Planning a Swimming Pool's Size and Depth

Little girl and friend splashing water in swimming pool
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Planning on building a swimming pool? The shape and size of your swimming pool should be determined according to the type of usage the pool will get. Here are a few essential tips to keep in mind:

  • A purely recreational pool needs a large shallow area and any shape will do.
  • A pool built for swimming laps should have a long, straight section with parallel ends.
  • If you want to make swimming a part of your daily workout but have limited room in your backyard, a swim spa might be the best option for you.

How to Choose Swimming Pool Size and Depth

Recreational swimming pool users, particularly children, don’t require great depth and it is adequate to provide a sloped floor which goes from a minimum depth of 36 inches to a maximum of 4 or 5 feet. A purely recreational pool also does not need to be any particular shape, so you can pick a shape to complement your lot.

On the other hand, athletic lap swimmers need a long and narrow space with at least 4-5 feet depth throughout, to avoid touching the bottom while swimming, and to ensure that turns at the pool’s ends can be executed safely. For competitive swimmers in training, providing a length of 25 yards or 25 meters will enable them to develop a swimming style usable in the competition.

It is possible to accommodate both recreational and athletic needs by having a hybrid shape and depth, like an “L” shaped pool, where the shallow, short leg is large enough for fun and games while the longer leg is designed for lap swimmers.

Further options to consider are the provision of a diving area or waterslide, and a wading area for small children. While diving boards and water slides are popular there is considerable debate regarding the required depth and diving well size for optimal safety. Consider the depth factor carefully with your swimming pool contractor. You may choose to forgo the idea altogether to avoid tempting untrained people, particularly children, from participating in these inherently risky activities.

A wading pool, on the other hand, is relatively safe, but small kids will quickly outgrow it and join the rest of the family in the main pool. A reasonable alternative is to build a separate wading pool that can later be converted into a spa.

Choosing the Best Swim Pool Shape for Your Back Yard

Simple geometric shapes (squares, rectangles, circles, and ovals) are the best for complementing a landscaped setting and enhancing the appearance of your property. These are the types of pools generally found in suburban neighborhoods. On average a rectangular swimming pool is more expensive than a curve shaped swimming pool as some builders price based on the perimeter of the swimming pool.

It is difficult to incorporate unusual pool shapes, particularly on residential lots, as they tend to compete with and overwhelm the rest of the landscape. However, odd shapes, like a bend in one side of a pool, may also be used to integrate natural features of your property, like special trees or boulders.

Install a Sufficient Patio around the Swimming Pool

When drawing up swim pool building plans, make sure to include extra space around the pool for a ​deck or the paved area surrounding all sides of the pool. The poolside area provides easy access to the pool (which is particularly important from a water safety perspective), minimizes the amount of dirt entering the water and catches over-spills which would otherwise cause the garden to become waterlogged.

As a rule of thumb, the total poolside area should be about equal to the pool and should be at least 5 to 8 feet wide. Remember to include a safety fence around the outside of the patio, too.

For any pool construction job, be sure to spend a lot of time in the planning phase. Errors and changes will be costly to resolve during and after the actual construction project.

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