How to Build an Above-Ground Swimming Pool

Above-Ground Swimming Pool

DigiStu / Getty Images

Above-ground swimming pools offer homeowners the fun and enjoyment of an in-ground swimming pool but with far greater economy, convenience, and speed of installation.

Where an in-ground pool may take up to three months to build and cost tens of thousands, an above-ground pool can be assembled and filling with water in as little as a day. Best of all, above-ground pools cost just a fraction of in-ground pools.

Choose the Type of Above-Ground Pool

Above-ground swimming pools come in three major types: inflatable, metal or resin frame, and rigid wall.

  • Inflatable Pools: Inflatable pools are the least expensive and fastest type of pool you can install. Most are limited at 42 inches high. Inflatable pools are less durable than framed or rigid wall pools.
  • Metal or Resin Frame Pools: Metal or resin (plastic) frame above-ground pools rely on an outer framework to hold the pool liner in place. These pools are moderately expensive and can last for years longer than inflatable pools.
  • Rigid Wall Pools: Rigid wall above-ground pools' sturdy metal walls form the basin of the pool. A waterproof liner within the basin holds the water. Rigid wall pools are the most expensive above-ground pool but the most durable, too.

Choose the Size and Shape of Above-Ground Pool

The size and shape of the pool are important since these factors affect the cost of the pool and its maintenance, as well as its ability to fit well within your yard.

The size of the available space helps to determine the eventual size of the pool. The cost of water should be figured in, too, since treated water comes at a cost for all municipal users.

Above-ground swimming pools range from small wading pools to large round, oval, or rectangular pools.

Cost to Fill Round Above-Ground Swimming Pools, 48-Inch Wall
Pool Size # of 100 Cubic Feet Cost
12 feet 3.98 $48
15 feet 6.2 $74
18 feet 10.22 $123
21 feet 12.17 $146
24 feet 15.9 $191
27 feet 20.12 $241

Based on $12 per 100 cubic feet water and does not include the base service charge for monthly water.

Decide Whether to DIY or Hire a Contractor

Above-ground swimming pools are considerably easier and faster to build than in-ground pools. Beginning with a prepared pool base, do-it-yourselfers working with two or three other people can assemble an above-ground pool in as little as a day or two. Larger pools can be DIY-installed but often are installed by a contractor.

Apply For Permits

Many communities require a permit for above-ground pool installation. The need for the permit is often dependent on the maximum volume of the pool. Since many above-ground pools fall within this range, contact your local permitting department for information. If you need to install a GFCI outlet on the side of the house, you must also apply for a permit.

Permitting: Volume of Round Above-Ground Swimming Pools
Pool Diameter 48-Inch Wall 52-Inch Wall
12 feet 2,975 gallons 3,398 gallons
15 feet 4,646 gallons 5,310 gallons
18 feet 7,646 gallons 8,602 gallons
21 feet 9,106 gallons 10,408 gallons
24 feet 11,895 gallons 13,594 gallons
27 feet 15,054 gallons 17,205 gallons

Choose a Location

The pool should be close enough to the home (usually 21 feet) for access to a GFCI outlet, yet it should not be closer to the home than 15 feet.

Avoid locating the pool under trees, under power lines, or within 15 feet of the house. Local building code and zoning restrictions may require you to maintain a buffer between the pool property lines and other structures. Communities often require that the pool be no closer than 6 feet from the property line or 10 feet from the street. Most communities require safety fencing around pools, as well.

Prepare the Pool's Base

The location for your above-ground swimming pool should be level. Leveling the base for your pool is critical since variations may cause the pool to collapse.

Even if you decide on do-it-yourself above-ground pool installation, you may want to have the base prepared by professionals. A general building contractor can do this. In some areas, professional leveling services can help grade and prepare the base for the pool.

Find the Right Time to Install the Pool

Dry, fair weather is best for exterior home projects, especially for above-ground pool installation. The base should be dry, clean, and empty of pooled water. The ground should not be frozen.

Important

Wind is difficult to deal with when assembling an above-ground pool. When the pool is full of water, its sides will be rigid. But prior to that, wind can blow the sides in.

Install the Electrical Connection

Install a GFCI outlet on the side of the house and close to your pool. A qualified electrician can install an exterior GFCI.

Assemble the Pool

Rigid Wall Pools

The key to successful rigid wall pool installation is the leveling of the bottom ring. Spacing blocks, usually included in the package, fit under the ring to help level it. The curved rigid walls fit into the ring, with upright posts providing further support. The pool liner holds water only; it does not provide support.

Framed Pools

With metal or resin frame pools, the pool liner and the outer framework both contribute support. Some round pools also have a belt that runs horizontally around the middle. Rectangular framed pools tend to have buttresses that create a stable angle, running from the ground to the top rim of the pool.

Install the Filter

Most above-ground pools come complete with pumps and filters. Attach the hoses from the pump to the side of the pool. Then, plug the pump into the GFCI outlet and test the pump.

Fill the Pool With Water

Fill the pool from your garden hose. Most above-ground pools take hours or even a full day to fill. At an average garden hose rate of 12 gallons per minute (GPM), even a small, 12-foot pool with a 48-inch depth will take just over four hours to fill. A 27-foot round pool will take nearly 21 hours to fill.