When it comes to swimming pools, there’s an option for every budget and backyard. Get started with these ideas for a new pool or upgrade your outdated one.

Nothing beats the refreshing feeling of a smooth dive—or an explosive cannonball—into a cool pool of water on a hot summer day. If you already have a backyard pool, you know the feeling. But maybe the kids are grown and gone and you use the pool differently. Or you’ve been wanting a pool for years and now is the time!

Pool structure

The least expensive choice is the above-ground pool, but it’s tough on the appearance of your landscape and can ruin grass underneath. You can filter the water for above-ground models, but be sure you select the right size and type of filter.

Most homeowners choose in-ground pools made of concrete or shotcrete, also known as Gunite. Pros spray the concrete over steel-reinforced forms. Prefabricated vinyl pools are another option, but won’t give you as much flexibility in design as you have if you dig and form your own pool. The good news is that designers of vinyl forms have come up with plenty of shapes, sizes and even colors. Fiberglass pools also come preformed and in a variety of colors and shapes.

How will you use the pool?

Choosing your new pool or redesigning the one you have means taking a careful look at how you’ll use it. Do you need a deep end for your cannonballers? Or can you take out the diving board and slide out now that the kids are grown and moved away?

Lap pools are popular choices for adults who want their pools for exercise more than for look or social gatherings. Most are installed in-ground and plumbed to provide you plenty of current for swim practice. Advantages are small space and water needs and lower cost than a full-blown in-ground pool. Disadvantages are sharing and pool parties, and home resale value vs. what you get with a full pool.

If you’re much more into relaxing in your pool than doing laps, you might want an infinity pool. With a vanishing edge, the water on one end drops off, usually exposing an incredible view. Builders of infinity pools say that even if you don’t have a slope with a view, they can create the edge effect. They elevate the pool and water spills over the edge and into a basin or catch pool. Of course, nobody says you can’t do laps first, and then enjoy the view and a drink…

Or go natural

Natural pools rely on plants and sand filters to clean the water instead of chemicals. And they can look more like a lake in your backyard than a pool. Or you can choose to give them a standard pool look, with surrounding tile. The key is a regeneration zone, made of gravel and wetland plants that filter the water naturally. A skimmer and UV filters help keep the system in balance. You might need more space for a natural pool, but construction and maintenance costs are similar.

Upgrade or update

For only a few thousand dollars, you can update or upgrade your current pool. Resurface the pool or deck or add a fountain for interest and white noise. Many pool owners are spending close to $10,000 to switch to salt-water systems, which irritate the eyes less than chlorine.

Or maybe you can think about winter while it’s warm and consider installing or adding an in-ground hot tub next to your pool or closer to your back door. It’s great for night-time stargazing.

A few cautions – check out permit rules for your city, and always consider safety of toddlers in particular. Be sure to limit access that your small children, and neighbor children, have to your new pool. 

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