One thing that my family and I put a lot of consideration into (and probably one that we didn’t expect to spend as much time on as we did!) was the depths of our new pool.
Notice how I said “depths” and not “depth”? More than likely, your pool won’t be just one even depth. Rather, you will have multiple depths in your pool.
The difference in the depths of your pool will play a huge factor in how you expect to enjoy and use your pool!
So, you should give very careful consideration to planning how deep your pool should be throughout your entire pool. This is important to note: it’s more than just how deep your pool should be, it is also the amount of pool area for each depth.
There’s a lot to consider and know about the best pool depths for you, so let’s dive in! Sorry, there was no way I could avoid this pun. I am pretty sure I am legally obligated to do it, maybe.
You’ll need at least 9.5 feet if you want to dive into your pool; you’ll need at least 4 feet to jump in feet first
Shallow areas are typically 3 to 4 feet, and you can have multiple shallow areas in your pool
Determine if a “Sport Pool” or “Deep End” pool is the right design for you
Don’t forget to factor in how tanning ledges and spas affect your useable pool area
A deeper pool will be more expensive to build, especially if you have a high water table or rocky terrain
Shallower pools will be warmer than deeper pools
Intended Use: 4 Things to Consider and 1 Planning Tip
First, let’s address some of the most important things. These are how you generally want to use your pool, your different needs, and what activities you want to do in your pool. These will be a big factor for the perfect depths of your pool and where you have certain pool depths.
Recreation: Have More Shallow Areas
If your pool is meant mainly for lounging, wading, or for children to play in, the best choice for a recreational pool is to have more shallower pool areas throughout your pool.
Exercise: Have Consistent Depths
A Lap pool will usually have consistent depths, which is appropriate for swimming but not so deep as to make turns at the pool ends difficult.
Diving: You’ll Need a Deep End
Diving requires a specific minimum depth to be safe (more on this below). Specific diving boards also have their own depth requirements. So, make sure you check the diving board you want before you build your pool or install the diving board.
Multi-Purpose: Make Sure You Have the Right Depths in Your Pool
Some pools have varying water depths to accommodate different activities, from shallow wading areas to deeper sections for swimming or diving. Read down below in the “Planning, Design, and Safety” section for more specifics on what to consider in a multi-depth pool.
✨ My Tip: Make sure you talk about the intended use of your pool with your spouse and family and ask them what they want to do. For example, ask things like:
What’s more important to you, diving in or jumping in?
Do we want people to be comfortable swimming throughout all areas of our pool?
Where do we want younger kids to safely use our pool? Will younger kids use our pool often?
Do we want to play games like volleyball or basketball?
How important is it to swim laps or use our pool for exercise?
These answers will help guide you in picking the right depth and the amount of pool space for each depth.
Deep Areas: 3 Important Deep Area Depth Considerations
Now that you know how you want to use your pool, let’s pick how deep the deepest part should be.
Diving: Need at Least 9.5 Feet
If you want to dive head first in your pool, it is recommended that you have the deepest depth of the pool be at least 9.5 feet (9 feet, 6 inches) deep.
Additionally, you may need a minimum pool area for diving, especially if you have a diving board with your pool. This is something that you will need to check with your pool builder to see if you have enough space for diving in your pool. This may affect your pool shape.
Jump in Feet First: Need at Least 4 Feet
Jumping in feet first requires less depth than diving. Generally, you need at least four feet of pool depth for this, but you may feel comfortable with a greater depth.
Recreational/Casual Use for Adults: 5.5 to 6 Feet is Perfect
Do you want some type of deep area in your pool but not too deep that restricts people from casually swimming in it?
Then, you should consider a maximum pool depth of 5.5 feet (5 feet, 6 inches) to 6 feet. At this depth, some adults can still stand in your pool but have enough depth for casual swimming and floating.
👉 What did we do? We knew we didn’t want a very deep pool, and we wanted people to be comfortable casually using the entire area of our pool. So, we went with a small deep area in the middle of our pool that is 5.5 feet deep.
This depth has been perfect for us, even with smaller children who regularly use the pool. This is mainly due to how we planned the shallow areas in our pool (more on this below!)
Shallow Areas: 3 Depth Considerations and 3 Tips
Most shallow areas in a pool will have an average depth of 3 to 4 feet. Although this is only a difference of a foot between the two depths, there are important considerations when choosing between 3 to 4 feet for shallow areas.
3 Feet: Great For Young Children
3 feet is a perfect depth for young children because, by the time a child is a strong swimmer, they can likely stand or navigate in 3 feet of water pretty easily.
The downside of a 3-foot shallow area is that the water will come up to the waist or mid-thigh of an adult. So, adults will be doing a full squat in the water to be fully submerged in the water. Is that okay with you?
4 Feet: Better for Adults
Older kids really won’t have a problem swimming or playing in four feet of water, but younger children or children who aren’t strong swimmers might struggle in this depth.
On the other hand, this is an ideal depth for adults because they won’t have a problem hanging out or lounging on a pool noodle in this area.
3.5 Feet: The Compromise Depth
To get the best of both worlds, consider splitting the difference and go for 3.5 feet (3 feet, 6 inches). This area can be used by most young children, and the shallow water will be higher up on adults than 3 feet of water.
Tip: Factor in the Slope of Shallow Areas to Other Depths
Worried that one area might be too shallow or not big enough? You can make the area as large or as small as you need.
One way to control this is with the slope from the shallow areas to deeper areas of your pool. A gentler slope can give you more shallow area, whereas a more dramatic (or no slope at all) can give you more deep area.
But, your overall useable pool space may limit you on how much or little slope you can have.
Tip: Tanning Ledges are a Great Shallow Area
Tanning ledges are becoming a must-have in new pools. These are great shallow areas (typically between 6 and 18 inches of water) that are perfect for young toddlers, small children, and adults. Children can easily play in this area with less worry of safety issues, and this shallow area provides a great lounge spot for adults (especially if you have or want in-pool lounge chairs!).
So, you should consider how much space to devote to a tanning ledge and how much additional shallow area you will want in your pool.
Tip: Don’t Forget Your Attached Spa as Useable Pool Space
If you are worried that you won’t have enough shallow pool space for children to play, an attached spa (if you have one with your pool) is a great shallow area for kids to use. Usually, the deepest part of the spa is 3 to 4 feet, and the benches provide an even shallower area.
In this case, you can plan that kids will use the spa as a play area and have deeper areas in the pool for adults.
Planning, Design, and Safety: 4 Considerations and 3 Tips
Below are some additional things to consider as you plan and design your pool to figure out your ideal pool depth.
Sport Pool vs. Deep End Pool Design
There are two typical pool depth profiles that you can use when you are planning your pool: a “Sport Pool” and “Deep End Pool.”
A sport pool is a pool that has the deepest part of the pool in the middle, flanked by two shallower ends. Generally, the depth starts around 3 to 4 feet at one end, has a middle maximum depth of 5 to 6 feet, and a shallow depth of 3 to 4 feet on the opposite end of the pool.
As you can see, sport pools aren’t meant to be deep pools. Rather, they are great for casual swimming, and, you guessed it, playing water sports like volleyball or water polo.
As the name describes, a deep end pool is a pool with one end that is very deep. The depth at this deeper end can be as deep as you want it. But if you want it for diving, you will need at least 9.5 feet.
👉 What did we do? As we covered above, we wanted a pool for casual use and one where people could use the entire pool area casually. So, we chose a sport pool with a tanning ledge and a spa.
The main pool area has one side that is 3.5 feet deep, the middle is 5.5 feet deep, and the other side is 4 feet deep. We have had multiple parties, small get-togethers, and family-only time in the pool, and the pool has been perfect for every occasion.
Plan for Entry, Exit, and Rest Areas: Benches, Stairs, and Ladders Placement
You’ll want to place stairs, benches, and ladders in natural egress spots in your pool. These spots should integrate with your main gathering areas around your pool.
But, you will also want to consider how to use stairs, benches, and ladders as safe rest areas in a pool too.
✨ My Tip: A bench area in a deeper area of a pool can be a great rest spot for weaker swimmers. This is what we did in the 4-foot area of our pool. We knew this depth might be too deep for children, and this bench has made a great spot for them to swim to and play on.
✨ My Tip: If you know you have some areas of your pool that might be difficult for weaker swimmers, make sure you plan for spots around your pool to supervise these areas best.
Also, make sure swimmers know before they get in your pool where these difficult parts are, and give them instructions on how to swim safely in these areas.
Local Building Codes: You May be Limited on How Deep Your Pool Can Be
Local and municipal regulations often dictate pool depth and construction standards. You may need specific permits for deeper pools, especially if they exceed certain depth limits or if the water table is high in your area.
Construction Cost: Deeper Pools Could Mean Higher Costs
A deep inground pool will cost more to build, not just for the extra digging but also for the additional materials and engineering required
Do you live in an area with a rocky terrain? Your pool builder might have extra excavation costs if they need to dig through rock to get the depth of a pool you want.
Additionally, there may be extra costs to dig the pool if there is a high water table in your area.
✨ My Tip: Make sure you talk to your pool builder about the costs that are added in AND not added to the price of your pool for excavation. For example, there may be an additional cost they charge you if the pool builder needs special equipment to dig your pool. This might not be in the price of the pool, but it could be listed as a potential extra cost in your contract.
Maintenance and Comfort: 2 Considerations and 2 Tips
Finally, there are a few additional things to know how the depth of your pool affects how you maintain your pool.
Prepare For Some Extra Effort to Clean Deep Areas
Although you will have a robot or in-pool vacuum that will do the majority of the cleaning for your pool, be prepared for some extra effort to clean deeper parts of your pool.
How? Deep areas will have bigger walls, meaning you will have more wall area to brush. Additionally, any items or debris that sink to the bottom of the pool will take extra effort to get out.
✨ My Tip: Make sure you have a pole pool with the right length to clean and brush your pool. A 12 to 16-foot telescopic pool pole is great for most pools.
Temperature: Shallower Areas will Heat Up Faster than Deep Areas
The water in shallower parts of your pool will heat up faster than in deeper areas of your pool. Why? It’s harder for sun rays to penetrate deeper water and heat up the water.
If you plan to have lots of shallow areas in your pool, you may find it hard to keep your pool water temperature low in the hottest days of summer.
✨ My Tip: Make sure you work with your pool builder on how to design your pool to help maintain the temperature you want. Dark bottom pools will retain more heat than light bottom pools. Water features are great for temperature control too. Plus, factor in how you can add shade in and around your pool.
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