Supersizing Your Pool Project With an Inground Spa

Hey, if you’re going to go to the expense of installing an inground swimming pool, you might as well go all the way. At least, that seems to be the logic of a lot of homeowners these days, who are increasingly opting for extra features that turn a basic swimming pool into a backyard resort. But of all the ways to supersize your new pool – water slide, tanning ledge, waterfall, and so on – an attached inground spa is probably the most popular.

Of course, just as adding on to that greasy fast food meal isn’t always the wisest choice, neither is expanding an already complicated pool project. As with every other decision you make regarding your pool, there are pros and cons. Most people get the appeal of being able to soak in your own luxurious spa just a few feet from your back door, while understanding that it’s going to add a lot to the price of a new pool. But there are other parts of the analysis that aren’t quite so obvious.

Why a Combined Pool and Spa Makes Sense

Pools and spas have always gone together. They’re installed by the same “pool and spa” companies, using the same sorts of methods and materials. The difference is really in the scope of the project, with inground spas simply being smaller versions of full-sized swimming pools.

Picture of pool with attached spa

Spas have been popular with the American public since the hot tub craze of the 1980s (while some people insist that the terms spa and hot tub mean slightly different things, we use them synonymously on this site). But while inground spas have always been an option, people have traditionally chosen above ground spas due to their lower cost.  An inground spa might be a fraction of the size of a pool, but it turns out that it’s not that much cheaper – in fact, a standalone inground spa can cost upwards of two-thirds the price of an inground pool. That’s because it requires a lot of the same supporting infrastructure, including its own built-in circulation system.

However, the math looks a lot better when you’re already installing an inground pool. The pool and spa can share the same water supply, filtration, and heating (provided the system can handle the extra load). You’re also likely to get a much better deal on labor, as the pool company will already be onsite to install the pool. In other words, it’s just like supersizing a meal – tacking on something extra for much less than you would pay if you bought it separately.

Other Advantages of an Attached Spa

Not only can a spa take advantage of the existing circulation system, but in most cases, it can blend quite seamlessly into your pool’s layout. In fact, spas often serve as the centerpieces of the beautiful poolscapes you see in books and on internet photo galleries. Here are a few ways spas can be incorporated:

In the Pool. Placing the spa within the pool conserves space and makes it that much easier to share resources. With the right setup, you can even use a single safety cover or solar blanket for both the pool and spa.

Naturalistic spa with waterfall

Part of the Landscaping. Spas are often surrounded by rocks and plantings that look great and provide a tranquil setting for relaxation. A popular option is to have a waterfall flow from a raised spa into the swimming pool below.

Separated. Installing the spa some distance from the pool has its merits, too. For one thing, you may prefer to keep it close to the house so you can easily slip in on a chilly evening. Many people also simply appreciate having different focal points in their yard – each with its own character.

To Spa or Not to Spa

It all sounds great, but the reality is that a lot of people don’t have the space or budget for an attached spa. As with every other decision, it comes down to whether the value is worth the cost. Only you can make that call.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to get it right the first time. Adding an inground spa after the pool has already been built isn’t easy or cheap, and you may find yourself with greatly reduced options. So give it some thought, get a spa quote included with your pool estimate, and decide whether an attached spa is an essential part of your inground pool installation.