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Planning Your Backyard: A Step-by-Step Guide

Planning_Your_Backyard-1By John Petrocelli

One of the most rewarding investments you can make in your home is to create a backyard getaway where you, your family and your friends can make memories that will last a lifetime. At the heart of every great backyard, you are sure to find a beautifully crafted swimming pool that can provide you and your family with years of enjoyment.

The ultimate backyard, however, requires careful planning and design—this will make all the difference in the end. Proper preparation will ensure every detail is precise, from the ideal size, shape and location of the pool, to other aspects of your outdoor space. The best way to ensure a smooth and thorough design process is to work with an experienced pool design/build professional who can offer you their expertise while balancing your wants and needs.

Unfortunately, most prospective pool owners know very little about the planning process and aren’t sure what steps they need to take, beyond contacting an experienced pool builder for help. If you fall into this category, you may find yourself overwhelmed. With this planning guide at hand, you can better know what to expect.

Know What You Want

Before you meet with a pool builder, the first question to ask yourself is whether you are looking for a pool only or if you also want additional backyard features. These additions can be as simple as a deck area for lounge chairs and a patio set, or as complex as you can imagine, encompassing water features, garden structures, irrigation, lighting and extensive landscaping.
If you are just looking for a pool, the planning process becomes a lot simpler. In short, the most important decisions you will have to make, outside of what builder to choose, are:

  • the type of pool you want (e.g. inground, onground or above-ground);
  • the material you want it to be built with (e.g. vinyl, concrete or fibreglass);
  • where you want to locate it in your yard; and
  • the style of the surrounding deck (e.g. plain or decorative concrete, pavers or natural stone).

For a project like this, detailed design plans typically aren’t required; all you’ll need is a site plan that can be used to position the pool and obtain permits.

If you are aiming for something a little more ambitious, but already have a very clear, precise picture of what you want, you are free to prepare a written specification outlining the exact details of your future oasis; you can even include a sketch, if possible. Then, you can take these documents to several builders to obtain comparative quotes.

However, in most cases, while you may have a general idea of what you want, you will need a pool builder to help you with your overall vision. In this case, you and your builder will work to hammer out the specifics during a series of consultations.

Figure Out Your Budget

The decision to create your backyard getaway is just the first of many choices you will have to make before you call a pool company. The single-most important of these decisions involves setting a budget for the project. You need to determine how much you are willing to spend—or how much can you afford to spend—on your dream backyard.

You must also figure out where these funds will come from, and over what period of time they will be spent based on your own financial situation. For example, you may base your budget on funds you have in savings or expected upcoming bonuses, or you may opt to approach your bank about a line of credit or term loan to fund the project.

Timing of the project can also play a part in determining your budget. You may choose to get all the work done at once or phase the construction over a set period of time. While it is typically more economical to do the work in one phase, breaking the project into manageable pieces can compensate for cash flow issues. If you want to take this approach, your builder can help you separate the work into logical phases.

It is very important to be honest with yourself and provide a realistic number to your pool designer/builder. It is pointless to design a backyard that you cannot afford or on which you are not willing to follow through. That would be a waste of your time and the builder’s, not to mention a waste of money (most good design/build companies charge for design). A good company will come up with a feasible plan that meets as many of your objectives as possible while staying within your budget.

Ultimately, your budget will not only determine the overall complexity of the design (how much work can be done and which details can be added), but also the types of materials you use. Keep this in mind as you proceed to the next step.

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