Summer isn’t complete without a regular dip, and what better way to do it than in your very own above-ground pool? With it, you can skip the drive to the beach or community pool and have your own piece of heaven right there in your back yard. Getting the best above ground pools allows you to kick back and relax or have a great time with your family and friends.
A above-ground pool is one of the best investments you can make for the summer season. Unlike an in-ground pool, it doesn’t require any digging or complicated installation. On top of this, it’s a much more affordable option that doesn’t need nearly as much maintenance.
But how do you choose the right pool? This can seem challenging, with so many differences in size, shape, construction, and features. To make your task easier, we have created a buying guide that explains all of this in detail. Additionally, be sure to check out our pool reviews if you want some great pool ideas that will fit great in any back yard.
How To Choose An Above Ground Pool – Buying Guide
Type of Pool
In terms of construction, three main types of above-ground pools are available – steel, aluminum, and resin (plastic). Each of these have their advantages, which is why you’ll come across many pools that are a combination of these. Metal pools are much stronger than resin ones, but also require more maintenance and are prone to rust. Resin pools are much easier to set up and maintain, but they are also easier to damage.
When talking about setup, there are two types of pools – inflatable and non-inflatable. Non-inflatable pools have a strong metal frame that holds them in place and require assembly when you get them. They typically have either PVC or soft vinyl walls. They are very sturdy and can hold a lot of water.
Inflatable pools don’t have a frame and are ready to use much quicker. An inflatable ring sits on the top and works to lift the pool walls so you can fill it. This type is much more budget-friendly if you’re looking for an affordable option. Unfortunately, they are also less durable.
Two factors determine the size of your pool: the number of people that are going to use it and the size of your yard. If you have a large family or a group of friends, it’s best to look into large pools. This means that it should have at least 15 feet in diameter so four or more people can be comfortable.
On the other hand, above ground swimming pools take up a significant amount of space in your yard. Even if you can fit it, it can take up too much space and make your yard useless. This is why we recommend that you find a balance, and not go with the largest pool if you don’t need it. Our pool reviews feature models of all sizes, so you have plenty of options when looking for the best one.
The most common shapes of above-ground pools are round and rectangular. Besides the different looks (obviously), these two shapes also have other more important differences. For example, a round pool will take up less ground area when you set it up, which is significant if you have a small yard. Also, round pools are more convenient for lounging.
On the other hand, a rectangle pool above ground is a much better choice if you actually want to swim. Their length allows you to swim laps or get some aquatic exercise because the distance between edges is larger. However, rectangular above ground swimming pools and square above ground pools have larger footprints and require more space.
To make them more durable and comfortable to use, above-ground pools are made of a combination of different materials. To start with, nearly every single pool has a liner<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> made of vinyl. The vinyl works as a smooth and soft barrier between the walls and your skin.
The walls of your above-ground pool can be made from several different materials, but most commonly steel, aluminum, and resin. Metal walls give the pool top-level strength, but also make it heavier and more difficult to assemble. The best above-ground pools have strong and durable yet lightweight walls that make them easy to set up.
Finally, most above-ground pools come with a support system (frame). The frame reinforces the pool and makes the walls more rigid. The best choice here is tubular steel because it can provide the rigidity required to support a large amount of water. As a bonus, the frame should be powder-coated to prevent rusting in the wet environment.
Because the popularity of above-ground pools is increasing by the year, manufacturers are including more and more innovative features to attract the customers. For example, fitness lovers will love a rectangular pool with a water treadmill feature to help them get better exercise.
Other swimmers might enjoy a pool featuring waterfalls or fountains. Some above-ground pools are even deep enough to feature diving boards, allowing an extended range of pool activities.
Most garden swimming pools contain everything you require to set them up. Packages will typically include a pump, a ladder, a tarp, a debris cover, and instructions on how to set it all up. All of these items will be one less thing you need to purchase in addition to your pool.
- Pumps circulate the pool water through a filtration system that keeps the water clean and free of debris. Pump capacity is shown in gallons per hour (gph), and you’ll need a higher capacity for large pools.
- Ground cloths (tarps) are strong pieces of fabric that work as a barrier between your pool and the surface. This prevents damage from sharp objects and keeps the exterior clean.
- Debris covers prevent debris from falling into the pool when you’re not using it. The cover should be used every night so that leaves and other items don’t fall in the pool as this can clog the filtration system.
- Ladders are necessary to get in and out of the pool. Look for models with non-slip steps for safer use. Also, make sure they can be removed so you don’t get any unwanted guests in your pool.
- Instructions make the whole setup process easier. Most manufacturers include a video or DVD that explains the pool setup in detail. Be sure to watch these videos, because missing a step can make your pool unstable.
Pools are very large and heavy when filled, so it’s best to carefully plan where you’re going to put them. Of course, you should first measure your yard and see whether the above ground swim pool fits properly. We highly advise that you leave some extra space on each side (3 to 5 feet), as this will make the swimming pool above ground more functional.
The surface where you’ll place the pool needs to be flat. If it’s not completely flat, it’s best to try and even it a bit before assembling the pool. Uneven surface leads to uneven pressure on the swimming pool walls, which can damage them and ruin the pool. Also, remove anything sharp (branches, rocks) and avoid placing it anything that protrudes from the surface.
The installation time for above ground pools ranges from 15 to 60 minutes. This is one of the biggest advantages compared to in-ground pools – you can have it up and running in no time.
After choosing the spot and leveling the surface you should place and secure the tarp. On top of it, assemble the pool frame. Afterward, unroll the liner, place it inside, and secure it to the steel frame. Before filling it, we advise that you smooth the liner surface.
The whole process is even easier if you buy an inflatable above ground pool. Since it has no frame, all you have to do is level the ground, place the tarp, and inflate the ring before you can start filling it.
Above ground swimming pools are generally much safer than their in-ground counterparts because nothing can accidentally fall inside. This being said, there are some features that can improve its safety. It’s a big plus if the ladder steps are padded with a non-slip material because this will prevent any accidents.
Also, getting a removable ladder prevents children and small pets from climbing and getting inside the pool. To further improve safety, make sure the spot where you place it is away from the action in your yard. Finally, covering the pool when not in use keeps the water clean and safer to use.
The build quality of your pool will be showcased by the length of warranty the manufacturer includes. A one year warranty is standard for most pools. However, many of the best portable pools have much longer warranties and some even come with a limited lifetime warranty.
Getting a product with a good warranty can save you from headaches down the road. Keep in mind, however, that the warranty usually applies on the frame only, and not the liner. On top of this, it’s also a plus if the company has good customer service to help you with any potential issues.
Based on the type of pool you choose, above ground pools can vary significantly in price. If you’re looking for an affordable option, easy set pools are the way to go. Because they don’t have a supporting frame or a complex construction, these pools are able to keep the price fairly low ($50 to $150). However, what you pay is what you get, because these will usually last much shorter too.
For a mid-range price ($100 to $300), you can get a PVC pool with a metal frame. The frame gives it good support and makes the pool very stable. And, if you’re looking for top-level quality, it’s best to go with a pool that has steel or aluminum walls. These will last the longest, but they also cost the most ($1000+).
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To make them pleasant to use, above ground swimming pools require regular maintenance. How easy the pool is to maintain depends not only on size, but also on some included features. In relation to this, we advise that you get a pool with a pump and filter, so the water can circulate and be actively cleaned.
You will find that most of the filter pumps come with a clear outer shell that allows you to easily see the state of the filter. This way you won’t have to guess if it’s time to change the filter, but you can simply take a glance and see if your filter needs cleaning.
Besides simple filtering, some of the best above-ground pools from Intex come with Hydro Aeration technology that mixes air bubbles in the water to make the filters more efficient and the water more enjoyable. On the other hand, if your pool doesn’t have a pump, you’ll have to change the water more often (this can be a real hassle, not to mention expensive).
Q: What Is An Above Ground Pool?
An above-ground pool is a freestanding pool that rests flat on the surface or a few inches deep. This is different from a permanent (in-ground) pool, as it requires much less maintenance and an easier installation. It has a semi-permanent structure, meaning that you can leave it up year-round but also take it down if needed.
This style of pool typically has a thin rigid wall that is held together by metal pipes on the top and bottom, typically either aluminum or steel. It generally requires equal pressure distribution on all sides, which is why they are usually round (but this is not a general rule).
Q: What Are The Benefits Of Above Ground Pools?
The main benefits are affordability, easy installation, and easy maintenance. Compared to in-ground pools, these are several times cheaper both to buy and to maintain. You won’t have to pay for digging, building, or tiling the pool. The only thing you need to do is assemble the pool and fill it with water.
On top of this, since the water volume is smaller, you will save up on pool chemicals. Combined with the other things we mentioned, it sums up to substantial savings over the years. The technology has come a long way, so you can have a great pool without paying a small fortune.
Q: When Is The Best Time To Get A Pool?
From the price standpoint, the best time to get an above-ground pool is after the summer season passes. If you choose to get a pool from September to November, you may reap the benefits of post-summer sales and get the pool for a significantly lower price.
On the other hand, buying this early has a downside too. We mentioned that the warranty often covers just the frame and not the liner. If there’s something wrong with it, you won’t be able to spot any potential problems until summer comes. But we still think it’s a much better idea than buying in the summer and paying the highest possible price.
Q: What Is The Average Cost Of An Above Ground Pool?
While this depends on the type of pool you choose, you can get a great above-ground pool for $300 to $500 dollars. We are talking about resin pools with steel frames here. If you choose to go with a full-size pool with reinforced walls, you can count on spending $1000+ and often as much for installation costs. Also, regardless of the pool you get, maintenance and chemicals cost a few hundred dollars per year.
Q: How Long Do Above Ground Pools Last?
Statistics say that, on average, above ground swimming pools last between 7 and 15 years. Of course, the number varies drastically from one product to the other. The years we specified refer to the frame, while the liner will last anywhere from 5 to 9 years before you need to replace it. Don’t forget, proper maintenance significantly improves the life of your pool.
Q: How Do I Level The Ground For An Above Ground Swimming Pool?
You can do this two ways – either by creating a platform or by digging a flat surface. It is ideal to simply find a flat area to place it but you’ll most likely have to do some preparations. If you are making a platform, be sure that the base is strong enough to hold the pool. These need to hold thousands of gallons of water which can be hard to support.
Q: What’s The Best Way To Fill A Pool?
The easiest and best way to fill an above-ground pool is with your garden hose. When the installation is complete, simply grab a hose and start filling the pool. You should control the filling process because the pressure will build up as more water gets inside (especially if you have an above ground rectangular pool).
If the walls seem to bulge or creak in any way, we suggest turning off the water and double-checking if the pool was set up correctly. Once the pool is completely filled with water, it’s hard to adjust or reposition its pieces and parts. It’s much better to do it right the first time than to fix it halfway through.
Q: How Deep Are Above Ground Pools?
Above ground pools are usually 42 to 52 inches deep. This is the ideal depth for both larger kids and adults to enjoy water activities. If you have smaller kids, you can find many above ground pools that are 30 inches deep (like the Intex Prism we featured). On the other hand, large above ground pools can be over 60 inches deep, making them great for swimming.
Q: How Do I Maintain An Above Ground Swimming Pool?
Just like a hot tub or an in-ground pool, these pools require good water circulation and regular water cleaning. You do this by regularly adding pool chemicals and running the pump filtration system for at least 12 hours a day. Besides this, you’ll need to clean the filter when it gets clogged and vacuum the pool from time to time.
Q: How Often Should I Drain Your Pool?
On average, you should drain above ground swimming pools every 5 years (but this depends on the situation). This is the average time after which the water becomes oversaturated with chemicals and must be replaced. Most experts don’t recommend draining it over the winter, but rather leaving the water inside and winterizing it.
The potential reasons for draining the pool can be replacing a cracked liner, fixing a chlorine lock, or removing the pool from your yard. If you need help with doing this, read our article on how to drain an above-ground pool.
Q: What Is Meant By Above Ground Pool Circulation?
This is a process during which the pool pump pushes the pool water through the filter to clean it. Not only does this remove debris, but also helps distribute chemicals more evenly and keep it clean for your family. Still water can become a breeding environment for bacteria and algae faster, so good circulation makes the water more sanitary.
Q: Why Is My Pool Cloudy?
There are several reasons why this might happen – incorrect levels of chlorine, wrong pH balance, high calcium content, high ammonia content, algae development, or a clogged filter. The first things you should do is check the filter and water chemistry, and then you’ll know how to proceed. If you need help, you’re welcome to read our article on how to fix a cloudy pool.
Q: What Chemicals Do I Need For My Pool?
The main thing you need are chlorine tablets. These are an incredibly efficient water sanitizer and very convenient for pools. The tablet dissolves slowly and releases free chlorine into the water over a period of time, effectively killing off bacteria.
Besides chlorine, there are several other chemicals you’ll need to use from time to time – calcium chloride (prevents staining), cyanuric acid (stabilizes chlorine), algaecide, alkaline (keeps pH stable), and sometimes pool shock.
Q: What Kind Of Filter Is Best For An Outdoor Pool?
In terms of performance, the best above ground swimming pool filters are D.E. filters (Diatomaceous Earth). These are able to filter out particles as small as 1 micron, effectively picking out even the smallest debris. Unfortunately, this type is also the most expensive. As alternatives, you have sand filters and cartridge filters.
Q: Do I Need A Pool Fence?
It depends on the state and county requirements, so it's best to check your local regulations to prevent liability. In regards to child safety, many places require that you have a fence if the pool is more than 18 inches deep (especially if there is a deck around the pool). In this case, it’s a standard that the fence is at least 4 feet tall. While the chance of falling into an above-ground pool is smaller, you are still required to take precautions.
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An above ground swimming pool will add a new dimension to your back yard and make your summers more enjoyable. The best things about it are that it’s more affordable and much easier to install than a conventional pool. Hopefully, our guide has helped you figure out the best above ground pool setup for your home. With so many models to choose from, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect one.
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