So you’ve been thinking about putting
an above ground pool into your yard and you have a million and one questions, and a fear that you may not make the right decision buying the best pool!
So many options, styles, brands, construction types! It forces the question, “what is the BEST POOL to buy?”
to know a secret, though?
IS NO ONE BEST POOL! There! I said it and probably shocked you to say something
so bold and outrageous. But it’s true!
Answering this is a lot like answering the question “What is the Best Car
to Buy?” While one
driver wants to go from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, another driver wants great fuel
economy. Others want luxury, styling, comfort, or even the latest options. Still
other people couldn’t care less about what the car looks and drives like, as
long as it get them around. Your dream-car
may be miles away from your neighbor’s 4x4, with big mudder tires and loud
exhaust! Get the picture? There is NO BEST CAR!
So this blog is less about bragging on how amazingly awesomely superb any
one pool is and much more so about giving you straightforward facts about the
main options for above ground pools. Then once you can understand the differences, and know the
advantages and disadvantages (and believe me ALL POOLS HAVE DISADVANTAGES) inherent to each kind, then and
only then can you decide what is best for you.
4 MAIN STYLES/CONSTRUCTION TYPES
A brief survey of backyards in your
town will show you 4 main options
for above ground pools:
- SOFT-SIDE POOLS (a.k.a. Quick Set, or Easy Set)
- ROLLED WALL POOLS (flat metal wall
with regularly spaced upright columns and top seats)
- RADIANT POOLS (space-age composite
- SLAT-WALL STYLE POOLS (Gibraltar
What is a soft-side pool?
These pools are a relatively new
but have gained great popularity. Soft-side
pools are often called Quick Set,
made by Intex, Summer Escapes,
and various similar companies. They typically
sell all in one box (pool, pump, filter and even
some accessories) and are found in most big box
retail stores, as well as online (Amazon, etc.).
As with all types of pools there are
advantages…and there are disadvantages. Let’s jump right in:
- Inexpensive – Low cost to buy – from under $100 to
well under $1,000. Low cost to operate – given the smaller gallonage of these
pools, operation costs may be low as well.
- Variety – Round, oval, rectangular, with and
without frame. It’s surprising the amount of options for such a low price product.
- Easy to Purchase – While out shopping for milk, shampoo
and cat litter, just hoist one of these all-in-one pool in a box into your
carriage and bring it on home!
- Convenience – Find a smooth level area, build,
plug in and go! And given the temporary nature of these pools, many towns and
cities do not require a permit for them (be sure to check though).
- Mobility – Due to their construction style,
these pools can be put up, taken down and even re-set up in a different part of
the yard (or different yard altogether!).
- Great Trial Pool – Because of the ease of set-up, low cost, and low
level commitment this is often a great way to see if you really have a true
desire to own a pool. Think of it this way - try it, see what you like and
don’t like about having a pool. It will probably be a great learning
- Short Life Expectancy – As you may have guessed these
inexpensive pools are not made to last
for years and years. Thinner liners and mostly plastic parts add up to a relatively
- Low Capacity Pumps and Filters – Many of the pumps and filters on
these pools do not keep up with demands for high bather load. This can lead to
water issues and low clarity.
- Hard to Level – Often sold under the “easy set” or
“quick set” moniker, finding a smooth
and level portion of your yard may be more difficult than you’d think. In
short, the surest way to find out that little patch of grass near the swing set
isn’t level is to fill a $300 pool with water only to find out you were way
- Cheaper Image – Sure, the box at the store had that
great picture with the pool full of good-looking young models luxuriating in
refreshing water, but once set up in the
yard you may not be so thrilled by the temporary
look of it.
- Must be Taken Down Yearly – A few brave souls will ignore this
advice, however, almost all of these pools are recommended to be disassembled
yearly. This can be a hassle for
We at E-Z Test Pools are certainly
not “pool snobs” and will gladly help you enjoy and keep your soft-side pool if
and only if it is the right choice for you. They are a niche product that has
become popular for a reason.
On to the next type of pool…
What is a metal rolled-wall pool?
This type of pool is what most people
of when they imagine an above ground
As mentioned, they are constructed of a
corrugated rolled steel (or aluminum) wall
with vertical columns and horizontal top
seats. Inside the pool is typically an overlap
or beaded (fitted) vinyl liner.
- More permanent type structure – Given their more rugged structure,
rolled wall pools on average last 10-15
- Better Appearance – Rolled wall pools have only become
better and better looking over the years. Thirty to forty years ago they were
not so handsome, but in recent years improvements in colors, patterns, styles
of frames have made for some really good looking pools.
- Larger water volume – Although the quick set pools have
grown in volume over time, steel and aluminum pools still offer larger volume and taller walls. This improves swimming experience.
- Better Pump and Filter Systems – Unlike soft side pools, steel and
aluminum rolled wall pools use larger and much more professional grade pumps
and filters. This makes for cleaner, clearer water
- Vulnerability to Weather – Thesestructures are much stronger than soft side pools, but
unfortunately every year many pool owners tragically will lose their pools to
severe winter damage. Wind, snow, rain
and ice have been known to take even the hardiest of rolled wall pools down
before their time. This damage by weather is often not covered by warranty.
- Rust and/or Corrosion – Steel is the most popular and cost
effective to build pools with, however over time (especially after being
subjected to water and chlorine) this will rust and eventually end the life of
the pool. Aluminum will not rust but even that will slowly corrode.
- High Cost to Aluminum – For those who choose to go with an
aluminum structure, the strength is much greater than steel, but cost is so
high that it becomes prohibitive for many people.
- Overlap Liners Often Weaker – A common option on many rolled wall
pools is an overlap liner. These liners are not as appealing to look at, but
the bigger concern is that they are often thinner than beaded (fitted) liners
and are more prone to tearing (especially over time).
For most customers looking to own a
more permanent structure pool, the rolled steel or aluminum type pools are the
Our next option for above ground
What is a Radiant Pool?
This is a unique pool. In fact many
have not ever heard of or seen one of
pools, and yet they have been around
at least the 1960’s. Employing a
construction method used to build jet
bodies, Radiant pools have amazing
strength and versatility. Two sheets of
aluminum sandwiched over an inner core of polystyrene make a product unlike
almost any other pool. Instead of
one coiled wall, these pools are made up of interlocking panels that assemble
together to form the outer shell of the structure.
- Extremely strong and Durable – The walls of Radiant pools are a
whopping 2” thick and their composite construction means they simply do not
suffer winter damage or rot like rolled wall pools. These pools cannot be killed
short of driving a truck into them – this is barely an exaggeration!
- Variety of Shapes and Sizes Available
– Available in most
all traditional round and oval sizes, Radiant also offer, rectangle, Grecian
and even free-form shapes.
- Permanent Pools – The rugged materials
and engineered construction means that these pools will be easily standing
30-50 years later…if
you still want them then! Radiant even offers a lifetime fully transferrable
warranty that also covers against winter damage – you will not find a warranty
like this with any rolled wall pool.
- Installation Versatility – The composite rust-free extremely
strong nature allow for it to be installed in ways that virtually no other pool
can. It can be installed completely
above ground, partially buried or also full in ground. For yards where leveling
the ground is simply not an option they can be installed into the ground at
differing degrees, meaning one end can be fully in ground while the other end
may be fully above!
- Heat Retention – Two-inch thick wall panels with an
inner core do more than just make the pool strong. They also naturally retain water heat better. If your pool is in
the northern half of the country, this is usually important to you.
- Cost – Although Radiant pools are built
unlike any other pool, won’t rust and are extremely strong, they are far from
cheap. Even fully above ground simpler round shape pools, may easily cost double their rolled wall counterparts once installed.
- Installation – They may be more versatile in the
arena of installation, however Radiant
pools require a much higher degree of expertise when installing (especially
on complex grading and backfilling). On some of these installations, only a
seasoned pool builder will be qualified to handle the challenges.
- Availability – A great product, but just remember
this is not found everywhere, and unlike rolled walls these need to be ordered only from authorized
Radiant Pool dealers.
- Landscaping – Keep in mind that having a pool that
can be installed into a hill may look great and be unique. It does often mean
that other work needs to be coordinated in the way of landscaping, patio work,
fencing, as well as the cost of these other projects. Add to this the fact that
you may need additional permits and involvement with town building inspectors.
What is a Slat Wall/Gibraltar
Not as common as some pool styles,
still worthy of mention is the Gibraltar
pool. Gibraltar pools are also above
ground pools, typically rectangular in
shape, built with heavy duty extruded
interlocking steel slats, and having large
attached decks with a walk-around. The
decks are covered with an outdoor
carpet and are completely fenced in.
Let’s discuss these pools’ particular
pluses and minuses.
- Rock Solid Construction – Just one look at these pools will
tell you that they are built with very
heavy duty components that will last for years and years. You might even
say they’re over-engineered.
- Built-In Deck With Walk-Around – A major benefit of these pools is the
deck area and walk-around. Having a spot poolside where you can relax and
lounge in the sun gives you more of an in-ground feel to an above ground pool.
- Walk-Up Staircase –
Gibraltar pools come with a deck to ground extra wide fold-up staircase.
Like the pool, they are sturdy and make for easy up and down access.
- Expensive To Buy – This is not the type of product you
buy on a whim. Cost to purchase and
install will be pretty pricey. So much so that often most people purchasing
these pools must use financing and loans to own one.
- Unappealing Look – Although appearance is a highly
subjective thing, it is not uncommon that most people find this style of pool
to be something they’d rather hide than show off.
- Limited Buying Options – This pool does have many features
and benefits that attract customers, however they are quite limited on where
you may purchase them from. Unlike availability of the same brand of pool from
more than one pool company in your area (giving you options on who you buy
from), there is only one retailer. Gibraltar is the sole owner and dealer of
this style pool in New England and you must deal directly with their company if
you are interested in their product. This creates a bit of a monopoly on this
pool and potentially limits competition as far as price and services. Also,
you may be limited to dealing only with Gibraltar for many parts or even liners
on some of their pools.
As with any potential purchase, it
all starts with education of what each product offers in the way of benefits
and drawbacks. Knowing is half the battle!
E-Z Test Pool Supplies has been in
the pool business since 1989, and in that time we have learned that the most
sought after item is knowledge. Please feel free to speak to anyone in our 3
stores to help you choose the pool that’s right for you and your family. We
welcome your questions!