25 Small Inground Pool Ideas for All Budgets
Inground pools aren’t just for people with big yards and big budgets.
Actually, some of the coolest projects we’ve worked on have been with small swimming pool models.
While there are tons of reasons why you may want a small inground pool, we’ve discovered over the years as fiberglass pool manufacturers that people prefer small inground pools because they tend to cost less and fit in most spaces.
Smaller pools are often called cocktail pools or plunge pools, depending on their dimensions and depths. Click the link in the previous sentence to learn more about these smaller pools.
But to give you as many ideas as possible and to provide the most inspiration, we’ve rounded up all of our top small pool ideas with pictures, including budget-friendly and space-saving options.
Without further ado, here are 25 small inground pool ideas to consider adding to your pool project.
Small Inground Pool Design Ideas
1. Add a Tanning Ledge
A tanning ledge is the perfect spot for relaxing in the pool on a hot summer day. Also known as a tanning shelf or Baja shelf, a tanning ledge is a must for anyone who wants pool furniture, water features, and space to rest. If your pool design does not have a tanning ledge built-in, you can always add one to the side of your pool.
Many of our pools have built-in tanning ledges! The C Series and I Series freeform models all include ample tanning ledge space. Our rectangular D Series models have tons of tanning ledge area, as do the three sizes of our M Series model.
2. Paint It Black
Why not be bold with your pool color? Dark bottom pools that are black, deep-blue, and gray are trendy right now. You can also choose from a wide range of pool colors across all three inground pool types.
3. Install Color-Changing Lights
LED color-changing lights can be added to any inground pool to make your parties and night swims that much cooler. Small LED lights cost $1,000 to $1,500 on average and must be installed during the pool's construction.
4. Upgrade Your Coping and Patio
One super easy way to upgrade your small pool is to invest in some beautiful coping and patio materials. You can choose anything from stone to brick to even marble for your pool surround. Just make sure that the pool patio and coping materials are slip-resistant.
5. Install an Underwater Mosaic
An underwater mosaic or mural can add so much character to your pool and outdoor living space. Some pool tiles even glow in the dark! The best thing about underwater pool mosaics is that they are 100% customizable and can be unique to your swimming pool.
6. Build a Rock Waterfall
A rock waterfall can seamlessly connect the surrounding landscape to your swimming pool, as shown in the image above. A simple, stand-alone rock waterfall can also be installed on any side of your pool.
7. Add a Cascade
A retaining wall creates a perfect place to incorporate a cascade waterfall, but you can add a cascade to any side of the pool, with or without a retaining wall. You may also be able to customize the height of the waterfall.
Pro tip: Waterfalls and cascades should be plumbed for in advance and preferably added when the pool is built.
8. Add a Spa
Looking for a space to relax in your backyard? How about building a small inground pool with a spa for year-round enjoyment? If your spa is not integrated into your pool's design, you can always add one next to your pool and create a spillway between the two.
9. Install Ambient Lighting
Do you enjoy night swimming or want to host evening pool parties? You can upgrade your pool landscape lighting to make the space instantly more inviting. Strategically placed hardscape lights and spotlights make this pool area well lit while preserving its charm.
Pro tip: Opt for multiple lighting points rather than a single source of bright light, like a floodlight.
10. Close It In
Pool enclosures and pool cages can be purchased to shelter your swimming pool without giving up the natural sunlight. Because each square foot will cost more, a smaller pool will likely be cheaper to close in than a large pool. This is a good option for anyone who wants to extend their swim season or increase their privacy.
If you want to go all the way with your enclosure and make it a part of your home, check out our indoor swimming pool guides for tons of details on the costs, considerations, and options available to you:
11. Make It Pet-Friendly
Have pets who like to swim, or do you suspect that they might? To make your swimming pool pet-friendly, you'll want to make sure that:
- Your pool has a tanning ledge for them to walk on
- The tanning ledge isn't too deep for them
- The pool's surface can't get damaged by claws
Pro tip: We recommend fiberglass or concrete pools for people with pets because vinyl pool liners are more vulnerable to wear and tear. If you're a pet owner and you're not sure which type of pool is best for you, take our quick Pool Type Selector quiz. It's even got questions about your furry friends, so you can make a pet-friendly choice with confidence:
12. Get Fancy with Waterline Tile
Waterline tile is a must if you want to bring your inground pool design to the next level. The right waterline tile can also help you integrate your color scheme and incorporate any elements that you're trying to bring to your outdoor living space.
13. Bring Fire Features into the Pool
Love the idea of having a poolside fire pit? Why not bring fire features into your pool so that you can enjoy them while you swim or lounge in your tanning ledge? Fire bowls can be added almost anywhere, so feel free to get creative.
14. Build a Wooden Deck
One easy way that you can upgrade your pool is to choose a wooden deck. A wooden deck provides a refreshing, modern design and helps to separate the pool area from the rest of the outdoor living space.
15. Make It an Infinity Pool
Infinity pools are perfect for anyone with a fantastic view from their backyard, or if you just like the look and sound of water going over the vanishing edge.
Keep in mind that infinity pools usually cost much more to install than regular inground pools.
16. Add a Pool Slide
Just a heads up, pool slides require more space to install. But if you have the room in your backyard, a slide can bring lots of fun to your barbecues and pool parties. You can expect to spend $2,000 to $4,000 and up on average for a pool slide, and you'll have to make sure the plumbing for the slide is integrated during the pool's installation.
17. Build a Poolside Fire Pit
Adding a fire pit by the pool is one simple way to diversify your outdoor space. On average, you can expect to pay $2,500 and up for a backyard fire pit, depending on the size and type.
We've got an amazing fire pit buying guide to help you figure out your fiery options and create a perfect nighttime poolside experience. Click here to read it!
Budget-Friendly Small Inground Pool Ideas
We know that many pool buyers want to upgrade their small pool for as little money as possible. To help you get the best inground pool for the lowest cost, here are seven more awesome things that you can add to your pool while staying within your budget.
18. Add a Bubbler
Bubblers are essentially in-pool fountains, and they go perfectly in shallow areas of the pool like tanning ledges. The relaxing sound that just one bubbler can bring to your backyard makes it a good option for anyone looking to create a serene outdoor retreat. Each bubbler costs $450 to $700 on average and will need to be installed when the pool is constructed.
19. Play Water Basketball
All swimming pool games can make the pool more fun in the summertime, and adding a basketball hoop can bring that fun to the next level. On average, a pool basketball hoop can cost $150 to $350 or more, depending on the manufacturer and type.
20. Add Seating Around the Pool
Adding lounge chairs and seating areas to your pool patio is a no brainer. But if you want to maximize the space and make your pool the focal point of your backyard, try adding seating and outdoor furniture all around the pool rather than clustering it in one corner.
21. Add Plants to the Pool Area
Instead of surrounding your pool in concrete, why not try planting some pool-friendly plants on one or more sides? The above image features plants in the surrounding pool landscaping as well as in strategically placed planters along the rock retaining wall. This might cost $300 to $700 to integrate.
22. Add Jets
A couple of jets can turn your small pool into a spool (a pool with a spa-like experience) and make it much more enjoyable to relax in. Jets can be added along bench seating areas or steps and cost around $400 each. They also need to be installed during the pool's construction.
23. Skip the Handrails
If your pool's design includes multiple entry and exit points that are slip resistant, you might find that you don't need a handrail at all. Skipping the handrails can help you save a little on costs, and it leaves you open to cool add-ons like sliding deck pool covers.
24. Make it a Saltwater Pool
If you are dreaming of owning a salt pool, we have good news: a salt system costs about as much to run as a traditional chlorine pool. If a salt system is a must for you, steer clear of metals (like metal walls in a vinyl pool), and keep in mind that the salt may wear down plaster finishes quicker.
We've reviewed some of the best and most popular salt water systems in a new article -- click here to read it if you want the best salt chlorinator for any type of pool!
25. Add In-Pool Furniture
While you might not find good in-pool furniture at the dollar store, it can be relatively cheap compared to other inground pool accessories. You can bring anything from loungers to tables to beds into your pool, and you can always upgrade your collection over time. Just make sure your tanning ledge is big enough for the type and amount of furniture that you want.
What are your best small inground pool ideas? Share them with us in the comments!
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass swimming pools for customers across North America. Fiberglass pools are widely regarded as the number one choice for small inground pools because they are low-maintenance with low lifetime costs, and they are quick to install.
If you'd like to learn more about your fiberglass swimming pool options, feel free to visit our learning center, try out our pool pricing calculator, or fill out our contact request form to get in touch with us using the button below.
If you're still shopping around for the right inground swimming pool for your home, you can download our free ebook for an in-depth comparison of the three main inground pool types. Happy swimming!