It’s officially summer, and as temperatures rise, millions of people will be wishing they could afford the ultimate hot-weather luxury: a swimming pool.
But whether you live in a city apartment or a suburban 3-bedroom, a private pool is probably not in the cards. Most homeowners spend between $30,000 and $50,000 when they install an in-ground pool.
Luckily, there are other ways to keep cool that go beyond simple water balloons and sprinklers. From stock tank pools—yes, the ones used by cows—to backyard streams, we’ve got four options that are less expensive than traditional in-ground pools that will still look great in your yard. Behold, the best pool hacks of the summer.
Stock Tank Pool
Average cost: $600
Sometimes derisively referred to as “hillbilly hot tubs,” stock tank pools use galvanized-metal water troughs to create backyard pools at a fraction of the cost. Although these troughs are normally used by livestock, it’s pretty easy to use them to create a place for humans to splash.
Tractor Supply Co. recommends creating a level base with compacted sand, buying a small pump-and-filter system, sealing the tub (use marine-grade sealant or plumber’s putty), and filling it up. You can build a small deck around the stock tank, use pavers to make a patio, or leave it above ground.
You still might need to add a small amount of chlorine to prevent algae growth—and remember to empty it before winter—but this is about as easy as it gets.
Average cost: $1,200
Even if you can’t submerge yourself completely, a little running water always makes a space feel cooler. It also provides some killer ambiance—a peaceful rippling brook is perfect to read by and larger waterfalls can effectively drown out street noise.
Opt for a waterfall-stream design instead of a pond to keep things cleaner. You don’t need much of a grade for a successful stream; the key is to use an underground sump at the lower end to catch the water before pumping it back up to the top of the stream.
Layers of gravel and stone will filter the water to keep it clean, and you’ll only need to add more water when hot days cause evaporation faster than rain water can refill the stream. Kits are available but this can also be a DIY project; just follow handy instructions like these.
Average cost: From $2,000 to $20,000 depending on size and whether or not you build it yourself
Caregivers everywhere know the benefits of urban splash pads: They keep kids cool, don’t pose a drowning risk, and don’t require constant adult supervision. City splash pads—and its cousins, the immersive fountain, water playground, and “wet plaza”—have essentially become the new public pool, a free, accessible space that brings people together.
It’s also something you can do at home. Companies like My Splash Pad sell complete do-it-yourself splash pad kids for residential installs, or professional contractors can easily integrate splash pad designs into almost any space.
Even backyards as small as 100-200 square feet can benefit from a built-in splash pad. Just be sure to use no-slip surfaces and allow it to be winterized if you live in a cold climate—like you do for sprinklers.
Average cost: $25,000
If you have a higher budget, consider a shipping container pool like the Modpool. The Modpool boasts a quick set up and the ability to increase water temperature by 86 degrees in a single hour. The hot tub and pool area can be separated in the winter, so the Modpool gets you both types
Each shipping container pool ships ready to use with all the pool equipment built in and a high-tech Ultraviolet system keeps the water clean. And like every good gadget, the Modpool’s heater, jets, and lights can all be controlled from your phone with an app.
Where Modpool really differs from competing pools is its side window. The window makes the pool feel much less claustrophobic and can be a nice design feature when built into a raised patio.
And while the Modpool is more expensive than the other suggestions on this list, it’s also relocatable, so you can enjoy a swimming pool wherever you move. Head over here for more.