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?”
Psst…want to know a secret, though?
THERE 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 construction)
- SLAT-WALL STYLE POOLS (Gibraltar Brand, etc.)
What is a soft-side pool?
These pools are a relatively new phenomenon
but have gained great popularity. Soft-side
pools are often called Quick Set, Easy Set,
made by Intex, Summer Escapes, Bestway
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 experience.
- 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 short-term product.
- 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 off!
- 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 many people.
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 think
of when they imagine an above ground wall.
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 years.
- 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 most popular.
Our next option for above ground pools...
This is a unique pool. In fact many people
have not ever heard of or seen one of these
pools, and yet they have been around since
at least the 1960’s. Employing a space-age
construction method used to build jet plane
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 Pool?
Not as common as some pool styles, but
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 quality
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!