How Deep Should Your Pool Be?

Written by Michael Dean
August 25, 2023

swimming pool depth measurement

Preparing to install a new pool is exciting. Soon your dream of having your very own backyard oasis will be true! But first, you have to draw up the plans for your dream pool. One of the first considerations you’ll have when installing a brand-new swimming pool in your backyard is the depth of the pool. Whether you expect to use your pool for lounging, swimming laps, or as a family pool, pool depth plays a big role in the ultimate design of your pool. You can build pools in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so how deep should your pool be?

In this article, I will answer the above question, taking safety, efficiency, and aesthetics into account to help you make an educated decision. Let’s dive in!

Main Takeaways

  • The depth of your pool will depend on what you want to use the pool for: lounging, family pool, swimming laps, diving, and multiple purposes.
  • Other considerations when deciding on pool depth include children, budget, upkeep, limitations, and legalities.
  • Choosing your pool depth carefully is essential. A pool that is too deep may be unsafe, and one that is too shallow may create a disappointing swimming experience.
  • A standard pool generally ranges from 3.5 to 8 feet deep.

How Deep Should Your Pool Be?

This question might seem a simple one, but, in fact, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The depth of your pool is entirely subjective and depends on many factors. The most important factor is, of course, the purpose of your swimming pool. Depending on what you want to use your pool for, whether it be for lounging, swimming laps, or playing with your children, the ideal depth of the swimming pool (and the overall pool size and shape) is subject to change.


Many people build a pool in their backyard for lounging, unwinding, and cooling off in the heat of the summer. If this is your idea of a good time, you don’t need a bottomless pool. In fact, you can get away with anywhere between 3 to 5 feet. At this depth, you can easily swim, walk, stand, and float to your heart’s content – a perfect depth for a backyard oasis. And if you want to switch up and swim some laps? No worries! Even swimming laps or doing some mild swimming is safe at this depth. While deep pools have their benefits, they aren’t the best for chilling out. You won’t be able to simply stand or relax in a deep pool. Instead, you will have to constantly tread water to stay afloat.

If you want to design your pool further to be the ultimate relaxation destination, try adding a ledge to your pool that is only around 1 foot deep. Here, you can put up some lounge chairs to lie down and get some sun while cooling off in the shallow water.

Family Pool

Safety comes first when it comes to swimming pools. And this is all the more important if you have little ones running around. If you have children, you should provide a large shallow pool area where they can safely play and swim around. The shallow area should be between 2.5 and 3.5 feet deep. Ensure that the pool gently slopes down to the deeper end and avoid any sudden drops, which may be dangerous for young children.

Although creating a multi-depth pool like this is the most popular option for family-friendly pools (more on this below), for safety’s sake, ideally, consider building an entirely separate children’s pool. Since young kids quickly grow, you may also consider purchasing a shallow above ground pool until they become strong enough swimmers!

Swimming Laps 

If you primarily use your pool for water sports and laps during the day, you can have your pick when it comes to the pool depth. You can easily swim laps in depths ranging from 3 to 6 feet, but I usually recommend a depth of at least 4 feet so that swimmers can move freely within the pool without touching the bottom. 


If you want to install a diving board or slide in your pool design, you must meet specific depth standards to ensure safety. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends a minimum water depth of at least 7.5 to 9 feet for a residential diving pool. But remember that many municipalities may have their own rules about this, so your minimum may be higher than 7.5 feet! Furthermore, the American Red Cross advises a minimum water depth of 9 feet for all dives, including those from pool decks. So, to be safer, your pool should be at least 9 feet on the diving end. 

Each year, in the United States only, it is estimated that roughly 800 spinal cord injuries occur due to diving into a body of water. And of these injuries, 90% end up paralyzed! A huge percentage of these unfortunate accidents happen at water depths less than 6 feet. This statistic is a solemn and important reminder that pool depth is incredibly important, especially when considering diving head-first into your pool.

Multiple Purposes (Multi-Depth Pool)

Consider a multi-depth pool if you want to use your pool for multiple purposes. A multi-depth swimming pool is the perfect medium. If you have children or want some space to lounge around in the pool, you can make the shallow end of the pool around 2 to 3 feet deep. And from the shallow end, the pool will gradually get deeper until it reaches around 6 feet deep.

Although the depths are usually staggered between 2 and 6 feet, you can specify the minimum and maximum depths based on your needs.

Other Considerations for Determining Pool Depth 

Of course, the purpose of your swimming pool is only one part of the puzzle. There are some other things you’ll need to take into consideration to find the ideal pool depth for you.

  • Children: If children will be frequenting your pool, the best thing would be to get a family-friendly depth, with a shallow end ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 feet deep. An excessively deep pool can endanger children and weak swimmers.
  • Budget: Deeper pools often mean more excavation, materials, and labor, resulting in higher overall costs. When calculating the right depth for you, keep your budget in mind!
  • Upkeep and comfort: As there is more water to handle and care for, deeper pools may need more maintenance. When the novelty of owning a pool wears off, you want to be sure that you can handle the routine maintenance tasks.
  • Limitations: Consider the practical aspects of establishing a swimming pool. What is the size of your garden? How much space do you have for a pool? You may be forced to choose something more modest if you have a tiny or irregularly shaped garden.
  • Legalities: Finally, make sure you research the local laws. While it may seem like a good idea to install a 15-foot pool in your backyard, it may not be legal. Contact your local municipality and HOA to ensure there are no rules regarding pool depths. And if there are any, adhere to them!

Why Is the Right Pool Depth Important?

The depth of a swimming pool might seem like a super straightforward aspect of pool design, but its significance goes far beyond mere aesthetics. Choosing the proper pool depth is crucial for ensuring the safety and comfort of all swimmers.

The first reason the right pool depth matters is, of course, safety. Safety is paramount in pool design, and the proper pool depth is critical in preventing accidents and injuries. For example, a too-shallow pool might put swimmers at risk of hitting the bottom when diving, while a too-deep pool can be dangerous for inexperienced or younger swimmers. You’ll need to consider all of this and find the right balance.

Furthermore, the right pool depth can significantly impact the overall swimming experience. Swimmers who want to lounge around may prefer shallower areas where they can stand comfortably and interact with others. On the other hand, competitive swimmers and divers require deeper pools to swim laps. The swimming experience you want will determine the pool depth. And the wrong pool depth will make it more difficult to fully enjoy the pool for the purposes for which it was built.

How to Measure Pool Depth

Accurately measuring a swimming pool is necessary for various reasons, including assessing the pool’s capacity, evaluating the quantity of chemicals required, and estimating the cost of repairs or restorations.

To measure pool depth, follow the below steps:

  1. Grab a telescopic pole with depth markers or a telescopic pole and a measuring tape.
  2. Begin at the shallow end of the pool and lower the tool gently until it touches the pool bottom, noting the depth.
  3. Measure at different points throughout the pool, including the deep end and any transition areas.
  4. Record each measurement.
  5. To get the average depth, add the measurements and divide by the number of measurements. For example, if the shallow end is 3 feet and the deep end is 9 feet, the average depth is (3+9)/2 = 6 feet.

Head over to my handy calculator if you want to learn how to measure the pool’s volume.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the standard pool depth? 

A standard pool has a shallow and deep end, and the depth will range from 3.5 to 5 feet. However, you can just as easily find pools of varying depths, depending on your wants and needs. For example, if you want to install a diving board, you will need it at least 7.5 feet deep (although 9 feet is recommended).

How deep are most above ground pools?

Above ground pools are available in various sizes and designs, but generally, above ground pools are around 4 feet deep. This is deep enough for adults to swim while still shallow enough for inexperienced swimmers. Keep in mind that there are many variations of pool depths, and you can easily find above ground pools that are more shallow or deeper than 4 feet.

How Deep Do You Want Your Pool?

In the end, the depth of your pool mostly depends on you: what do you want to use the pool for? And who will be using the pool? Answering these questions will give you a basic idea of how deep your pool should be. While the average pool will generally range from 3.5 to 5 feet, you can design your pool to be more shallow or deeper, depending on your wants and needs.

Do you have any more questions about pool depth and swimming pool design? Let me know!

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