The Official Blog of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals

Your domain, your paradise, your kingdom.

Your backyard pool area is the seat of your summertime empire. Once you have the swimming pool, the hard part is over. What remains is to build a world around your pool, one that will fully utilize and enhance your investment and take your pool season to the next level. There are countless ways to improve your backyard – some simple, some exorbitantly complex and expensive. With the right guidance and investment, however, anyone can perfect the art of the poolside for under $5,000.

Landscaping

This is the canvas on which your world will be created, and the area where the greatest amount of price variation comes in. While most inground pools are surrounded by a certain amount of concrete, it may not be enough square footage for all of your needs. For the cooking, eating, lounging, and general chill-axing, some landscaping is always in order.

Stone provides the most durable and beautiful coverage. Without having to hire professionals, the do-it-yourselfer can easily install gravel or paver stones. For more elaborate stone patios, however, you’ll have to call in the experts at a potential cost of several hundred to a few thousand depending on size.

If stone’s not your cup of tea, a wooden deck is another excellent venue for the poolside action. Again, if you're handy you can put one together for the cost of lumber (a few hundred), while the rest will need to bring in the pros at a cost.

If neither of these options fits your budget, there is one very inexpensive and beautiful surface on which to cook, eat, drink, lounge, and generally enjoy all things pool-related: nature’s carpet, or as it’s colloquially known, grass. For the cost of water and fertilizer, you can have a beautiful green canvas on which to build your paradise. The only downside is that you’ll have to mow and tend the grass, which will mean regularly moving furniture.

Once the ground is covered  be it with stone, wood, or grass  the rest is a matter of taste. Insect-repelling plants like lemongrass and mint add decoration and comfort. Large boulders or strategically placed trees break up the landscape and provide shade. Above all, try to define spaces for different activities such as cooking, eating, socializing and sunbathing.

Suggested price range: $100 - $2,000

Furniture

The beauty of patio furniture is that, unlike indoor furniture, even the nicer pieces are relatively cheap. Department and hardware stores sell an endless variety of patio furniture for every space and budget, so plan out the general outline of your space before shopping.

Regardless of the specifics, a few basics are necessary for every space. At least one large table, complete with umbrella, is a must. The table will be the main venue for food and drinks, while the umbrella will provide vitally important shade.

Besides that, arrange smaller pieces into separate groups that can be thought of as little islands of socialization. A few low chairs circled around an end table, a bench, a lounge chair or two; all of these extra pieces will create defined spaces conducive to conversation and all-around good times. They also allow different guests to seek more intimacy away from the main body of the party.

Suggested price range: $400- $1,500

The Grill

There’s no pool party without a grill. The first decision to make is whether to choose charcoal or propane. 

Charcoal has the benefit of imparting a more rustic flavor and being just generally more impressive. It’s also labor-intensive and requires some skill in budgeting time. Propane grills, on the other hand, are quick, easy and ready to use at the turn of a knob. They’re also pricier. Charcoal grills suitable for feeding parties of 10 or more don’t need to cost more than $200, though the most elaborate can be priced much higher. Propane grills will cost at least $200 for the your basic setup, but can range into the thousands depending on size, and what bells and whistles your prefer.

We recommend choosing a grill based on your cooking tendencies. If you’re a simple burger and dogs guy, spend less on the grill and save your cash for other improvements; the frozen patties will taste the same. If, however, you’re a foodie, spend commensurately with the quality of ingredients and the intensity of effort you’re willing to put in. The hand-molded Wagyu burgers that you’ve seasoned to a precise balance of flavors will thank you for it.

Suggested price range: $50 - $1,000

Lighting

Two kinds of lighting should be tastefully combined in every poolside situation: solar and tiki. One requires no more than aesthetically pleasing placement and sunshine. The other requires fuel and common sense safety measures.

Line the edge of the pool and any high-traffic walkways with solar lights. Their gentle radiance is one of the best ways to define the various spaces in your pool area, illuminate paths, and generally make the place safer and more beautiful.

For a more dramatic and romantic effect, tiki torches are the only way to go. Only use them on the outside perimeter of the pool area, spacing them 6 to 10 feet apart. Above all, make sure the torches are not close to anything flammable, bearing in mind the possibilities of wind and human traffic. It’s not an overstatement to say that on a dark summer night, torches make any pool area otherworldly, exotic and enchanting.

Suggested price range: $50- $150

•••

Investing in what surrounds the pool is almost as important as investing in the pool itself. Simple, tasteful measures can go a very long way towards realizing the full potential of your space. Not to do so would be nothing less than a disservice to yourself and everyone who enjoys your slice of paradise. So, go forth and beautify.

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