Swimming pools epitomize warm weather and summer. Cool off in the pool or relax from the side—either way, a pool is a surefire draw for fun and enjoyment. An above-ground swimming pool allows homeowners the chance to have a pool without many of the drawbacks of an in-ground swimming pool.
In-ground pools rely on a basin dug from the ground with heavy equipment. By contrast, an above-ground swimming pool is a basin that rests on the ground, not in the ground. In some cases, this basin is supported by a metal or resin frame. In other cases, they are inflatable and self-supporting.
With above-ground pool brands such as Doughboy, Intex, and Namco, these pools are far less expensive than in-ground swimming pools, especially since many can be installed by the homeowner. Plus, they are not permanent to the property. If the homeowner moves, the pool can be disassembled and brought along. On the downside, above-ground pools rarely increase a home's value. Also, these pools can be difficult for some users to access, since they require stairs.
Less expensive than in-ground pools
Requires no digging
Can be moved
Less durable than in-ground pools
Subject to leaking
Do not increase home resale value
Difficult to access
Typical Above-Ground Pool Cost
The least expensive type of above-ground pool you can buy is an inflatable pool. You can expect to pay as low as $350 for a 15-foot diameter, 42-inch deep pool. On the upper end of inflatables are 18-foot round, 48-inch deep pools for around $700 to $900. Most inflatable kiddie pools are priced below $50.
Metal framed and resin framed pools are more expensive than inflatables due to the extra materials. For a 15-foot round, 48-inch deep pool, expect to pay $600 to $700. On the upper end, a rectangular 18-foot by 9-foot, 52-inch deep pool will cost $1,200 to $1,400.
Rigid steel wall pools' higher prices reflect their greater durability and permanence. An 18-foot round, 52-inch rigid wall pool will cost $1,300 to $1,400.
Nearly every above-ground pool will be less expensive than an in-ground pool. In-ground pools typically cost between $37,000 and $67,000. Even at the lower end of the range, an in-ground swimming pool will be 25 to 30 times more expensive than an 18-foot round rigid steel wall pool ($1,300 to $1,400).
Maintenance and Repair
Above-ground pools are moderately easy to maintain as long as you keep up on the maintenance schedule. Simple problems that are ignored can quickly develop into complicated problems.
Keep the pool walls and frame clean with a mild soap solution, and never use abrasives. Some metal parts may require a regular wax coating to prevent corrosion. Tiny holes and slits are easy to repair with a patch kit, and some above-ground pools may come with a starter patch kit. Attend to holes and slits immediately. If they enlarge, they may become too big to repair by yourself.
As with in-ground pools, above-ground pools' water must be treated and filtered with an electrically operated filter/skimmer system.
Above-Ground Pool Designs
Rigid Wall Pools
Rigid wall pools are the sturdiest and most permanent type of above-ground pools. The walls are all metal. Owners of rigid wall pools usually expect to own their pools for many years. Some owners even install the pools partially in-ground or build decks to meet the height of the pool's rim. Rigid steel wall pools have a greater water capacity and can be filled higher than other types of pools.
Inflatable pools dispense with the hassle of a rigid wall or frame assembly. If your notion of inflatable pools is that of shallow pools only meant for kids, think again. Inflatable pools have grown up and can offer hours of enjoyment for adults, too. Inflatable pools tend to offer the best value when balancing cost, size, ease of installation, and durability.
Steel- or Resin-Frame Pools
Steel-frame and resin-frame pools are a bit of a hybrid of rigid wall and inflatable pools. The pool basin is flexible plastic, but it is not inflated. A light-weight exoskeleton of steel or hard, sturdy plastic holds the basin up and shapes it. Framed pools can be as large as 16-foot by 32-foot and oval or rectangle. A round-shape framed pool will have a maximum diameter of 26 feet.
Call them kiddie, family, or wading pools—whatever the name, these shallow inflatable pools are meant for children to splash around in. These pools are no more than 30 inches deep, but, usually, they are between 10 inches and 24 inches deep. Adults, too, can cool off their feet while the children play in kiddie pools.
Children in kiddie pools, no matter how shallow the pool, should be under adult supervision. Children can drown in even very shallow pools.
Above-Ground Pool Installation
Most above-ground pools are do-it-yourself, intermediate-level projects. Assembly is usually not complicated but it does take time. So be sure to set aside a week to 10 days and to have a couple of assistants to help.
It's best to choose a fair season with no rain or snow, and, especially, no wind. Owners of larger pools or those who want to expedite the process may wish to have a professional install the pool. Professionals can usually install the pool in one or two days.
Install the pool on perfectly flat ground that has good drainage. Local codes may require your pool to be a minimum of three feet from a side or rear property line and at least 10 feet from the street. Other safety codes pertaining to fencing and electrical may apply, as well.
Several days before you begin the installation, carefully read the owner's manual and installation sheet. If you have a protected staging area, begin to lay out the materials ahead of time.
Top Above-Ground Pool Brands
- In the Swim
- Splash Pools
- Summer Waves
Above-Ground Pools vs. In-Ground Pools
In-ground pools are difficult and expensive to build and require extensive rebar and concrete work. The pool contractor needs ample access to the yard for heavy equipment.
These pools are permanent fixtures in a yard, and that can be either a plus or a minus. As a plus, this means that a well-constructed in-ground pool adds value to a home. As a minus, the pool requires constant maintenance. Even if you no longer use the pool, it still must either be maintained or demolished.
Above-ground pools take less time to build than in-ground pools because they require no digging in the ground. Since you can install your own above-ground pool, there are no labor costs. With an above-ground pool, you can have the pool installed and full of water long before a pool contractor would even break ground for an in-ground pool.
Together We Can Stop Drowning. Pool Safety, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).