Above-ground swimming pools: how to choose the right one

The days are getting longer & things are heating up. Stay cool in an above-ground pool, & find the perfect one with our handy guide.

Hot weather and summer fun are right around the corner, and your family might be thinking of setting up a new above-ground pool to keep cool. If you’re unsure about all the pros and cons and can’t decide which type of pool to buy, we’re here to help.

While each type of pool has different features and benefits, there is a pool for any budget and yard size to make the most of long, hot summer days.

Types of above-ground pools

Easy-setup pools:

Vinyl-sided pools with an inflatable top—think a family-sized kiddie pool—are great for smaller yards and are available in round or oval sizes that range from 8 feet to 20 feet in diameter and 30 inches to 48 inches deep.


  • No frame makes them easy to set up and take down in as little as 30 minutes
  • Ideal for smaller spaces
  • Most models include filter pump, pool cover, and ladder


  • Should be taken down and stored each winter
  • Vinyl wall may be less durable than rigid metal-walled pools

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Metal-frame pools:

Like easy-setup pools, these pools also feature a vinyl wall but come with a strong metal frame so are more durable than easy-setup pools. Metal-frame pools come in round or rectangular sizes, ranging from 8 feet to 18 feet in diameter for round pools and up to 32 feet long by 16 feet wide for rectangular pools. Most pools are either 30 inches or 48 inches deep.


  • Frame and fabric assembly is easy to complete without professional help in as little as 45 minutes
  • Great for larger spaces
  • Most models include filter pump, pool cover, ladder, and ground cover


  • Should be taken down and stored each winter
  • Vinyl walls may be less durable than rigid metal-walled pools

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Metal-walled pools

These pools are more permanent than vinyl-walled pools. Because you can prepare them for cold weather, or winterize them, metal-walled pools can be left in place all year round. They are more difficult to install, and may require professional installation. Some local building codes require permits for installing this type of swimming pool, so check local regulations first. Round pool sizes range from 12 feet to 27 feet in diameter and rectangular sizes go up to 32 feet long by 16 feet wide. Most pools range from 30 inches to 52 inches deep.


  • Durable, galvanized steel walls
  • Can be installed in one to two days
  • Can be winterized and left up all year round
  • Most models include filter pump, pool cover, ladder, and ground cover


  • May require professional installation
  • May require a permit for installation
  • May require up to 8 feet of additional flat, level ground around the footprint of the pool

How to choose the right size pool

When deciding what size of pool to buy, start by measuring how much room you have in your yard. A good trick is to place a stake in the middle of your yard where the middle of the pool will be. Use a tape measure from the stake to measure out the circumference of a round pool or the width and length of a rectangular pool. Keep in mind that most manufacturers recommend at least 4 to 8 feet of space between the pool and other structures like your home or a deck and 8 to 10 feet away from trees.

Diagram of an oval shaped swimming pool showing at least 4 feet of space between walls, trees and other structures

Installing your pool

For metal-frame and metal-walled pools, your city’s local building code may require a permit for installing the pool in your yard. There may also be a requirement for installing a child safety fence around the pool. Check with your local building department to find out what is required.

Pool capacity

Finally, consider how much water it will take to fill up your pool. Some of the largest pools take over 15,000 gallons of water. If you live on a property with a well or in an area that charges for water usage, you may decide to purchase water to be delivered.

Use & maintenance of your pool

Once you know the size of your pool, you’ll need to decide which type will work best. Probably the most important thing to consider is if you can leave the pool up year round. Easy-setup and most metal-frame pools should not be winterized and left up through cold weather—freezing temperatures can damage the wall material. These types of pools should typically be taken down and stored at the end of each summer. Metal-wall pools can be winterized, so are often the best choice if you live in an area that freezes during the winter.

Pool pump system

Next, what kind of filter pump system do you want to use? Most pools come with a cartridge filter pump, which requires you to replace the cartridge every two weeks or so and add chemicals, like chlorine, to the pool to keep the water clean.

Many families are opting for a sand or salt water filter system, which can be much more cost-effective. Sand filters only need to have the sand replaced every five years, but still may require adding chlorine to the pool. The benefit of salt water pump systems is the only thing you need to add to your pool is salt, not chlorine.

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Pool covers & pool cleaners

Finally, consider how to keep debris out of your pool. Most pool models come with a cover, but you may also want a pool skimmer for removing leaves and other debris. Keeping the pool away from trees, if possible, will also help keep things from falling in.

Remember, an above-ground pool can provide years and years of summertime fun for your family. Before you choose any pool, check with your local building department to see if any permits or additional construction like a safety fence will be required. And always follow the manufacturer’s assembly and safety instructions to make sure your family gets the most out of your pool.

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