Small Pools for Small Yards

Small, round inground swimming pool with two blue loungers sitting nearby on the stone pool deck

There are a lot of good reasons to choose a smaller swimming pool, but lack of space is the biggie. When you don’t have much of a yard to work with, it creates an absolute limit on the size of the pool you can install. But that doesn’t mean it has to limit the coolness of your pool. With a little creativity (and some cash), small pools for small yards can be as beautiful and functional as their larger counterparts.

Many homeowners with smaller backyards balk at the idea of getting a pool because they either think it will take up the entire yard, or that such a tiny pool will look funny. However, there are a lot of creative small pool designs that make the maximum use of limited space.

A talented pool designer can work wonders. But before you contact a professional, it’s always best to have your own ideas to bring to the table. Here are five options to consider.

1. Make one or more edges of the pool run right up to a fence or wall

The typical inground pool is accessible from all sides. That requires a pool deck that completely surrounds the pool and provides room enough for people to walk. It’s easy to underestimate how much space you need for the typical pool deck.

One of the best ways to save space in a smaller yard is to install the pool right up against the house, a fence, a decorative wall, or some other barrier. For most people, giving up an entry point on one or two sides of the pool is an easy sacrifice to make. In fact, it’s hardly a sacrifice at all given that many of the most stunningly beautiful pools are designed this way.

2. Choose a space-saving shape

Most pools are rectangular or oval, but a custom gunite (concrete) pool can be built in whatever shape you like – including one that fits neatly into an unoccupied corner of your yard. In fact, these days even fiberglass pool inserts come in a variety shapes, though it’s less likely that you’ll find one that you can plunk down in a tight space.

A freeform design customized to the peculiarities of your yard can open up new possibilities for pool placement that might not be feasible for the standard shapes. Alternatively, a geometric pool might make for the perfect fit. It all depends on the layout of your yard.

Small oval shaped backyard swimming pool
Choosing the right shape is one of the best ways to conserve space in your backyard.

3. Get yourself a “spool”

As you might have guessed, spool is a buzzword for something that’s smaller than a typical swimming pool but larger than a typical spa. The idea is make the most of a small space by having your pool serve multiple purposes.

Spools differ from most small pools in that they typically have built-in seating. A pool heater is also a must for cranking up the water temperature to hot tub levels. One big advantage of these types of pools is that you can keep them open in colder weather, as their diminutive size makes them relatively economical to heat.

Small circular swimming pool
If you’re looking for a place to relax on a beautiful summer day, a small pool will serve you just as well as a larger one.

4. Equip your pool for swimming in place

A lot of people get a pool for the exercise benefits, but frankly, even standard backyard pools can be hard to swim in (lap pools are a different story). For smaller pools, the prospect of actually swimming might seem like a bad joke. However, there are ways to make even the tiniest pool swimmable.

One option is to install water jets that generate a current you can swim against (or just get a swim spa that has this feature built in). Another is to pick up a tether system that holds you in place while you swim. Those are just two of the more popular ideas – if you’re interested in exercise, make sure you review the options so your new pool is tailored to your goals.

Rectangular inground swimming pool with minimal deck
With a little creativity, even tight spaces can accommodate a swimming pool.

5. Incorporate natural design elements

For smaller inground pools, a natural “swimming hole” look often works like a charm. Using a freeform shape that fits the contours of your small yard is one possibility. Another idea is to surround it with rocks, plants, or other landscaping elements to give it more of a “wild” appearance.

For a really luxurious touch, you can add a waterfall at one edge of the pool. This type of feature is ideal for blocking off one side of the pool where there’s no space for a deck.

How Much Does All This Cost?

A lot of the features mentioned here aren’t cheap, but consider how much you’re saving by getting a smaller pool. All else being equal, a small pool is much cheaper to install and maintain than a large one. After all, there are fewer materials required, less labor involved, and lower monthly maintenance costs.

To make a smaller pool every bit as nice as a larger one, consider “re-investing” some of the money you save into premium features. These extra touches not only compensate for the smaller size, but might actually make it seem like a virtue.

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