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Affordable Backyard Water Features With DIY Pools

Written by:
Nikita Buida

Have you ever dreamed of having your own private oasis right in your backyard? A place to relax after a long day, exercise, entertain friends, or simply enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors? Adding a pool, spa, or other water feature can make this dream a reality. But such backyard upgrades often come with equally big price tags. If sticker shock has kept your backyard boring, read on – you can create a personal backyard paradise while keeping costs down with some strategic planning and DIY elbow grease.

Why Add Water Features to Your Backyard?

Before jumping into the work and costs of installing backyard water features, start by dreaming about why you want one. Envisioning the experiences and joys they will bring helps answer whether features like a pool are truly worth the investment for your home and lifestyle.

The merits of personal water features range from the practical to the sublime. At the basic level, features like pools provide hours of recreation right at home. No more loading up the family for a day trip to the crowded public pool or beach. Friends and family will flock to your place instead for impromptu gatherings, holidays, or simple weekend lounging as the centerpiece of backyard living. Pools and spas also provide year-round exercise opportunities. And studies show people feel calmer and less stressed after spending time around water.

Integration of Water Features in the Garden

Beyond the functional benefits, water shapes the aesthetics and ambiance of your plot layout in dramatic fashion. The interplay of light and water adds beautiful, soothing movement to your landscape. Choose styles like infinity edge pools and waterfalls that flow seamlessly into the environment for maximum impact. Integrate that new hot tub or pondless waterfall into an overall design plan including hardscaping and plantings to fully transform your space into a private backyard resort.

After considering your motivations, evaluate if adding water realistically aligns with how you will use your yard. Will you take full advantage of a pool for play, exercise and hosting visitors frequently? Or will a more low maintenance water feature like a standalone fountain better suit your lifestyle? Prioritizing your goals helps guide decisions on which water amenities offer the best return on investment.

Exploring Your Aqueous Options

If reflecting on your ideal backyard has you ready to dive in, the options for integrating water features run deep and wide. Choices range from full-fledged swimming pools to modest ponds or petite fountains. Nearly any landscape lends itself to some type of water feature with enough creativity and know-how. Even small plots or sloped yards with drainage challenges can accommodate beautiful water additions.

While pools might first come to mind, focus initially on the category of water feature that best fits your space and lifestyle. The main options include:

Swimming Pools

Inground and above ground pools for swimming dominate many backyard upgrade projects – for good reason. Nothing beats a personal pool for frequently enjoying the quintessential backyard pastime of taking a dip.

Inground pools make the biggest splash when it comes to landscape transformation and functionality. Options like concrete, fiberglass and vinyl-lined models integrate directly into your plot layout and look like they came with the original property. Size choices also run the gamut, from compact 12-by-24-foot plunge pools to expansive custom designs. Consider an infinity edge pool or one with attached spas and water features to really up the wow factor.

Above ground pools provide an affordable, low-commitment alternative that still allows you to swim right at home. Many models boast fancy decks, fencing and even slide accessories that emulate the inground pool look, too. Just be sure to confirm rules in your area, as some communities restrict above ground pool placement or prohibit permanent installation. Above ground pools typically require seasonal installation and removal.


After a stressful day, nothing beats slipping into a steamy, bubbly hot tub. Integrating a spa alongside or connected to your pool lets you enjoy hydrotherapy benefits and soak sore muscles year round. Self-contained portable hot tubs offer the most flexibility in terms of relocating or removing when not in use. Custom in-ground spas though more permanent, provide a seamless look alongside pools and water features in your designed backyard landscape.

Water Features

Even without space or need for a full swimming pool, consider compact water features to introduce the sights and sounds of moving water into landscape designs. Choices like fountains, ponds, cascades and waterfalls come in endless shapes and sizes to accent gardens or patios. Self-contained kits are readily available, or you can build custom water features integrated with pool areas, retaining walls and hardscapes. Automatic recirculation systems reduce maintenance of water gardens while maximizing natural ambience. For the biggest decorative impact with the least commitment, fountain and waterfall installations start around $1,500 – less than some elaborate backyard playsets!

Now that you know the main water feature and pool possibilities, dive into factors that determine the investment to construct your backyard oasis.

Maintaining the Dream Affordably

After installing your ideal water amenities, don’t let ongoing maintenance and operation deflate your budget bliss. Keep enjoyment flowing affordably with some utility management and care strategies.

Operational Cost Considerations

The main operational expenses for water features include:

Energy – Pumping water requires electricity, which means utility costs tick up depending on run times for filtration systems. Program pumps to run more at night or during solar peak hours. Smart controllers shut equipment off during peak rate periods too.

Chemicals and maintenance – Sanitizing swimming pools requires extra work and chemical costs. Switch to eco-friendly salt water chlorination systems to save money and effort over traditional chlorine.

Incidentals and repairs – Replacing broken pumps, filters or damaged hot tub covers also takes a financial toll over time. Invest in durable components and extended part/labor warranties upfront to minimize follow-on expenses.

Taking some preventative measures reduces unexpected operating and repair costs down the road. For above ground pools and standalone hot tubs, store away or cover off-season. And save by tackling basic weekly maintenance like testing chemical levels yourself instead of hiring a service.

Getting into Water DIY

Speaking of tackling pool and water feature upkeep yourself, large scale DIY installation constitutes the biggest opportunity to save on establishing your backyard leisure spot. But just how feasible is taking a DIY plunge when it comes to what is essentially landscape construction? Consider key skills needed to size up the self-build opportunity.

Skills Checklist

Successfully installing water features or pools solo or with a DIY team requires expertise across several construction realms, including:

 - Excavation – Safely operating equipment like backhoes and jackhammers to dig, grade and remove dirt

 - Carpentry – Framing, pouring and finishing structural foundations & landscape elements

 - Plumbing – Sizing, laying and connecting pool pipes plus water feature tubing

 - Electrical – Running wiring, installing equipment control panels and automated controls

If mentions of wiring electrical panels or framing pool foundations seem outside your wheelhouse, solicit contractor bids before fully abandoning DIY dreams. Excavation and landscape prep costs much less to hire out than structural finishing work. Just be sure any professionals you use pull required permits and sign off on final inspections.

As with any landscape upgrade, thoroughly research codes and permitting procedures for DIY installations in your area. Nothing deflates backyard bliss faster than draining your time and budget correcting work failing inspection!

Optimizing Design and Placement

In addition to selecting backyard features aligning with budgets, creating an enjoyable, low maintenance oasis relies on smart design planning. Carefully consider key elements impacting construction decisions, ongoing costs and backyard enjoyment when conceiving your water feature layout, including:

Sunlight and Views

Integrate splashy amenities like pools and fountains in areas with maximum solar access and exposure. At least 6 hours a day allows heating systems to keep water temperatures pleasant and operational costs lower. Frame views from patio seating toward your property’s best vistas. Focal points like mountain ridges or peeks of downtown form a pleasing backdrop highlighted when glimpsed across the water.

Privacy and Noise

Evaluate sight lines from neighboring homes or shared fences to determine privacy requirements as part of water feature placement. Strategically placed trees and lattice skirting help block views without expensive specialty fencing. The sounds of moving water also carry easily, particularly from recirculating fountain set-ups. Position pumps and mechanicals away from patios or seating areas on shared property boundaries.

Access and Convenience

Think through traffic flow and use patterns when positioning water elements in your plot layout. Allow ample decking and paver space surrounding hot tubs and pools for safe, convenient access. Locate pool mechanicals somewhere easily accessible for maintenance too. Consider existing lawn spaces or patio foundations when site planning – building on existing infrastructure saves significantly on costs while allowing room for future expansion.

With fundamentals like sunlight, views, noise and access addressed, indulge creative visions for design extras neighboring water installations. Just like well-placed plants enliven landscapes, curated design choices transform basic backyard water features into personal paradise.

Some easy, budget-friendly possibilities for complementing new pools or water gardens include:

Patio Structures – Add instant ambiance with overhead pergolas or side privacy screens covered in flowering vines or string lights

Fire Features – Extend evening enjoyment arranging seating around flickering flames from standalone fire pits or custom fireplaces

Specialty Decking – Exchange basic concrete for artistic style underfoot with mosaic, pebble or brick pool surrounds

Themed Gardens – Craft destinations with concepts like a butterfly oasis overflowing with nectar-rich blooms or a backyard “staycation” getaway with mini tiki huts

Elevating your space from generic water hole to distinctive oasis need not inflate budgets. Tap your creativity dreaming up small flourishes personalized to your passions and style.

To Sum it Up

Owning a personal backyard escape offers life enriching benefits hard to put a price tag on – relaxation, health, joy creating memories with loved ones. But fiscal reality intervenes on even the most elaborate leisure visions. Simply start where you can, then evolve designs in tandem with expanding budgets to ultimately achieve backyard bliss on your own terms. And through strategic planning, you absolutely can construct that personal paradise without breaking the bank!

By Liliana Alvarez

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