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.

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 for more information.

1/30/2014 7:39:46 AM

At the time of making a swimming pool there are many type of things to know and how to make the pool is very important. Structural materials and the pumps used in the pool, how to fix is a big thing. For the drainage of the water some holes make and valves are fixed in the hole for the drainage.

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