What to Know About Plunge Pools

For a small backyard or budget, or if you just want to cool off, a plunge pool may be the best option for you.

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There’s a swimming pool type and size out there for almost every backyard. If you have a small area for a pool, if your budget is limited, or if you just want a pool for cooling off, then a plunge pool might be right for you.

Essentially, a plunge pool is a small pool for relaxing and refreshing. Plunge pools offer homeowners a quick-to-install, easy-to-maintain alternative to traditional in-ground pools.

What is a Plunge Pool?

A plunge pool is a small, typically deep pool that is usually installed in-ground, although above-ground models are available. It’s too small for swimming. Instead, it’s an area for getting wet and cooling off, for kids to play, and for aqua-aerobics or water rehabilitation.

Plunge pools are usually rectangular, but they can be any shape that available space allows. They generally measure around eight feet wide and 10 to 18 feet long. They’re usually at least four feet deep, but can be deeper depending on the homeowner’s wishes.

Types of Plunge Pools

A plunge pool can be customized any way the homeowner plans to use it. For cooling off, entertaining friends or letting the kids splash around, a plunge pool might have steps to enter or a wraparound bench seat. If you plan to use the pool for aqua-aerobics or other low-impact exercise, you may want a deeper pool.

You may wish to consider adding powerful jets to create a resistance current to swim against, making it similar to a spool pool. Adding massaging jets and a heater makes a plunge pool a larger version of a hot tub. You can also install a plunge pool indoors.

Pros and Cons of Plunge Pools

The benefits of installing a plunge pool include:

  • Works for a small backyard or patio;
  • Cheaper and faster to install than traditional pools;
  • Require less maintenance than a traditional pool;
  • Can be customized, with heat, resistance current or massaging jets;
  • With landscaping and lighting, can be a beautiful backyard feature.

The downsides of installing a plunge pool include:

  • Can only accommodate a few people at a time;
  • Not large enough for swimming;
  • Creates safety risks for kids, who can hurt themselves jumping into a shallow pool;
  • Don’t make the same grand impression as a classic outdoor pool;
  • May require a gate or fencing like a regular pool, depending on local regulations;
  • If your plunge pool is heated, figure on higher electric or gas bills.

Plunge Pool Installation

Because a plunge pool is essentially a mini version of a traditional pool, installation steps are about the same, just on a smaller scale. In-ground plunge pools require excavation. You’ll need to consider a pool deck in tile, wood or other material, as well as any landscaping. Still, thanks to its small size, a pool contractor should be able to install a plunge pool in just a couple of weeks, versus the six-to-eight week time period for a regular in-ground pool.

You can also go the DIY route with a plunge pool, but we recommend this only for those with advanced skills.

Plunge Pool Maintenance and Care

The smaller size of plunge pools means less maintenance and ongoing expense compared to full-size pools. Plunge pools use less water and fewer chemicals, and can be cleaned with a net and a handheld pool vacuum (Don’t forget to check out our collection of the best pool vacuums). No need for an expensive pool service or a “robot” pool cleaner.

Plunge Pool Cost Considerations

Like standard swimming pools, plunge pool costs can vary widely depending on size, materials and features. The ballpark figure for installing a plunge pool is around $20,000 — still lower, by at least half, than what the average in-ground pool costs.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.