7 Steps to Building a Cheap Above-Ground Swimming Pool

A significant amount of time and money is required to turn a backyard into a swimming-pool oasis. As an alternative, some homeowners may opt for a less expensive above-ground swimming pool instead of an in-ground one.

If you’re considering adding an above-ground swimming pool to your yard, let’s dive right in with the steps you’ll need to take before you’re able to splash around.

— Determine a location.

— Buy the swimming pool.

— Prep the location.

— Hook up the electricity.

— Assemble the pool.

— Install the filter.

— Fill up the pool.

But first, you have something else to decide: What type of above-ground swimming pool do you want?

[Read: 5 DIY Backyard Renovations on a Budget.]

Types of Above-Ground Swimming Pools

Above-ground swimming pools come in a few varieties, and some are cheaper than others. Cost varies, of course. HomeAdvisor.com suggests that an above-ground pool costs between $800 and $15,000, but the average price to buy and install one is $2,572. Most people spend between $794 and $4,438.

By comparison, the cost of an in-ground pool can range from $20,000 to over $100,000, though you’ll most likely pay between $39,000 to $70,000, according to HomeAdvisor.

You’ll want to think carefully before buying and installing any pool, whether it’s above ground or in-ground.

“As a home improvement expert, I understand a lot of people dream of having a pool and think the cheapest option is an above-ground one. At first glance, it appears like a good plan but can really turn into a money pit,” says Jen Stark, founder of the website Happy DIY Home.

She adds: “The hidden costs can be high — chemicals, cleaner, water and electric bills, insurance, repairs and decking to mention a few,” Stark says. “That is not to mention the hours spent each week maintaining it.”

Stark mentioned insurance. If you have an above-ground pool, you should mention it to your insurance agent, and, yes, it could cause your homeowners insurance rates to rise.

But assuming you’re fine with the costs, you’ll need to choose what type of above-ground swimming pool you want. There are generally four main types.

Steel pools. As you would expect, steel swimming pools are very strong. They’re actually the cheapest type of above-ground swimming pool, but the downside is that they can rust. Considering you’re putting water into a steel pool, that’s not really what you want to hear. On the other hand, it can take years — maybe 10 or 15, but maybe less — before a steel pool really begins to rust.

Resin. An above-ground swimming pool made of resin, a material that plastic is made from, is incredibly sturdy, and some people feel it has an advantage over steel pool parts since it can’t rust. These pools generally always cost more than steel pools.

Hybrid pools. These are usually made of steel and resin. The price may be less than a strictly resin above ground swimming pool, or more, depending on the manufacturer.

Aluminum pools. Unlike steel, aluminum doesn’t rust, though it can be dented. These are generally the most expensive types of above-ground swimming pools.

[See: Affordable DIY Backyard Games and Activities.]

Do You Need a Permit to Build an Above-Ground Swimming Pool?

Before you actually buy an above-ground swimming pool and install it, find out whether you need a permit for your pool.

It is going to depend on the state you live in and possibly your county or city, but there is a good chance you’ll need a building permit or zoning compliance from a local government agency.

If you’re buying a swimming pool at a store in your area, you can always ask the salespeople about the permits you will need. If you’re planning to hire a contractor to install the pool — not a bad idea at all — they’ll typically be able to apply for the permits and walk you through any documentation you will need.

You may also need gas and electricity permits to heat your pool. Yes, this little project of yours is becoming not so little.

How to Build an Above-Ground Swimming Pool

Once you’ve bought your pool and navigated the permit issue, you have some work to do.

1. Determine a location.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Again, you’ll want to check with your municipality first; there may be regulations governing how close the pool can be to your house.

Beyond that, avoid placing your pool underneath or too close to any trees, unless your idea of a good time is to swim among soggy leaves and bird droppings.

You also probably don’t want the pool too far from your house. There will be a cord stretching from the house, albeit one that’s preferably buried in the ground, going from what’s called a GFCI outlet to your swimming pool pump.

You also, for obvious reasons, don’t want your swimming pool to be located under power lines.

2. Buy the swimming pool.

Sure, you could do this first, but it’s probably best to scout out a location before you invest in one. You’ll also want to think about whether you want to build a raised deck around the pool, so that it looks a little like an in-ground pool, or if it’s just going to be a swimming pool in the middle of the grass. Should you have a fence around the pool to keep animals and neighborhood kids out? Will the pool be round or oval shape? How deep will it be? Do you want a liner to protect the walls and floor of the pool?

For comparison shopping, you can find above-ground swimming pools at home improvement chains like Home Depot and Lowes and also at local swimming pool supply stores.

You can also go the cheaper route. Stock tank pools are trendy and made of galvanized metal. They’re generally about two feet deep and are more for lounging in water (you can still add a filter and a pump to keep it clean). You could opt for an inflatable above-ground pool. Many nice ones can be found for under $100. If you really want to do it right, you still may want to purchase an inflatable pool filter pump system, which will likely cost about the same as the inflatable pool.

3. Prep the location.

That is, get the ground ready for what’s coming. After all, you don’t want to place the swimming pool on rocks or sticks or uneven ground.

“The base needs to be level or there will be integrity issues with the pool,” Stark says.

That’s because gravity will bring the water to the lowest level, and if the pool is titled just a bit, eventually, you could see the water overflowing over one of the sides of the pool.

“Another common mistake is to use sand to level the base. Sand will shift and should only be used as a buffer between the base of the pool and the soil below,” Stark says.

4. Hook up the electricity.

You’ll want to turn off the power at the circuit breaker, and ideally, you will bury the cord two feet deep — as opposed to having it loose in the yard, where you might trip over it. But most people should hire a licensed professional electrician to do all of this.

Yes, you can find a lot of articles and YouTube videos teaching you how to wire an above-ground pool — but even many of those will suggest hiring a licensed electrician. You’re going to be doing things like wiring in GFCI circuit breakers to an electrical panel and connecting an 8-gauge wire to metal posts of the pool, the pump and the metal plate on the skimmer (a contraption on the edge of the pool that collects floating debris, like leaves and bugs).

Stark also counsels hiring a professional — for pretty much everything.

“Unless you have had experience with ground management or been involved in a successful setup previously, I would always recommend bringing in a professional from the start. In the long run, this can save a significant amount of money,” Stark says.

5. Assemble the pool.

Ah, good. A step in which you probably won’t accidentally electrocute yourself. Still, you may want a professional for this as well.

That said, Derek Lenze has some advice if you do handle this yourself. Lenze, based in Surrey, British Columbia, runs Floating Authority, an education website that offers advice on gear for the water, such as kayaks, scuba gear and swimming pool floats. He also is the former owner of an above-ground pool.

“How you build your pool will differ from one manufacturer to the other, but typically you want to build your base first, which starts with the bottom ring that acts as the support base,” Lenze says. “From there you install the wall, the liner, and then the rails, covers and plates before filling the pool.”

He advises that people doing this themselves pay special attention to the instructions and not be afraid to ask for help.

“There are many online communities and forums of experienced above-ground pool experts that can help you out,” Lenze says.

[Read: How to Build a Fire Pit in Your Backyard: a Step-by-Step Guide.]

6. Install the filter.

You’ll be connecting the pool pump to your filter. Generally, you’ll have to decide between a sand filter, cartridge filter or a D.E. filter, a diatomaceous earth filter. While the chlorine or the salt content in the swimming pool will kill the bacteria in the pool, it’s the filter that actually removes bacteria and other bits of waste from the water.

7. Fill up the pool.

This is the easy part. Grab a hose. Still, you probably won’t want to just stand there while it fills. It will likely take a few hours or the better part of the day, depending how big the pool is. While that water is filling, though, you can think about how glorious it’ll be when you and your family get in. It’ll all be worth it.

Of course, before everybody jumps in, you still will need to turn on the filter and make sure it’s working correctly, and you’ll want to vacuum the bottom of the pool (while you were putting together the pool, chances are, debris has already gotten in). You’ll want to check the chlorine, too, and make sure there’s enough in it to kill the germs but not so much that your swimmers’ eyes are burning.

So, yes, there’s a lot to owning an above-ground pool, but some detail-oriented, pool-loving people may not mind the maintenance in the least.

But if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, rarely spend much time outdoors and hate the idea of maintaining a swimming pool, it may be occurring to you right about now that you don’t have to actually get into the water to recognize that you’re already in way too deep.

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7 Steps to Building a Cheap Above-Ground Swimming Pool originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 08/04/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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