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Above Ground Swimming Pools: A Buyer's Guide

Shopping for a new above ground pool can be an overwhelming experience. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which pool is best? Well, thankfully you're in the right place! In this post, we discuss the ins-and-outs of selecting a new above ground pool. We will walk you through how to plan for and pick out your brand new pool.

Planning for a New Above Ground Pool

Let’s first take a few steps back and figure out what you’re looking for in an above ground pool. Do you want a pool that you can set up, fill and swim the same day, or do you want something more permanent that you can enhance with beautiful landscaping or even surround with a wooden deck? Need something soft and small, or something more solid that can hold up to heavy traffic and swimmer load for many years?  Do you want a pool that is soft-sided and easy to set up and take down, or one built to endure the harsh elements and provide infinite durability? Each of these questions should also have a budget in mind. And remember – the higher the quality, the longer it will last. It’s as easy as that.

These are questions you should ask yourself before shopping for an above ground swimming pool. They will help you set a goal with the purchase and keep you satisfied with your family’s new swimming pool.

Three Types of Above Ground Pools

There are three main types of above ground swimming pools: inflatable Easy-Set, soft-sided, and permanent metal wall. Metal-wall above ground pools are available with steel or aluminum walls. Within each of these categories, there are several size, shape, color, and style options. Let's dive into each category and learn about the specifics of each type of above ground pool.

Inflatable Easy-Set Pools:

Intex easy-set pools

Intex Easy-Set pools have a simple, yet durable design. An inflatable ring on the top of the pool holds up the shell of sturdy vinyl material. Simply inflate the pool, fill with water, and it's ready to go! While the pool fills, the weight and volume of the water begin to fill out, and the pool begins to take shape.

The best thing about Easy-Set pools are the ladder and filter pump included in the package. So, in other words, you have everything you need for your pool, all in one compact, affordable package. Easy-Set pools are also just as easy to take down as they are to set up. Just drain the water, deflate the pool, and that's it.

These pools should be drained and stowed during the winter months, as they are not designed to withstand cold temperatures. If possible, keep them in warm storage to help maintain the elasticity of the vinyl.

Soft-Sided Metal Frame Pools:

Soft-Sided Metal Frame Pools

Intex Metal Frame pools are the next step up in durability and permanence, and are also the most popular among above ground pool owners. They feature a sturdy, weather-resistant metal frame that supports an extremely durable, puncture-resistant three-ply liner. Like the Easy-Set pools, these also include a filter-pump and a durable ladder. They also include a ground cover, a pool cover and a maintenance kit.

Indeed, everything you need for a complete pool – straight out of the box! The setup and teardown of these pools is also quite easy, and they can be ready for water in under an hour! Like the Easy-Set pools, it is recommended that these pools are drained and stowed during the winter months.

Soft-Sided Ultra Frame Pools:

Another type of metal-frame pools is the Intex Ultra-Frame pool. These are similar to the metal frame pool above, but they are built for a heavier swimmer load and are a bit more durable, with a thicker liner and a stronger powder coated steel tubular frame.

Permanent Metal Wall Pools:

These pools are the most durable and most permanent above ground pools on the market. They are built to survive harsh winters and don’t need to be taken down at the end of each season. Since they are more permanent, they are definitely something that most pool owners dress up, with attractive landscaping or a beautiful wooden deck.

Permanent Metal Wall above ground pool

Permanent above ground pools have walls of either aluminum or steel. The main difference between these two types of pools is that aluminum has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel, and the pools themselves are lighter than steel-walled pools. Aluminum does not rust, but it does oxidize if not properly anodized.

These pools are either oval or round, and come in a variety of colors and styles.  Because they are more customizable, the filter and pump system are generally purchased separately. While a ladder is also typically not included with a steel-wall pool, aluminum-wall pools may have a ladder included in the package.

Since these pools are generally left out for the winter, consider what you need to winterize your pool if you live in the snowbelt. This will include a pool cover, air pillows, closing chemicals, and other winterizing supplies. While it may seem that more will need to be done to care for these types of pools over the course of a year, you save money on water and chemicals, since you don't have to refill them every season.

Above Ground Pool Installation

Installation of our steel wall pools is a bit more involved than for Intex pools. The most important element is ensuring that the ground is level and compacted. For a description of these processes, click on over to this blog post.

Intex Pool Installation

Installing your own Intex pool is a lot quicker than installing one of our in-ground pool kits! In most cases, two people can complete the job in under an hour, not including filling the pool.

The most important step in installing your own Intex pool is to make sure that the ground is level. Even if you have installed the pool in the same location before, check that the ground is absolutely level. Even 1 inch of slope can affect the structural integrity of your pool, so use a carpenter's level on a long two-by-four, or use a string level on a line running between stakes, to determine where your high and low spots are.

To level your ground, use shovels and sweat to shave off the high spots to match the low spots. Do not do it the other way around and add fill dirt or sand to the low spots, which can shift over time. Lower the high spots to meet the lowest spots, so you have tierra firma to build your pool upon.

Comparing Above Ground Pools

swimming in an Intex inflatable pool

We receive calls every day of people looking for above ground pools for sale. Some pools are sold as kits, which includes the pool and the liner, and some are just the pool with the liner sold separately. Some pools may include accessories like covers, ladders or filter systems. Consider the following differences when selecting your new above ground pool.


All above ground pools have steel walls, but many have resin uprights and top rails, which are softer and cooler and won't dent, chip or fade. The steel used in more expensive pools for walls, screws and clips is stronger and coated more times, and the wall exterior often has a nice pattern finish.


The wall material used on above ground pools is pretty standard, with some exceptions, but if you want to separate the men from the boys, look at the thickness of the uprights (vertical posts every 6-8 inches) and the top rails (horizontal rail on top of pool wall). Wider uprights and top rails make a pool not only look more sturdy, but actually give it more support and can prevent certain types of damage from ice and snow, earthquakes, teenagers or loose farm animals. These can vary from 3 inches wide to as much as 8 inches wide.


We carry the most popular sizes for each of our above ground pools, in round sizes of 15 feet to 30 feet diameter, and also oval sizes up to 16' by 32'. Your property or your personal preference will dictate the size that's best for you. And what about depth? Above ground pools come in three depths, 48", 52" or 54", which is most comfortable for adults.


If you are planning to build a wooden deck around the pool, or if you want to partially or fully bury the pool in the ground, this could affect which pool you buy. Since above ground pool wood decks are built over top of the top rail, choose a design that will allow for easy liner replacement. If you wish to bury the pool to a half-depth or full depth, or bury one side and build a wood deck on the other side, this requires a pool that is made for buried installation.

The Conclusion

Remember, before you look at everything as one huge decision, make sure to go through it systematically, keeping your family’s needs and budget in mind. Follow this simple guide, and you will be satisfied with your new above ground pool for many years to come!

In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.