There’s one swimming pool for every 36 people living in Texas. Compare that with almost 200 people per pool in Wyoming and you get a good picture of how much Texans love their swimming pools.
Taking a backyard dip is high on the list of priorities for many homeowners in our climate, but who can afford a private swimming pool in the backyard?
It’s a dream for many homeowners in Austin and beyond. But it’s an attainable dream…
Swimming pools come in many shapes and sizes and there are alternatives to expensive inground pools. We’ve put together some backyard pool ideas on a budget so that almost any homeowner with a little spare cash can afford to take the plunge.
In this article, we cover the following:
Inground pools vs. above-ground pools
Firstly, if you’re looking for affordable backyard pool ideas, forget about inground pools and start thinking about above-ground pools.
Above-ground pools encompass everything from inflatable pools to metal-frame structures and more sophisticated hard-sided resin structures.
Metal-frame pools are convenient and highly portable, using a rust-resistant steel frame to hold a PVC liner. Hard-sided pools are more durable and sturdier when made from corrugated heavy-duty steel or resin. They’re available in various shapes — but most are round, oval or rectangular.
The good news is that choices with above-ground pools have expanded greatly with technology — helping them blend into the natural yard surroundings more than in the past. They generally also require a fraction of the time, effort, materials, and know-how to install. Most can be installed in two or three days rather than the weeks or months it takes for an inground pool. This keeps the costs down and makes above-ground pools more economical.
These pools can also be classed as “semi-inground” if they are mainly inground but still protrude a few feet above the ground. Because these pools still require significant ground preparation, they are generally more expensive to install than typical above-ground pools.
It’s difficult to generalize with swimming pools but you can expect to pay ten times less for an above-ground pool compared to an inground pool. They are less of a risk for most homeowners and, because most are not permanent structures, you can easily upgrade an above-ground pool area (that’s very difficult with a permanent inground pool). You can also pack up your pool and take it with you to a new home if necessary.
Many above-ground pools are also sturdy and durable, lasting 10-20 years or more with the proper care and attention.
A few creative above-ground pool landscaping ideas on a budget can spruce up your backyard area and provide the family with a spectacular pool that doesn’t break the bank…
Affordable backyard pool ideas
Some of the most basic above-ground pools are quite unattractive and have visible supports. There’s little to disguise the construction materials and they offer little for the aesthetics of a yard:
You can beautify your pool area even if you’re on a tight budget. Here are a few affordable backyard pool ideas that can make an above-ground pool area just as eye-catching as one of its inground cousins…
A wood-encased pool
Encasing a standard-shaped above-ground pool in wood paneling can bring a rustic elegance that resembles Scandinavian-style pine pools.
The hard, wooden sides cover the blue overlap liner materials and supports, blending in naturally with the surroundings in the backyard.
You may even be lucky enough to find an above-ground pool with a casing made of repurposed wood pallets or other lumber, which is very environmentally friendly. The wood can be stained or painted for the customized look you want.
A stone-encased pool
A stone-encased pool is another classic take on the standard above-ground pool. It can bring beauty and elegance — or even a stylish rustic feel — to your pool area, depending on the type of stone used.
Stone adds a few dollars to the budget but because it’s an above-ground pool, you still save money over an inground pool and it can be an excellent compromise for some homeowners.
If real stone is too expensive, faux stone panels are another option that will shave dollars off the overall cost of the pool.
A stock tank pool
Another budget-friendly option for Texan homeowners is a galvanized stock-tank pool. These tanks are used to provide drinking water for cattle or horses but double up superbly as backyard pools and come in a variety of sizes. Typically, the eight- or ten-foot tanks are the most popular.
A stock tank may not fit the whole family but is a great option for cooling off in the backyard after a long day at work — and can comfortably fit two kids. You can get creative with the area around the pool to spruce up the appearance — as in this example where a mural has been installed:
Stock tank pools can also be installed as semi-inground pools that provide a more finished look and a more permanent solution. Doing this will add a few dollars to the budget for the landscaping work — but still much more economical than a fully inground pool.
An above-ground pool with decking
If you don’t have the space or means for a large sprawling patio or entertainment area, smaller-scale decking can look fantastic around an above-ground pool.
The decking is often made from wood but could also be concrete or pavers and often has a set of steps leading up to it (and a gate). A larger deck area may have seating and shaded areas around the pool so that mums and dads can supervise the kids.
This is a popular idea because it can hide the outside casing of the pool, which may not be its most attractive feature. With decking, it looks more like an expensive inground pool — at a fraction of the cost.
A shipping container pool
Using a shipping container for a pool in your backyard is another way to get a decent-sized pool for a budget price. Transporting them is no problem (that’s what they’re designed for) and they can be installed quickly and easily.
Shipping containers are usually 20 feet or 40 feet long. The steel inside may be coated for added durability, which will increase the price. They are more expensive than stock pools (especially the more sophisticated ones that come with a price tag of up to $40,000) but the more affordable models suit a tighter budget compared to an inground pool.
Pool landscaping ideas on a budget
If you want to get creative with landscaping ideas around your pool — while sticking within a tight budget — consider these ideas for your backyard pool area:
Plant desert-friendly shrubs and herbs
Despite the popularity of backyard pools, many homeowners in Texas are conscious of the need to conserve water in the yard. This means they’re cutting back on lawns, flower beds, trees, and shrubs that guzzle water.
One great way to beautify an above-ground pool area while conserving water is to plant desert-friendly shrubs, herbs, and other plants. Fast-growing herbs like lavender, rosemary, oregano, and thyme around your above-ground pool will quickly cover the sides and re-stock your kitchen herb supplies.
Also, consider replacing a grass lawn with an artificial lawn turf —more about this later.
Plant shade trees
Shade is a necessity for any backyard pool area in Texas.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to decking and a seated shade area, removable shades or palm trees are perfect for providing shade around an above-ground pool area. Palm trees also look great and make you feel like you’re permanently on holiday when lounging by your pool.
Smart tree choices can also help your above-ground pool to blend into the natural surroundings more. This example uses a combination of wooden decking, seated areas, palm trees, and shrubs to create a stunning backyard pool area:
Surround your pool with pea gravel
The decision whether to surround your pool area with natural grass, pavers/concrete, pea gravel or artificial grass might come down to your budget.
If you budget for natural grass, the initial sodding or seeding must be accounted for but also the significant ongoing maintenance costs (which are increasing with the rising water rates).
If your budget doesn’t stretch to replacing your lawn with synthetic pool turf (see below), pea gravel is a popular choice. This is smooth, pea-sized gravel that comes in several colors (lighter colors are best in the Texan sunshine). This type of gravel can be used either as the main ground surface surrounding the pool or if there are non-access areas of the pool.
As well as looking fine, pea gravel is a practical, low-maintenance, no-water alternative to natural grass.
Enclose your pool with decorative fencing
Another way to spruce up the appearance of a budget pool area is to install some decorative fencing or railing around it.
A gated and fenced around your above-ground pool can improve safety as well as beautify the appearance of your pool area. It will also keep out any unwanted intruders, such as neighborhood dogs, cats, and other animals.
Add pavers to the pool approach
Another simple backyard pool idea on a budget is to install pavers on the pool approach. This adds style and beauty to the area while also being practical.
You can bring a contemporary look and feel to the yard with the right choice of pavers. Artificial grass turf strips work well between pool pavers as they are chlorine-resistant and fade-free. They also drain well and feel comfortable underfoot.
Add LED lighting around your pool
With our climate in Texas, there are ample opportunities for night swimming. You can do this in your backyard with the right budget lighting installed around your pool.
Practical, cost-effective LED lighting fits most budgets. The best solutions add beauty and ambiance to the area. LED lighting can be installed in the base of the pool, around the entire pool area or even hanging over it.
Small backyard pool ideas on a budget
Pushed for space in your backyard? That may limit your options but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a pool installed…
Again, you’ll probably be limited to above-ground pools, which are usually smaller than their inground cousins. This makes them suitable for smaller backyards and, for most city dwellers in Texas, they are a more realistic option.
Buy and install an above-ground pool kit
The ultimate budget solution for small backyards is an above-ground pool kit that you can buy and install yourself if you’re a dab hand at DIY.
These kits come with all the necessary equipment and easy-to-follow instructions. The best ones typically cost $2,000 to $7,000.
With a little help from the neighbor or friends — and fair weather — you can install a pool in a single weekend. If your backyard is level already, you will avoid the need to landscape the area first. However, seek professional advice about installation unless you know what you’re doing…
Opt for a splash pad or spray pool rather than a pool
For some of the smallest backyards, a splash pad for the kids may be a more realistic option than a swimming pool.
Splash pads are more commonly seen in public playgrounds than backyards. They are pads designed for water play but with no standing water, making them safe for small children to use. Kids can get used to water at an early age without too many safety concerns for parents.
Splash pads can be bought in kit form and require little in the way of decoration or fencing around them. They’re very low-maintenance but may not be the best option if you’re serious about conserving water.
Install a plunge pool
If you have a larger budget but a small yard and are more concerned with cooling off than swimming, a pre-cast plunge pool might be the best idea for you and your family.
Plunge pools are smaller, more compact versions of traditional swimming pools, making them more suitable for more yards. Prefabricated pools also save money over those tailor-made from scratch.
The budget for a plunge pool could be around one-half to one-third that of a standard backyard swimming pool but costs may rise with more sophisticated features such as temperature control and a security cover.
Inground backyard pool ideas on a budget
Other than installing a small-scale plunge pool rather than a full-size swimming pool, what else can you do to cut costs with an inground backyard pool?
If you have a little more to spend but not a limitless budget, here are a few inground pool landscaping ideas that will get the look and practicality you want…
Install artificial grass around the pool
Artificial turf and swimming pools go well together — especially in arid southern/western states like Texas.
High-quality artificial grass for pools provides the natural look and feel of real grass but with virtually no maintenance. It feels soft underfoot and prevents trailing mud and grass back through the house after swims.
Synthetic pool turf is also highly durable and stands up well to the tests of chlorine, heat, and sunshine. You can expect a professional artificial grass installation to last around 12-15 years or more if it’s looked after.
The upfront cost of artificial grass is higher than natural grass but an installation generally pays itself back within 5-6 years. The real budget value of synthetic turf comes from lower maintenance costs and reduced water bills.
Install an eye-catching patio around the pool
If you have a little more in your budget, a contemporary patio area in neutral stone colors can look stunning around a pool area, especially when combined with artificial grass as in this example from one of our clients in Texas:
Build a poolside entertainment area
With a little extra space in your backyard, installing a poolside bar, gazebo or pergola around your pool can impress family and friends.
Your guests will be queueing up to come round for a drink of barbecue and lounging poolside while your kids go for a dip will be even more of a pleasure…
How much should you budget for a backyard pool?
The budget you need for a backyard pool depends on which end of the scale you go from the ideas outlined above: from splash pads and above-ground pool kits to inground pools surrounded by patis and artificial grass.
It’s challenging to get a fully landscaped, full-size inground pool for anything less than $50,000, due to the extensive construction required for installation and the additional costs associated with permits, plumbing, and materials.
An above-ground pool is not only cheaper to purchase in terms of materials but has significantly lower installation costs. You can further save costs by following some of the budget pool landscaping ideas outlined above and planning your installation for the slower months of the year.
Save time and money with your backyard pool area…
If you’re looking to save money long-term on a backyard pool area, artificial grass and pavers are a cost-effective and time-saving solution for the ground surface.
Synthetic turf pays for itself after around five years and needs no maintenance. It stays looking green and pristine even in the hot Texan sun and when exposed to chlorine.
The team at Artificial Grass Pros can help you install an artificial lawn and any landscaped features you need in your backyard. Call us at 512-296-1500.
Sources (not to be published)