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Swim-Up Bars: Turning Your Backyard Pool Into a Full-Blown Resort

Many hope that very soon we’ll all be able to have a backyard bash, teaming with friends and family. Because of this eagerness, we can’t resist thinking about what amenities we want to share with them — once we get the “all clear.”

Riviera Maya Caribbean Resort

Riviera Maya Caribbean Resort

One popular feature to add to a swimming pool is the swim-up bar. 

This upgrade is reminiscent of Caribbean and South Sea resort vacations (left), and once you add a swim-up bar, all you’ll need to complete the resort experience are those drink-umbrellas for your Mojitos and Piña Coladas. 

Adults really love swim-up bars because they can stay in the pool while having a drink. But it’s also a great spot for swimmers and backyard strollers to meet up and talk, without the swimmers having to get out of the pool.

“If these are designed well,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell, “swim-up bars can be also used as a dry bar — that is they can be enjoyed from its other side.”

Deck and Patio 38-Foot Swim Up Bar

Deck and Patio 38-Foot Swim Up Bar

In fact, Deck and Patio specializes in creating bars that do just that — do double duty as a dry bar and swim-up. Take, for example, this stunning bar shown here (top left of photo). 

It’s really enjoyable to swim up to this 38-foot “swim-up bar”with submerged barstools.

“The key is each swim-up bar should be unique, designed and custom-made for each project,” says Dave. “Whether it’s the bar’s counter-top, any necessary retaining walls, masonry work, in-pool stools, electrical and plumbing work, it takes skill and experience to ensure it’s perfectly functional, safe, and beautiful.”

And as you can see from this Deck and Patio swim-up, it’s also a dry bar on the other side.


Swim-Up Bars Shade Structures

Shade Structures

Shade Structures


While not necessary, a shade structure with the swim-up bar is frequently requested. As a licensed contractor, Deck and Patio is well known across Long Island for award-winning design and custom building.

Some shade structure options are:




— shade pergolas, 

— trellises, 

— gazebos and 

— pavilions. 


“A shade structure should blend harmoniously with other elements in your yard and can include everything from an outdoor kitchen, pizza oven, fireplace,” says Dave. “With such additions, your guests can enjoy dining, as well as drinks, from your swim-up bar.” 

The main point, of course, is to have sufficient sun protection in that part of your yard and pool.


Lagoon-style Swimming Pool

Lagoon-style Swimming Pool

In addition to a dramatic waterfall area, a stunning Cambridge paver patio and water slide, these clients wanted a swim-up bar with in-pool stools, and Tiki umbrellas. 

Landscaping: Throughout this backyard retreat, smaller groups of boulders were fitted with plantings for natural and attractive retaining areas.

The photo below shows the other side of the swim up bar with examples of the landscaped boulders and plants.


True Backyard Retreat

True Backyard Retreat

“With True Blue Swimming Pool’s beautiful pool, the clients got what everything they wanted, a full oasis that “wows,” says Dave.


Deck and Patio Swim-Up Bar


Today’s Feature Photo at Top of Page: This is an example of combining many elements — use landscaping, a swim-up bar, pool waterfalls, natural retaining wall, shade structure,  etc. — to create a true enticing backyard resort.

Backyard Retreat: Start Planning for a Summer Spent Outdoors

Massapequa, NY, Deck and Patio Backyard Upgrade

Massapequa, NY, Deck and Patio Backyard Retreat

The owner of this rather stunning (if we do say so ourselves) Massapequa, NY, backyard retreat says he and his wife smile every time they hear someone say how “large” their yard is.

“Before Deck and Patio did this for us, our backyard looked so cramped, we never used it. In hot weather we just lived indoors.”

The design for this pool-spa combo, and for which Deck and Patio won an award,  includes a deck, vinyl-lined pool, which we  wrapped closely around the corner of the house and deck, an expansive two-level patio, custom spillover spa, two waterfalls, two stepping stone paths and lush plantings.

“When we work with tight yard spaces,” says our own Dave Stockwell, “we take care that areas for the chaise lounge, as well as dining and outdoor entertaining locations are large enough for furniture and the ability to walk around. It’s also key to not over-build or paver the whole space.”

Dave adds that manipulating area grades into multi-level patios are not only attractive and spatially functional, they can make smaller yards appear considerably larger.

The clients’ children love the spa and the homeowners appreciate how it extends the outdoor season. The spa’s water temperature is easily regulated. “It is always clean because water is continually filtered throughout the whole system,” adds Dave.

When work began, the initial piles of dirt and stone panicked the clients, especially within such a cramped space. “I soon learned everything they did had a purpose and I came to enjoy watching each stage unfold,” said the client. 

Because the property was flat, Deck and Patio’s 3-D renditions showed the clients how we would make the yard appear bigger — even indicating what the views would look like from various areas inside the house.

Note: True Blue Swimming Pools of Dix Hills, NY, worked with Deck and Patio to build the vinyl pool and spa for our clients. 


Making Backyards Appear Larger (Massapequa, NY):

Making Backyards Appear Larger (Massapequa, NY):

Manipulating the grades by adding different levels (upper and lower patios, raised spa. etc.) is one of the things we do to create a larger sense of space. Such gradations are not only attractive and spatially functional, but, when done correctly, they can make smaller yards appear considerably more expansive.


Fitting Pools in Small Yards (Massapequa/NY):

Fitting Pools in Small Yards (Massapequa/NY):

Designing a pool to wrap closely around the corner of the house allowed for a full-size pool as well as spa and waterfalls. Vinyl-lined pools make it easier to implement such a tight design.


Stepping Stone Patios (Massapequa/NY):

Stepping Stone Patios (Massapequa/NY):

A second stepping stone path leads away from the back step to the diving rock and the deep end of the pool. Stepping stones allow you to leave some softspace (green grass, plantings etc.) so there’s not too much  hardscapes (concrete, pavers, etc.).


Pool Waterfalls/Spillover Spa (Massapequa/NY):

Pool Waterfalls/Spillover Spa (Massapequa/NY):

A spillover custom spa and additional pool waterfalls look natural falling over moss rocks chosen to fit the spaces perfectly. Lush colorful plantings add to the beauty of the scene. 


Pool Waterfalls (Massapequa/NY):

Pool Waterfalls (Massapequa/NY):

This close up shot of one of this pool’s waterfalls shows the details of creating a natural-looking scene: carefully chosen moss rocks for the right “spills,” ground cover, shrubs, river rock, etc.



Small Sloped Yard: Fitting a Pool and Other Outdoor Living Amenities

Deck and Patio and True Blue Swimming Pools Create Natural-Looking Oasis that Wows!


When the owners of this Long Island, NY, small sloped property first contacted the president of True Blue Swimming Pools, Michael Truehart, they expected that, since most of their small backyard had a sloping terrain, the pool company would design/build a pool on the only small patch of flat land available.

“But Michael felt it was a pity to use up that flat piece of lawn, where their children loved to play,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. In addition, the clients had revealed they hoped for more than a pool. There were several other outdoor living amenities they wanted.

Michael explained they were all possible, but it would require a lot of creative landscaping. A quality design/build landscaping firm could sculpt the seemingly unusable elevated terrain.

Needless to say, we were delighted that Michael recommended Deck and Patio as the landscaping firm to help them achieve their dream: a “natural-looking oasis that wows.”

“It can be daunting to create a backyard paradise in a small yard with a sloping terrain,” adds Michael. “To fit the size of pool they wanted, we also had to deal with stringent Town setback codes.”

True Blue and Deck and Patio worked closely to design and build all the following amenities:

— full-sized 24’ x 40’ vinyl swimming pool

— Wild Ride slide

— granite swim-up bar with 3 vinyl-covered in-pool stills

— diving rock

— Cambridge XL paver patio

— pool waterfall feature

— Tiki (Hula) patio umbrellas

— Outdoor shower

— lush plantings.

“Michael and his team, along with everyone at Deck and patio, were thrilled when this project won a local Bronze Medal as well as an international Gold medal from APSP (Association of Pool and Spa Professionals),” says Dave. “Working with companies of great integrity and ability — like True Blue Swimming Pools — makes all the difference.”


Small Sloping Backyard Fits Beautiful Oasis:

Small Sloping Backyard Fits Beautiful Oasis:

Despite the small and challenging terrain, this backyard upgrade included a pool and a Wild Ride slide, granite swim-up bar with 3 vinyl-covered in-pool stools, pool waterfalls (that help form part of a natural-looking retaining wall), diving rock, Tiki (Hula) patio umbrellas, outdoor shower, and lush plantings.


Room for Lagoon-style Swimming Pool In Small Sloping Yard:

Room for Lagoon-style Swimming Pool In Small Sloping Yard:

Along with designing a freeform shape, True Blue Swimming Pools chose a Loop-Loc “Sea Blue”vinyl liner to give the pool an enticing South Seas’ lagoon appeal. Deck and Patio’s fullnose coping also offers a harmonizing curved form.


Pool Built in Sloping Terrain:

Pool Built in Sloping Terrain:

This pool was designed one one side with an exposed wall in order to address the problems of the sloping terrain. Deck and Patio veneered the wall in Cambridge Ledgestone.


Elevated Backyard Terrain/Swimming Pool:

Elevated Backyard Terrain/Swimming Pool:

One way the teams added drama to the lower patio area was to veneer the pool’s exposed side in Cambridge Ledgestone. It’s the backyard’s main lounging area and the perfect spot to relax while listening to the gentle sounds of the waterfalls running over moss rock.


Small Yard Goes Big with Amenities:

Small Yard Goes Big with Amenities:

An impressive granite swim-up bar with 3 vinyl-covered in-pool stools, all shaded by Tiki patio umbrellas are just some of the wonderful amenities contributing to the “wow” factor these clients were looking for. Also note the charming stone step area leading to the diving rock — still leaving intact the lawn space where the children to play.



Creating Backyard Retreats: Size Doesn’t Matter

Feeling like you can’t have a backyard oasis because you don’t have enough room? Here’s some good news. The Deck and Patio Company works a good deal in parts of Long Island, NY, where backyards are often small. And one thing our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, enjoys most is surprising homeowners with what can be accomplished.

Some yards are seemingly so cramped that families rarely use them. In hot weather, some live indoors. Discovering much more was possible than they originally thought, the wife for this project worked closely with Bill Renter and the pool builder to design their new pool’s shape, which wraps around close to the house, almost into its corner. The design required variances, but it allowed Deck and Patio to fit in an expansive two-level patio, a raised spa, two waterfalls, a stepping stone path, and beautiful lush plantings — in other words: a true oasis.

When working with tighter spaces, our team ensures the chaise lounge, dining and outdoor kitchen patio areas are all large enough for furniture, and have room enough to walk around, sufficient even when entertaining. We also try not to over-build or paver the whole space. It is also important to leave room for plantings and lawn, add landscape-lighting, and make sure the overall project looks interesting, by designing curvy or geometric patterns.

There’s no need to feel because you don’t have a large yard, you can’t have your own bit of paradise. It just takes a little creativity.


Patio Design:

Patio Design:

Instead of one-sized brick being placed throughout an entire patio or retaining wall, we recommend attractive designs: this project’s random pattern is in lieu of straight lines, flat images, or a running block pattern. Also, manufacturers often offer a wide list of product materials, so matching stones are readily available for complementary retaining walls, steps, risers, pool coping, etc.




Limited Backyard Space:

Limited Backyard Space:

Manipulating the grades by adding different levels (upper and lower patios, raised spa. etc.) is one of the things we do to create a larger sense of space. Such gradations are not only attractive and spatially functional, but, when done correctly, they can make smaller yards appear considerably more expansive.




Family Spa:

Family Spa:

True Blue Swimming Pools worked with Deck and Patio to build this vinyl pool and spa for our clients. The clients’ children use the spa all the time; after enjoying the pool, if they get a chill, they go to the spa with their friends. In fact we’re told everyone retreats to the spa after swimming. Go into there w/friends. On chilly days, even though the pool is heated, they say in the spa on.




Pool Lighting:

Pool Lighting:

In the ‘gloaming,’ as a poet described ‘twilight,’ is a beautiful time of day to enjoy a new pool. Outdoor lighting glows warmly — like the sun’s final rays as it drops below the horizon. Artful lighting generates the first tranquil water reflections of the evening and continues to sketch nightfall with romantic hues.






Every stone and moss rock boulder was chosen carefully to create the most natural looking waterfall possible. The water spills are coaxed over them causing flows of water just like in nature.



Why Choose A Design/Build Firm For Your Backyard Retreat?



What if you could have a vacation resort of your own in your backyard? Knowing how to do it and who to call is an important first step.

Ready For Your Own Vacation Resort?

If you are considering a vacation resort in your own backyard, to get the most out of your time and money, you should be looking for a contractor that offers both design and build services. That is because design/build firms not only think about the way the project will be constructed, but also about other factors, such as sufficient functional family space in the yard, the sun’s location from different yard locations, viewing angles of water features and other focal points, elevation changes, drainage considerations and colorful landscapes.




Our outdoor living expert says a design/build firm will consider such factors as sufficient functional family space for children to play as well as sun location and viewing angles of focal points.

Where to Begin:

A swimming pool or spa is usually the main part of creating a personal paradise. That means you will need to make a big decision: do you want a gunite/shotcrete, or vinyl-lined pool? At Deck and Patio we build them all but some pool companies sell what is referred to as “kit pools” which limit what can be done. A custom design lets you have more freedom when it comes to the planning stage. In fact, when using a design/build firm, you can customize your entire project.

We always begin by asking customers about their plans for a pool, their lifestyles and their children’s needs. Then we come up with a unique concept to fulfill every desire. At Deck and Patio we use CAD drawings, digital imaging and a 3D animation video on a flat screen television to show clients how the pool will look with the existing home and environment.




A design/build firm helps you decide what kind of pool you want and which amenities. Will you want swim up bar stools in the pool, for example?


What to Watch Out for in a Design/Build Firm:

When looking for someone to build your swimming pool make sure you are comfortable with them. The design process can take anywhere between several days to several months and you and your builder may see a great deal of each other. Remember that you will be interacting with your contractor in good times and in bad so it is important they be responsible and reliable. When choosing a design/build firm look for a company that has an office and/or showroom so that you know where they are. Be wary of people who will not provide you with an address or give you just a P.O. Box and look for one that will give you their cell phone numbers.




When choosing a design/build firm look for a company that has an office and/or showroom so that you know where they are.

Realizing Your Dream:

As you consider contacting a design/build firm, a picture perfect paradise that fits your dreams starts to beckon. In your mind, you can almost see the bright and colorful plants peeking from around the natural rock waterfalls, the cascading water spilling into a lagoon inspired pool. The stone patio beneath your feet is cool to the touch and exudes a warm ambiance that welcomes and entices. You imagine ordering a cocktail from the pool bar and bringing it back to the lounge chair beneath an umbrella. You can see yourself sitting back and thinking: “Life is good.”

Once you awaken from your daydream, reality hits you. It is a scorching hot day; the sun would have baked you and your family if you hadn’t retreated to the solace of the air conditioning. As this summer comes to an end, its lingering warm temperatures are a reminder that next year will be just as hot. Now may be the perfect time to start planning the backyard of your dreams.




You can almost see the bright and colorful plants peeking from around the natural rock waterfalls, the cascading water spilling into a lagoon inspired pool.




Your perfect outdoor retreat might offer the ability to get a cocktail from the pool bar and bring it back to the lounge chair beneath an umbrella where you sigh: “Life is good.”

Lastly, we suggest looking for a designer/builder that is certified by Association of Pool and Spa professional (APSP). These certified building professionals (CBP) are tested and certified every three years. A CBP can assist you in choosing the right equipment for your project as well as provide or recommend a service professional for your ongoing maintenance. Look for things such as awards from industry groups and certifications from other professional organizations.

A swimming pool project is a big task to take one. Pools are a long lasting investment that add enjoyment to your life and value to your home. When you decide that you want to stop daydreaming and start enjoying your own backyard paradise, remember three things: start early (that means start planning now to be ready for next year’s summer heat), do your homework and choose wisely.



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