Get Your Feet Wet: 6 Ways to Start Planning a New Pool

Woman splashing her feet in an inground swimming pool

As with any major project, the hardest part of building a pool is getting started. Oh, there’s probably no shortage of pool builders in your area who would jump at the chance to stop by your house tomorrow and showcase their ideas. But just like you wouldn’t walk into a car dealership without knowing whether you want a hatchback or an SUV, it doesn’t make sense to start calling contractors until you even know what type of pool you want.

Of course, building a pool presents way more options than buying a car. The sheer number of choices, combined with the lack of specific pricing information, can stop many would-be pool owners dead in their tracks. The fact that there’s so much pool-related jargon just makes things more confusing.

Fortunately, there are some simple, bite-sized actions you can take to get the ball rolling. Try one or all of these exercises if you want a swimming pool, but aren’t ready for a sales pitch.

1. Make a list of the reasons you want a pool

Writing down why you want a swimming pool is useful for a couple of reasons. One, it helps put things in perspective, making it easier to weigh the rewards of owning a pool against the cost of installation. And two, it helps you pinpoint and prioritize different features. For example, if you see yourself throwing lots of parties by the pool, you might want a larger deck and colorful LED lighting that dazzles after dark.

2. Figure out what you can afford to spend

Having a rough idea of your budget will guide many of the decisions that follow. If you’re looking to get an inground pool for less than $50,000, you can forget about many of the pricey features and focus on a basic design that meets your needs. If you have the flexibility to spend more, you’ll have more options on the table.

3. Talk to a current pool owner

If you know anyone who has a pool, by all means – chat them up about their experience. The most useful insights will come from people who live close by, as they potentially know about local pool regulations and might be able to steer you toward a good builder (or away from a bad one). However, at this stage, any firsthand knowledge you can tap into is beneficial.

4. Get familiar with the terminology and options

How can you figure out what you want if you don’t know what’s available? To get up to speed, first familiarize yourself with the different types of pools, then work your way through details like water features, salt water pools, heaters, pumps, and so on. One great way to get a pool education is to start hanging out on forums like Trouble Free Pool. Slowly but surely, you’ll become fluent in “swimming pool-ese.”

5. Start collecting pictures of pools

If you’ve been dreaming of a pool, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time drooling over pool pictures online. When you’re ready to start planning, you should keep track of the pictures that inspire you so that you can return to them later. Pinterest is a great tool for collecting pool design ideas (see our tutorial to get started). Another option that’s really grown in popularity is Houzz. Both of these sites already have a huge number of pool pictures to search and browse.

Picture of an attractive inground swimming pool
Get ideas and inspiration by looking at lots of pool pictures

6. Make a drawing (or 10)

To help you start visualizing a new pool, make a drawing of your backyard including your house and other major features. This will help you answer questions like:

  • What size pool will fit in my backyard?
  • How big should the pool deck be?
  • What pool shape(s) fit into the available space and blend with the surroundings?

You don’t have to be a great artist or buy a fancy 3D design program. Just grab a stack of paper and start scribbling. Your drawings will get more detailed later on, when you get serious about designing your pool.

With these simple actions, you can get started planning a new pool today. Of course, actually finding a pool builder, getting financing, and having a pool installed is a long process, which can include many surprises and setbacks. But you can’t get there unless you take the first step.