Get in the swim with an above-ground pool

Father and son floating on inner tubes Father and son floating on inner tubes

Being able to jump into a back-yard pool during the summer is a wonderful perk for many people, especially if you have children on summer vacation and family and friends who come for the occasional cook-out.

In-ground pools can be lovely additions, however they are expensive to install and maintain and they are definitely permanent. Above-ground pools, on the other hand, are easily installed (and uninstalled) and easier to maintain.

In many cases, above-ground pools can be set up in a single day by the buyer and some helpers. However, connections for the pool pump and its electrical source may take extra time and you might need to engage an electrician to be sure the system adheres to local pool codes.

This ease of installation is important for several reasons. Some people choose to store above-ground pools away at the end of the season. In other cases, they may decide to move it to a different place in the yard. And it’s ideal for renters who have an option to sell it or take it along when they move.

While in-ground pools are generally fenced—because of local safety codes or because responsible owners want to protect pets and children—the high sides of above-ground pools are a natural barrier once ladders are removed.

Winterizing is easy, too, because there are no underground plumbing connections. If the above-ground pool is left up during the winter, it’s simply a case of draining the pump, adding extra chemicals, and covering the pool.

Another financial benefit is that, unlike an in-ground pool, an above-ground pool is not a permanent improvement, hence it won’t increase the property’s assessment and raise property taxes

Installing an above-ground pool

Above-ground pools come in many sizes and prices. A quick Internet search finds a 9-foot diameter pool for around $600 and an 18 x 45-foot oval pool around $5,000. (These are pool-only prices and don’t include filter, pump, installation, and other costs.)

Basically, an above-ground pool consists of vertical sides that support a vinyl liner. These liners come in different qualities and colors. In many cases, an area must be cleared for the pool. Often, a layer of sand is laid to make a firm, level area for the bottom. Some people choose to sink the above-ground pool a foot or more into the ground, making the sides less obtrusive.

Larger pools often have buttressed sides to withstand the pressure of the water. Buttress-free pools are designed to work without those external supports and so take up less space.

Although such pools aren’t permanent, there still may be local regulations to be aware of. For example, you may not be able to install the pool under power or telephone lines, and it may have to be a certain distance from a lot line. The power source and the pool pump are very likely to have requirements.

Making an above-ground pool an integral part of the yard

Some people choose to conceal the typical metal sides of an above-ground pool with siding of some sort such as lattice or wooden facings. Others use plantings around the outside of the pool to hide the sides, but be careful that roots don’t interfere with the liner.  A perimeter of gravel or rock—smooth enough not to hurt bare feet—can be a nice touch, since chemically treated pool water can be tough on plants.

In many cases, a deck at or just slightly above the pool’s surface can be an attractive way to integrate the pool into the design of the yard. If you have an existing deck, consider installing the pool in a place where the deck can be extended to provide space for poolside lounging or dining.  Add colorful umbrellas or build a pergola or roof for shade.

If you opt for decking, seek guidance on the best materials to use—in this case, you probably don’t want wood, since splashed water with pool chemicals can be tough to handle. Consider instead one of the newer materials being used more and more by people who prefer longer-lasting decks without the maintenance required by wood. Sturdy, low-maintenance alternatives are available in many colors and textures and include all-plastic decking or plastic-and-fiber composites which often include recycled materials.

By Marilyn Pribus

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Marilyn Pribus and her husband moved to Albemarle County near Charlottesville almost eight years ago. They miss the in-ground pool they had in California, but not the maintenance and property taxes.