16 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Pool Size

How to choose pool size

Pool size is such an important part of the pool-building process that can leave a potential pool buyer scratching their head. The right pool size for you is dependent on many factors that you’ll need to consider before you even contact a pool builder.

No one but a pool builder standing right in your backyard can tell you exactly what your pool size should be. But I can help you figure out a general idea of what pool size is possible in your backyard. Also, what pool size your family will need?

Here are 16 Steps a homeowner needs to take in order to determine the best pool size for their home:

1. Locate Utility Lines in your Backyard

You can request someone to come out and mark your utility lines and sprinkler systems in your yard. They will determine the location of the lines underground and mark with paint or flags. In the US, you can call 811 to request help.

Space for you to build a pool will be determined by your utility lines. In some cases, you could move these lines if you needed to but the costs are extremely high. Some customers of ours and others in a Facebook pool owners community have paid between $6000-$10,000 to move their lines. 

It may not even be possible for you to move these utility lines if you are living in a subdivision or community that has CC&R’s which will prevent you from relocating these lines.

This is an extremely important step, and you can’t always depend on your pool builder to think about it as this homeowner found out. 

“Our biggest surprise was the fact that both our water and sewer lines ran through the backyard. The first pool company we hired (and quickly fired), was going to go balls to the walls on our backyard with a huge loader…. We had to change our pool dimensions to accommodate that. That could have cost us thousands of additional dollars..

2. Determine your local laws, permit requirements, and community CC&R’s for pool construction

You’ll need to contact your city or county officials to ask about the laws for pool construction in your area. If you are in a community like a subdivision the CC&R’s for your community might have specific rules about your pool. You’ll want to find out information about:

  • Can you even build a pool in your community?
  • How close to your property line can you build a pool?
  • How far from my well should my pool be located?
  • What are the pool fencing requirements?
  • Does your neighborhood require a privacy fence?
  • Will I require a pool sign? Where do I have to post it?

In order to help us determine your pool size, you’ll want to get information that specifically deals with where you can place your pool and the fence requirements.

You’ll need this information so you can have an accurate idea of where you can actually place your pool in your yard. This is important and necessary to determine what area you have available to work with. 

If your neighbor has a pool, you can even ask to contact their pool builder to ask a few questions over the phone to get information about the above laws.

Since they have already constructed a pool in your neighborhood they should be very knowledgeable about what the laws and rules are.

If they do help you, be sure to give them a chance on providing you with a pool quote when you start contacting pool builders.

3. Mark the area where your pool can be placed

While avoiding any utility lines discovered in step #1 and not breaking any rules that you found in step #2, you will use simple wooden stakes to mark the possible area where your pool can sit. 

Place 4 stakes in the ground using a hammer to create a rectangular shape in your backyard. This doesn’t mean your pool will be a rectangle we just need a visual aid at this point. But after adding decking to your pool you will usually end up with rectangular dimensions anyway.

Do not worry about size at this step, you want to get a clear picture of exactly where a pool can actually go legally and without sitting over any utility lines.

You’ll be moving these stakes later but this is a great way to really start to visualize your pool being placed in your backyard. It will bring up some good questions in your mind that we will need to plan for in the next steps.

4. Consider your overall yard usage with your pool.

Look at the area you now have available, you may choose to reduce that size to make space for activities and items you may want to keep in your backyard. 

A space for the dog and kids to run around in the grass, a trampoline, jungle gym, swing set, etc etc. 

Once you’ve determined where you want your pool to go in your yard we can look at how much decking you may want.

5. Plan the size of the decking required for poolside activities and entertainment.

The pool decking is often overlooked by the homeowner in the beginning process of purchasing a pool. This should be a large focus for the homeowner in the beginning stages because the pool is a gathering place for more than just swimming. 

Like a bonfire, a pool becomes the centerpiece of conversation and activity. Much of that activity is going to take place outside of the pool. This means you’ll want to have a deck that is large enough for entertaining friends and family. 

Think about what you want to have on your deck. Would you like to have a place for a bbq pit? Tables and chairs? Where will people sit and gather on your deck and how much space will you need for that? This is what you want to consider as you plan out your pool size.

6. Move your wooden stakes to encompass the deck area

Now that you have thought about how much space you want for your decking. Move the wooden stakes to sit at the corners of your deck. Again, this will most likely be in a rectangular shape. 

This isn’t precise of course, and your pool builder is going to have a lot of valuable information and recommendations but this process will really help to get an idea of the size you’ll want for your pool.

7. Calculate your Length, Width, and Total Square footage. ( L x W=Sq.ft. )

With a tape measure, gather the length and width of the area you have staked out. You’ll want to measure it in feet if you are in the US. Keep the length and width noted and now you’ll calculate your square footage. Multiply the length by the width to determine the total square footage that will include your decking and pool.

We have planned and laid out this large pool and deck area that will sit in your backyard, now we need to determine the size of your pool that you’ll want inside of that area. 

This visual aid will help you have a better understanding of these pool sizes when we begin to discuss the average pool size needed for the number of people or activities.

But now after staking out your available area you’ll people able to quickly visualize if that is a size that will actually work in your yard.

8. Who will be using the pool often?

Notice that I asked who will be using your pool often. We will get into this a bit later when we discuss the costs to maintain your pool. But, be honest, on a weekly basis who will really be using your pool? The cost to build and maintain a large pool for a few large annual parties may just not be worth it.

That’s why I believe you’ll want to focus on your daily users of the pool. Even if you do have large parties, as discussed above, most of the gathering takes place on the deck. Rarely is everyone in the pool at the same time for a long time.

Write down the number of people in your family or neighborhood who will be using your pool along with their ages. Now, add 10 years to those ages. Will those people still be using your pool less often or more in 10 years’ time? Is it likely that your family will grow a lot during this time?

A pool is a long-term commitment, especially with the price to buy or build one being so high. The questions we ask above are important to consider when constructing your pool. 

Something smaller might work now but if you have children, who then have children of their own, you might then wish you had built something a bit bigger. Or even built it a bit differently. That type of question we will get into in the next steps.

9. Consider safety and accessibility

Pool safety can never be overlooked. There are things you can do when having your pool built that can make it safer and more accessible. 

You may consider something like a Baja shelf that serves as an easy shallow entry into the pool that is great for children and older adults who would have issues using ladders.

You’ll just want to keep in mind the list of people and their ages to discuss with your pool builder as this can change the size needed for your pool. A couple of steps added to your pool can really increase its size. 

It’s not something that you can calculate exactly on your own without consulting a pool builder at your home. It’s still good to have these ideas thought about in the early planning stages of building your pool and choosing its size. 

10. What activities will your pool be used for?

Will anyone be swimming laps or using the pool for exercise? Any Children that will be playing in the pool? 

Teenagers and Young Adults Playing Water games? Middle-Aged and Senior Citizens who just want to take a quick dip and relax on a tanning shelf, bench, or in the shallow end?

Using the list of people from step #8, you’ll want to think about the activities that will happen the most in your pool. Not just today, but also 10 years from now. 

Will you yourself be a little bit older and maybe prefer to layout on a shelf with a cool cocktail more than swimming? Will your children be active teenagers looking for some sports?

 Activities to consider:

  • Swimming Laps
  • Tanning and Lounging
  • Pool Volleyball
  • Pool Basketball
  • Children Playing and Learning to Swim
  • Diving

Keep this list of activities handy and we will apply it to our next step when trying to determine which pool size is perfect for you and your family but will also fit into your backyard space created in steps 1 through 6.

11. Calculate the Minimum Pool Size You’ll Need

Now it’s time for us to take all of this information that we’ve gathered and apply it to the average pool sizes for families. This will give us a rough idea of the pool size you’ll need. 

What is the average pool size needed for a family?

These numbers can never be exact because what works for some people doesn’t work for others. But, this should provide a really solid foundation on what pool size you’ll need to fit your family and friends in the pool comfortably. You can find out even more in our article about inground pool sizes.

  • Smaller Pools for 2-4 people  – 10’x20’, 12’x24’, or 14’x25’
  • Medium-Sized Pool for 3-5 people – 15’x30’ or 16×32’
  • Larger Pools for 5-8 people – 18’x36’ or 20’x40’

What pool size will I need for activities?

Now you have an idea of what size you’ll need to accommodate your regular friends and family. Let’s take a look at activities, this will help you decide if you want to increase the size of your pool to accommodate certain activities.

When determining activities depth is extremely important. If you need more depth you’ll have to make the pool longer as the slope can only increase so much per few feet according to regulations.

Smaller Pool Activites

Smaller Pools with these dimensions 10’x20’, 12’x24’, or 14’x25’ can get up to 5’ or 6’ feet deep but it might reduce the amount of space you’ll have in your shallow end. These will be good for pools that want to stay in the 4’ depth for taking a plunge, lounging, a swim spa, and children playing.

I would recommend going a bit bigger if you want some more space for pool sports and children playing. Common feedback from pool owners is that they wish they went a bit bigger so they could have a larger shallow area of their pool.

Medium-Sized Pool Activities

At these sizes, 15’x30’ or 16×32’, you’ll have more space to accommodate water sports like volleyball and basketball in the pool. It would provide more space to add a water slide or shelves for lounging.

You could also look at increasing how much of your pool is shallower. A common pool design these days has two shallow areas on the ends. This puts your deeper end in the middle of your pool. A pool shape like the Kidney is very nice for this in a Medium-sized pool.

This design allows for a ton of space for kids to play and an area for a water slide. This is also the perfect setup for volleyball so that both sides are able to stand in the shallow areas of the pool with the net sitting over the deeper area.

Laps anyone? You can even swim laps in this medium size pool although if you are a serious swimmer you’ll want to take a look at something a bit longer.

Large-Sized Pool Activities

If you want a diving board, you’ll have to go with a larger pool. By law, you need at least 8’ feet deep to dive which means your pool will need to be at least 34’-36’ feet long to reach that depth.

Larger pool sizes like 18’x36’ or 20’x40’, are also suitable for swimmers. While these pools fall shy of your typical 25-yard lap pool as long as the pool is consistently 4 feet deep these larger pools work great for exercise.

A larger pool is the complete package of all the activities you’ll want to do. You can build with enough shallow end for kids and relaxation for adults, room for sports, exercise, and diving.

What else is the larger pool good for? Features! If you want features that take up space like a diving board, a slide, Baja shelves, tanning shelves, or interesting steps this bigger pool gives you space. Even aesthetic options like a waterfall need space and a larger pool can give you that freedom to create something magnificent in your backyard.

It sounds like the larger pool is the best option but I personally don’t believe that. That’s why we have more steps listed below to discuss pricing. Bigger isn’t always better, because the costs to build are high and monthly maintenance time and costs can really add up over the years.

12. Mark the area for your pool

Using all of the information above to determine what size pool you would need it’s time to mark the area of your pool in your backyard. This will give us a visual representation of how your pool will sit inside your decking area.

Place a stake at what you feel would be one edge or corner of your pool. Using a tape measure, then add in the other stakes onto the three remaining corners until you get roughly the pool size you think you will need with the average sizes above.

While looking at it, you can see if it’s too big for the amount of decking you want. Or maybe you feel you could go a little bit larger. If going a bit larger is an option, I would take it because adding a couple of hundred extra square feet into your pool doesn’t actually add that much more to the cost for your shell build, fiberglass shell, or vinyl liner kit.

13. Budgeting for your Pool Size

Budget is a huge topic and it’s actually extremely difficult to even write about because prices vary all across the United States and the world. There are some tips I can provide though.

As mentioned above, it doesn’t hurt or even cost much more to go a little bigger if you have the extra space. 

If your budget is tight but you really do need a larger pool for activities and family, then look at fiberglass or vinyl-liner kit options. A shotcrete pool is the Cadillacs of pools but it’s not always necessary if it’s out of your budget.

Think about issues that may come up in the excavation process that might cost extra like removing boulders. You’ll also need to repair your yard after your pool is constructed which might cost a few thousand dollars. 

How about winter? You’ll need a pool cover which can become pricey if you go for an automatic pool cover.

These are extra costs that a homeowner should be aware of when determining their budget for the right size of their pool. If you build something really large and expensive that puts your budget to its limits. You’ll add on unnecessary stress for any extra fees that come up along the way during the build or after.

14. Utility and Chemical Costs for Larger Pools

I’ve been doing a lot of research to see how much the electricity fee is costing homeowners around the US. Again, this varies wildly so I can’t say, “It’s going to cost you this much.” I don’t think anyone can except maybe a neighbor who owns a pool.

I think it would be wise for any homeowner to consult someone in their area who has a pool and ask how much their utilities have increased since adding their pool. In my research, some people say it’s only a slight rise in their electric bill and others have said it has doubled. 

Your pool size will affect your utility bill especially if heat your water. There is a massive difference in the square footage of water that is being heated in a medium-sized pool compared to a large-size pool.

Chemicals are another expense to consider, it takes more chemicals to treat the extra water in a larger pool. It may only be an expense you need to be some months of the year or you may have your pool running year-round it that cost can really add up.

15. Maintenance Costs and Time for your pool

You have to maintain your pool for it to be healthy and safe for your family and friends to swim. The time it takes to test the water, add chemicals, clean, and generally maintain the pool can take a large chunk of time every week. 

The costs for a pool company to maintain your pool can be really expensive as well. I have seen people saying it costs them $100 a month and others say $350 a month. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, you’ll have to pay these fees which of course will be higher if your pool is larger.

16. Contact your Local Pool Builder

I hope that I have given you an approximate idea of what size pool is going to be perfect for your family. Of course, getting a pool is very custom and a pool builder is going to have some great recommendations. We mention that in our article here about what is a good size pool for my family.

I just hope that you have more knowledge about what you want and need so you can help your pool builder design the best pool possible that fits your family perfectly.


The founder of Coolpoolhelp.com. I wanted a place to share all of the great information from my family to other pool lovers, builders, and those looking to buy a pool.

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