How Long Do Above-Ground Pools Last?

Cleaning pools

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One of the first questions you might ask yourself when considering on purchasing a pool is how long do they last? The lifespan of a pool depends on a number of factors including what kind of environment the pool is in, how the pool will be maintained, how complicated the pool system is, and the type of pool you have. No matter what the situation is with any of those factors, a pool that has been maintained will always outlast one that has been neglected.

Life Expectancy of a Pool

The average lifespan of an above-ground pool is anywhere from 7 to 15 years. How long your above-ground pool will last depends on the type of pool, method of installation, maintenance history, location, and system mechanicals. Key factors that would affect the life expectancy in a negative way would be an improper installation or if the pool was installed in an abnormally wet location that would cause corrosion to the body of the pool, thus weakening the structure prematurely.

Poor maintenance, especially when it comes to identifying and eliminating leaks, would certainly shorten the lifespan of a pool. For example, letting a leak continue to drip down the side of a metal pool which would cause excessive corrosion due to the chlorine in the water (yes, this includes salt pools as well). Even ignoring maintenance of the mechanicals, such as leaving leaves in the skimmer or pump basket can hurt the life expectancy causing unnecessary stress on the pool motor and allowing excessive debris into the filter, clogging it faster and allowing it to dump dirt back into the pool which would then affect the liner.

Factors Affecting the Lifespan of a Pool

Maintenance

One of the biggest factors that will determine how long a pool lasts is how well it is maintained. Has the pool been regularly vacuumed and repaired? Have chemical levels been monitored and has the pool remained clean? Often the pools that last the longest, regardless of type or finish, are simpler pools because there are fewer things that can go wrong. Fewer moving parts generally equals fewer things that can break. Keeping with the simple theme, chlorine pools generally last longer just because they do not need a salt generator and are easier to fix, test, and maintain.

The Type of Pool You Have

Although liner pools are the most popular form of above-ground pool by far, they have the widest range of life expectancy. If your liner is not taken care of or improperly installed, the liner may fail
within 5 years. If it tears on a seam, then the whole liner must be replaced. In contrast, if a liner is well taken care of and is properly installed and supported, it is not uncommon for them to last 10 years or more.

Fiberglass pools, concrete pools and other types can also last in this time range but have their own drawbacks. Chlorine by nature dries out whatever it comes into contact with because it is caustic. This will, over time, “dry out” whatever pool finish you have and cause it to contract. This is not as noticeable with vinyl liners because they are made of a material that can stretch (though you will still see the effects of bleaching from the sun and chlorine).

Fiberglass, once installed, is hard and rigid. But over time, the fiberglass will expand and contract at a different rate than the pool body due to the chlorine in the water and exterior temperature swings, and it will separate. Once this happens, the fiberglass cannot be patched or re-attached, and it will have to be completely replaced.

Concrete is slightly porous, which means over time it will absorb the chlorinated pool water, even when painted, and this over time will cause cracks that must be patched with underwater epoxy. Failure to patch the cracks immediately will only lead to bigger holes and spreading cracks that would require a complete drain down to repair.

The Pool's Location

Another factor that affects your pool's lifespan is the geographical location. Will your pool be used year round or shut down for winter? If it is improperly winterized you can end up with cracked pipes/hoses/machinery or, if not drained to an appropriate level, with frozen pool water that could actually break your pool structure. (That's why you a pool is partially drained when closed — when the pool water freezes in winter, it has a place to go and doesn't overly stress the pool's structure.)

What Shortens the Life of an Above-Ground Pool

There are several ways that the life of a pool can be shortened which almost always come back to being improperly maintained. Chlorine is a form of bleach and is caustic; over chlorination can make internal plastic parts or hoses brittle and prone to failure, or cause bleaching in the pool.

Sitting on the top rail of the pool or if the pool structure is not level can cause a collapse or weakening of the pool over time.

Another way to shorten the lifespan of a pool is running the pump with a low water level. The pool pump uses the water to cool the motor and running dry or with a water level so low that you can hear air being sucked in can cause it to overheat and melt the pump housing.

Similarly, not taking care of your filter will shorten the life of a pool. Whether it is a sand, cartridge or D.E. filter, taking bad care of it will cause it to prematurely fail due to higher running pressures that stress the internal parts.

The most important factor in how long an above-ground pool will last is proper maintenance. It is important to remember that a pool works by containing and dispersing the significant pressure of the water against the body of the pool. Take care of leaks, limit corrosion, and replace and monitor failing components of any pool, and it will provide many years of great memories for everyone.