Above-Ground vs. In-Ground Pools

Ready to say 'yes' to a pool? From costs, convenience, longevity and maintenance, learn the differences between an above ground and in-ground pool.

Considerations When Choosing a Swimming Pool

If you’re considering putting in a backyard swimming pool, you may be undecided between an above-ground or in-ground pool. To help you choose which type of pool is right for you, read on for some of the key differences between an above-ground and an in-ground pool.

Pool Design

Above-ground pools offer far fewer options for pool shape, features and depth. Most are round or rectangular, with uniform depth not more than 52 inches (a little more than four feet).

In-ground pools can be practically any shape, size or depth that the owner chooses. While rectangular pools are always the most popular, oval, kidney-shaped and lagoon-style pools are also options for in-ground pools. You can also have shallow areas for the kids and deeper areas for those who know how to swim.

Optional Features

When it comes to the these, the differences between above-ground vs. in-ground pools are night and day. An above-ground pool is typically a fixed vinyl liner, to which you cannot add much beyond a ladder and lighting. A skilled DIYer can, however, save money by building a deck around an above-ground pool.

In-ground pools offer an assortment of options, from steps, shallow splash-decks for kids and in-pool bench-style seating. You can integrate a hot tub into your in-ground pool, or add waterfall features, infinity edges and more. Your only limit is your budget!

Installation Factors

Above-ground pools are far easier and less time-consuming to install, since all you really need is a level piece of ground. In-ground pools, on the other hand, require excavation, which can be complicated if the builders hit bedrock, groundwater or other obstructions. Your backyard must have access for large construction equipment, and you need to check local zoning laws to find out about setbacks the space between the pool and your property line and how many feet you need. In-ground pools typically require six to eight weeks of construction and installation time.

Installation of an above-ground pool can be done in a day or so, assuming the terrain is already level and cleared. You may need a few weekends to install a DIY wooden or paver pool deck, or a few days if you hire a contractor to do that part of the project.

Maintenance

In-ground pools require more maintenance than above-ground pools. Many homeowners choose to hire a pool contractor to do the job, including the winterizing of the pool.

While above-ground pools are generally easier and cheaper to maintain, they’re not effortless. Read our guide to maintaining an above-ground pool.

Safety

Any backyard swimming pool, even a shallow one, is a safety risk for kids left unattended. You’ll need some safety provisions, at minimum a fenced backyard so little kids cannot wander in by accident. If you have young children at home, consider pool fencing, ladder locks (on an above ground pool) or secure gates at access points to the pool area. Check local codes and with your homeowner’s insurance company for regulations on pool safety.

Pool Lifespan

For longevity, in-ground pools win hands-down. With proper maintenance and a rehab job or two along the way, they can last 50 years or more. Above-ground pools have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, and that’s only if they’re well-maintained and incur no major damage, such as tearing.

Costs

In-ground pools are expensive. They cost $30,000 to $70,000, depending on where you live and the number of features you add on. A big appeal of above-ground pools is their low cost. A high-quality above-ground pool with a surrounding deck will typically cost about $8,000 to $10,000, and it’s possible to install one for far less.

Home Resale Value

Whether in-ground or above-ground, a pool does not add to your home’s resale value. An in-ground pool will increase the appraised value of your home, although the increase rarely exceeds the cost of the pool. An above-ground pool will most likely not increase your home’s appraisal value because it’s not considered a permanent feature. On the plus side, you can dismantle an above-ground pool at a buyer’s request, or even before you put the home on the market.

Which Pool Is Right for You?

If saving money while still reaping many of the benefits of a pool is your priority, go with above-ground. If you’re ready to invest in a lasting backyard swimming pool that you can custom design, and you have the budget, then an in-ground pool is probably the right choice for you.