Getting Started

Above Ground Pools Getting Started

Getting Started

There are many reasons for getting a backyard pool. Maybe you want to make memories with family and friends while splashing in the backyard. Above ground pools are a fantastic option for those who want the enjoyment of a pool without investing the time and money required for an inground pool. Above ground pools can be built in round or oval shapes in a number of sizes to suit your backyard, and can be finished with a variety beautiful design-inspired liners to give your pool a custom look. These pools can be installed quickly, and can be easily dismantled and transported if you ever move to a new home.

If you think above ground pools all look the same – think again! They come in many exciting styles and shades. And with dozens of above ground pool designs and liner options available, you can mix and match to create your perfect combination.

Strong, rustproof and contoured for great looks, resin is now the leading material for above ground pool construction. But steel, the trusty standby of above ground pools, has also undergone constant improvement over the years through the development of new coatings and protective finishes to keep it from rusting or degrading. And hybrid pools can give you the best of both worlds!  Today’s above ground pools are stronger, sturdier, and longer-lasting than ever – a fact reflected in the impressive warranties that come with many high-end pools.

When you choose an above ground swimming pool for your backyard, you will be swimming, entertaining and relaxing before you know it! Explore your options for accessories, designs and features!

how an above ground pool works
How an Above Ground Pool Works

Above ground swimming pools vary slightly from model to model, but you will find that most manufacturers use the same general pool structure.


The wall is most typically made of galvanized steel. For round and oval pools, the wall is usually all one piece. The wall is corrugated for strength and then coated in vinyl and/or a number of other coatings to help protect it and give it a more attractive appearance. Usually, the more layers there are over the steel; the longer the wall can last.

The strength and durability of the wall defines the integrity of the pool structure. It must safely contain up to 200,000 pounds of water weight for the life of the pool.

The steel walls are shipped in coiled rolls, usually tightly bound and boxed in cardboard. Walls should be stood up on end until they are installed. 


The frame of an above ground pool secures the wall in place and provides much of the strength for the pool. It is important for the frame to be strong and able to withstand exposure to the elements, so they are generally made of coated steel, extruded aluminum, or resin.

Top Rails

Top rails form the top ledge of the swimming pool. Ranging up to 12" in width, the rails connect between each post (upright). You want these to be sturdy and tough. However, top rails are never designed to be sat on, stood on, or walked on.

Top Track

Sometimes called a stabilizer bar, the top track rests over the top of the wall, but beneath the top rails. The top track interlocks from top plate to top plate, helps to keep the top of the wall straight, and helps to keep the pool liner securely in place.

Base Track

The base track stretches from base plate to base plate between the uprights of the swimming pool and forms the bottom rim of the pool structure. During installation, this track has a groove into which the wall of the swimming pool is rolled.


The uprights, or posts provide support for the wall and top frame of the pool. Uprights can range up to 12" wide depending on the pool model and the material they are made of.

Top plates

You will find a top plate attached to the top of each upright. They provide connection points for the top track and top rails that span between each post.

Base plates

The base plates sit beneath each upright, providing a connection point for the base track and the upright itself.

Top Caps

Usually made of resin or other form of plastic, the top cap covers the top plate and help to give the pool a more finished, attractive look.


Some pools have plastic or resin boots at the bottom of each upright that, like top caps, cover up the base plate and are mainly aesthetic.

Vinyl Liner

The inside surface of the swimming pool is covered by a vinyl liner that contains the water within the structure. Liners are designed to fit specific sized pools.

As your pool ages, the liner may eventually need to be replaced. Patch kits can be used to prolong the life of the liner.  Typically, you can expect a liner to last five to ten years.


You will find the skimmer attached near the top of your pool, about three quarters of the way up the wall. It is the opening that you see from inside the pool, right at the waterline, where the water is taken into the filter system. A skimmer's job is to pre-filter the water of larger debris before it gets to the filter, as well as help to keep the water clear of floating debris.

Most pool skimmers have a flap (called a weir) that helps to keep any floating matter trapped inside, and also regulates the amount of water that it processes at any given time. In the well of the skimmer you'll find a basket where leaves, bugs, and other debris can collect. The baskets can easily be removed from outside the pool and its contents emptied. Doing this regularly will ensure consistent water flow to your filter system.

For many pools, skimmers also provide a connection point for vacuum systems. When you want to sweep the pool, a specially designed vac hose is connected through the skimmer using a vacuum plate. When the pump is turned on, the suction will now power your pool vac.

Pump and Filter System

Filter systems vary depending on the size of the pool and the type of filter media used within them. They should sit near the pool, where they are connected to the skimmer and the return port through flexible hoses. The pool water is pulled in through the skimmer, processed through the filter, and then returned back to the pool through the return port.

filter maintenance
Water Filtration

The Pump and the Filter

The pump and filter form the heart of any above ground pool maintenance program, helping to keep your pool water clear. Pumps provide the force to circulate the water and push it through the filter. Ideally, you want to turn over all of the water in an above ground pool within an eight hour time period. It is also important that the water circulates around the perimeter of your pool. Water in motion makes it harder for bacteria and algae to take hold and also directs more debris to your skimmer where it can be captured by your filter. Adjust the eyeball jets in your inlets to move your pool water in a circular motion.

Your above ground pool filter is there to catch and remove both visible debris and microscopic particles. Sand and D.E. filters are cleaned by backwashing when the filter's pressure gauge indicates levels 8 to 10 lbs. above normal (always follow manufacturer instructions). Cartridge filters have a cartridge inside that can be removed and washed using a garden hose. Eventually, the cartridge will need to be replaced to ensure that the filter is working effectively.

Water Circulation

All above ground pools have areas with little or no circulation. These areas of minimal circulation are the breeding grounds for problems like algae growth. The walls and floor should be brushed and vacuumed once a week. Even if you use an automatic above ground pool cleaner, brushing once a week is a must.

Test the Water Regularly

Test your water regularly for two key factors: pH and sanitizers. By testing at least three times per week you will begin to understand how bather load, weather (rain and sun) and chemical application affect your pool water. Regular testing of pH and sanitizer levels will ensure crystal clear water all season long. A digital test strip reader will make this quicker and easier. It is vital that proper pH is maintained in your pool at all times.

installation inground pool
Installation - What to Expect

Above ground pools can be installed by professional pool builders or, if you’re the do-it-yourself type, with the help of some willing friends. Just make sure you check with your local pool retailer first — he can help guide you through the selection process and discuss the best options for installation and local permit standards.

You can have an above ground pool up and ready for swimming in just a few days. Here’s how you do it:

Site Leveling

Site leveling is the first step. A level site is critical to protecting the structural integrity of the pool. Your pool layout will be marked in your back yard and, if needed, heavy equipment will be brought in to level the site. Once the soil is leveled, a layer of sand will be spread over the area to give it a firm foundation.


Framing is when the walls of the pool are assembled and secured — supports may need to be added for extra stability. If you’ve planned for decking or walkways around your pool, those areas will be framed so placement of plumbing and electrical systems can be determined. When planning the placement of your plumbing and electrical systems, it’s important to keep equipment away from the entrance to the pool.


Finishing is the final step. It’s time to install the vinyl liner and carefully work it into the proper position. When this is done, you’ll fill the pool with water and smooth out any wrinkles or air pockets. Now you’re ready for the finishing touches!

Add-on Features

You’re almost ready to start swimming!  Now that your pool is built and filled, you can add ladders and filtration systems. You can also finish and furnish your deck and add some landscaping. And don’t forget about safety features! Keeping your pool safe means keeping it fun for everyone.

Energy Efficiency

Two chief causes of wasted energy for swimming pools are evaporation (and subsequent heat loss) and pump use: with a more modest surface area and lower-powered pumps than many inground pools, above ground pools are often much more energy-friendly.

yard preparation
Yard Preparation

Once you have decided on the design and shape of your above ground pool, the area where you or your pool builder will place the above ground pool will need to be prepared.

Step 1: Placement

The first step is deciding where you want to place the swimming pool in the backyard. Look carefully at the ground where you plan to place the pool. Note any rocks or other debris on the ground. Note the distance between this area and any other items in the backyard such as trees and plants.

Step 2: Clean the Area

Remove all items that could make it difficult to secure a proper foundation for the pool. Sharp stones should be cleared away as should any items like old tools or farm implements that could puncture holes in the sides of the pool.

Step 3: Measure

Measure the diameter of the space where you plan to place the above ground pool. Mark this area with a piece of string or measuring tape. Place a rock or other heavy item to keep the string from blowing away. Careful planning is essential. You can change your mind later, but it will be very difficult to redo this area once you have started digging.

Step 4: Start Digging

Use shovels to dig the area where you want to place the pool. Remove the dirt to a singe pile where you can cart it away later. Use larger shovels to remove much of the dirt if necessary and smaller shovels for more detailed work. Measure the depth of the hole you've created. The hole should be about two inches deep for best pool placement.

Step 5: Level the Pool Hole

Use levels to determine if the hole you have dug is level. The level should indicate if the hole is uniform size. When you notice discrepancies, dig a bit more. You can also use a hose to wet the ground and help dampen any dust that may have accumulated as you have dug the hole. Dust can make it difficult to determine if the hole is level.

Step 6: Wait 24 hours

Once you have finished digging the hole, leave it alone for 24 hours. This will help you determine if the hole is completely level. Check the hole the next day to make sure that it is level, and you can begin placement of the above ground pool atop the area.

cost and investment
Cost and Investment

Above ground swimming pools range from economical models to more luxurious styles. Many people make the choice of purchasing an above ground swimming pool based on the convenience and affordability. But exactly how much will an above ground swimming pool cost? The answer to this question will depend on several different factors including size, features and location.

There are two pricing components in purchasing an above ground pool, and that is the ‘kit' and the ‘installation'. Many swimming pool companies only sell above ground pool kits, and do not actually do the pool's installation. The average above ground swimming pool kit will cost between $1,500 and $4,500, depending on the quality of the pool. Typically, the more resin and less metal the pool has, the higher the price will be and the longer it will last. The installation costs of above ground pools usually run $1,000-$3,000, depending on the size and type of pool. Keep in mind that oval pools normally cost more to install than round pools, and the kits are also more expensive.

Your location will also factor into the cost because of the labor and cost involved with the ground preparation. If you have a harder surface with more rocks to dig through, the longer the preparation will take. Some areas also require permits, so you will have to factor in that cost.

You will also want to add features to your above ground swimming pool to make it the ultimate backyard destination. Keep in mind these features such as decking, fences, fountains, saltwater chlorination and other extras will also drive up the cost of your above ground swimming pool.

To get an accurate quote of how much it will cost to build your above ground pool, your best bet is to contact a swimming pool professional in your area.