Everything You Need to Know About Above Ground Swimming Pools

By Anna Graizbord , last updated February 4, 2011

Above-ground swimming pools have nearly all the benefits of in-ground pools, and you don't need to be an expert to know all the options these pools offer. One of the biggest differences is cost; above-ground pools are much less expensive than their in-ground counterparts. There tends to be a lot more to consider, however, when purchasing an above-ground pool, but as a result there is a bit more flexibility in your possible options. Plus, with above-ground swimming pools, it’s somewhat less of a commitment in permanently altering your lawn, and you can disassemble it and bring it with you if you move!

Size and Shape

The size of your yard is going to be the main determinant in selecting your pool’s shape and size. Generally, small pools range in diameter from 15 to 18 feet, and larger varieties can be up to 30 feet in diameter. Oval-shaped pools maximize space the best, though they can require angled braces and can add a few feet of width to the entire circumference of the pool. Round pools have more swimming area, are self-supporting, and are generally easier to install. Remember that most above-ground pools don’t come with the capacity for too much depth, about four to five feet at most.

If you want a round pool, but are not sure how to measure the size best for your yard, place a stake or tiki torch in the middle of your lawn where you’d like the center of the pool to be. Attach a measuring tape and walk out, trying on various widths for size; walk around the stake or torch just to see where all the outer points will hit.


Above-ground pools are either made of steel, aluminum, or resin. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to each:

  • Steel is the least expensive and heaviest and most solid of all the materials. Though they may take a long time to rust, they are susceptible to corrosion and oxidization, sometimes even faster than steel not exposed to water constantly. Make sure that any supporting steel beams are dipped in hot zinc, and that resin or epoxy coats the bottom of the pool, behind its liner.
  • Aluminum, like steel, is rust-resistant, but can get corroded and oxidized. When aluminum oxidizes, it can cause surfaces to become rough and even cause holes in the bottom’s liner. You get special coats that prevent this type of damage, though it can get expensive. Aluminum is more flexible than steel, good for handling the movement of water, and is much easier to disassemble and move, as it is much lighter than steel. However, because aluminum pool walls are essentially just panels riveted together, it can create problems if they are not sealed properly.
  • Resin pools are sometimes made entirely of the material, but more often than not, resin will be just one major component in the overall plastic material or will be used only on certain parts of the pool. Resin has none of the rust, oxidization, or erosion problems of steel and aluminum, though is more expensive depending on how high resin composition is. Make sure your resin pool has the proper UV coating, otherwise, it will flake and crack; generally, though resin holds up pretty well against the elements, not even getting as hot as aluminum or steel upon. One disadvantage of resin pool bottom tracks is that they bend, making it harder to install them yourself—professional pool installers know this, however, and can make the necessary adjustments.

Whichever material you choose, make sure your supporting pool beams are wide enough to properly function; the wider, the better.

Placement and Installation

Before you even think about picking the perfect spot, make sure to check with your city’s planning department in case you need a special permit to install your pool. While you’re at it, you should also see if your pool might be covered by insurance.

In selecting your pool spot, consider that placing it in an area primarily exposed to the sun will help keep your water warm and cut down on leaf and debris mess. Windy areas can increase evaporation; a strategically placed shrub or hedge may help. Consider your entryways; will you have easy access from your house? Perhaps you’ll want to add a little pathway, deck, waterslide, or patio. Sometimes pool owners build sheds or small storage areas for pool equipment and pool heaters, so make sure you take this potential addition into consideration, as the closer it is to the actual pool, the better your pool will operate.

Make sure to prepare your area for installation by removing all sod so that your grass will not rot or begin to smell. Your ground should be as firm and level as possible, which means making sure no roots, rocks, or other objects are littered about. Even grounds that have been treated with weed killer can affect your base as well as your pool bottom’s liner. Don’t fill your lower ground area and level off all high spots to the lowest common point; adding soil will not make the ground strong enough to handle the pool.

Once you’ve prepared your ground, you can now have professional pool installers begin their work, or you can install it yourself. If you do choose to install it yourself, make sure you have all the essential parts and equipment you need. Make sure not to use stone dust or gravel to line your pool’s bottom. Instead, use packed sand and purchase a pool pad.

Equipment and Accessories

Some necessary pool equipment include a pump and filter, skimmer, liner, maintenance equipment, pool heater, and a ladder. Often, pool dealers will give you a package deal with this sort of equipment included. Otherwise, some of the more fun or extra accessories you may want to consider are: pool lights (both for inside and outside the pool), covers (to help retain heat and keep away debris), decking, a fountain, screens, and a chemical test kit (to make sure your chlorine levels are safe, etc.).

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