Pool Planning Guide: What To Consider Before Installing an Inground Pool

Written by Michael Dean
April 17, 2023

swimming pool with planning checklist

Having your own swimming pool in your backyard is a great feeling, especially during the summertime. But building a pool isn’t a walk in the park. There are many factors and expenses to consider, and you must have a plan before you start the build.

Below, I cover everything you need to check and plan before the pool construction process can begin. You can also download my free pool planning checklist if you’d like to have something to take to the next meeting with your pool builder.

Main Takeaways

  • There are many permits and regulations you’ll need to check for prior to building your pool, including whether your yard is protected or in a historic district, setback requirements, and whether or not you need an enclosure.
  • Ensure your yard is at least 100 feet from a body of water. Otherwise, the water table can rise to high levels when you build your inground pool.
  • Before building your pool, determine what kind of excavation needs to happen and how heavy machinery will get into your yard.
  • You should also consider how you want the pool to look, what accessories you want to include in the build, and what type of pool you want to install.

Get My Free Pool Planning Checklist

Download my free, printable pool planning checklist to guide you through the entire design and installation process.

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Find Out if Your Yard Is a Protected Zone

If you are not aware of whether your property is in a wildlife-protected zone, it’s essential to check. Properties in protected zones must take additional steps to build a pool, such as an approval process.

Authorities may have to survey your home before you can begin construction and decide where to place the pool. Check with your local and state government to determine if you’re in a wildlife or protected zone. The USGS website also has a Protected Areas Database. Use the maps tool to choose your location, and it will show any protected areas around or on your site.

Find Out if Your Home Is in a Historic District

Some signs may make it obvious that you are in a historic neighborhood. However, it’s best to check to prevent future approval conflicts. Homes in historic districts, or those classified as a landmark home, must seek the local policy on installing swimming pools. The city’s historical district committee may have to approve the construction before you can move forward.

The best way to find this information is to contact city or county officials. If there is a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), that may be the best route to ask for a map to verify your status.

The National Park Service also has a database and research function to search for historic homes.

Check the Pool Enclosure Requirements in Your Neighborhood

A pool enclosure is vital to protecting you and your family, adding safety measures around the pool with fencing or pool covers.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission informs residents of safety barrier guidelines to prevent child drownings. As barriers are not mandatory, they are a highlight recommended to avoid tragedies. The commission also recommends fences to be at least 4 feet high, with 5 feet as a preferable measurement.

Overall, leave room in your budget for fencing or pool covers. Check with local authorities, as pool enclosure requirements vary from city or state.

The International Residential Code has a section on swimming pools that future pool owners may find helpful.

Check for Easements

The laws state you cannot build any structure or pool on an easement.

Check with your city or utility company directly to find out if you are on an easement. A clerk may show you a map of the easement locations. Other easement locations may be on property surveys. The purchase deed of your property may show easements.

Also, official public records on a county site may reveal any easements on the property.

Check the Setback Requirements in Your Neighborhood

A setback requirement is the amount of space between your swimming pool and the corners of your property. It is the distance from the base building line and the new construction. Setbacks are building restrictions on homeowners. Local ordinances and building codes establish the setback requirements for safety.

Setback requirements impact the size of your pool. This step should occur before designing the pool or buying a pool shell to prevent pre-construction conflicts.

To find your area’s setback laws, visit your city or county development services website.

It is possible to change your property’s setback requirements through rezoning. However, depending on your local government, applying for rezoning may take several months.

Make Sure You Maintain a Safe Distance From Bodies of Water

It would be best if you were 100 feet away from any body of water. Examples include lakes, rivers, and the ocean. The water table might become too high if you install an inground pool. Other factors already raise the water table, such as rainfall and snow.

If you are determined to build a pool that is near a body of water, you have four options to ensure the depth of the water table:

Check for Electrical Wiring Going Over Where You Want to Place Your Pool

For the utmost safety, ensure no wires are hovering over your pool. Electrical, utility, or any wiring should not be over your yard where you will install the pool.

If there are wires over the backyard and around the pool, you may have to reroute the wires. Unfortunately, this will be an additional expense to you before installing the pool. Rerouting wires can be a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the location and installation fees.

Check for Utility Lines Running Underneath Your Property

While looking for wires above your property is straightforward, checking underground utility lines requires more research and outreach.

Check your home plans for water, gas, electrical, sewer, or any other utility lines that may run under your backyard. Depending on the space you have to work with, the wires may need rerouting before installation.

Additionally, you have to verify if you’re over a leach or drain field. The best way to find this out is to call 811 before beginning construction.

Overall, contact a real estate agent, local records, or planning office to obtain a copy of your home plans. The Underground Safety Alliance allows you to submit a request, giving you all the vital information you need before building.

Check Your Terrain (You May Need More Excavation and a Retaining Wall)

If you’re in a flat area, your terrain may be acceptable for an inground pool.

However, if you are on a hill, you may have to build retaining walls or reshape the ground before construction. Retaining walls are great to prevent the pool from sliding, where it can end up in someone’s yard.

The construction cost may double if you have to make adjustments to secure the new pool. Although, if you do not build retaining walls or excavate, it is costly if the pool causes further damage around the environment.

Make Sure Heavy Machinery Can Get to Your Yard

Assess your area and determine whether you have enough room for heavy equipment that your pool builder will need to use. Examples include concrete mixers, trucks, and anything else needed for pool building.

There are additional expenses to cater to heavy machinery. For instance, you may have to remove perimeter fencing or walls to allow the heavy equipment through your backyard. When the construction is done, you may rebuild the walls or fencing.

If there is no easy way to allow the big machinery through, your contractor may have to downsize their machinery. Smaller machinery, however, may prolong the construction process, extending the timeline.

Think About What Design You Want

There are several factors to consider when designing your inground pool. It’s a chance to let loose your creativity but contemplate its primary function. For instance, is it for exercise or entertainment?


If you want to use your pool for exercise, an Olympic-style square or rectangular shape with swim laps or water aerobics may suit your needs.

Leisure or Entertainment

Building a spa section to relax or a small recreation area is best for those who want a pool for entertainment. There are many different pool design options you can go with (as well as surrounding landscape design); it’s really up to your personal preferences.

Home Appeal or Value

An extravagant pool design may bring value and appeal to your home. Waterfalls, fountains, and other features may bring more value to the pool and home, such as:

  • Bench seating for people to relax around the edges
  • Tanning ledges for those who want to soak up the sun
  • Wading pool or splash pad for young children or the elderly
  • Diving board for added entertainment

Types of Inground Pools

There are three types of inground pools:

  • Fiberglass is the most popular because of the various shapes available. Fiberglass is low maintenance, with built-in steps and quick installation.
  • Vinyl liner pools have a nonabrasive surface with customizable shapes and a low initial cost.
  • Concrete pools (also known as shotcrete or gunite) have the most flexibility, as they can be any shape, depth, or size. However, they cost the most, with more maintenance and more chemical use.

In all, you have many types of pools to choose from; it really just depends on your preferences and budget. Above ground pools are also an option, although typically much less complicated to install.

Think About What Surrounding Landscaping You Want

Your pool surroundings bring life to your swimming pool and the experience. First, think about the space and if you have enough room for your desired features.

Landscape features and ideas include:

  • Plants: Potted plants, scrubs, and grass are great options for around the pool.
  • Privacy: Consider fencing or other plants to protect your family
  • Lighting: Solar-powered garden lights or novelty items like Tiki Torches enhance your outdoor look
  • Design: Boulders, stones, or pebbles, add a theme to your pool, whether it’s natural or like a desert

Figure Out How You’re Going to Pay for Your Pool

Pool loans are available for up to $100,000 with a fixed rate of 5 to 10%. The amount depends on your credit history, credit score, and several other factors.

You may pay for your pool in cash but finance a portion of the pool with a loan if desirable. Factors to consider when taking out a pool loan are:

  • Monthly payment
  • Repayment term
  • Maintenance cost

If you are unsure about payments, consult a financial expert.

Additional Tips

Here are a few extra tips you need to consider:

  • When to build the pool: Most people build during the summer, as winter weather is more difficult, especially with heavy snowfall. Hurricane season may pose as an obstacle, however, depending on where you are. Spring may be a reliable option based on location.
  • Landscaping elements: Sprinklers and other items around the environment may have to relocate or removed to make the construction process easier.
  • Pool build timeline: Depending on the type of pool, it may take weeks or several months to construct your pool. To reduce the timeline, have your approvals and inspections in order.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re more informed about building an inground pool, the next step is creating a checklist and planning the construction, including the permits you need. Remember to take one step at a time, and do not rush the process. The time and cost are your most valuable assets, considering an inground pool is a hefty investment.

Questions? Let me know; always happy to help.

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