The weather’s starting to warm up, and you need an escape from the house. But public pools, beaches and lakes may not be opening, or reopening, anytime soon, or you may not want to risk the crowds when they do. If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard or some open space, this may be just the time to consider an above-ground pool.
While they’re not as complicated as in-ground pools, there are a lot of considerations that come with putting an above-ground pool on your property, according to Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, a site that sources local professionals for home projects. To assess whether your home is ready for a splash zone any bigger than a blow-up baby pool, we looked to DiClerico for advice, and rounded up some top picks from top-rated brands and best-sellers.
First and foremost, DiClerico says, survey your space. “Make sure the pool will fit in the yard without violating any zoning regulations,” he says. These will vary by community, but according to him, pools generally need to be at least 5 feet from property lines and a certain distance from the main house, maybe 12 or 15 feet. Plus, proximity to power lines and underground utilities is a factor, and many communities require permits for installing a pool.
“You need to do all the due diligence, checking with your local zoning board and building department, before making any kind of purchase decision,” DiClerico advises.
Once you’ve figured out the municipal logistics, you also must consider whether your landscape is suited for a pool. “Does your ground slope or are there large trees or rocks in the way?” DiClerico says. “You may have to pay to have these removed or relocated.”
And remember, some communities have codes regarding tree removal. Soil stability may also be a factor, depending on the size of pool you’re considering. “If the soil is very soft and sandy, you may need to amend it before putting in the pool,” he says.
We’re just being thorough here, but: The installation of a pool — even an above-ground one — may affect your homeowners insurance. Check with your carrier about coverage, restrictions and rates. “In general, house guests are covered for injuries that may occur while using the pool, but the pool itself is not covered by any damage that might occur,” DiClerico says. “Many providers will require you to put up a protective fence or child-proof gate before they’ll even consider coverage.”
“The obvious advantage of above-ground over in-ground pools is cost,” says DiClerico. According to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide, most people spend between $1,000 and $4,000 on above-ground pools — $2,500 on average — compared with an average of $50,000 for an in-ground pool, whose costs can easily run into the six figures if you add luxury features like a hot tub and waterfall.
For an above-ground pool, the lower end, budget-wise — up to about $1,000 — will limit your size and shape. “For $1,000, you’re not going to get more than a basic 12-foot round with zero add-ons or accessories,” DiClerico says. “As you go up in price, pools get larger and more diverse in shape, including rectangular, oval and hexagonal.” The largest, higher-end above-ground options, measuring in the neighborhood of 20 by 40 feet, will ring up at around $4,500.
And just how much do you need to spend? Think about how you want to use the pool, DiClerico recommends. “If you just want a personal place to relax and cool down, a basic round will do,” he says. “If you want it for entertaining or for the kids to play in, you’ll need a larger pool with a surrounding deck for lounging and additional safety features, including a fence and removable ladder to keep unattended children from accessing the pool.”
As you’re figuring your budget, factor in some of the add-ons — pool kits, liner, sides, edging, pump and ladder — that may bump up the total price.
The above costs don’t include installation, which, if you hire a professional to do it for you, may run you upward of $1,000, DiClerico advises. An experienced DIYer may be able to handle installation with the help of a few handy friends, possibly in a few hours or a day, depending on the size and scope of the pool.
Decide beforehand if you want someone else to do the install, and ask up front about terms and costs. If you’re having the pool installed, be sure the work as well as the pool is warranted, and make sure you’re clear on the terms.
Your above-ground pump and filter will need electricity to run. DiClerico says you’ll need a 110/20 amp dedicated line, and the pool must be bonded and grounded — check with the pool manufacturer, and consult an electrician if needed, to make sure all your connections are safe and up to code.