A Guide to Swimming Pool Types, Designs & Styles

in-ground swimming pool

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Just like anything else, swimming pools come in all different types, designs, sizes, and shapes and are used for various purposes. Budget, lot size, local codes, and availability of materials will all factor into what type of pool you will eventually decide to build or install on your property.

Before taking the plunge, assess what type of swimming pool works for you and your family. Maybe a small spool will be perfect for you, or do you dream of a large, landscaped in-ground pool complete with a pool house? Take a tour of your options.

  • 01 of 12

    Above-Ground Pool

    An above-ground pool on a large deck with white ladder.
    DigiStu / Getty Images

    Above-ground pools have often been the symbol of attainable pool ownership for the working or lower middle class. The Heck family on the sitcom "The Middle" are an "above-ground pool family," while the clan on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" was thrilled when their above-ground model was delivered to their Georgia yard. For starters, one of the reasons above-ground pools have become more appealing in a lean economy is their lower price tags. Other reasons to go the way of an above-ground pool include the following:

    • Lets homeowners get their pool-feet wet in a less costly, more portable type of swimming pool.
    • That portability allows you to take the pool with you, should you move.
    • Easier to work with certain types of land, including rocky areas.
    • A deck can be added later to an above-ground pool, and you'll still come out cheaper than an in-ground model.
  • 02 of 12

    Architectural Pool

    A modern swimming pool with modern home near mountains.
    Astro-O / Getty Images

    Just the name gives it away: an architectural pool must have structure, definite lines, and often echoes the form of the house and uses the same materials for a cohesive look. An architectural pool is often geometric, sophisticated, and usually designed by an architect. If the house is custom-built, the pool is often built at the same time as the house, taking in size of the lot and the layout and relationship of the house to the pool.

  • 03 of 12

    Family Pool: Recreational Swimming Pool

    A family swimming pool with pool furniture surrounded by a patio.
    TimAbramowitz / Getty Images

    You may not have the budget or space that Celine Dion had to work with for her Florida swimming pool, but a glance at her compound gives you an idea of what family pools are all about: fun. They're like a water park, only on a smaller scale and with fewer people.

    Awe-inspiring water features, elaborate slides, caves, tunnels, boulders, and a general for-all-ages appeal is what recreational pools are all about. While they are often big enough, don't expect to work in some laps, at least while children are playing and splashing in one of these mini water parks. If you like to entertain and like noise, activity, and excitement, this may be the pool of your dreams—or at least your kids' dreams.

  • 04 of 12

    Indoor Pool

    An indoor pool with glass ceiling and tile as well as green patio furniture.
    TerryJ / Getty Images

    An indoor swimming pool is pretty straightforward; it's inside, under a roof, and insulated by at least three walls. Indoor pools are usually simple, geometric shapes and are built for swimming or training throughout the year, especially in cold climates. The cost for indoor heating pools may sometimes be lower than outdoor pools. Because the pool room is insulated, it's less likely that heat will escape, as it does outside.

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  • 05 of 12

    Infinity Pool

    Infinity pool overlooking trees.
    Ed Shelley / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Infinity pools are also known as infinity edge pools, vanishing edge pools, negative edge, zero edge, or disappearing edge. Infinity pools are always custom-built and should be designed to highlight a view. Done right, an infinity pool gives one an illusion of a sheet of water dropping off over the edge of the property, like a waterfall, although you can't see or hear falling water.

    They're definitely on the more expensive end of residential swimming pools.

  • 06 of 12

    Kiddie Pool

    A blue kiddie pool on grass with kids having a water fight.
    Digital Vision / Getty Images

    At the very lowest end of the "Can I Afford a Pool?" scale is the easy-to-find, dispensable, inflatable kiddie pool. You might be able to get one at the end of the season for 75 percent off, which you can use the following year if you have the storage space (if it's the PVC kind). The inflatable models have been around since the 1940s, making pool ownership a reality for almost anyone with a porch or plot of ground—even a sidewalk or driveway.

    Kiddie pools have long been an attainable, affordable part of the American Dream. And you definitely can't knock that.

    Just make sure you drain the pool after each use (water the lawn), and keep an undistracted eye on the kiddies at all times.

  • 07 of 12

    Lap Pool

    A lap pool set against white tile, patio furniture, and white umbrellas.
    Caiaimage / Martin Barraud / Getty Images

    A lap pool is a swimming pool built and used for fitness and health purposes. Lap pools are usually long and narrow, often more than 50 feet in length. Typically, lap pools are a rectangular shape and can be built on long, narrow lots.

  • 08 of 12

    Natural Pool

    A natural pool surrounded by stone and a rock waterfall.
    slobo / Getty Images

    Natural swimming pools (or swimming ponds, as they are called in Europe, where the concept originated back in the 1980s) are self-cleaning pools that combine swimming areas and water gardens. Like any in-ground, private swimming pool, a natural pool can be designed in a freeform, rustic style with boulders and waterfalls, or it can be modern or architectural—sleek and elegant.

    Most natural pools are lined with rubber or reinforced polyethylene. A separate-within-the-pool "regeneration" zone is equipped with aquatic landscaping, which acts as a sort of organic cleaning system.

    Skimmers and pumps circulate the water through the regeneration zone and draw it across a wall of rocks, loose gravel or tiles. Friendly bacteria attaches to the wall, acting as an additional biological filter.

    The term pond conjures up images of cloudy water with who-knows-what lurking beneath the surface. Friendly bacteria attach to the pond, serving as an additional biological filter. Unlike artificial ponds, which tend to be as murky with groundwater runoff and sediment from soil erosion as the natural ponds they're modeled on, in a natural pool, the water is clear enough to see through to the bottom.

    Natural pools, which cost about the same as or slightly more than conventional ones, depending on landscaping, appeal to gardeners because of the great variety of plant life that can be grown in them, as well as to green advocates and others who don't want to swim in chlorinated water.

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  • 09 of 12

    Olympic-Size Pool

    Person diving into an Olympic-size pool with lane dividers.
    Tim Tadder / Getty Images

    Olympic athletic competitions and swimming are the most widely followed Olympic sports in the world and have the largest number of events and participants from different countries. It's no surprise that aspiring Olympians and swimming fans get caught up in the big event and want an Olympic-sized swimming pool of their own.

  • 10 of 12

    Plunge Pool

    A plunge pool surrounded by palm trees and patio furniture.
    Trinette Reed / Getty Images

    Plunge pools are small, cold-water pools that have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and were also popular with the Ancient Romans. Many swimmers and athletes like to plunge into a pool of cold water after a heated workout or sauna or spa session, believing it has therapeutic benefits.

    Plunge pools can be separate or attached to a larger in-ground pool. They can look like a spa—but one cautious foot in the pool will reveal otherwise.

  • 11 of 12

    Saltwater Pool

    A salt water pool at nighttime with an illuminated house nearby.
    Martin Barraud / Getty Images

    OK, so you don't exactly look at a swimming pool and exclaim: "Wow—I love the way those saltwater pools are designed! I'd know a saltwater pool from a distance, blindfolded!"

    Popular in Australia and New Zealand for many years before making their way to other continents, and sometimes called ocean pools, saltwater pools are not a design or style of pool. But adding a saltwater chlorinator or generator is something you have built into your pool. The good thing is that the generator can be added during the pool-construction process or after. A chlorinator can also be added to an above-ground pool, as long as it's made especially for above-ground swimming pools.

  • 12 of 12


    Backyard hot tub with two steps, orange towels, and yellow potted flowers.
    Jumping Rocks / UIG / Getty Images

    Blending the words spa and pool, you get a spool. Since the Recession, pool builders have seen a rise in homeowner requests for custom-built spools. Many people have downsized, and their smaller lots can't accommodate a larger pool. Some like it for relaxation and entertaining, using it more as a lukewarm-to-cool small pool in which to soak and cool off on hot days. And, of course, they don't cost as much to build as a larger pool.