Layout and Size of an Inground, Outdoor Pool for your UK Home or Garden

This page is about the elemental landscaping that surrounds and provides the setting for an in-ground swimming pool. The pool itself is a small area of flat water that is kept clean and healthy to swim in. The appeal provided by the pool and the effort required to maintain the appeal depends entirely on the landscaping around it. Frequently the planting of vegetation around the pool is confused with landscaping.

Pool location

The first question to ask is where is the pool going?   In most circumstances the rule of thumb is that you should locate the pool as close to your house as possible. There are several reasons for this:-

To gain maximum benefit from the pool it needs to be part of your summer “Living Space”
It can get increasingly annoying carting plates, drinks and glasses from kitchen to the pool area and vice versa
A pool is a form of very hard landscaping and it is better to connect all the hard landscaping areas into one zone in your garden.

But on the other hand you may want to make the pool the centre of attention in one part of the garden such as a natural hollow etc. In this instance remember that you will need a hard path to it as otherwise dirt and mud is carried onto the pool paving area whenever it is raining.

How big should the swimming pool be?

The second question is how big should it be? Usually you should build the smallest pool that will work for your particular circumstances. A 6x4 metre pool can be big enough, an 8x4 will often be adequate and a 10x5 will be more than big enough for most gardens. Nowadays nearly all pools have a flat bottom and have walls between 1.3 and 1.5m deep that provides 1.2 to 1.4m of water depth.

Even if you have plenty of money it will be better spent on pool equipment, paving, covers, lighting, showers, heating and landscaping than on raw water area. This is even truer if the pool is purely to be a social centre or somewhere to cool down when it is too hot.

What Level should the Pool be set at?

The third question is what level should the pool be set at? This is a vitally important issue that is often totally ignored by the non-professional. It has a large effect on pool appeal, cost and its maintenance.

I define pool level as the level of the top of the coping stones that sit on the top of the pool walls that retain water.

If the garden is flat without any large level changes the pool location will not be affected by levels. However if there are level changes – and I mean anything more than 150mm across the garden then this must be taken into account and can easily be a dominant factor. This is because the top of the pool walls have to be level all around the perimeter. This very obvious fact is often totally overlooked during the landscaping design process.

Drainage around the pool

Rainwater cannot be allowed to flow into the pool under any circumstances because it will:-

So when the pool location is considered one has to take into account that all the paving around the pool must fall away from the pool and that all the ground adjacent to the pool should be contoured to shed rainwater away from the pool and not towards it.

This requirement will often substantially influence where the pool is located in the garden – but the influence can be reduced by changing levels around the pool with the material that is to be excavated.

I know that this all sounds pretty complicated and difficult and the short answer is that it is complex and most amateurs get it badly wrong and many professionals do as well. An experienced pool builder can do all this in his head and produce a superb job – but it is still safer to get the elemental landscaping and the levels down on paper before he starts.