How much does it cost to build a natural pool?
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Build Natural Pool Cost Guide
Updated: August 19, 2022
First developed in Europe and now making their way to the United States, natural swimming pools offer a greener alternative to the traditional backyard swimming pool. Natural pools use plants to filter the water rather than chemicals, so you spend less time and money on maintenance over the lifetime of the pool. These pools resemble ponds because they tend to have a brownish or greenish tint. While they may look like ponds, they are much different primarily because they are used for swimming which is not the case with ponds. However, like ponds, they are a more environmentally friendly choice for your property.
The national average cost to build a natural pool is between $60,000 and $80,000, with most people paying around $70,000 for a 30’ x 20’ natural concrete-lined pool with stairs and a small deck. At the low end, a natural bentonite-clay-lined pool with no features will run you about $50,000. On the high end, a natural pool with stairs, deck, waterfall, retaining wall, infinity edge, and boulders will run you about $100,000.
Cost to Build a Natural Pool
|Natural Pool Cost|
|National average cost||$70,000|
How Natural Pools Work
Natural pools do not rely on chemicals or machines to clean the water. Instead, they use various plants and a pump that circulates water through these plants, naturally filtering and cleaning the water. Every natural pool consists of roughly two equally sized parts, a swimming section and a regeneration zone. This part is also filled with water, but it is disguised and differs from the swimming section because it is shallower, filled with crushed gravel and various aquatic plants. Because the water is continuously moving, mosquitoes do not breed there because they prefer stagnant or stationary water.
Cost of Natural Pool by Material
The cost of a natural pool ranges from $0.25 to $113 per sq.ft. depending on the material used to build it. For the swimming side, concrete is the most common material and provides the most options for customizing your pool, having different depths, and allowing for straighter walls. However, other materials may be used, including pool liners, gravel, clay, and fiberglass. The regeneration zone of a pool is filled with plant life and gravel used to filter the water, keeping it clean and free from algae.
|Natural Pool Material||Costs per Sq.Ft. (Materials Only)|
|Liner||$0.25 - $1.20|
|Clay||$0.50 - $1.50|
|Gravel||$1 - $2|
|Concrete||$55 - $70|
|Fiberglass||$100 - $113|
Natural Pool Liner
Natural pool liners cost between $0.25 to $1.20 per sq.ft. Traditional pools use pool liners, but a pool liner can also be used when constructing this type of pool. They help keep the water in the pool and help provide a clean appearance. Pool liners come in several colors and thicknesses. For a natural pool, a black pool liner creates a more natural look and helps heat the pool.
Clay Swimming Pool
Bentonite costs between $0.50 to $1.50 per sq.ft., which is considerably cheaper than concrete. If you want a more natural-looking and good-feeling pool, the other option is to use bentonite clay to cover the soil. The soil is first tamped down, and then the clay is applied to it. The clay seals the soil so that the water will not be absorbed into the ground. This is a much cheaper option, limiting the finished pool’s shape, size, and appearance.
For the regeneration area of your pool, the contractor will fill the bottom with 5 to 6 inches of crushed gravel, which costs $1 to $2 per sq.ft. The gravel is not used to build the pool but is added to the pool to help keep it clean. So, these charges will be in addition to the pool material used for building the natural pool. Below this gravel, you have pipes or tubing for the water system. The pool itself can have an infinity edge if using concrete to help it circulate the water. Otherwise, it would be best if you had discrete areas for the pump and tubing to circulate.
Concrete Natural Pool
Concrete costs around $55 to $70 per sq.ft., depending on the type of concrete pool you choose. For the swimming side, concrete is the most common material and provides the most options for customizing your pool, having a variety of depths, and allowing for straighter walls. Use concrete to create a pool lip if desired or a pool deck and stairs. Many people who use concrete choose to paint it black to give the pool a more natural appearance.
Fiberglass Natural Pool
Fiberglass for your natural pool costs between $100 to $113 per sq.ft. Natural swimming pools are good at fighting off algae growth using their filtration system. However, installing fiberglass in your natural swimming pool increases its ability to fight off algae growth. In addition, these pools are aesthetically beautiful and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, it is pretty costly to install, even more expensive than concrete.
Labor Cost to Build a Natural Swimming Pool
The labor to build an average natural swimming pool ranges between $27,000 and $38,000. Materials, machinery, and excavating costs range from $33,000 to $42,000, bringing the total cost of building a natural swimming pool to between $60,000 and $80,000. The first few stages of building a natural pool area are much like building a standard pool. First, either the pool is lined with clay, or the concrete is set up and poured. Gravel is laid down on the regeneration side. The pipes and pump system are installed. Water is slowly added to the pool. Then, the aquatic plants are set in place. Finally, the natural swimming pool contractor fills the regeneration area with various floating plants, oxygenating plants, and crushed gravel.
Natural Pool Filter
With a natural swimming pools, you will need to use a natural pool filter to keep the water safe for swimming. This is achieved by developing a regeneration area of the pool, usually located far from the swimming area. These areas are the most common ways to filter a natural swimming pools, but filters are available that feature pumps, skimmers, carbonators, mesh, and vortexes. Regeneration areas use plants to remove impurities naturally, and natural water organisms destroy algae and harmful bacteria.
The pool contractor must have plenty of space to create a regeneration area separate from the swimming area. The contractor will fill this area of the pool with plants and crushed gravel. The regeneration area will never need harsh chemicals, like chlorine, to keep the water clean as with a traditional pool. To keep your natural swimming pools clean, you can simply add water plants.
Convert Chlorine Pool to Natural Pool
You may be wondering if you can convert a chlorine pool that already exists on your property into a natural pool. Yes, you can convert a chlorine pool to a natural swimming pools, but it is not a simple process. A contractor can’t just switch out a chlorine filter for a biofilter and create a natural swimming pools. The process is much more complicated. It may be best to simply remove the existing chlorine pool and use the existing space for the natural swimming pools. Also, since natural swimming pools require much more space than a chlorine pool, your existing space may not accommodate the natural swimming pools
Natural Swimming Pool Design
Natural swimming pools designs are much different than traditional pools. These pools tend to mimic ponds and other natural bodies of water. Some natural swimming pool designs include a two-tiered waterfall pool, a French natural pool, a hidden oasis pool, and a hybrid pool. The swimming portion of your pool can be as shallow or deep as you desire. However, you must have a regeneration area to serve as a natural filtering system. It is common for natural swimming pools to have depths varying from 3 to 12 feet for the swimming area, but the pool should be around 500 sq.ft. in size.
Pros and Cons of Natural Pools
One great advantage to having a natural pool is that it is environmentally friendly. It doesn’t require the toxic chemicals that traditional pools use, which are harmful to the environment. A few other advantages are that they are easy to maintain and work well in any climate. One major drawback is that they are costly to build even though maintenance and upkeep are lower than traditional pools. Another issue is that they require plenty of space to build. Finding a contractor to build them in the United States is difficult since this is still a relatively new concept.
Natural Pool Maintenance
Natural pools are incredibly low maintenance once they are set up and operational. They do not require opening and closing at the beginning and end of a season and can be left to freeze and thaw naturally. However, they require the pumps to run for a few weeks at the start of a season to get the filters operating properly before using the pool. You may occasionally need to skim or vacuum the pool to remove sediment or debris. The pump may sometimes need to be serviced to keep it running correctly. Otherwise, a natural swimming pools requires no regular or yearly maintenance. This makes it much less expensive to maintain than a standard pool.
Swimming Pond vs Pool
A swimming pond, also known as a natural pool, costs $60,000 to $80,000, while in-ground pools cost between $35,000 to $90,000 to install. Both can be used for recreational or athletic swimming and made in various shapes, sizes, and depths. However, a natural swimming pools has an equally sized regeneration zone as the swimming area, so it takes up more space than a regular pool. It must be roughly 148 to 164 sq.ft., while traditional pools can be smaller. Also, natural swimming pools have a brownish or greenish tint making it look more like a backyard pond or natural habitat, while a traditional pool is often a cool blue color, having a manmade look.
|Type||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Swimming Pool||$35,000 - $90,000|
|Swimming Pond||$60,000 - $80,000|
Pond vs Pool
The average cost to install a backyard pond is $5,000 to $20,000, while a natural pool average range may be from $60,000 to $80,000. One of the most critical distinctions between a pond and a pool is that a pond is not for swimming. A swimming pool must use filtration to keep the water clean. On the other hand, pond water is natural and pure and must be maintained according to specific codes. A pond is primarily for aesthetic pleasures, allowing homeowners to enjoy observing its natural beauty while relaxing. It can also serve as a habitat for local wildlife, including butterflies, frogs, turtles, certain types of fish, and even natural aquatic plant life.
|Type||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Pond||$5,000 - $20,000|
|Natural Pool||$60,000 - $80,000|
Enhancements and Improvement Costs
Pool Retaining Wall
The cost of adding a retaining wall for a pool starts at around $20 to $25 per sq.ft. Some natural pools may be enclosed by a natural-looking border wall. This is usually made of concrete but will have natural stone veneer added to it. This enhances the appearance of your pool and sets it apart from the surroundings. Many people who use concrete choose to paint it black to give the final pool a more natural appearance.
Natural Pool Sand
Sand starts at less than $1 per sq.ft. It is common to include a sandy section or perimeter around your natural pool to give it the feel of a lake-side beach. Aside from using it around the pool, it may help with the filtration system. Sand has a wide range of costs, depending on its quality. Keep in mind that the lighter the sand, the easier it is to wash into your pool.
Natural Pool Waterfall
Waterfalls for natural pools cost around $1,500 and can take on many appearances. To circulate the water with a natural appearance, consider installing a waterfall in the pool. Many waterfall options are available, including universal rocks, Rico rocks, and Aquascape. Other options include freestanding waterfalls and custom-built waterfalls. Adding waterfalls to your natural swimming pools creates a unique, relaxing feature. However, maintenance will be critical since it can clog up due to algae, dirt, or other natural elements.
Natural Pool Lighting
Lighting costs are between $450 and $1,200. To make the most of your pool, you should include lighting in your landscaping. Landscape lighting disguises the lights to blend in with their surroundings, providing the necessary illumination. You can include waterfall lighting to add to the ambiance of the natural pool. There are even options for lining the pool lights around the pool or incorporating submersible, floating LED lights to add spark to your natural swimming pools.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Permit. Like any swimming pool addition, you need a permit to install a natural swimming pool in your yard.
- Natural pools and regeneration zones. Natural swimming pools and regeneration zones create a small ecosystem in your yard that may change naturally over time. Small animals and insects may be attracted to the zone but not to your pool.
- Land needs. The regeneration zone means that you need more land to build a natural swimming pool than a standard pool.
- Eco pools. Natural pools are considered a green option because they do not use chemicals and enhance the natural ecosystem of your yard.
- Freezing and thawing. Natural swimming pools freeze naturally in the winter, then thaw and regenerate in the spring.
- Rareness. Because natural pools are still relatively rare in the U.S., finding a contractor familiar enough with the concept to build one may be difficult.
- Brownish tint. It is common for natural swimming pools to develop a brownish tint due to algae and sediment. This is normal and will not impact the pool’s use.
- Mosquito-free. Because the water in the pool is constantly moving, it will not become a mosquito breeding ground like other non-chlorinated water areas.
- Natural swimming pool with fish. You can include fish in your natural swimming pools. However, they create fish excrement, requiring additional maintenance and cleaning.
- DIY natural pool. Because you are creating a mini-ecosystem, it is not recommended that you DIY this job.
- Floating plants for filtration. Your natural swimming poolsrequires some form of floating plants as part of the filtration system. You may wish to upgrade to one with an enhancing appearance, such as water lilies.
- Estimates. Since natural swimming pools are a relatively new concept in the United States, very few contractors install them. It is critical that you try to find at least three contractors to provide quotes on their services and compare and contrast each quote.
- Are natural swimming pools expensive?
Yes. Natural swimming pools are expensive. When looking at the costs of building a pool, a natural one is on the high end of the price range.
- How do you make a natural swimming pool?
To make a natural swimming pool, you need to dig a hole in the ground and make sure that the sides slope to keep soil and silt from coming into it. Then you will need to reserve half of your pool for shallow plants to eliminate the need for chlorine.
- Are natural pools safe?
Yes, installed correctly, they have a pH of between 5.5 and 7 and do not harbor bacteria.
- Can natural pools be heated?
Yes, like any pool, they can be heated. Solar heaters are a popular choice with this type of pool.
- Can you put fish in a natural swimming pool?
Yes, but it increases the maintenance that the pool needs to stay clean.
- How much does it cost to build a natural swimming pool?
The average cost to build a natural swimming pool is around $70,000.
- Do you need planning permission for a natural swimming pool?
A natural swimming pool requires the same permits and permissions as a standard swimming pool.