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Backyard Pool Ideas on a Budget

By Axis Fuksman-Kumpa February 16, 2021

a large pool

If gloomy weather has you daydreaming of a sunny poolside vacation, we’ve got good news for you! Adding a pool to your backyard might be a more accessible option than you think.

Large, spacious pools are always popular, but a whole variety of small pool designs have skyrocketed in popularity and made home pools an option for many more homeowners. No matter the size of your backyard, you’ve got pool options to keep you cool on the hottest summer days—and hot tub options to keep you toasty year round.

We’ve compiled some of some of our favorite pool landscape design ideas from the Tilly catalog for some major backyard makeover inspiration! But before we dive into those, let’s define some of the trendy new pool lingo on the block. You’re going to need to know the difference between a container pool and a cocktail pool so that you know exactly which one to ask for!

Small Pool Options

Even if you have limited space, a pool isn’t out of reach! There’s a variety of small pool designs to fit nearly any space and design aesthetic. Whether you’re looking for a pool you can dive in or above ground pool ideas for small yards, you have plenty of options.

Small pools are a perfect choice for compact small backyard or for preserving lawn space in larger backyards while still enjoying all the benefits of a pool. And of course, there’s the added bonus that small backyard pools cost less than larger, high-maintenance pools. Here are some of our favorite contemporary small pool ideas:

Plunge Pools

What is a plunge pool? It’s all in the name! Plunge pools are small pools that are deep enough to “plunge” into. You can forget the let down of sitting in a kiddie pool where the water doesn’t cover your knees—even small plunge pools drop you in right at the deep end for a refreshing dip. Plunge pool ideas are a natural fit when you’re looking for small pools for small yards, or for taking up a small footprint in a multifunctional landscape design like with this Tilly client.

Container Pools

Looking for above ground pool landscaping ideas on a budget? This is the section for you! Container pools are raised, modular pools made from shipping containers—yes, we said shipping containers. Some shipping containers even have high enough walls to allow for an above ground plunge pool! For a smaller profile, you can opt for a stock tank pool (also sometimes called a hillbilly pool).

If you’re looking for the most low-invasive small yard pool ideas, container pool and stock pool ideas will be your friend. Even though they’re made from humble materials, modern finishes and thoughtful landscaping can make these above ground pools look just as sophisticated as a traditional in-ground pool—no one would ever guess that this was a cheap above ground pool landscaping design.

Spool & Cocktail Pools

The “spool” might win the prize for silly names, but the combined “spa” and “pool” is actually a luxurious and functional addition to your landscape design. Also called cocktail pools, these miniature pools are generally less than 400 square feet. They are essentially small swimming pools with all the benefits of a spa or hot tub combined into one landscape installation. That means you can cool off in your spool in the midday sun, and then crank up the heater and jets for a hot tub experience after night falls.

These cocktail pool ideas will have you dreaming of your own backyard spa!

Pool Ideas by Style

If you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate a pool into your space, take a look at some of our favorite Tilly pool landscape designs. There’s inspiration to be found whether your style is traditional and homey or you’re hunting for clean and modern small pool ideas.

What to Consider Before Installing a Pool

No matter what type of pool you are considering, your space, or your budget, there are some important things everyone should think about.

Placement of a Pool in Your Backyard

When determining the best place to build a pool in your yard, there are several factors to keep in mind. How will your pool impact views, open space, and the functionality of your yard? For example, if you put in a full size pool, you’ll be losing a lot of lawn space—are you okay with that? If you decide on a stock tank pool, have you considered the placement to make sure it doesn’t block the views of your favorite flower bushes from inside the house?

Also consider the sun and shade in your backyard. Which areas of the pool will get the most light during the prime hours of the day? Is there a large shade tree in your backyard that you would have to cut down for a pool? Or are you willing to let that shade tree hang over your pool, making maintenance a full time job when the tree loses its leaves?

Budget—How Much Does a Pool Cost?

Whether you have a large, labor-intensive in-ground pool or a modest DIY plunge pool on your wishlist, you’ll need to establish a budget ahead of time. That budget will have a significant impact on the type of pool and size of pool you select.

Between different pool styles and building materials, you have a lot of options. You’re probably thinking of those sticker prices up front, but don’t forget to include long term maintenance in your pool prices. You will also need to add in costs for landscaping around your pool so that it becomes a beautiful and seamless part of your backyard landscape design.

Local Zoning Codes for a Pool

Zoning rules are highly variable depending on where you live, and it’s important to know what you’re allowed to build in your yard according to local building regulations. There may be rules about how close to your property line a pool can be, protecting nearby wetlands, regulating the size of your pool, and more. You should be able to find this information on your town’s website.

If you’re looking for even more landscaping inspiration on a daily basis—including beautiful pool designs, of course–follow us on Instagram and keep up with our latest projects!

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