If you’re thinking about having a wonderful pool experience at home but at a reasonable cost, an above ground pool might just come to your aid. They are installed above the ground, and their structure either consist of steel or polymer materials. They are the cheap pools that you can see in your neighbor’s yard.
There are different styles of above ground pool that are so designed that there’s a model for every pool buyer. Before actually going to buy one, you need to learn lots of things about these pools like size, quality, materials, budget, etc. This article aims to help you towards making a decision about the best above ground pools.
What makes an above ground pool?
There are different categories of pools but they can be minimally categorized into two: in-ground/underground pool and above ground pool. There are also these subcategories of pools:
- Vinyl lined pools
- Fiberglass Pools
- Concrete pools
- Gunite pools
- Portable pools
- Infinity edge pools
- Diving pools
While the in-ground pools cost a fortune and are only affordable by the few privileged people, above ground pools have been serving the majority of the people for many years. In terms of quality, there’s no difference between the two. Furthermore, the above ground pools take almost no time to install but the in-ground pools can take up to 6-8 weeks. Here are some distinguishing qualities of the aboveground pools:
- An above ground pool costs 1/10th of what an in-ground pool costs
- The maintenance and repair of the aboveground pools are highly manageable
- Anyone can install it by reading the instruction (using professionals are advised)
- It can be installed within 1-7 days
Styles/Types of Above Ground Pools
There are many options for above ground pools as per the demand of the people. And the interesting thing is you have to spend more than 80% less than an in-ground pool for it. All you got to do is make space for a pool in your backyard. The types of above ground pools are actually defined by the styles they follow.
A pool with a good style can work as a good decoration material for your house. There are also different textures and patterns for these above ground pools which might include liners with textures, fancy ladders/stairs and custom-designed decking. This will add a substantial expense to the original pool budget but still, you’re getting a fancy pool in a way cheaper price than the stock in-ground pools. Based on styles, there are 2 above ground pools:
- Ring pools
- Frame pools
Ring Pools 101
Also known as the cheap pools, these are the least expensive option of the two. Ring pools are about 12 feet wide and 3 feet high. The pool has got its name from the inflatable ring on the top. As the pool is filled with water, the sidewalls get lifted and the ring rises. The pool becomes flask-shaped once it’s filled- the bottom is wider than the top which gives it greater stability. The basics of a ring pool are listed below.
- Works without frame support
- Requires no installment
- A 12-foot pool can store up to 1,400 gallons of water
- Requires chemical balance with chlorine tablets and filtration
- The walls are made of vinyl
Frame Pools 101
This is the stronger above ground pool with its robust metal frame and a pool liner on the inside. The walls of the frame pools can be as high as 48-54 inches. You’ll need a ladder to get in or out. Frame pools can stay up for a year. There are various sizes and shapes available for frame pools, 24 foot round being the most popular size.
The most commonly used frame pools are the Coleman pools due to its availability in sizes, affordability and good servicing. A 12′ Coleman pool only costs $207.86. There are also Intex, Bestway, Summer Waves, iPool, Embassy Pool, Wilbar Meadows, Heritage TA, etc. that offer cheap pools and a great experience.
This pool needs an extensive installment process, so you need to find yourself listed in a dealer’s installment list. This comes easy in the winter to early spring. This is because most people would buy their frame pools on summer which would bind up the dealer for a long time. The basics of a frame pool:
- Comes with a lifetime warranty that covers up to 30 years
- Can be dug one end under the ground
- its depth can be as low as 6.5 feet
- The minimum cost of a frame pool with installation will be $4,000
- Takes about 2-5 days for installation
- Needs frames and panels of steel for support
Materials for above ground pool can be confusing to choose since each has their own qualities and downsides. But safety, durability, appearance and comfort are some of the things you should take into account before deciding on pool material. Also, the pool materials are not only going to come in contact with the pool water but also with the acid, chlorine and sometimes even salt. The most common above ground pool materials are steel, aluminum, and resin. The following paragraphs will introduce each of these materials and more.
The least expensive, most solid and heaviest of all the above ground pool materials is steel. But they are prone to oxidization and corrosion. So, make sure the steel is dipped in hot zinc. Epoxy or resin coating behind the liner also secures the steel. Newer steel above ground pools come with coatings that resist any possibility of rusting or oxidization.
Using resin material for pool has its advantage since it can’t rust or corrode. There’s no 100% resin made pool. Resin is just one major component in the otherwise plastic material and sometimes they’re used on certain parts of the pool only. The expense of resin depends on how high the composition of resin is. Resin pool needs UV coating without which it’ll crack. The advantages of a resin pool:
- Doesn’t get as hot and steel or aluminum
- Cheaper than aluminum pools
- Doesn’t oxidize
Like steel, aluminum pools are rust-resistant but are prone to oxidization. Once oxidized, aluminum causes roughness in the surface and holes in the liner. Some special coatings are available that protect the pool from these hazards but are pretty expensive. The main advantage of an aluminum pool is its portability due to its lightweight, but this can also cause problems if the panels aren’t properly sealed. Some advantages:
- Can survive severe weather conditions
- The strength to weight ratio in aluminum is very high
- Never rusts
This is a combination of a resin pool and a steel pool. The top rails of the hybrid pools are made of resin, the caps are also made out of resin and the wall is galvanized steel. The bottom rails of these hybrid pools are also made of resin which makes the pool sustainable in different environments and creates a solid base for the pools. However, the hybrid pools are really expensive.
This is the strongest, the most long-lasting above ground pool and another hybrid of aluminum and stainless steel. The optimum pool comes in different shapes and sizes. They can practically fit into any yard. The walls are 2 inches thick and insulated. They’re also easy to assemble. In terms of affordability and versatility, the optimum pools are highly suggested.
Above ground pools come with different sizes and shapes. The varieties in shapes and sizes make sure you can install a pool at your yard according to the yard’s size. Most above ground pools are round, oval, rectangular or circular.
This is the most traditional shape for above ground pools. The standard size of a round above ground pool ranges from 10 to 33 feet. The height of the wall is between 30 to 54 inches. This shape is pretty good for swimming but isn’t so good for laps or sporting. This is a great shape for a whole family.
Oval pools are more intricately designed due to its unique shape. An oval above ground pool has more parts that support it and hold it from collapsing. For this, the oval shape costs more than the round ones. An oval shaped above ground pool can provide the same aesthetics as an in-ground pool once it’s decked. The oval shaped pools are hard to install. They are 12-16 feet wide and 16-32 feet long. Oval pools have the widest range of sizes due to its excessive demand.
This shape provides a very strong base for upholding the structure. This is the easiest structure to assemble. Except for the shape, this shape is functionally similar to the rounded one. The square-shaped pools are great for family gatherings but isn’t ideal for sporting for which there are rectangular shaped pools.
The rectangular above ground pools are best for lapping. These are basically pools for sporting and thus lots of models come with volleyball sets and diving boards. They’re usually 20-32 feet long and 12-16 feet wide. For laps, install a tether system.
Standard components of above ground pools
The best above ground pools come with various components, each serving different purposes for the sustenance of the pool. The understanding of each of the element is preliminary to getting the full functionality of the pool.
Fountains and Waterfalls
The fountains and waterfalls in above ground pools have multiple purposes:
- Add to the beauty of the pool
- Help in furthering the water circulation
- Controls chemical usage, so the pH level in pool remains at a reasonable level
- Helps to regulate the water temperature in the pool
Decks don’t and shouldn’t provide any stability to the pool. The pool and the deck are just adjacent with a gap of 3/4 inch. The ideal positioning for the deck is right under where the pool edge ends. You can use joist tapes on decks to protect it from the water when you walk on it after a swim. A gate on the deck will also keep away unsupervised children. Most of these decks are made for the rounded or the oval-shaped pools. Decks are great poolside furniture to rest on.
The liners in the above ground pools don’t only add to the aesthetics but also ensure the longevity of the pools. There are 3 types of liners for above ground pools:
- Overlap style liners: go over the pool wall and coping strips hold them
- J-bead liner: a J-shaped bead hooks to the top of the wall
- Beaded liner: a bead receiver is installed in the top edge where the beaded liner fits into
Steps or ladders provide a secured landing both on and off the pool. There are two kinds of steps or ladders in accordance with the deck condition of the pool. If there’s no deck, a two-sided ladder is highly suggested. There are also step systems available with a safety gate on the outside, a ladder on the inside and stairs on the outside of the pool.
For decked pools, a single pool ladder or a stairway is enough. This ladder will connect the ground and the deck.
Then above ground pools use pumps to maintain safe and clean water. It circulates the dirty water through the filter system and the dirty water enters the pool as clean water again. A 24 feet round above ground pool needs a one Horsepower pump and the highest power for a pump needs not to be more than 1 ½ HP.
Previously, one needed to use hands for operating manual vacuum to clean up the pool. Now there are 4 types of automatic pools:
- Battery powered: great for small above ground pools
- Suction cleaners: works great with a pump of 1 HP or more by connecting to a suction inlet
- Robotic cleaners: doesn’t require any assistance from pump or filter system
- Pressure cleaners: works on its own, keeps the skimmers free
There are underwater and floating lights that help to illuminate the whole pools. They are the least expensive of the pool accessories and most of them turn off automatically.
A heater in a pool enables you to take a swim even in winter. Pool heaters let the pool be enjoyed all around the year. There are 3 types of heaters based on their modes of functioning:
- Electric heat pump: uses electricity to form solar heat, keeps the pool temperature between 80-90 degrees all the year long
- Gas pool heaters: fueled by natural gas, quickly heats up the pool, expensive
- Solar pool heaters: cheapest heating option although the heat might not be too powerful
Winter covers offer protection to the pool during winter and heavy rainfall when it’s not in use. There are oval, round, square and rectangular shaped covers and these can be all custom made too. This is not a thing that you should concern yourself much with. However, before actually buying one, these things need consideration:
- Area: learn the exact dimensions of the pool. Don’t buy a large cover
- Shape: buy the cover that’s shaped precisely as your pool
- Material: the material of the cover determines its durability, heat absorption, and wind resistance
- Fitting: this is a matter of preference. You can go for an exact fit or a loose one
- Price: the price range for the covers is pretty slim, so there’s no worry there
Cleaners and Controls
Cleaners are the most important thing to consider if you want to keep your pool for a long time. They should be planned beforehand during construction and not after. You can have full control over your system, or you can also let your pool system taking care of itself.
Above Ground Pool Cleaners
While everyone loves to enjoy their time on pools, no one likes to clean them. Manual pool cleaner has thus got replaced with the automatic ones. In automatic pool cleaners, all you have to do is turn it on, and the cleaner will take care of the rest. These cleaners don’t need extra pumps for assistance and use the existing pumps and filters in the pool. They clean up dirt, leaves, bugs, grass, and debris so effectively that renders the pool spotlessly clean.
It’s for those busy people who hardly have time to remember when to clean their pool or to turn it off after cleaning. Automatic timers eliminate any need for that. They also fix the time for the pumping or the filtering to take place. In this way, you also save your electricity since the system would only work on the scheduled time and remain idle for the rest of time.
The filter systems on above ground pools vary by how they operate and how big or small they are. Above ground pools have three types of filtration systems:
- Sand filters
- Cartridge filters
- Diatomaceous earth filters
Different costs that might affect your budget
How much you’re going to spend on an above ground pool primarily depends on the size of the pool and how you’re going to install it. There are some additional expenses as well such as the labor cost, the maintenance cost and other costs which will be discussed in details in the next sections. Here’s a list of what the round-shaped above ground pools usually cost:
- 12’ – $1,030
- 15’ – $1,650
- 18’ – $3,000
The oval and the rectangular above ground pools, their sizes and prices:
- 24’x12’ – $2,400
- 33’x18’ – $3,200
- 41’x21’ – $4,400
The labor cost for an above ground pool installment is pretty significant. A 4 person crew who each makes $20 an hour would cost $1,680 for 12 hours. This cost is almost nothing if compared to the cost of labor for an in-ground pool. Also, the labor cost varies with areas.
There’s also the cost of sand and water supply for the pool. Sand will make the base of the pool. Another thing that might add to your labor cost is the need for a bulldozer when you don’t have your ground leveled. This will approximately add $2,000 more to your actual budget.
The expense of an above ground pool doesn’t end at the installment. For keeping it neat and tidy, you have to use different chemicals like chlorine, bromine or PHMB which will kill the germs and bacteria in the pool. The chemicals will cost $90-$100 per month. There’s also the vacuuming process which also demands some money.
Cost of additional items
The additional items are already discussed above which will cost around $500-$1,100. These items only enhance the experience in the pool but whether you’re going to buy them or not is entirely up to you. However, some issues don’t need to be separated to point out that they’re mandatory in maintaining a pool. The items that would add more cost to your budget include:
- Extension pole
- Wall brush
- Vacuum head
- Winter cover
- Balancing chemicals
- Ladder pad
- Foam bottom
Additional considerations to make before having the pool
Some things might not appear as being directly related to the establishment of an above ground pool but you have to take of them nonetheless. They are discussed briefly in the following segments.
Maintaining social codes
Even establishing a pool in your own backyard might be a violation of social codes. Before actually thinking about a pool, make sure you’re not going to place it on some power lines or underground systems. You can check this with your local authorities, and you may even find out that you need a permit for setting up a pool.
If your surrounding is full of trees and rocky areas, you need to be careful. For one, you’d need an extra charge for removing the trees and rocks. Some areas might not allow removing the trees.
The purpose of building a pool is highly undermined. But it makes a huge impact, at least, on the expenses. If you’re going to have the pool for yourself, you might not need anything more than just a pool. But if it’s for the kids, you’d have to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for them. If you want to use it for occasions only, you’d have to buy the festive decorations for the pool to adorn it with.
The insurance policy on your house certainly changes after building up a pool. The insurance won’t cover the pool itself but the pool injuries will most likely be covered. But if you don’t make the pool a safe and sound place beforehand with fences and child-protection, insurances won’t take any liability.
You don’t have to pay a huge toll for an above ground pool. It will be considered as furniture in your house and will be taxed as such.
Don’t put your pool on hard soil. Excavate the soil, mix it with sand and then level it before putting on the pool structure.
Without electricity, you cannot do much for your pool maintenance. The pump and filter run on electricity. So you’d need to manage a power line dedicated to this equipment in the pool.
Don’t just stop there at building up an above ground pool. Now you have to take care of the safety issues. As it has been already said, above ground pools offer the same experience as in-ground pools. Similarly, the safety issues related to both of them are also the same.
Give a barrier of fence around the highest edge of the pool. The stairs to the pool should also be locked if they’re not already. The pool fences are typically made of resin and will beautify the pool as well as securing it. You can install the fences by the same people who install the pool during the pool installment. Fences keep the pool safe for everybody and not just children.
Ladders and Steps
Either ladders or steps are mandatory for above ground pools. In case of a ladder, it needs constant checking if it’s still attached firmly. A stairway is safer in this regard. The rails of the stairway and the handrails of the pool offer greater protection.
Pool alarms come in handy if there are children or pets in the house. They activate with a key. Remove the key to turn the alarm on. Now it would detect even a one-year-old child (weighing 18 pounds). Any intruder is instantly detected with the electrical sensor of the alarm. It sets off a loud alarm inside the home and at the pool.
Signs and Equipment
The signs and markers for cautionary purposes are very important. The signs can be applied to the vinyl on the pool’s floor, the ceramic tiles or the tempered glass layer. “No Diving”, “No Jumping”, “Shallow Water” are some of the signs that you can add to your pool.
Regulations to abide by
Pool experience needs to be both enjoyable and safe, and here are some regulations you can follow to attain that:
- Make sure to follow the local safety regulations
- Don’t use slippery materials on the deck or ladders
- Electrical equipment should only be installed by professionals
- If you have a diving board, make sure there’s sufficient depth
- The fencing should be 4 feet high or more
- Always keep the pool clean, cover the sharp edges and repair regularly
- Never let the children alone in the pool
- Be careful with your devices in the pool
- Teach the children how to turn the alarm on
- Keep away electronic devices from the pool to stay safe of the electrical shock
Maintenance of above ground pools
Maintaining an above ground pool is a lot easier than any in-ground pool. While maintenance brings excellent pool experience, it also ensures the longevity of the pool and its different parts. Maintenance of an above ground pool includes:
- Keeping the water balance in the pool with stabilizer
- Closing the pool with a cover when it’s not in use
- Maintenance of the tiles
- Cleaning the deck
- Keeping a safe water level in the pool
- Filter maintenance
But some other problems occur regularly in pools that need further inspection.
Common above ground pool issues
Following are some of the most common above ground pool issues that need to be checked in time:
- Growth of algae and mold
- Discolored water
- Surface problems
- Testing problems
- Other problems
Growth of algae and mold
They are the most dangerous things to come across in an above ground pool. They will keep growing on number unless they’re entirely eradicated from the pool. The different kind of algae, their cause of growth and possible solution are as follows:
They have a murky green texture. Low sanitizing, improper maintenance, inadequate circulation and bad water level are the reasons behind their appearance. Using algaecide, cleaning the filter or shock treatment are some of the possible solutions to this problem.
They’re yellowish-gold and occur due to the same reason as the green algae. Brushing them away or using algaecide are the only solutions for remedy.
They grow on the bottom of the pool and appear as black, rough spots. Their growth is ascribable to the same reasons as the green and mustard algae. Brushing, algaecide, cleaning filtration system would prevent/remedy them.
They have a white tissue-paper-like surface and appear because of the same reasons as the algae. They require shock treatment, algaecide, filter cleaning to get rid of.
This despicable bacterial growth is pink in color and can easily be eradicated with brushing, cleaning filtration system, algaecide, etc.
Insects and animals
Once you have a pool, know that it’s going to be raided by bugs, ducks, frogs and even dogs. You can have a pest control system installed by the pool in a safe distance to keep the insects away and fence for keeping the animals away.
This is the situation when there’s a scarcity of chlorine. This can either occur out of poor maintenance or there are foreign environmental contaminants in the water. Shock treatment will take care of the problem.
The water becomes hazy and you can’t see the bottom of the pool. This can happen due to one of these reasons:
- Low sanitizer
- Bad filtration system
- Bad circulation
- Imbalance in the water
- Particulate matters
The solutions to this problem are many:
- Checking the filtration system and pump
- Shock treatment
- Balancing the water
- Using filter cleaner
Water in the above ground pool is prone to get discolored due to the various metals used for its support. The different colors, their causes and possible solutions are described in the following sections.
The water turns gray, green or turquoise due to outside contamination, equipment corrosion or use of copper algaecide. Eliminating metal and use of the correct amount of algaecide can turn the water into normal again.
The problem occurs due to the manganese contamination which turns the water coffee brown or purple. The causes for this are the same as that of gray water. Super floc pool clarifier, vacuuming out waste and eliminating the metal part help in turning the watercolor back to normal.
This happens when there’s contamination from the outside, or there’s too much water in the pool. This problem has the same solution as that of purple water.
In this situation, the filter gets clogged or there’s a shortage in the filter runs. Dirty filter, wrong amount of filter media, improper water balance and unclean media are some of the reason behind this problem. Using super floc, vacuuming the waste out and eliminating the affected metal are the possible solutions to this problem.
Odor and eye irritation
The pool gets covered with a sharp, irritating odor. Chloramines, swimmer waste, body oils and organic waste are the reasons behind this. Shock treatment is the only solution for this condition.
These are the problems that don’t occur on the pool water but the surface of the pool.
Scale build up
There’s a layer like sandpaper on the surface with grayish color that can’t be brushed away. This situation occurs when there’s an improper water balance, high alkaline level or high calcium hardness. Eliminating the whole metal or the stain out, balancing water and acid wash are the possible solution to this problem.
This situation occurs when there’s an improper water balance, low alkaline level or low calcium hardness in the water. The solution to this problem is balancing the water or replacing the plaster surface.
The pool surface turns pale or white and there are discolorations in spots. This situation occurs because of adding improper chemical. The possible solutions to this problem include replacing the liner, dissolving dry substances before adding and repainting the surface.
There are visible spots on the bottom of green, black or brown color and they can’t be brushed. This happens because of the metal stains, tannic acid, fungus under the liner, etc. In this case, pulling up the liner and a bottom of the pool cleaning will come as a solution. You can also shock the pool.
There are wrinkles in the vinyl liners due to the improper water balance, low alkaline level and calcium hardness in the water. You can either balance the pool water or replace the plaster surface to get rid of this problem.
These are the problems that occur during the water testing process with reagents.
The test color becomes clear due to the high chlorine or bromine levels. 5 drops of chlorine neutralizer will get rid of the problem.
The color of the reagent becomes different- the pH test turns purple. This occurs because the level of chlorine or bromine is very high or the reagents used in the testing are old. In this situation, either retest after the chlorine level has come down or just replace the reagents.
Besides these, there are other issues as well.
There are bubbles on the pool surface due to the use of too much algaecide or foreign substance. An anti-foaming agent can get rid of the problem. You can also determine the source of foaming and drain the bubbles.
Those who have blonde hair can get green hair due to copper poisoning. In this case, applying vinegar or lemon juice in the hair will remove the color.
Mild to heavy rain can bring in debris to the pool. This will raise the water level and increase the sanitizer activity. This is purely environmental so none can really have any control over the matter. But balancing the water level or shocking the pool usually does the trick.
The water level decreases from ½”-1″ daily. This could either be happening by evaporation, or there might be a leak. If it’s evaporation, a solar cover would take care of it. But if it’s a leak, you’ll have to seek professional assistance.
There’s no pool without maintenance but above ground pools require the most minimal effort among them. The maintenance of the above ground pools require regular overlooking otherwise it would end up costing you a bulk of money later. The periodic maintenance of an above ground pool includes daily, weekly and monthly maintenance.
What should you do every day?
- Keep the water level in the middle; not too low, not too high
- The ideal pH level of the pool would be 7.4-7.6
- The chlorine level should always be between 2.0-4.0 ppm
- The pump basket and the skimmer need daily emptying
- The daily course of the pool filter should be 12-18 hours
- Check if the filtration system has enough pressure
- If you have a pool cleaner, make sure it’s up and running
Things you can keep on the weekend?
Besides looking after the pool on a daily basis, here are some things that you could get easily done during the weekend:
- Skim, vacuum and then brush the pool
- Make sure the alkaline level is between 80-120 ppm
- Use small doses of algaecide and water clarifier
- Refill the chlorinator with chlorine tablets
- Clean the filter if the pressure measurement rises to 7-9 psi
- Clean the deck and the areas surrounding the pool
- Check if the ladder is still firmly attached to the pool
Do these once a month
For the healthiest pool experience, some monthly measures should also be taken.
- Check and make sure the calcium hardness level is between 200-400 ppm
- Apply 2-pound pool shock per 10,000 gallons. Do this in the evening
- Check if there are any algae growing in the stairs or ladders
- Test if the cyanuric acid level is between 30-50 ppm
- Clean the area around the water line a vinyl cleaner and a sponge
It’s not easy choosing the best above ground pools for your homes but we’re here to help you with that. A good above ground pool might reflect your interests, taste and your purpose for buying it. You can use it to calm your nerves after a really hectic day or spend a quality time with your beloved family. You may also have an above ground pool only for occasional events and enhancing sociability. No matter what the purpose or the budget is, this article covers the nuts and bolts of the above ground pools.