Backyard pool ideas: 15 ways to stay cool in the heat

These backyard pool ideas will make your outdoor space the envy of the neighborhood

backyard pool ideas with a large swimming pool in an American backyard
(Image credit: Blue Sol Pools)

Looking for a way to cool down in the heat? Our backyard pool ideas are perfect for when the weather gets hot as there's really only one way to cool down in style: lounging in a lovely swimming pool. While a pool is certainly an investment – custom designs can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars – it’s a family-friendly backyard feature that’s sure to help you create memories for years to come. (And, as a bonus, it’ll certainly up your home’s resale value!)

Installing a pool, however, is easier said than done, especially when you consider all the design decisions that you’ll need to need to make. But don’t fret! We’re here to inspire you with 15 ideas and tips for backyard pools to help you get started on the process. Then make sure you head to our backyard design ideas and front porch ideas for more inspiration. 

1. Be dynamic with a freeform shape

large curved swimming pool in an American backyard

(Image credit: Blue Sol Pools)

For a more casual, natural look that recalls a pond or a lake, choose a freeform shape for your pool instead of a rectangular one. Surround your freeform pool with lush landscaping and a flagstone patio to complete the au naturel vibe. As a bonus, you can even install a waterfall or fountains for some lovely babbling background noise – or both, as in the case of this pool by Blu Sol Pools!

2. Keep things square

Swimming pool with a garden building at one end for a covered outdoor space

(Image credit: Unsplash/Stephen Leonardi)

For a more formal, manicured look, a rectangular pool is the way to go. To make sure your pool doesn’t look a little too plain, incorporate elegant landscaping, whether that’s through greenery or stonework. For example, we love how this pool combines a sense of simple formality with the rustic style of a Tuscan-style pavilion. Bonus tip: rectangular pools are also great for backyards with a view, as they don’t distract from the beautiful landscape.

3. Go sharp and modern in style 

rectangular pool at night lit up with outdoor lighting

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

Rectangular pools are also a great choice for more a contemporary, urban aesthetic, as exemplified by this fiberglass prefab pool by Latham Pool, which perfectly maximizes its courtyard-like space. To keep your pool area from feeling too cold and sparse, make sure you plant some greenery and incorporate a seating area or two. String lights are never a bad idea, either.

4. Buy a prefab pool for small backyards

Swimming pool in an American backyard with loungers and outdoor dining areas

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

You don’t need a massive backyard to house a pool; opt for a smaller sized pool if your space is somewhat limited. One easy method: go for a petite prefab pool. This fiberglass model by Latham Pool is just 26 feet long and 12 feet wide, though thanks to its freeform shape, it feels rather spacious. Smaller pools – and prefab ones – are cheaper than their larger brethren, of course, which is great news for aspiring pool owners on a budget.

5. Install a water feature 

Swimming pool with three water features to create a waterfall effect at one end of pool

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

If you want to go above and beyond with your pool, add a water feature as a focal point. In a more natural-style pool area, you could add a waterfall that cascades over natural stones. In a more formal pool area, you could add fountains. In this pool by Rondo Pools and Spas, three sculptural fountains provide a visual and auditory focal point.

6. Create an entertainment area

large outdoor entertaining space with swimming pool, covered living area, outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Blue Sol Pools)

A pool doesn’t necessarily need to be the star of the show in your backyard: it can simply be one element in an entire group of spaces primed for entertaining. Take, for instance, this watering hole by Blu Sol Pools, which shares a backyard with a covered lounge area, a dining area, and a grilling area. If you love playing the role of host, this kind of planned yard – pool included – is for you.

7. Keep fit with a lap pool

lap pool in an American backyard with loungers alongside it

(Image credit: Emerald Pools and Spas)

Pools aren’t just for leisure; they’re great for working out, too. So forget about installing a home gym and build a lap pool instead! While lap pools are long by nature, they are also quite narrow, making this style of pool ideal for rectangular lots. And in some cases, like this pool by Emerald Pool and Spas, you can also include an infinity edge to maximize a stellar view. 

8. Add waterfalls for a waterpark-like vibe

swimming pool in American backyard with waterfalls

(Image credit: Simmonds & Associates)

While most backyard pools are relatively simple, you certainly can go over the top, as with this pool by Simmonds & Associates, Inc. Here, the pool is anchored by a waterfall complex that includes a slide, a grotto, a hot tub, and even a steam room. It feels as if it should be in a luxury hotel rather than a private property! So if there’s any way to make all your neighbors envious, this is it. 

9. Put in a hot tub 

Large swimming pool in a backyard with a built in hot tub

(Image credit: Jackson Design & Remodeling)

Like peanut butter and jelly, pools and hot tubs go hand in hand. There are numerous ways to combine the two water features in your space, whether that’s placing the hot tub directly in the pool, as shown here in this backyard by Jackson Design & Remodeling, keeping them adjacent to one another, or separating them as two standalone elements. The latter is ideal for colder-climate locales, so you can keep the hot tub open during the winter after you close the pool for the season.

10. Incorporate a swim-up bar 

large backyard pool with a swim up bar area

(Image credit: Blue Sol Pools)

If you’re looking to recreate a vacation experience in your own backyard, consider putting in a swim-up bar in your pool. We love this pool by Blu Sol Pools, where the bar is a hybrid with a swim-up side for the more adventurous and a dry-ground side for those who forgot their bathing suits. On top of that, this bar has an outdoor TV, so you can watch the game right from the pool if you so desire.

11. Go with an irregular shape

Modern pol area with seating area and fire pit in an American backyard

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

Not all pools are freeform or rectangular in nature. You can work with a contractor to develop a pool shape that best fits your property. In the case of this pool by Rondo Pools and Spas, a roughly triangular shape with a dramatic diagonal was the best option for the entire landscape plan, which includes a seating area with a fire feature and two different lounging spaces. 

12. Stretch your pool out to infinity

Infinity style pool in an America backyard

(Image credit: Simmonds & Associates, Inc)

If you happen to have a cliff-front property, you should certainly consider going with an infinity-edge pool, which – you guessed it – looks as if it has no boundary, opening up into the sky (or the ocean if you live on the coast). It’s simply a trick of the eye: whereas most pools keep their water levels beneath their edges, infinity-edge pools are filled to the brim, with the water flowing over the edge to create the illusion. See an infinity-edge pool in action here, in this yard by Simmonds & Associates, Inc.

13. Use a hill to your advantage

swimming pool on a sloping plot in an American backyard

(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

For most pools, you’re going to need to level off your backyard to make things perfectly flat. But if you have a sloped yard, you actually can use the grade to your advantage. For this pool by Blu Sol Pools, the hilly terrain is tiered, with the hot tub situated above the pool, allowing for the creation of a lovely overflow waterfall. Top tip: consider using a textured stone if you have any steps around your pool in order to provide a little grip underfoot.

14. Tweak the shape for a refined look

swimming pool in an American backyard

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

While a straightforward rectangular pool might seem a little too boring for some homeowners, you can always modify the shape of your pool ever so slightly to add some interest. In this prefab pool by Latham Pool, two semicircular additions – one is a staircase, one is swim-up seating – provide just enough visual interest to elevate the rectangular form without being too over-the-top.

15. Mix elements 

swimming pool in an American backyard with fire pit water features

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

Go for some elemental balance – and a fair bit of drama – by accenting your pool with a fire feature. In this pool by Rondo Pools and Spas, there are actually three: a backdrop against the hot tub and two fountains illuminated by flames. You can, however, keep things a little simpler (and perhaps more practical) by just including a fire pit, tiki torches, or citronella candles to help keep the mosquitos away.

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