A swimming pool is the staple of many luxurious outdoor environments, but just because it garners your attention doesn’t mean it has to dominate your backyard. Smaller versions of these aquatic beauties are popping up all over the country for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s to accommodate a small lot, double as a water feature, or leave room on your property for other amenities, these mini water hubs are never short on style. If you’re ready to buy a pool, consider the benefits of one that’s small-scale yet upscale.
Table of Contents
- What Size is a Small Pool?
- 4 Reasons Why a Small Pool Could Be Perfect For Your Backyard
- Leading Small Pool Designers And Builders
- Benefits Of A Small Pool
- Small Pool Installation
- Small Pools Gaining Popularity
From the ancient Roman baths to intimate plunge pools at luxury resorts, small pools have long been understatedly glamorous. But as the “bigger is better” ethos took over everything from cheeseburger meals to backyard living, small pools went by the wayside in favor of expansive poolscapes, sprawling water features, and endless outdoor amenities.
Now, though, everything classic is new again, and small pools are making a comeback, as homeowners are increasingly appreciative of the economic, ecological, and aesthetic benefits of smaller vessels.
“We don’t believe that pools need to be the size of Texas to achieve all the things that a bigger pool does,” says Amy Hageman, owner and founder of Austin-based Texas Tiny Pools. “You’re not sacrificing something by going smaller.”
What Size is a Small Pool?
Most average/mid-size pools are more than 600 square feet. Therefore, when we say “small,” we’re referring to pools that are 600 square feet or less. “Depending on the design, a 350-square-foot pool typically measures somewhere around 12 – 17 feet across by 24 – 30 feet in length,” says Ron Bennett, Jr., designer/builder at Premier Pools & Spas in Las Vegas, Nev. “Pools of this size are not recommended for diving, so we keep more of the pool useable by going no more than 6 feet deep; many are 5 feet deep or less.”
4 Reasons Why a Small Pool Could Be Perfect For Your Backyard
Here are four reasons why you should consider one of these small but mighty pools for your own backyard escape.
1. They’re Stylish and Elegant
A small pool isn’t a style downgrade. In fact, some homeowners are better able to flex their design muscles with a smaller pool and work with a luxury boutique builder on a custom project (Hageman compares it to driving a Mini Cooper).
Colorado-based Diamond Spas regularly designs and fabricates innovative, small space aquatic vessels for its clients, working with stainless steel and copper which allows them to “be very creative in tight spaces,” says design manager Shannon Knaub.
“The description I hear a lot is ‘simple and elegant,’” Knaub says. “With our experienced engineers and craftsmen, we can incorporate custom intimate seating, water features, vanishing edges, along with custom freeform shapes into our ‘small space’ projects.”
Karen Larson, president and co-founder of Soake Pools in New Hampshire, agrees, saying that clients choose their small, pre-cast plunge pools (How small? Their most popular size is 7’x13’), for many reasons, but one of them is because of how beautiful they are.
Soake Pools have hand-tiled interior finishes of from earthy, large-format porcelain, as well as a new, high-end mosaic line. One client crafted freestanding stone walls from local fieldstone around their plunge pool for a “a simple, organic and beautifully executed design.” Another surrounded theirs with bamboo for a Zen, yoga-type feeling.
“They end up with a really beautiful luxury product,” Larson says.
2. They’re Space—and Yard—savers
Not everyone has a large swath of land on which to place a huge, resort-style pool, and in tight urban and suburban locales this is especially true. Hageman says Texas Tiny Pools even does a handful of front yard pools! But even homeowners who have some square footage to spare enjoy that they can get the best of both worlds with a smaller pool: A beautiful place to cool off and enjoy the water without sacrificing their entire yard.
“People are spending more time at home and they probably don’t want their pool to take up their entire outdoor space,” says Mike Sage, vice president of sales and marketing for Bradford Products in North Carolina, which specializes in stainless steel aquatics. “They want to be able to include things like a patio and fire pits and outdoor kitchens.”
Sage also encourages people to think about the real purpose of their pools.
“The big pools look great, but they’re in most cases, I think, significantly underutilized,” he says. “People aren’t swimming laps, necessarily, in their home pools.”
That’s why pools that are primarily for relaxation, cooling off, or even exercise, thanks to features like swim jets, can be smaller and still achieve what the homeowner wants from their outdoor space.
3. They’re Efficient and Eco-friendly
Smaller pools are often far more efficient than larger ones in a number of ways, from cost to the speed of installation to their use of resources. For instance, Hageman points out that smaller pools more efficiently and effectively move and recirculate water. They also use fewer chemicals, and homeowners often opt for sanitizing methods like UV or ozone systems.
Electricity costs are less, too.
“We put a lot of time and energy into creating a package that allows the pool to be super-efficient so we minimize heat loss,” Larson says, adding that their pools are less expensive to heat and can come with covers.
Pre-cast plunge pools are also efficient for their affordability and ease and speed of installation, says Donovan Shanahan, who works in sales and customer service for Plungie USA, a Dallas-based maker of concrete plunge pools that are typically 5’ 4” deep. In fact, he estimates that a Plungie pool removes about 90% of the installation process.
“All of those inspections we have to do with the traditional pool are no longer done because we’ve built the pool [already]. It shows up completed,” he says. “So, we will provide the engineering documents for that local municipality.”
4. They’re Accessible and Adaptable
Because of their size, smaller pools are especially accessible and adaptable. For instance, they’re easily adapted for homeowners and users with disabilities.
“Diamond Spas has fabricated pool vessels to meet all kinds of ADA requirements. We have built wheelchair ramps, pools that use chair lifts, with the most popular vessels incorporating ADA transfer walls into the design,” Knaub says. “Transfer walls allow for a nicer, simpler design while allowing safe access for people with disabilities.”
They’re also easily adaptable in many ways, from adding custom spa or swim jets, to benches and sun shelves.
“If you want to swim in it, you still can with tether or a swim jet. You can do cannon balls all day long,” says Shanahan. And they can even be adaptable in terms of where in the ground they’re placed.
“The cool thing about the Plungie pre-cast pool is it’s able to go in the ground, out of the ground, or anything in between,” Shanahan says.
Small pools also lend themselves well to heating for year-round use.
“You’re not sacrificing something by going smaller, because we can heat the water. It can also be a hot tub,” Hageman says. “You’re extending pool season or starting it earlier.”
That can be true even in colder climates.
“One of the things that people really appreciate about our plunge pools is that they’re small, so they can cool off in the summer but most of our customers keep them running all year round, even in New England,” Larson says. “They use them in the winter at a warm temperature.”
From their style and sophistication to their adaptability and affordability, more and more homeowners are seeing that small pools are not only just as beautiful and fun as their larger counterparts, but also align more closely with their personal values.
“People are really digging deeper and asking themselves questions about their own lifestyle and where they’re at and what it is they want to utilize this pool for,” Sage says. “I think people are being a lot more thoughtful about that now than they might have been in the past.”
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Leading Small Pool Designers And Builders
From their style and sophistication to their adaptability and affordability, more and more homeowners are seeing that small pools are just as beautiful and fun as their larger counterparts. Whether in-ground, above ground, or even on a rooftop, here are five companies that offer products and designs for smaller spaces.
1. Soake® Pools | soakepools.com
Soake Pools are revolutionary, space-saving pools that combine the best of a pool and a hot tub, and provide year-round enjoyment. Their pools are made in New England using state-of-the-art materials, customizable, and delivered pre-built and ready to install.
2. Diamond Spas | diamondspas.com
Diamond Spas is a custom manufacturer of stainless steel and copper aquatic vessels specializing in rooftop installations. Metal is the perfect choice for rooftop swimming pool design. Metal weighs less than traditional materials such as gunite or concrete. A spa or pool weighing considerably less will reduce structural expenses and engineering costs. Metal is amenable to nearly any design configuration and will provide a water tight vessel. Diamond Spas can ship a rooftop spa or pool in one piece or if the installation requires, an onsite welding team can be arranged. Custom equipment packages call be engineered to accommodate the client’s preferences.
3. Trek Pools | trekpools.com
Based in the heart of the Midwest, Trek Container Pools is the first manufacturer of shipping container pools in the US. They offer custom container pool designs based on their clients needs. Splash pads, windows, waterfalls, and swim-up bars are all possible with a Trek Container Pool. Their pool interiors are constructed out of plate steel. Then, the exteriors are coated with marine grade products from Sherwin Williams and plaster like finishes on the interior. The interior finish is the key to the success of Trek Pools. Similar to a concrete pool, the interior plaster finish provides a wide range of finishes, textures, and colors.
4. Endless Pools® | endlesspools.com
Since 1988, Endless Pools® has been crafting custom pools with their signature current. Designed to let you swim without interruption, their fully adjustable current also delivers variable resistance for aquatic workouts and a relaxing ‘lazy river’ experience to let your cares drift away. Ultimately, Endless Pools creates experiences through exceptional products. People dip into Original Series pools to train for the IRONMAN World Championship, the grueling 140.6-mile triathlon; to find relief from a range of ailments, from arthritis to spinal injuries; to stay independent through retirement with low-impact aquatic exercises; to teach their kids life-saving water skills; and to celebrate everyday good times. Their technology has reimagined the power of water and delivered it in a fully customizable format.
5. Containur Pools | containurpools.com
Containur Pools doesn’t just upcycle a container and give it structural integrity and good looks, they like to say that they thought inside the box. “We are the only shipping container company in the industry that adds ¾” R-rated insulation standard to every container wall and door. Plus, we custom make a fiberglass pool with a smooth gel coat surface so your pool is made to last,” comments the company founder, Davalyn Kratz.
Benefits Of A Small Pool
The most obvious reason to build a small pool is, of course, if you have a small backyard. In certain areas of the country, such as Arizona and Florida, tiny walled-in yards are quite common. While some of these lots may be able to fit a full-size pool, it would most likely encompass the entire backyard; that’s why many homeowners opt for a downsized version, so they can make the most of their yard when they aren’t swimming. This goes for small lots across the country, and even homes with spacious backyards. “We’ve built smaller pools on larger lots, allowing more space for outdoor barbecue areas, patios for entertaining, or lush landscaping,” says Bennett, Jr.
“Sometimes the client does not want the pool and decking to take up their whole backyard. They still want room for their kids to kick a soccer ball or play on the playground, so a smaller pool fits their needs,” says Mike Higgins, sales associate at Platinum Poolcare, Ltd., in Wheeling, Illinois. For one of his projects, he built a small modern pool and spa right up against a wall of windows that face the home’s backyard. He worked closely with the architect who designed and built the house to ensure that everything worked in the design. “The project is in Chicago where yard space is very limited, but we were able to give the homeowners everything on their wish list,” says Higgins. “They have a small child and use the pool to splash around and cool off. They also entertain a lot, so the adjacent spa and water feature were ideal.”
With the proper designer, a small pool can also make good use of a particular section of a multilevel backyard. This was the scenario of a hillside California home in which the entire property is terraced. The homeowners desired a pool where they could swim, jog, and stay fit; they also wanted an entertaining area that would complement their 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival home. The solution was to install a custom 9-by-15-foot swim spa on a rarely used terrace. Designed by Landscape Architect Alison Terry of Terry Design, Inc., and built by Dave Penton, owner of Fluid Dynamics Pool & Spa, Fullerton, Calif., the swim spa features a swim current at one end and a Spanish fountain on the back wall.
A major design consideration was making sure the swim spa was interesting to look at when viewed from the second-story balcony. “I wanted the owners and guests to look down and see a beautiful tiled water feature/fountain, not a utilitarian pool or spa,” says Terry. The use of imported custom hand-painted tile provides bold splashes of color and a stunning view from every perspective.
“When not used for swimming, it serves as a decorative water feature and lounge area,” says Terry. “The raised bond beam allows for seating around the perimeter, while built-in benches offer interior seating if guests want to cool off, relax, and socialize.” Surrounded by Mediterranean plantings, the terrace also features a fireplace accented with the same tile used in the spa.
Small Pool Installation
These pools may be small, but their installation is by no means simple, especially when working with a confined space. Most small pools are the product of precise, innovative designs, and complex construction. Builders and designers have to find the best way to maximize the space, decide where the pool equipment will go, and determine how the construction equipment will be maneuvered around the site.
Penton recalls one project where his crew at Fluid Dynamics had to dig a 270-square-foot pool (9 feet wide, 3.5 to 5 feet deep) and a 50-square-foot integrated spa by hand. “The only access to the back of the property was up three flights of stairs. Without bringing in a crane to lift a bobcat over the house, we were forced to dig the pool by hand,” he says. “We laid down a large tarp over the front staircase and used the dirt we excavated from the backyard to build a makeshift ramp; this made it easier to run the wheelbarrows to the trucks out front.”
The homeowners of this small yard wanted a lap pool, spa, and outdoor kitchen. Their teenage son, who runs track, measured the depth of the pool he runs in at his gym, and the pool was built at the same depth. “My challenges were to make the pool sizeable enough to swim laps, and to make the spa easily accessible from the house,” says Terry, who designed the project.
Terry angled the pool to accentuate the long axis of the yard, giving the illusion of depth and making the lot seem larger. She used a combination of stone (flagstone and veneer), tile coping, and decorative ceramic tile accents to give the yard a spectacular look. The outdoor kitchen includes a dining area, a fireplace, and even an outdoor TV. The surrounding plants and pergola roof give this small area a very open feeling.
The area for the mechanical systems had to be kept to an absolute minimum. “Since this pool needed multiple pumps, a heater, and large filter, we had to get creative with the pool equipment pad layout,” says Penton. “We utilized racks to stack the pumps and chose specific equipment based on the required clearances to make sure that we could fit everything into a small space but still make it accessible for servicing.”
Small Pools Gaining Popularity
Some builders have seen a recent increase in the number of small pools they build. “Most of the residential swimming pools we have built in the last five to 10 years are less than 600 square feet; many are even much smaller. Every year we build a number of ‘spools’ (small dipping pools used for relaxation or as showpieces for water features), which are less than 300 square feet,” says Bennett, Jr.
“Here in Southern California, lot sizes tend to be small, so smaller pools are becoming much more common,” says Penton.
Higgins has not seen an increase in small pools; the average pool project done by his company is at least 800 square feet, and in most cases includes a spa. However, he has observed an increase in ‘staycationing’: “It seems that people are traveling less, and as a result, are doing more with their backyard space by adding pools, spas, water features, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, pool houses, etc.” Many homeowners are putting bigger investments into their backyards and looking to maximize their space.
In addition to allowing more room for entertainment space, smaller pools are also more eco-friendly than larger pools. They consume less energy and chemicals, require less water, and take a shorter amount of time to heat. This means you’ll also save on energy bills and maintenance/heating costs.
“Even on our full-size projects we can consider making the pools shallower and having large shallow tanning ledges in the pool to minimize the overall volume of water; this way, the pool is more energy-efficient but still looks attractive,” says Penton.
Whether a small pool comes to fruition out of preference or necessity, it can still make a big splash in your backyard.