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Above Ground Pools, What you must know before buying

Updated on December 27, 2013

Top ten tips

1. Above-ground pools involve a simple selection process. They come in round, oval or rectangular shapes, with standard sizes. Round pools will come between 10 to 33 feet in diameter, and oval or rectangular pools range from only 12 feet wide to 18 feet wide, and 20 feet long to 40 feet. The average depth of an above-ground pool will be around 48”.

2. You’ll want to place the pool in an open area, without trees or shrubs nearby, is best, and if you can select a spot so that rainwater drains away from it instead of toward the pool, that is ideal. Your above-ground pool must be level and have access to both, ground electricity and water. When we say level you’ll want construction tolerance of no more than 1” inch grade.

3. Check with your township or city, because there will be requirements for building your above ground pool. Just call the local building department and inquire about the existing code and zoning requirements. There are often property line guidelines to follow, like; your pool has to be a certain amount of feet away from property lines. There will be other rules you need to follow like not building a pool below or above power lines, above septic systems or fence requirements.

4. Pool walls can be made of many different materials, including steel, aluminum or wood. All are functional, and each has different looks and functions you should consider.

Steel: The steel used for pool walls will be steel and then treated several times with special coatings to resist rust. Check into the warranties to see if it covers corrosion. Steel tends to be more affordable.

Aluminum: Aluminum walls are a good consideration if you are planning on doing it yourself. Aluminum is lighter than steel and it doesn’t rust either.

Wood: Different exterior appearance that can be matched to your permanent decking. Wooden walls are the most expensive of the types. Installation is more expensive as well.

How to buy an above ground pool


Pool liners are very important

5. Pool liners are the most important part of the function of an above-ground pool; without it, the many seams in the walls, frame and ground will seep water through.

All pool liners are made of a type of vinyl, which is a durable surface to keep your pool water-tight. You can purchase either a recycled or a virgin vinyl for your pool. Recycled vinyl will be thinner and stretch more easily, which can be problematic and make the liner more at risk for rips or punctures in the liner. Virgin vinyl is naturally made with thicker sheeting which will more easily resist the tears and stretching that may happen, thus lasting longer in most cases than recycled vinyl.

6. Your liner won’t be one gigantic piece of vinyl, though that would be nice; it will have seams throughout it to fit the shape and size of your pool. The seams can be traditional, which are similar to how clothing is made with two pieces sewn together. The potential for these seams to burst or start leaking water is higher than with lapped seams. Lapped seams overlap at the edges, which will be less likely to leak even under the massive pressure from all of the water in the pool. Along with the seams and the type of vinyl, liners can also be of different construction for attaching to your pool.

Overlap liners will overlap the top rim of the wall and have to be clamped down. These are often the most affordable. You may not be able to find many colors or patterns in this type of liner though. These are the easiest to install, only requiring basic items which will come with your pool. However, if you want to replace an overlap liner in the future, it can be very challenging to do so.

J-hook liners are called that because of the way that they are mounted and hang on the top of your pool wall via a J-shaped adapter. They are not as cheap as overlap liners, but are easier to remove and replace should you need to do so. J-hook liners also come in a wider variety of patterns and colors than overlap liners.

Uni-bead liners are known as the top of the lines available, mainly because they include the largest variety of selection, are easily installed and often include J-hook connections as well. The reason that these are the most pricey is because they are incredibly easy to remove and replace, requiring no deconstructing of your pool wall to do so.

Pumps and filter systems are an integral part of your pool. Many pools dealers will package them together with the pool itself.

The Above Ground Pool Builder

Pump and filters

7. Pool pumps will be different sizes depending on how much water your pool will hold. Generally, pumps for above-ground pools need a typical 20-amp circuit of electricity to run. A dedicated circuit in your wiring system will be best and a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) must be on the electrical line. After you have the safety measures installed, your pump will rarely need maintenance. Most of them come with a strainer basket that will strain large items like leaves and twigs. You should clean out the basket often. After the swimming season is complete, you can drain the pump and store it in a dry place indoors.

8. Pool filters come in one of three types: diatomaceous earth (DE), sand, and cartridge filters. Above-ground pools usually come with either a sand filter or a cartridge as they are more affordable than a DE filter. DE filters are also more time consuming to maintain because they can filter particles as small as 5 microns (the naked eye cannot see below 20 micron-sized particles) and the diatomaceous earth must be replaced now and then. Cartridge filters come with a fine mesh material, often of polyester, and will capture particles down to 20 microns. Hosing off a cartridge filter is all it needs about once every four weeks, and the whole cartridge will need to be replaced each year. Sand filters only capture down to 35 microns. It will generally need to be cleaned about once each week.

Once your up and running

9. Your pool water will need to be regularly tested for maintenance and at other times as needed for various issues. When you test the water, you’ll be looking to find an exact measurement of the pH balance, alkalinity, free chlorine (or bromine), and calcium hardness of the water, which will tell you how clean and safe your pool water is for swimming in. There are two ways to test your pool’s water content: yourself, with a purchased testing kit, or by taking a sample of water to your local pool specialist store. Pool stores will usually test your water for free, and they will also run tests beyond what your pool water testing kit may come equipped to do.

10. Your pool should be cleaned regularly, and there are different methods to do so. Some cleaners clean with pressure, others with suction, and you can even purchase a small robotic cleaner to troll the sides and bottom of your pool. Buying a pool cleaner will save you loads of time instead of scrubbing your walls and floor by hand and vacuuming on a regular basis.

Types of Cleaners

Suction-side cleaners are the best value for your money and the quickest way to clean your pool. But the debris and dirt that the cleaner collects is sent directly into the filter and pump of your pool, which will then require you to more regularly backwash and clean your filter system. Thus, suction-side cleaners are put to better use in pools that do not need to be cleaned frequently. They are also the most affordable.

Pressure side cleaners will remove even more dirt and debris from your pool water, and unlike the suction-side cleaner, it will collect the products in its own filter bag. This one is often pricier as you have to buy a separate booster pump for it to work right, and that can cost several hundred dollars..

Robotic cleaners are the best of all worlds, cleaning efficiently without requiring the purchase of extra equipment or a separate pump. The small machines will learn the best way to clean your pool, with most having the built-in ability to scrub the walls and stairs as well as the bottom. Little scrubbing brushes and small jets will jostle the dirt and other debris from the walls and floor of your pool and the robotic cleaner will also vacuum up the debris and collect everything in its own filter bag. As you can imagine, these can be very expensive purchases, but the all-inclusive power, not requiring any maintenance or regular action on your part, sets it apart as a pool cleaner.

There you have it, some tips to help you choose the right above ground pool.


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    • mispilkin1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Hey Cheryl,

      Slat walled pools are indeed the strongest above ground pools. There tongue and groove design makes them strong. Also they are made of aluminum and this helps them last for along time.

      Take care,


    • profile image

      Cheryl Reilly 

      6 years ago

      I heard that slat walled pools are the best pools you can get? Anything you could ad on the subject would be helpful.



    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for another fine hub. Learning allot about purchasing a new pool.


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