Skip to Content

A Comprehensive Guide to Above Ground Swimming Pools

With an above ground swimming pool, you can turn your backyard space into a home-based oasis in no time!

Above ground swimming pools are easier to install, more competitively priced, and generally require less maintenance to care for than inground pools. Best of all, if and when you decide to move, many models allow the option to disassemble the pool and bring it with you.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of above ground swimming pools and details to consider about size, location, materials, and more!

Above ground swimming pools with landscaping and a deck

Types of Above Ground Swimming Pools

Looking for an above ground swimming pool, but not quite sure which style to choose? Below, you’ll find the four most common types of above ground swimming pools and learn about the pros and cons of each.

Inflatable Pools

Inflatable pools, also known as big-box pools, are generally found in department stores and online. This type of pool comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from kid-friendly to a little more family-friendly.

Inflatable pools are the most cost-effective of the above ground swimming pools. It’s a particularly good option if you have young children, or if you rent your home and aren’t permitted to make long-lasting changes to your yard.

Inflatable pool on a rooftop deck with lights and an inflatable unicorn

Because this is the lowest-maintenance pool type, inflatable pools are also a perfect last-minute additive for a backyard barbecue or children’s birthday party.

This pool type is easy to move, giving you the freedom to move it around your backyard as needed. It has softer sides than other pool types, which is a more kid-friendly feature. These pools are also not very deep, so it’s easy to fill up and store as needed.

Together with the benefits of inflatable pools, there are some potential cons. Inflatable pools are generally difficult to keep clean in the long run.

Other pool types require filters and water pumps, while inflatable pools don’t have the space or amenities to accommodate such. Because of this, you can expect to fill up and empty the pool more often.

An exception to this is the Intex Easy Set inflatable pool. It is larger than a typical inflatable pool, with all the easy set-up features of a smaller pool. It also has the added benefit of a pump, which means it comes with a higher price point.

Keep in mind that because inflatable pools are usually made from softer materials, they’re prone to damage, whether that’s due to weather, pets, or children. For these reasons, you can expect inflatable pools to generally hold up for only a season or two.

Metal Frame Pool

The metal frame pool is becoming more popular as an above ground swimming pool option. This pool type offers the benefits of being easy to move and install, and the more durable construction of a traditional above ground swimming pool.

Metal frame pool in a backyard

Pools like the Deluxe Rectangular Above-Ground Swimming Pool from Intex and the Power Steel Above-Ground Pool from Bestway, have a secure frame to hold the pool in place.

A high-quality pool frame helps to prevent damage, particularly damage caused by entering or exiting the pool.

The Intex pool includes some of the amenities of traditional pools, such as a pool ladder, ground cloth, and pool cover. And both of these pools have filters to keep the water clean longer.

If you’re not ready to purchase and maintain a traditional above ground swimming pool–though the maintenance is still relatively minimal–then a metal frame version is a good place to start.

This choice offers you the convenience of a low-cost, portable pool with the surety of having a stable framework to support it.

Steel or Resin Wall Pool

You probably picture a steel wall pool when you think about traditional above ground swimming pools. Steel wall pools are stronger and have quite a few features that differentiate them from inflatable or metal frame pools.

Traditional pools have a pool wall that’s separate from the pool liner and is supported by aluminum, steel, or resin walls and a top ledge.

Grey steel wall swimming pool surrounded by trees and plants

This pool type is among the most popular above-ground swimming pools because it’s relatively easy to install in a day or two, can be installed by handy homeowners, and last longer than inflatable or metal frame pools.

These pools usually come with warranties and a ladder that can be disconnected on the outside to ensure child safety.

Traditional pools are round or oval-shaped and vary in size from 12′ to 33′ across and from 48″ to 54″ deep. A family-friendly year-round option, this pool type also requires a pump and filter system, which makes it easier to keep clean.

As with anything, a few cons exist to having a traditional above ground swimming pool. Though installation is relatively straightforward, it does require some advanced preparation.

You may be required to make space in your yard and prepare the ground underneath your pool with sand. You’ll also need a 110-volt electrical connection to support the pump and filter, and because you can’t use an extension cord to do so, you’ll need to set up your pool relatively close to the connection.


The fourth most common type of above ground swimming pool is the semi-inground style. Semi-inground pools are not the same as traditional inground pools. Semi-inground pools are similar to the traditional pool but with stronger walls to sustain the added pressure.

This type of pool may be buried a few feet in the ground, exposing a few feet atop. The homeowner may choose to build a wall around the pool’s perimeter using stone, brick, or other materials.

The benefit of semi-inground pools is the ability to achieve the inground pool aesthetic without the price point. These pools are available in all the same sizes as inground pools and can also be ordered in freeform shapes.

Together with these benefits, this pool type is a longer-term solution to having a pool at home, comes with a warranty, and installs in three to five days.

There are a few cons associated with semi-inground pools. One of the most obvious cons is that it can’t be relocated if you move. Because it’s partially built into the ground and may contain a surrounding structure, it’s effectively held in place.

This isn’t the type of DIY pool that the homeowner can install.

Lastly, this above ground swimming pool is the most expensive pool type on this list because it’s the most heavy-duty.

Above Ground Swimming Pool Planning: Details to Consider

There are a few details to note before investing in an above ground swimming pool. Some of the most important features to consider are the size of the pool, the location that you’re setting up the pool in, and the materials the pool is made of.


Size is probably the forerunning thought when deciding on an above ground swimming pool. The size you choose will depend on a few factors like price, the amount of space in your backyard, and the composition of your landscape, i.e. available flatland versus hilly areas.

Some people are excited to have a pool comprising most of their yard space, while others want to save some room for gardening and other outdoor recreation. Above ground swimming pools are round or oval-shaped. Round pools are available as small as 8’ across and up to 33’ across.

Aside from available space, another consideration to make when determining pool size is the number of people who will be using the pool. If one or two people plan to use the pool, for example, the smallest size you should choose is a 15’ round pool or a 12’ x 24’ oval pool.

However, if five or six people plan to use it, the smallest size you should choose is a 27’ round pool or an 18’ x 33’ oval pool.


Location is everything when installing an above ground swimming pool, but it’s more a matter of safety than aesthetics.

First and foremost, you’ll need to be aware of the ordinances in your neighborhood and whether there are any restrictions on pools. You’ll need to know if underground utility lines are running through your yard space and determine the location of your pool accordingly.

You should also never install a swimming pool of any kind underneath overhead power lines, as it can pose a major threat to safety.

Backyard swimming pool with yellow chairs and landscaping

The location of your above ground swimming pool may also be determined by the location of your home’s electrical breaker box. This detail only pertains to pools that have pumps and filters.

You can’t run an extension cord through your backyard, so you must place your pool near the electrical breaker box or have another power source installed closer to it.

In addition to these guidelines, you should install your pool over the flattest part of your backyard. Some homeowners are lucky and have a mostly flat yard; this makes the process easier.

To give your pool a better chance at keeping clean–and yield less maintenance for you– install it away from trees, flowers, and other shrubbery. If you don’t, you’ll frequently encounter fallen leaves, twigs, flowers, bugs, and other debris inside your pool.

Other considerations to keep in mind include how much privacy you’d like from your neighbors and how installing an above ground swimming pool may affect your neighbors and their outdoor space. If you have children and small pets, you’ll also want to note whether the location allows for easy supervision.


Above ground swimming pools are available in four main styles, but not all of them are made with the same materials.

If you’re installing a traditional pool, you can opt for a frame that’s made of metal, resin, or a hybrid of both. The material of the frame will also determine the material of the top ledge, posts, and caps. Both materials are hardy, but you may have a preference.

When installing an above ground swimming pool, you’ll also need organic material for the base. Most homeowners use mason sand, which can be ordered and brought to your home via a pickup or dump truck.

Some homeowners are tempted to use play sand instead of mason sand because of cost. Mason sand is free of debris that could damage your pool’s liner.

Above Ground Swimming Pools Frequently Asked Questions

How long are above ground swimming pools expected to last?

Above ground swimming pools typically last between 10 and 15 years. Of course, this depends on the type of swimming pool you buy–inflatable pools won’t last nearly as long–and the amount of time you dedicate to maintenance and upkeep.

Do you have to drain an above ground swimming pool in the winter?

When it comes to traditional or semi-buried pools, the answer is no. To prepare your pool for winter, you only need to add the proper winterizing chemicals to keep the pool clean until spring or summer. Aside from that, you’ll need to cover your pool with a trusted pool cover to keep out debris.

Backyard swimming pool with a winter cover

Inflatable pools, and even some metal frame pools, should be fully drained and stored away for the winter.

Wrapping Up Above Ground Swimming Pools

Installing an above ground swimming pool is an easy way to transform your backyard space into a fun hangout spot that your family members and friends will want to visit.

Above ground swimming pools are the cheaper alternative to inground pools, but yield no shortage of fun and memories.

Interested in learning about other ways you can jazz up your backyard? Check out our backyard living page for more ideas.