to build throughout the year in metro Atlanta, you can begin a small pool project at any time. However, with such wet local winters, spring or fall are usually ideal for such an undertaking. In any case, Horning notes that, depending on the complexity of the project, an installation can take between six and 12 weeks. And soon enough, you’ll be ready for your very own backyard pool party. As Horning concludes, “Just because you don’t have the space or desire for a larger pool doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the benefits and features of owning a pool.”