How Much Does a Backyard Lazy River Cost?

Dennis Howard
by Dennis Howard

Many homeowners consider a backyard swimming pool as the ultimate entertainment and relaxation. However, new advances in swimming pool design and the quest for something different led to lazy backyard river installations. You can now enjoy the summer fun in your backyard of what once was only to be found in expensive water parks. Many homeowners wonder how much it costs to install a backyard lazy river.

On average, in-ground lazy river pool installation costs between $120,000 and $600,000. Depending on the options and features, you may opt for an above-ground lazy river pool for $15,000 to $30,000. If you already have an in-ground pool, you might consider converting it to a lazy river for approximately $30,000 to $80,000.

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Want the costs broken down? Let’s take a look!

Lazy River Type or FeatureAverage Low CostAverage High Cost
Basic In-Ground Lazy River Pool$120,000$600,000
Basic Above Ground Lazy River Pool$15,000$30,000
Existing Pool Conversion to a Lazy River$30,000$80,000
Waterfalls and Fountains$1,000$6,000

It is easy to overrun your budget when you start planning a lazy river for your backyard. Understanding the costs involved and all the extras that may appear along the way can help you manage your budget and get the lazy river you want.

How Much Does an In-Ground Lazy River Cost?

Building an in-ground lazy river is different than building an in-ground pool. Lazy river installation requires more plumbing, higher capacity pumps and may involve more dirt work and excavation. On the low end of the scale, a simple oval lazy river about the size of a standard backyard pool may cost as little as $120,000.

As the size and complexity of the project grow, the costs also increase. Some people want their backyard lazy river experience to resemble lazy rivers found in water and theme parks. The average cost of an upscale lazy river that will fit in a backyard is about $600,000. However, you can spend well over this range as you add amenities to your lazy river installation.

One thing to remember is that the prices we have found are for installing the lazy river. These prices don’t include decking or surrounds, landscaping, or any additional features or amenities you may add.

Understanding the Costs of Installing an In-Ground Lazy River

An in-ground lazy river pool is a complex and ambitious project. For a satisfactory conclusion, you can expect an enormous amount of planning and oversight. Understanding what is involved and how each part of the project impacts the overall cost is important to managing your lazy river pool budget.

Lazy River Component CostLow EndHigh End
Design and Engineering Costs$4,800$36,000
Permits and Fees$200$2,000
Excavation and Soil Removal$400$1,500
Construction and Materials$50 per square foot$150 per square foot
Pool Equipment$2,500$10,000
  • Design and Engineering – Pool designers and engineers typically charge a percentage of the overall cost of the pool project. In general, you can expect a pool designer or engineer to charge between 4 and 6 percent of the project’s estimated cost. For a typical backyard lazy river pool, this can be anywhere from $4,800 to $36,000. If the pool designer also does the construction, you will often get a discount on the design costs.
  • Permits and Fees – Most cities and towns require a permit to build an in-ground pool. If you hire a professional pool contractor, they should take care of the permits for you. In general, construction permits cost $200 – $2,000 depending on the complexity and cost of your project.
  • Excavation and Soil Removal – Again, the complexity of the design and the size of your lazy river pool project are the major factors in the cost of excavating for the pool and removing the soil from your site. The average excavation and soil removal costs run from $400 to $1,500 for the average-sized in-ground backyard lazy river pool.
  • Construction and Materials – Most contractors will provide you with a cost estimate based on the size of the pool project. Some contractors quote a price based on the square feet of pool surface. In these cases, the cost can range from $50 to $150 per square foot, depending on the finish material and the job’s complexity.
  • Pool Equipment – Lazy river pools require much more involved plumbing and equipment than a standard in-ground pool. The pumps necessary to create the gentle current typical of lazy river pools are larger and more powerful than standard pumps. A lazy river configuration also requires jets around the pool’s perimeter to circulate the water effectively; Don’t forget to filter the water for cleanliness. In some locations, heating the water is a consideration as well. The equipment needed to operate your lazy river typically costs between  $2,500 and $10,000.

Beyond the construction of your lazy river pool, you should also consider the ongoing operating costs associated with running and maintaining the pool. On average, homeowners who install a lazy river pool report that the operating costs average about $500 per month. These costs include the additional electricity for the pumps and equipment, maintenance, and repair costs.

Adding the Final Touches

Once your in-ground lazy river pool is complete, there are still many things to consider. Making your lazy river into a relaxing and enjoyable backyard retreat requires more than a concrete trough with water running through it. Inevitably, you will add some flourishes and amenities to your lazy river pool.

Lazy River Additions and FeaturesLow-Cost OptionsHigh-Cost Options
Decks and Pool Aprons$3 per square foot$125 per square foot
Water Features$1,500$30,000
  • Decks and Pool Aprons – Most homeowners plan on installing a deck or pool apron to make their lazy river pool more inviting and more usable. These additions can run from a simple concrete apron to elaborate wooden decks with pergolas or outdoor kitchens. In general, adding a pool apron or deck to your lazy river can cost between $3 and $125 per square foot, depending on the amenities you include.
  • Additional Water Features – A waterfall is one of the most popular features added to lazy river projects. Nothing adds more drama and visual appeal than a natural-looking waterfall splashing water into your lazy river. You may also consider adding a hot tub near the lazy river or a fountain feature. On average, adding a water feature to your lazy river costs $1,500 to $30.000.
  • Landscaping – Part of the allure of a backyard lazy river pool is the illusions you can create. Adding landscaping and plants can dramatically change the perception of your backyard’s lazy river experience. You may want to create your own tropical paradise or rainforest around your lazy river. Some people may find a desert experience more to their liking. Adding landscaping and plants to your lazy river experience often costs between $2,000 and $50,000. 

You will soon realize that the opportunity to spend money on your lazy river backyard adventure is almost limitless. Some landscapers claim that some clients spend more on the amenities and landscaping around the lazy river than installing the pool.

What Does an Above Ground Lazy River Cost?

Opting for an above-ground lazy river pool installation is usually much cheaper and much faster. Since you are installing the lazy river on the surface, there is very little dirt work which greatly reduces costs and time. Many homeowners find they can purchase a lazy river pool kit from a local pool supplier for $15,000 to $30,000.

Does the Cost of The Kit Include Installation?

These costs usually don’t include installation. It is possible to make a lazy river pool kit a do-it-yourself project. Many smaller pool kits are within the capabilities of a homeowner. More complex and larger kits can involve tasks that require more than one set of hands.

Suppose you choose to hire a professional to install your lazy river above ground pool. In that case, you can expect the project to cost $300 to $5,000. The average cost to have an above-ground lazy river installed is about $700.

What Other Costs Can I Expect with an Above Ground Lazy River?

How much you spend beyond the cost of the lazy river pool kit and the installation depends on the choices you make for accessories, convenience, and landscaping. Some of the more common costs associated with installing an above-ground lazy river can include the following.

  • Electrical Service – You will need electrical service to operate the pumps that give your lazy river its current and run the water through the filtration system. It isn’t safe to depend on an extension cord running from your lazy river equipment to your garage. A much safer option is to have an electrician install wiring to your pool equipment. Most electricians charge between $500 and $1500 to do an above-ground lazy river pool hookup.
  • A Pool Deck – Getting in and out of your above-ground, lazy river pool can be a challenge. Most of the sidewalls on above-ground lazy river pools are at least 4 feet high. Most kits come with a ladder or small platform. However, to enhance your lazy river, you may want to consider building a larger deck. The cost of adding a deck to an above-ground lazy river is typically $2,000 to $8,000.
  • Pool Lighting – Nothing adds ambiance to your above-ground lazy river pool than the addition of LED lighting around the pool. Kits to install low voltage LED lights around your lazy river usually cost $30 to $120 depending on the number of lights and the lighting controller’s features.

What are the Advantages of an In-Ground Lazy River?

There are advantages and disadvantages to above-ground and in-ground lazy river pools. Before you decide based only on the cost, you should consider the other sides of the argument.

In-Ground Lazy River Advantages

Some of the advantages of an in-ground lazy river pool installation are not as apparent as you might think. Many people fail to realize some of these hidden advantages.

  • Durability for the long run – In-ground lazy river pools tend to be less prone to damage than the above-ground types. The construction methods used for in-ground pools make them resistant to physical damage and weather damage. A well-constructed lazy river pool can be expected to have a useful life of several decades when properly maintained. This long life expectancy makes amortizing the up-front cost of the lazy river pool much more attractive.
  • Less Operating Expense – Typically, an in-ground lazy river is more economical to operate than a comparable sized above-ground lazy river pool. This economy is especially true if you heat the water in your pool. The earth surrounding the pool helps insulate the water and maintain the temperature.
  • More inviting and visually appealing – A well-designed lazy river pool becomes a part of your backyard landscape. The pool and the surrounding landscape work together to create a magical environment for you and your family with some good planning and execution.
  • More accessible – In-ground lazy river pools are more accessible. Being below grade, entering the lazy river pool is a matter of descending a few steps. Exiting is the reverse process. Accessing an above-ground lazy river can require climbing ladders or platforms since the pool’s edge is usually four feet above the ground.

All in all, in-ground lazy river pools look and feel more permanent, more solid, and can add ambiance and visual appeal to your backyard.

The Disadvantages of an In-Ground Lazy River Pool

There are several disadvantages to installing an in-ground lazy river pool. These disadvantages are often big enough to dissuade homeowners from installing an in-ground lazy river pool. You should consider these disadvantages as well before deciding.

  • Cost – In-ground lazy river pools are not a budget item by any stretch of the imagination. In most cases, the most basic in-ground lazy river pool will cost $120,000. You can expect to amortize this cost over 20 or 30 years, but the initial cost is a red flag for many homeowners.
  • Maintenance Issues – In-ground lazy river pools can become a maintenance headache under some circumstances. Depending on your location and landscape, keeping a lazy river pool clean can be a full-time job. It is almost impossible to cover a lazy river pool as you would a standard rectangular pool. An uncovered lazy river becomes a trap for anything that drops or blows into the water.
  • More Maintenance Issues – If you have a problem with the plumbing or the structure of your lazy river pool, the repairs can be more expensive. With the pool being in the ground, finding and addressing those problems becomes more expensive and time-consuming.
  • Operating costs – In-ground lazy river pools will impact your budget after the initial installation costs. Estimates on the monthly cost to operate an in-ground lazy river pool average $500 per month.

The Pros and Cons of an Above-Ground Lazy River Pool

If an in=ground lazy river is not in your budget, you may consider an above-ground style. These above-ground lazy rivers are usually cheaper and quicker to install than their in-ground cousins. Above ground, lazy rivers do have other advantages that may work better for your situation.

The Pros

  • A More Economical Alternative – Above-ground lazy rivers can be found in many forms and styles. Most come in kit forms that include everything you need to start enjoying a lazy river experience in your backyard. Lazy river pool kits typically cost between $7,000 and $15,000.
  • Easier Installation – Since most lazy river above-ground kits don’t require major dirt work, excavations, or soil to cart away. If your backyard is relatively level and firm, the installation may not require any excavation at all.
  • Cheaper Maintenance and Repair – On most lazy river kits, the plumbing is exposed and easy to repair if there is a problem. Most of these pool kits include a pump and filter packaged as a unit. In most instances, these systems will run off a standard 15 amp household outlet equipped with a GFCI protected plug.
  • You Can Take It with You – In the event you decide to move or get transferred to a new job, you can disassemble your above-ground lazy river poop, pack it up, and take it to your new home.

As a less costly alternative, there are many more reasons to install an above-ground lazy river pool. An above-ground pool kit may not give the permanence or durability of an in-ground pool, they are certainly much cheaper.

The Cons

  • Durability – Above-ground lazy river pools don’t offer the safe durability and life span of in-ground installations. The nature of the pool lends it to damage from weather events, accidents, and normal wear and tear. Liners must be repaired or replaced, wall structures can be damaged, and lighter and less powerful pumps and filters need more maintenance.
  • The Height Factor – Sitting above ground, most lazy river kit installations have sidewalls about four feet in height. In general, kits come with a lightweight ladder or platform to make getting in the pool easier without damaging the sidewall or liner. Many people go to the added expense of installing a deck at the same height as the pool to make entering and leaving the lazy river easier.
  • The Visual Factors – A huge above-ground lazy river is by no means unobtrusive in your backyard. The size and height of a kit pool installation can easily become an eyesore.
  • Landscaping can present challenges – Landscaping an above-ground lazy river installation poses several challenges. The above-ground structure doesn’t lend itself well to permanent landscaping, especially if you anticipate moving the pool at some point.

Above-ground lazy river kit pools do have their advantages. However, if you want a custom lazy river experience with more than a simple oval or circular design, an above-ground lazy river pool probably won’t meet your needs.

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Making a Splash – Having Your Own Personal Lazy River

Lazy river pools in water parks are hugely popular attractions. Adding a lazy river to your backyard can turn your outdoor space into a summer haven that everyone will enjoy. Planning your lazy river project needs careful planning and an eye for your budget.

At the end, when the giggles and laughter surface from your lazy river pool, the cost seems almost insignificant.

Dennis Howard
Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

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