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7 Differences Between Residential and Commercial Pools



Resort Commercial Pool

A pool is a pool, right? Not exactly, especially when it comes to residential and commercial pools. Each is built to serve different purposes, which affects many of the factors when building a pool.

First things first: Commercial swimming pools, also known as public swimming pools, are types of pools that serve a group. They also include any pools intended for more than one household to use.

You can find commercial pools at:

  • Waterparks
  • Health clubs
  • Camps
  • Community centers
  • Hotels and resorts
  • Schools
  • And more

Are commercial pools really that different from your residential pool at home? In a word, yes. Let's take a look.

The 7 Major Differences Between Residential and Commercial Pools

Both residential and commercial swimming pools are basins of water designed for relaxation or recreation. They both require equipment, sanitizers and ongoing maintenance. However, their similarities end there.

These two types of pools have some very stark differences, which include the following.

1. Accommodation Requirements: In a residential pool, one only needs to worry about their own needs. However, commercial pools can serve a wide range of purposes and people, so they’re often built to be multi-functional and service a broad population of swimmers. Depending on the intended purposes of a commercial pool, it will need to meet different code requirements and different building permits may need to be obtained.

For instance, a community pool might need to be handicap accessible and include a shallow end for families with young children while also accommodating the depth required for the high school diving team’s practice sessions.

2. Size and Depth: Commercial swimming pools are generally larger than residential pools in square feet because they’re designed to accommodate more people than a residential pool. They’re also usually deeper, especially if they have a diving board or platform. Depending on the level of diving competition being hosted, pools with 1-meter springboards (which are among the most popular) generally require a minimum depth of 11 feet 6 inches. Other minimum depths include:

  • 3-meter springboards: 12 feet 6 inches
  • 5-meter diving platforms: 13 feet
  • 10-meter diving platforms: 17 feet

Of course, there are exceptions and varying standards – and all of this also depends on the pool’s accommodation requirements (see #1).

For example, a children’s pool, designed for infants and toddlers, should have a depth of no more than three feet. Recreational pools for adults and kids should have a shallow end that’s no more than three feet and meets in the middle at a depth of no more than five feet. Pools used for fitness and swimming laps usually have depths between four and five feet.

Competition swimming pools can get even more specific:

  • The smallest size competition pools are 25 yards for NCAA competitions (NCAA competes in yards instead of meters).
  • Semi-Olympic pools require 21 x 25 meters, with a minimum depth of 1.2 meters and a maximum depth of 1.8 meters. Plus, they must include eight lanes, each with a width of 2.5 meters.
  • Olympic swimming pools require 50 x 20 meters, with a minimum depth of 1.8-2.0 meters, and a maximum depth of 2.10 meters, with 8-10 lanes that are 2.5 meters wide.

Clearly, size and depth can vary greatly from pool to pool, but in general, commercial pools are larger and deeper than residential pools.

3. Higher Costs: Commercial pools cost significantly more than residential pools to build — up to two to three times more per square foot than residential pools in some cases. They cost more because they require materials, designs and equipment that can withstand a commercial pool’s demands.

Moreover, the ongoing maintenance, heating and electric costs associated with commercial pools are much higher.

Again, this isn’t always the case. In many hotels, motels, apartments, and condos where the size, depth and equipment are closer to residential pools, the costs might not be that different.

4. Code Requirements and Building Permits: Many cities require a building permit for all in-ground pools, including residential pools. However, when it comes to community pools, many cities require electrical permits, plumbing permits and mechanical permits as well.

But it’s not just city requirements. Public swimming pools have stringent state and federal requirements and recommendations to follow, too.

For example, the CDC has a whole list of design requirements for public swimming facilities to prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs). These requirements range from avoiding co-filtered pools to providing an adequate number of bathrooms.

5. Build Process: There are several decisions to make before building a pool. These choices include things like:

Both residential and commercial pool builds require you to make these decisions. However, in commercial pools, the process is much more intricate, and there are often other decisions to consider, like:

  • Are lap lanes necessary?
  • How many ladders are required?
  • Will the pool need to accommodate diving teams?
  • Do I need additional filters or supplementary disinfectants?
  • Is the pool for athletic competitions?
  • Will the pool facility need scoreboards and bleachers?
  • If it is indoors, are there appropriate air quality measures in place?

Because the pool design process is more involved, commercial pool construction also takes much longer than for residential pools.

6. Appearance: Commercial pools vary widely in appearance depending on their intended purpose. While competition pools tend to look more basic than residential pools due to regulation requirements, commercial pools for recreational purposes, like community centers, water parks and hospitality, are often much more customized in their design. One need only think of luxury resort pools to find aesthetically pleasing commercial pools.

For many residential pool owners, the focus is on creating a personal oasis with a backyard pool. They tend to include more fun features like fire and water elements, including those offered by Grand Effects®, and automation upgrades for easy maintenance.

7. Maintenance: Commercial pools get much more use. For instance, there are swim lessons, swim practices, exercise classes, free swims, scheduled parties and more on a community pool’s schedule. The pool is almost constantly in use.

In a residential pool, there isn’t usually around-the-clock swimming. Repairs and maintenance are therefore much more frequent in commercial pools due to their high usage rate, with less time for ongoing maintenance.

Different Pools for Different Purposes

Commercial and residential pools are similar in many ways. Their biggest differences come down to the number of people swimming in the pool and the pool’s purpose. More swimmers mean the pool needs to be bigger, increasing costs and creating challenges with maintenance and cleaning.

Whether for the family or the public, though, they’re both large basins of water for relaxation, recreation, fitness and fun.