The Stages of Building a Backyard Swimming Pool

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    Building a Backyard Inground Swimming Pool

    planning and designing a pool
    Getty Images

    Have you ever wondered what's involved in building a backyard pool? Follow along through the various stages it takes to construct a new in-ground swimming pool. From planning to digging the big pit to the splashing result, you can see for yourself the various phases involved in a complete backyard swimming pool project. Not a do-it-yourself pursuit, this type of swimming pool involves hiring a landscape architect, licensed pool contractor, subcontractors, and crew.

    Not surprisingly, an in-ground pool project is expensive. Before taking the plunge, consider the reasons for building a private pool, along with maintenance costs and time it takes for upkeep and repair. Things to think about before making the big commitment:

    • How you will use the pool: For exercise, entertaining, relaxation?
    • Shape: Rectangular, free-form, L-shaped, etc?
    • Type: Infinity, pool with integrated spa, and lap pools are just a few choices.
    • Location and logistics: Is there enough room in your yard for the type of pool you want? Will it be private or in view of your neighbor's upstairs bedroom?
    • Climate and weather: Do you live in a sunny region or an area in which you'd use the pool two months out of the year?
    • Materials: Concrete (gunite or shotcrete), vinyl, fiberglass, or an alternative finish.
    • Land: What type of soil is in your yard? Is your property on a slope or hillside? Both soil and slope can effect the type and size of in-ground pool that can be built in your yard.
    • Permits, home owners' association (HOA): These, along with zoning laws, influence what type of pool you can build, along with its size, shape, and other details.

    Then There's the Construction Process

    Are you convinced that a pool is in your future? Take a look at different pools in various stages of being built, then get ready for the excavation and building process in your own backyard.


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  • 02 of 13

    Digging the Hole for the Pool

    building a new swimming pool
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    While the Cornella family was in the planning stages of a backyard pool project for their Southern California home, city planners initially questioned the stability of the property, which is perched atop a slope.

    The homeowners had to get resourceful and do some research on their own to ensure that the project would be approved. "I googled a satellite map of our neighborhood, and almost at every house you could see a blue spot in the shape of a pool," says homeowner David Cornella. "I showed it to them, and they agreed to start the permit process."

    With the project approved by the city and a contractor and crew hired for the job, excavation began in early spring with a goal of completion by summer. Since it is in Southern California, weather was on their side, and it was not an especially rainy year—just cool and dry.

    Following the blueprints, a work crew spent several days busting up the former concrete patio and doing the most strenuous work—digging a big hole in the backyard. While some pool projects use equipment like bulldozers, cranes, and front-end loaders, others—like this project—use old-fashioned shovels and lots of hard work. Sometimes, the location of the yard prohibits access by heavy equipment.

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  • 03 of 13

    Hauling Away All That Dirt

    building a pool
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    For many days, the work involved with building a new swimming pool is tedious and repetitive: constant digging, then hauling the soil from the backyard to the front and dumping it into a truck parked at the curb.

    Here, the soil is loaded, wheelbarrow-by-wheelbarrow-full of the dirty stuff and maneuvered through a narrow side yard to the front, where it's maneuvered up a narrow ramp and into the bed of the truck.

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  • 04 of 13

    Dumping Dirt Into the Truck

    building a pool
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    The wheelbarrow goes up the ramp, where it's dumped into the bed of the truck. Can you guess how many trips this took? The guys who had to do this probably stopped counting, for sanity's sake. The soil will be hauled away and used for another project that requires dirt. Since the soil is clay, it will most likely be amended for its next use.

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  • 05 of 13

    Crater With Walls

    building a pool
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Measurements are made in orange paint, and the floor of the pool is formed with differing depths. Although it's hard to tell, the lowest depth from surface to bottom will be 5 feet.

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  • 06 of 13

    An Inground Pool Takes Shape

    building a pool
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    With sturdy clay-like walls, the shape of the pool is easier to define. Looking at the positive side of digging into clay-like soil, the walls can be cut down to the desired depth and won't cave in, which could happen with fill or sandy soil. Imagine building a sandcastle—unless you use sand mixed with water, caving occurs and you end up back at square one.

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  • 07 of 13

    Concrete Pool Project

    excavating a hole for a swimming pool
    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    A contractor supervises an excavator used to dig the pool shell in a backyard. This property has room for equipment to access the yard, which means the building process should be quicker than a pool dug by shovel.

    Before construction starts, trees and shrubs may need to be cut down and fencing removed to allow room for machinery. 

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  • 08 of 13

    Laying Pipes

    water pumps for pool project
    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

     Water pumps and plumbing are installed for the concrete pool project.

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  • 09 of 13


    pool building project
    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    While the pit is excavated, wood framework hints at the future shape of the pool.

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  • 10 of 13

    Pool Walls

    building a swimming pool
    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    Concrete walls are built, revealing the pool's shape. The pipes leading from the side yard to the pool will be covered by a patio or pool decking.


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  • 11 of 13

    Classical Shape

    building a backyard pool
    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    The walls are built, revealing a classical or Grecian-shaped swimming pool. Pools made of shotcrete or gunite allow for more free-form and non-traditional shapes. Concrete pools are usually made with a framework of rebar—steel reinforcing rods.

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  • 12 of 13

    Steel Framework

    framework of inground pool
    Bill Jacobus / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    In another pool project, you can see the rebar framework before gunite is used. This pool includes an integrated spa.

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  • 13 of 13

    Finish Coat

    building a backyard pool
    Bill Jacobus / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The construction crew adds the concrete finish coat before putting plaster on the pool shell of the project with the built-in spa.