Inground Pool Sizes: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you even decide to install a swimming pool, you’re likely to focus on one key factor – size. After all, how can you even begin to envision how a new pool will look in your backyard without considering how much space it will take up?

The truth is that a pool can be just about any size you choose. That said, certain inground pool sizes tend to predominate. If you’re not sure how big of a pool you need, looking at what’s popular is a good place to start.

Most rectangular pools are about twice as long on one side as they are on the other, with an average depth of around 5.5 feet. Typical swimming pool dimensions are 10 x 20, 15 x 30, and 20 x 40.

Picture of a prototypical inground swimming pool
When you think of a backyard pool, you think of a rectangular pool that’s about twice as long as it is wide.

Now, set that information aside because the actual size and shape of your pool should be based on how you plan to use the pool and what resources you have to work with. Here are three key questions to ask yourself when deciding on pool size.

1. What’s the point?

Think about how you plan to use your new swimming pool. If you’re just planning to lay around the pool and maybe take a dip once in awhile to cool off, then you obviously don’t need a large pool. On the other hand, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the water, it makes more sense to have extra space to move around.

If you swim for exercise, there are two routes to take. One is to get a more elongated shape, or even a lap pool. The other is to get a smaller pool or perhaps a swim spa, with water jets installed that allow you to swim in place. Either way, you will want the pool to be deep enough that you don’t scrape your hands on the bottom.

Want a diving board? If so, you will not only require a deeper pool, but also a wider one so that people can’t accidentally dive into a wall. In fact, due to the hazards diving boards pose, the minimum size for a pool with a diving board may be dictated by local law or your homeowners insurance policy.

Small swimming pool with a statue fountain on the pool deck
If the main purpose of the pool is to serve as a backdrop or focal point for your yard, a smaller design may be all you need.

The bottom line is to build a pool large enough for the activities you want to do, without wasting space or money on a pool that’s too large. For families of three or more, a larger pool is often necessary to allow for the range of activities preferred by people of different ages. That brings us to the next point.

2. Who will be using the pool?

If only adults will be using the pool, you may want to go with a greater average depth to maximize the amount of swimming area. For kids, you might want a shallow wading area where they can splash around.

Also consider the mobility of the people using the pool, and whether they will be able to climb in and out via a ladder. If accessibility is an issue, plan on a shallow end with steps or possibly a beach entry. Keep in mind that if there’s a slope where the pool gradually transitions from one depth to another, that generally calls for a longer pool.

Besides who will be using the pool, think about how many. If you have a large family, you will obviously want a larger pool where everyone can spread out and do their own thing. Don’t forget that in addition to your family, you may have visitors dropping by to use the pool – in fact, you may find that a new pool attracts friends you never knew you had!

Of course, there’s one major twist to all this, which is that things can change over time. New family members may arrive on the scene, while others become less interested in using the pool. As much as you can, try to plan for the long-term, because your pool will potentially be around for decades.

Family of four posing in the shallow water of an enclosed inground swimming pool
Families tend to grow over time – make sure your pool is big enough to handle the extra load.

3. What are the limitations?

There’s the pool of your dreams, and then there’s the pool of your reality. While you might like to put an Olympic sized pool in your backyard, that’s not realistic for most people. Here are some of the major limitations that might hold you back:

Cost. Size is one of the biggest factors in inground pool cost – if not the biggest. Your budget may limit how large your pool can be, or force you to make a tradeoff between the size and the quality of the materials you use.

Space. Your pool has to fit in your backyard, preferably with enough room left over for other activities you and your family enjoy. Remember, too, that you’ll need extra space around the pool for a deck. That’s especially true if you envision yourself spending more time relaxing and entertaining by the pool, rather than swimming in it.

View of a small inground swimming pool, illustrating point about inground pool size
A smaller pool leaves room in the yard, and more room for extra features such as an attached spa.

Time. Larger pools require more time to maintain. If you’re planning to hire a pool service either way, this may not mean a whole lot. However, if you’re committed to doing things like cleaning and chemical balancing yourself, the size of the pool could be a big deal.

Prefab Limitations. If you’re using a pool kit or installing a fiberglass pool, you will be limited to the sizes and shapes offered by manufacturers. In addition, there’s a maximum size for fiberglass pool shells because they have to be shipped intact over public highways.

One Last Point on Inground Pool Sizes

While the advantages of getting a larger pool are readily apparent, the case for smaller pools might not be so obvious. In addition to being cheaper, they’re also easier to maintain and cost less to heat. Also, even if you have ample space in your backyard for a larger pool, a smaller one leaves more room for other activities.

That might not seem important at first, when your new pool dominates your free time. However, once the honeymoon period is over, you may turn more toward other pastimes. That’s when you will appreciate the flexibility a smaller pool offers.

4 thoughts on “Inground Pool Sizes: Three Questions to Ask Yourself”

  1. Coping, cleaning systems, filtering systems, artistic finishing touches. The list of variations goes on and on. Getting up to speed will allow you to speak your pool builder’s language and be more confident in the decision-making process.

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