Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Backyard Pool Into a Paradise

Rectangle-shaped backyard pool ideas with patterned cinder blocks
credit: Kyal & Kara

If you're lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard — or if you're looking to add a pool to your property — there's a lot to consider. As you begin to navigate the waters of backyard pool ideas, start with our how-to guide, which will get you up to speed on types of pools, how to decorate your pool area, and how to throw fabulous pool parties.

Basic Pool Information

1920s in ground pool
credit: Paul Anderson for Hunker

First of all, confirm that you can lawfully install a pool by reviewing your area's zoning laws and looking over any convenances or homeowner's association bylaws. You wouldn't want to get too far into the process and find out it's not even possible.

Next, think through the maintenance that can come with backyard pools. How much time are you able to devote to your pool? This is something that factors into the design process — naturally, the larger the pool and the more features you have, the more you'll be maintaining it.

The most popular pool types these days include:

In-ground pool: As its name implies, in-ground pools are dug into the ground of your backyard. Installing an in-ground pool is expensive (think tens of thousands of dollars, not including the upkeep) and will require hiring a pool contractor to do the work. Of course, if you live in an area that's always warm, or has brutal summers, it may be worth the cost to have a private oasis. And with in-ground pools, there's lots you can do in the way of design — there's of course the traditional rectangle and oval, but if you want to get fancy, you can work with your contractor to create kidney or lagoon shapes. You can also opt to add an adjacent heated whirlpool option for extra relaxation on chilly nights. One other potential benefit of having an in-ground pool is the option to have saltwater over chlorine.

jacuzzi built in to pool
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker

Above-ground pool: These pools that sit on top of your lawn are popular for their relative affordability and greater ease of installation. Putting an above-ground pool in your backyard also may not require a permit, but you'll always want to call your local building inspections office to verify.

Lap pool: If you're looking to use a pool primarily for fitness, a lap pool is definitely appealing. Much smaller and narrower than traditional in-ground pools, a lap pool is just large enough for a single swimmer to swim laps back and forth. You can create an in-ground lap pool; however, there are many companies that sell prefabricated, above-ground lap pools.

lap pool
credit: Nicole Mason for Hunker

Stock tank pool: If you really want a spot to take a dip but don't have the space or budget for a "real" pool, stock tank pools are a fun DIY option.

Stock tank-style backyard pool ideas on modern patio
credit: Hey Wanderer

Setting the Scene for Your Backyard Pool

patio area next to pool
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker

A pool without anything surrounding it, is, well, not really a proper pool at all. You'll want to think of your pool area almost as a second patio and consider how to create a setup that feels like an outdoor lounge.

All sorts of patio furniture can double as furniture for backyard pools — just make sure it's waterproof! You can truly relax in a chaise lounge (or two, or three), or you can include a bistro set if you want to enjoy a meal alongside the pool. If you have a big family or foresee large gatherings, you might want to purchase an outdoor sofa, outfitted with ottomans or perhaps a fire pit in the middle.

As for materials, go with something that's waterproof and durable against the elements. These include resin wicker, plastic, and aluminum.

Pool Accessories & Pool Party Ideas

pool with pool floats
credit: The Courts

Once the pool is designed and in place, you're ready to stock up on oh-so-fun accessories. We're fans of cute, on-trend pool floats around here, so we definitely think you should pick up a few for your new pool. Don't forget other enjoyable pool accessories, like vibrant beach towels stacked and ready nearby or a bunch of backyard games.

Of course, if you have a pool, you're definitely thinking about throwing an amazing pool party. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to give your pool party plenty of atmosphere, like lanterns, batch drinks, and outdoor speakers.

Where to Shop for Cool Pool Accessories

Target can easily be your one-stop shop for all things pool. Every summer, the retailer tends to launch new patio furniture collections based on current trends, and you can also find the enjoyable stuff (pool floats, dive toys, water balls) alongside the essentials (pool equipment, chemicals, and swimming gear).

"Fun" is baked right into the title of this punchy company that specializes in the coolest pool floats around. These floats come in the shape of airplanes, rainbows, sports cars, and even golden crowns.

If you're looking to make your pool party extra 'grammable, Ban.do's the spot to pick up too-cute drink floats, beach towels, and pool floats.

Sunnylife's another Instagram-friendly outdoor goods brand, offering cheeky pool floats, pool toys, and plenty of outdoor games.


Shelby Deering

Shelby Deering

Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer who contributes to national magazines and websites, including Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Well+Good, and more. When she's not writing, you'll find her shopping flea markets, hiking, and going for walks with her corgi.