I am often asked to help people decide on pool shape. Virtually any shape and pool design is possible—if you’ve been researching and perusing pictures, you’ve seen just how exciting the finished products can be. But it can be overwhelming to see so many possibilities and wonder which might work in your yard.
How do you decide on the shape and design of your pool?
Basic Pool Design Shapes
You may be familiar with some of these standard pool shapes. Notice how color, the deck, furniture and landscaping can even make pools of the same shape look different:
- Spas and splash pools
- Lap Pools
I think that one thing to remember is that you are building more than a pool; you are building an experience. Here are a few things that I think should help guide design decisions:
How do you plan to use your pool? A quiet hidden oasis in your backyard—a private getaway—will have a different look than the neighborhood gathering place. The right space for raucous teenagers and kids might be vastly different from the pool built for water and lighting effects and lounging. What do you value?
- Interesting Design: do you value aesthetics over all? If cool design is a big priority, you will love benches, ledges and other options available in fiberglass: they can be added at no extra charge. The auto cover tracks on these custom shapes can be minimized with a special track.
- Rectangle Shape: rectangles work well for large pools, lap pools and yards with complicated layouts. It is a classic shape, the least expensive shape in vinyl liner, easily built to hide auto cover tracks. This keeps the focus on the beauty of your pool.
Questions to Guide Design Decisions
We generally spend lots of time talking through your goals and lifestyle to formulate some complementary design ideas. It’s often helpful to have your goals and ideas written down ahead of time.
What type of pool do you want? Fiberglass pools are low maintenance and come in nearly any shape with creative design elements, like benches and ledges, at no extra cost. But they have size limitations; fiberglass can’t be manufactured in larger sizes. The shells can not be modified. Vinyl liner pools are less expensive—especially in larger sizes. They can be built in nearly any shape with benches and ledges, although very large intricate designs can become expensive. For this reason, vinyl liner pools tend toward classic, simple shapes in large sizes. They are great for big-scale entertaining, diving and lap swimming.
How big is your yard and what is its shape? It makes sense that if you have a small yard, you will likely need a small pool. Indiana does have its share of spacious lots that easily accommodate a big pool, but perhaps a medium-sized pool with a generous deck and landscaping would better accommodate your lifestyle? The goal is to achieve balance with the elements in your yard. Consider various ways this could be achieved.
Surprisingly, rectangle pools are often recommended for irregular-shaped yards; the strong lines act as an anchor for the yard’s design. A pool that subtly complements the yard shape may work as well.
Plan for your deck: the space around the pool and traffic flow. Pool size is one consideration, but also important: size and shape of your deck and the way people move through the space. Sometimes very creative decks are built around fairly simple pool designs and vise versa. Budget may influence where you focus design creativity: on the pool (note: rectangles offer optimal square footage) or deck. Either way, these two elements should work together to create an effect.
How many people will you entertain? If you have a big family or foresee a large number of guests, a beautifully shaped small pool won’t be very accommodating. Scale matters when it comes to enjoying a pool, so consider the likely scenarios for use. What shapes make the most sense?
What is the architecture/style of your house? A modern geometric deck and pool might look odd connected to a colonial house. Your pool may be built close to the house or a little removed, depending on the yard and landscape design, but it should echo some element of the house’s architecture, texture or shape.
What kind of activities, games and sports do you plan to play? You want to have enough space—and the right kind of space—for fun:
- Lap swimming: a serious swimmer is probably used to a 25-meter pool. This is great if you have the space (and want a vinyl liner pool). But you can swim laps in a fiberglass pool, just on a smaller scale: pools with corner stairs and without a bench to butt heads with in the deep end are best, and the pool should probably be 35 - 40’ long.
- Volleyball: this can be fun for a large group of people, so ideally the pool should be 5’ or shallower. You don’t necessarily need a rectangle pool to play, but the pool should be 14’ x 28’ or larger: 16’ x 36’ is ideal. This works for both fiberglass and vinyl liner pools.
- Basketball, games and exercising: if the deep end tops out at 5’, there are a lot of games that can be played, like Marco Polo. It’s easier to play basketball, as well. Any design will do, although rectangles provide the most space. Consider 14’ x 30’ and larger sizes in fiberglass or vinyl liner.
- Diving: the safety requirement for diving is substantial. It takes a lot of space. To meet code, the deep end needs to be at least 8’ deep, the diving well must be 13’ long, and it has to have a 1-3’ slope to the shallow end. You’ll need a pretty big pool for diving and additional play space, which is definitely possible with a vinyl liner pool. Fiberglass pools can be built for diving—you’ll just need one sized 16’ x 40.’ The pool doesn’t need to be rectangle shaped for diving. Free form and other shapes can work nicely.
- Slides: many pool shapes accommodate a slide, and you may have more flexibility on pool depth: they just need a 13-14’ feet of water off the end of the runway (20’ if you are in Carmel, Indiana). They don’t need a lot of depth, but see what your pool professional recommends given your other plans.
I think it is always good to use experienced builder who will be able to discuss these concepts and help you define the best shape and design for your pool and deck—and coordinate with landscapers to create your pool experience.
What do you think?