What to know before jumping into that aboveground pool purchase

Laura Daily

THE WASHINGTON POST – With temperatures soaring, vacations cancelled and most community swimming pools limiting access or closed, a backyard pool seems like a good idea. No, not one of those blowup kiddie pools or cheap plastic ones that your dog would love, but a real, aboveground pool large enough for the entire family.

“It’s no mystery why aboveground pools are so popular. They provide homeowners with all the joys of having a backyard pool without having to take on the cost, commitment and full-on construction project that an in-ground pool entails,” said Michael Dean of Asheville, NC, who has designed and installed pools for more than 25 years.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to get one. Demand is up fourfold over last year, according to Laci Carnes, a spokesperson for Royal Swimming Pools, one of the country’s largest distributors of aboveground pools. Since March, the bulk of manufacturers, vendors and distributors have been shuttered. Between social distancing restrictions for employees and supply-chain issues, those manufacturers that reopened production can produce only a fraction of their orders. Many have stopped taking new orders altogether.

Still, with some sleuthing and a bit of creativity, you may find a pool that suits your needs. Here’s what to know before you dive in.


Consider how much room you have. Aboveground pools typically start at 10 to 12 feet in diameter, but the buttresses that hold up the sides can add an additional three feet. Some municipalities or homeowners associations have size restrictions regarding backyard pools. Keep in mind that you should leave even more space than the minimum regulation, just to be safe, Dean said.

Also, pools need to sit on a flat surface. If your yard is hilly or sloped, you may have to excavate to create a level spot. And a pool needs to be within six to 10 feet of a GFCI-protected electrical outlet to power the pump.


Do you need any building permits? Are there easements or other rules for backyard pools? Some municipalities require fencing, so children can’t easily gain access. Others insist on an alarm that goes off if the water is disturbed in an unattended pool. Although the walls of an aboveground pool do provide a barricade for children, remember that nothing replaces a vigilant adult when kids are around.


To calculate your pool’s optimum size and depth, think about who will be using it. Will it be holding adults lounging or your child’s rambunctious football team? If kids will be using the pool, how old and tall are they?


The most important component is the frame, which will hold up the walls and the water. Frames are either steel, resin or a hybrid made from both. Steel frames are aluminium or galvanised steel, which has been dipped into a zinc coating to prevent rust. They are sturdy, yet lightweight, though they can get hot in the sun. Resin (hard plastic) doesn’t rust, resists warping and stays cool to the touch, but it is vulnerable to cracking in extreme temperatures.


Round pools start at 12 feet in diametre, with 24-foot-diameter pools, which can fit four to five people, being the most popular choice, Carnes said. The most popular oval pools are 15 feet by 30 feet. The depth of your pool depends on the wall height. Aboveground pools come in three basic wall heights: 48 inches, 52 inches (most popular) and 54 inches. The higher the wall, the more water the pool will hold.


The shape you choose will depend on the size of your yard and local ordinances. Don’t be fooled. Although oval pools appear larger, that is not necessarily the case. A 24-foot round pool actually holds more water than a 15-by-30-foot oval pool. However, a round pool is still less expensive, as it has fewer parts.


What most people forget is that an aboveground pool is simply a bottomless frame. The liner is the component that’s most important and most overlooked, said Bethanie Britton, vice president of Country Leisure, a Moore, Okla, retailer specialising in aboveground pools. “The liner is what holds in the water, so don’t cheap out on it. You want one that is a decent thickness of 20 to 25 mils.” Expect to pay about USD200 for a good one.


Expect to pay USD1,000 to USD3,000 for a “pool kit”, which includes the exterior wall, posts, top cap and track. Resin frames will be more expensive than steel. Larger pools can run USD2,500 or more. A deck, safety fence or additional landscaping may add thousands of dollars. Still, the total cost should be far less than an in-ground pool, which starts at about USD15,000.


Carnes said many customers install their own pools. “If you like to assemble things yourself, you can DIY, but it can be frustrating, because the instructions that come with pools are very generic.”

“Those who are handy can do it, but it definitely takes more than one set of hands,” added Britton. A professional crew can install an aboveground pool in three to five hours and, depending on pool size, will charge USD1,000 to USD3,000.


Besides the pool frame and liner, you need a pump and filter system to keep your pool clean and free of debris, algae or other harmful substances. The pump circulates the water, and the filter screens out any debris. A pump and filter average USD400 to USD650.

Britton suggests a two-speed pump, which can run 24/7 on its low setting without using too much electricity. Or consider a timer (about USD40) so the pump can operate eight to 12 hours a day instead of continuously.

Typically, you’ll choose between a sand or cartridge filter. Sand filters are the most popular and must be replaced every five years. With a cartridge system, you remove and rinse as warranted. Pool covers run another USD100 to USD300.