Homeowner’s Guide to Above Ground Pools

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023

Considering your options for above ground pools? From the cost to installation to maintenance, here's what to consider before buying.

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Above ground pools offer a great way to make the most of the warm weather months. Here’s what to know about pools if you’re in the market for one.

Why Choose an Above-Ground Pool?

Compared with in-ground pools, above ground pools are:

  • Less expensive. Even the nicest above ground pools almost always cost thousands less than an in-ground pool. (Repairs are usually cheaper, as well.)

  • Less of a commitment. You can drain and disassemble an above ground pool if you move or just want to get your yard back.

  • Easier to care for. Above ground pools are easier to maintain because they are simpler and usually smaller than in-ground pools.

  • Easier to install. Many you can install yourself.

Types of Above Ground Pools

  • Steel frame: Above ground pools with frames made of aluminum, zinc or galvanized steel are strong and lightweight. But they tend to get hot in the sun and dent easier than other materials.

  • Resin frame: These hard plastic pools are more expensive than steel frame pools, but are often worth the price because they’re more durable, stay cool to the touch and resist dents.

  • Hybrid frame: These frames have resin parts that stand up to water and sun, and steel parts that provide structure and support.

  • Radiant: Also known as semi in-ground pools, radiant pools offer the look of an in-ground pool for less money. They usually feature strong walls that can remain up all year and feature many free-form designs. The downside is cost; they’re usually the most expensive above ground pool option.

  • Inflatable: You can find inexpensive, easy-to-install inflatable pools at most big box stores. They’re a good choice if you’re on a budget, or a renter who can’t make major changes to your yard. Just know that they’re not as hardy and long-lasting as the other above ground options.

Above Ground Pool Cost

The biggest cost drivers of above ground pools are the type of kit you choose and the installation.

While a simple inflatable above ground pool can cost as little as $100, a higher-end resin above ground pool can cost as much as $5,000.

Installation costs depend on the size and type of kit as well as your yard’s layout and challenges, such as rocky soil. Above ground pool installation typically runs between $1,000 and $3,000. A permit may be required depending on where you live, which adds to the cost.

Above Ground Pool Installation

While installation of many inflatable and smaller above ground pools are DIY projects, that’s often not the case with larger pools made of metal or resin.

These installation jobs often require careful surveying and measuring of your yard, leveling the ground, laying down support rails and assembling an involved pool wall, pump and filtration system. For that reason, many people choose to hire professional installers or enlist a few handy friends to make the job easier.

Above Ground Pool Safety

There are two options to create a barrier to prevent children and animals from accessing an above ground pool. You can secure, lock or create a removable design for the ladder or steps to the pool. Or put a locked barrier, such as a fence, around the ladder or steps to the pool. You should also have a barrier around the perimeter of the pool with no more than four inches clearance between the pool’s edge and the barrier.

Other pool safety must-haves include a pool alarm that sounds when it detects entry into the pool; a heavy-duty pool safety cover that can prevent accidental drownings; and lifesaving equipment such as a rope and float line, ring buoy, safety hook and first aid kit.

Finally, it’s a good idea to let your homeowners or renters insurance company know about your above ground pool. Some companies will only cover claims if you first disclose that you have an above ground pool. You may want to increase your liability insurance, as well.

Above Ground Pool Maintenance and Care

Depending on the type of above ground pool you have, you may need to:

  • Install and run a pool filter and pump;

  • Maintain a chlorine level between two and four parts per million (ppm);

  • Maintain a pH level between 7.4 and 7.6;

  • Remove debris with a pool skimmer;

  • Run a pool vacuum (Find out the best pool vacuums);

  • Clean out the skimmer and/or pump basket;

  • Ensure the calcium hardness level is between 200 and 400 ppm.

  • Ensure the cyanuric acid level is between 30 and 50 ppm;

  • Winterize the pool (or drain or disassemble it when the season’s over).

Learn more about maintaining your pool’s chemical levels.