Kids playing in an inflatable above-ground pool

Many families dream of having a backyard pool to enjoy on hot days, but there are a few factors to consider before sunny, splashy fun becomes a reality. It’s smart to get a handle on the details—from types of pools to sizing and maintenance—before you buy. Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you, so you can decide if an above-ground pool makes sense for your backyard, your budget and your brood.

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1Types of above-ground pools

There are three main types: inflatable, steel frame and resin frame.

Inflatable

Inflatable easy set pool

Sometimes called easy-set pools, this pool type is extremely affordable and easy to assemble. You just inflate the top ring, fill the affixed liner with water and install the basic filter included with the product.

Pros Cons
Inflatable pools are simple to set up, so you’ll be cooling off in a matter of hours (or as fast as your water pressure allows!). They require a completely level area, given that the water helps the pool to keep its shape and remain upright.
They’re relatively easy to drain and move or store. The material can tear, which, depending on the severity of the rip, can render the pool useless.
They don’t usually require chemicals. If you aren’t keen on emptying and refilling often, you can treat and test the water periodically.[1] While relatively durable (especially if you’re careful when moving the pool or packing it away for the winter), they don’t usually last as long as other styles.

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Steel frame

Steel frame above ground pool

If you’re looking for a pool with a little more sturdiness, a steel or metal frame may be the answer. The metal structure allows for the pool liner to be pulled taut, increasing the swimming area and providing added support to prevent sagging.[2]

Pros Cons
They last longer than easy-set pools. With more steps for assembly, they can take longer to set up and to pack away at the start and end of the season.
They can be deeper than inflatable pools. They require more water.
The supported sides mean that swimmers can lean for a rest without worrying that the liner will collapse. They take longer to warm up in the sun. Some users report needing a heater.
The frame is usually treated with a rust-resistant finish to prevent oxidation.[3]

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Resin frame

Resin above-ground pool

Constructed from interlocking pieces made of resin, these pools are known for being extremely strong and durable while also being lightweight. Resin pools are usually UV-treated to better withstand the elements.[4][5]

Pros Cons
Resin pools have more variation in design and aesthetics. Since they tend to be more complex, they’re usually higher in price.
They can be used to create a saltwater pool because resin doesn’t rust like metal. They may crack or flake if exposed to harsh weather.
They’re known to have the longest lifespan of any of the above-ground options.

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2Pros and cons of above-ground pools

Woman floating in above-ground swimming pool

Installing an in-ground pool is a lot of work and it’s not for everyone. Luckily, above-ground pools don’t require digging a pit for installation, so putting one on your property won’t make as much of a mess but will still offer the perks of pool ownership. These pros and cons may also impact your decision:

Pros Cons
Above-ground pools are less expensive (less than $1,000 to $8,000) than in-ground pools ($30,000 to $70,000).[6][7] Your above-ground pool may have less longevity—about seven to 15 years with proper care. In-ground pools can last for decades.[8]
They take only a day or two to install if the plot of land is ready and plumbing is compatible, while an in-ground pool can take weeks.[9] They’re usually one uniform depth, rather than having the option of a shallow end and a deep end.[10]
They come in a range of sizes to suit most backyards. The ground must be level for installation, while in-ground excavation can fix any terrain concerns.[11]

Note that in-ground and above-ground pools may both require winterization, depending on the material and design of the product. Most municipalities also require that pools be properly fenced for safety.

3Above-ground pool size considerations

There are many factors that go into deciding what type and size of pool you’re going to purchase.

  • Budget
  • Dimensions of your backyard
  • Other outdoor structures (patio furniture, firepit, garden, playhouse, deck)
  • Number of people
  • What you want to use the pool for (swimming laps requires a bigger pool than lounging)

Here’s a chart to help you determine the size of the pool you may need for the number of swimmers taking a dip at once:

Round pool

(diameter)

# of people Oval pool

(width x length)

15 feet 1 or 2 12 x 24 feet
18 feet 2 or 3 15 x 25 feet
21 feet 3 or 4 15 x 30 feet
24 feet 4 or 5 16 x 32 feet
27 feet 5 or 6 18 x 33 feet
30 feet 6 to 8 18 x 36 feet
33 feet More than 9 21 x 41 feet

4Above-ground pool ideas on a budget

Backyard deck around an above-ground pool

Think above-ground pools look ugly? Not the case! There are plenty of smart, beautiful ways to integrate your new pool into your backyard.

  • Surround the pool with a deck. It will help to give the pool the look of its in-ground counterparts at a much lower cost.
  • Build a retaining wall around the outside of the pool. You can camouflage the sides of the pool with stone, tile or wood.
  • Use landscaping to your advantage. Plant tall shrubs or trees around the pool to disguise the outside. Add wood chips and outdoor lighting to complete the look.

5Above-ground pool costs

There’s no question that an above-ground pool is going to ring in at a lower price than an in-ground pool, but it’s still an investment in time and money.

  • Inflatable, soft-side pools: They’re the least expensive option and don’t require much effort—and they usually start at around $150.
  • Hard-side pools: This type starts at around $400 at the economical end and can range up to $8,000 or more.
  • Installation: Many people feel more comfortable having a professional install their above-ground pool, which typically adds another $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the complexity of the pool model.[12]

There are a few other costs to consider.:

  • Water ($80 to $1,200)
  • Ladders and steps ($15 to $600)
  • Electrical ($250 to 500)
  • Filter ($40 to $750)
  • Cover ($20 to 450)
  • Cleaning and maintenance ($200 to $500 initially, $5 to $15 monthly)
  • Winterizing ($250+)[13]

6Swimming pool maintenance

Scooping leaves out of a swimming pool

An above-ground pool requires much of the same maintenance as an in-ground pool. These tasks include the following:

  • Skimming regularly to remove debris
  • Monitoring and changing filters
  • Brushing and vacuuming the pool liner to keep it clean
  • Testing the balance of chlorine and other chemicals to keep the water safe for swimming
  • General upkeep of pool tools, cover and surrounding area

If you’re not sure where to start, consider booking an appointment with a local pool maintenance company to have them show you the basics. There are also many online resources available to get you going.

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7Swimming pool accessories

Kids jumping into a swimming pool with floaties and pool toys

Now comes the fun part: accessorizing your pool. Your new backyard swimming hole will be fun on its own, of course, but you can elevate the experience with the purchase of a few add-ons:

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