Build Your Own Backyard Swimming Hole

A swimming hole is a beautiful, versatile, and valuable addition to any yard.

| June/July 1998

  • swimming hole - boys on water in innertubes
    A swimming hole has aesthetic and practical value — including providing a way for kids to burn off energy outdoors.
    Photo by Robin Thomas
  • 168-042-01
    If you don't have a tree, try this homemade swing and rediscover the best way to get wet.
    Gail Larroca
  • swimming hole - rolling dock
    A dock that can be rolled back in winter will allow better diving and more room for skating.
    Tim Matson

  • swimming hole - boys on water in innertubes
  • 168-042-01
  • swimming hole - rolling dock

Considering the variety of artificial swimming pools available today, it's a wonder people still bother digging an old-fashioned swimming hole. Yet even with advances in structural materials and filtration systems, and despite the advent of solar covers, above-ground designs, lap pools, and hot tubs, many folks still prefer digging a pond. Why? It boils down to three basics: value, aesthetics, and pleasure.

Property Value

Given the right piece of terrain, dollar-for-dollar you're going to get more out of a pond than out of a swimming pool. A bare-bones in-ground swimming pool, 16 by 32 feet, costs $16,000, not including preparation or filtration equipment. Add taxes and landscaping, and the price tag will be closer to $20,000, and that doesn't include ongoing water, chemical, and electrical costs. Depending on your location, a fence may be required, as well as additional liability coverage.

Above-ground pools are cheaper, roughly $2,000 to $3,000 for a 20 foot round pool, which includes neither installation nor filtration equipment. By the time you're finished — and you're never really finished, because re-circulating pools require periodic maintenance, chemicals, water, and electricity — you'll be in for $5,000.

For the same price, it's possible to dig a pond roughly 80 feet in diameter — four times the surface area and twice as deep! A natural pond usually needs neither pumps nor chemicals, and will add equity to your property. Several real estate appraisers I talked to estimated that an attractive pond is often worth more than its construction costs, although they admitted it's hard to put a figure on it. They also acknowledged that the presence of a pond will often clinch a sale. Unlike an artificial pool, a pond is a unique natural asset which can't be purchased off the shelf and confers status to a property. In fact, the mere presence of a pond site on a piece of land usually adds value.



Real estate appraisers, generally a conservative lot, often give a pond more value than a swimming pool, depending on the quality of the pond, including its size, banks, depth, and the reputation of the builder. When I asked one Vermont appraiser what value he gave to swimming pools, he barked, "Zero! If they're concrete, the walls crack!" He added that he knew three home buyers who recently had their swimming pools filled in. Above-ground pools add little or no value either, and if they include vinyl liners, they have to be replaced every three years. He noted that one of his clients had a half-acre spring-fed pond, well maintained, which provided an attractive view from the house. He appraised it at $5,000.

If you want to know how much value a pond adds to property, drop in your town office. Check the tax assessment schedule to see if there's a formula for ponds. In my town, a few years ago, the tax listers put together a simple chart for ponds. Small ponds, roughly a quarter-acre in size, are valued at $1,750; a good medium-sized pond, approximately a half acre, at $5,250; and the biggest at $8,750. If your town doesn't have a fixed schedule for pond valuation, take a look at assessment cards for property with ponds, and determine for yourself the values of variously sized ponds. Once you have a rough idea of the size pond you plan to build, you should be able to determine the value you're adding. If you're buying property with an existing pond, check the tax card to see if it's been given a value. Although tax assessment is usually based on replacement cast, I find that most existing ponds are undervalued in terms of what they would cost to dig today.

Hunting.Targ
12/2/2018 4:34:48 AM

I'm going to just LOL at the two pool professionals' comments preceding mine (unlike whom I am not going to include a website plug). As an associate IPPSA member, I will comment on the primary distinctions that differentiate between a pool and a pond. -Circulation; the main image conjured in most peoples' minds at the word 'pond' is either a fishing hole or a swampy, stagnant water pit that attracts ducks, duckweed, and algae & water moss. That's not what this article describes. Water turnover is one of the key components of biological water safety; bacteria and monocytes love stagnant or slow-flowing water, so keep it moving! Piping or clay or concrete troughs or sluices can help direct efficient water flow into and out of your pond with minimal maintenance. -Filtration; having debris screens is a great start. Screens or catches should be: placed a points of water influx and efflux; sturdy; and easy to remove and clean. Avoid metals as they can contribute toxic and unsightly metal ions and oxides (which pool professionals hate!) that are not good for the body or the soil. There are pool assemblies that can help in this regard; plastic &/PVC skimmer box and drain cover assemblies can make trapping & screening of coarse debris simple and hassle-free, and are often easy to disguise among natural features. These assemblies of course work best in high-flow scenarios. There are also filter systems which, while pricey to install, can provide additional turnover and extra cleaning power to larger bodies of water. A non-swimming pool installation doesn't, in most cases, have to meet the same performance standards as a built-from-scratch swimming pool. Sometimes the system can be operated by a simple timer box near the house or a nearby sub-panel, and can be run off solar if it is simple and energy-efficient enough. This leads me to the third factor: -Sanitation: Since you clearly advocate natural ponds over constructed pools, this approach limits the options to ensuring bacteriological safety, as putting chlorine into a body of water connected to the soil and the water table is neither wise nor effective. Chlorine is most effective in closed systems, and, -=when maintained at proper levels=- , has advantages in cleansing pores and stripping dead skin and contaminants. Of course, chlorine and aquatic life generally don't mix. I'm not an aquatics specialist, so I have nothing to say on that matter. There are other options to reduce the risk of waterborne illness. Some options are salinity and pH control, although accomplishing this with minerals instead of concentrated chemicals is intricate and 'titchy.' There are other methods of sanitation; the prevailing approach in Europe eschews Chlorine in favor of a combination of UV exposure and Ozone generation on water retuening from a filter to a pool. These systems are effective and have minimal health impact on mammals, but require regular maintenance. In conclusion, an ornamental or multipurpose natural water feature can be a great aesthetic and real estate investment - if done properly. I think this article is thoroughly thoughtful in that regard. If anyone who has read this far STILL has swimming in mind as a primary purpose, it is in your best interests to consult a reputable, properly licensed, professionally recognized pool builder - because, if done properly, a swimming pool puts human safety first, and can ALSO raise property value and provide many years of fine exercise and enjoyment.


Hunting.Targ
12/2/2018 4:34:47 AM

I'm going to just LOL at the two pool professionals' comments preceding mine (unlike whom I am not going to include a website plug). As an associate IPPSA member, I will comment on the primary distinctions that differentiate between a pool and a pond. -Circulation; the main image conjured in most peoples' minds at the word 'pond' is either a fishing hole or a swampy, stagnant water pit that attracts ducks, duckweed, and algae & water moss. That's not what this article describes. Water turnover is one of the key components of biological water safety; bacteria and monocytes love stagnant or slow-flowing water, so keep it moving! Piping or clay or concrete troughs or sluices can help direct efficient water flow into and out of your pond with minimal maintenance. -Filtration; having debris screens is a great start. Screens or catches should be: placed a points of water influx and efflux; sturdy; and easy to remove and clean. Avoid metals as they can contribute toxic and unsightly metal ions and oxides (which pool professionals hate!) that are not good for the body or the soil. There are pool assemblies that can help in this regard; plastic &/PVC skimmer box and drain cover assemblies can make trapping & screening of coarse debris simple and hassle-free, and are often easy to disguise among natural features. These assemblies of course work best in high-flow scenarios. There are also filter systems which, while pricey to install, can provide additional turnover and extra cleaning power to larger bodies of water. A non-swimming pool installation doesn't, in most cases, have to meet the same performance standards as a built-from-scratch swimming pool. Sometimes the system can be operated by a simple timer box near the house or a nearby sub-panel, and can be run off solar if it is simple and energy-efficient enough. This leads me to the third factor: -Sanitation: Since you clearly advocate natural ponds over constructed pools, this approach limits the options to ensuring bacteriological safety, as putting chlorine into a body of water connected to the soil and the water table is neither wise nor effective. Chlorine is most effective in closed systems, and, -=when maintained at proper levels=- , has advantages in cleansing pores and stripping dead skin and contaminants. Of course, chlorine and aquatic life generally don't mix. I'm not an aquatics specialist, so I have nothing to say on that matter. There are other options to reduce the risk of waterborne illness. Some options are salinity and pH control, although accomplishing this with minerals instead of concentrated chemicals is intricate and 'titchy.' There are other methods of sanitation; the prevailing approach in Europe eschews Chlorine in favor of a combination of UV exposure and Ozone generation on water retuening from a filter to a pool. These systems are effective and have minimal health impact on mammals, but require regular maintenance. In conclusion, an ornamental or multipurpose natural water feature can be a great aesthetic and real estate investment - if done properly. I think this article is thoroughly thoughtful in that regard. If anyone who has read this far STILL has swimming in mind as a primary purpose, it is in your best interests to consult a reputable, properly licensed, professionally recognized pool builder - because, if done properly, a swimming pool puts human safety first, and can ALSO raise property value and provide many years of fine exercise and enjoyment.


Jason Charles
6/16/2014 10:24:51 AM

Miami Pool Tech provides complete cleaning service for your pool. By testing, maintaining, checking the water chemistry and sanitizing pool water. The company is mainly focused in providing all solutions to your pooling problems. They are fast, reliable and have a great customer service. Visit them at www.miamipooltech.com for more information.






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