In-Ground or Above-Ground Pool: Which Is Right For You?

A backyard swimming pool can provide value, entertainment and opportunities for bonding with friends and family, but the decision to get an in-ground or above-ground pool comes with many considerations. While neither choice is objectively better or worse as a whole, each option comes with different benefits and disadvantages in terms of convenience, investment, characteristics and durability. If you’re on the fence as to which pool option is right for you and your property, this guide can help you to make a more informed choice. 



Before you start to search “pool builders near me” online, consider your climate. Whether you live in an area that is warm for the majority of the year or your warmest seasons get very hot but only last for a certain number of months, a permanent pool may make more or less sense depending on the regional weather. The potential for year-round use will also dictate how economical each option will be for you, considering monthly maintenance, water usage, cleaning and opening or closing the pool in times of cold or inclement weather. 



An in-ground pool is typically a higher upfront investment, but it can also add value to your home–especially if you live in an area where hot summers are common. With excavation, professional installation, permits, materials and any extra features, the process can be much more costly. This permanent installation has different maintenance requirements that also make it a more expensive option. However, in-ground pools are not always significantly more pricey than above-ground options. Often, the same amount of money you’d spend on a basic in-ground pool can be used to purchase one above the ground with fancier features, such as a deck, gate or safety fence. These options are still much more economical for families on a budget who want their own place to swim, even when all the bells and whistles are added. 



While both options take up a great deal of backyard real estate, your property may be best suited with one option over the other when you consider the amount of space you have to accommodate a pool in your yard. If you want a pool, but don’t have a large amount of yardage, a smaller above-ground pool can provide a place for you and your family to take a dip without sacrificing your entire backyard. However, above-ground pools don’t involve any excavation, so you won’t be able to practice your dives and cannonballs like you would with an in-ground pool. If less than five feet of depth is all you need, then this option may be best for you and your family. These options are also best if you need to put a pool closer to your property line, as zoning limits often prohibit in-ground pool installation in certain circumstances. 



In-ground pools are generally more customizable than above-ground pools. When it comes to installation, in-ground pools can take a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and a wide variety of different materials can be used in the design process to add style to the pool, such as different tile patterns and colors, pigmented concrete or plaster or decorative vinyl liners. However, above-ground pools have their own charms, too. While you’re typically limited to round or oval-shaped pools, you can do a lot to customize the exterior of the pool to make it look more like a permanent fixture in your yard. Many above-ground pools can be outfitted with wraparound decks, tabletops, stairs, stone border installations, chaise lounge and water features. Thoughtful, creative landscaping can be added to make an above-ground pool just as attractive, if not more so, than an in-ground one. 



It’s no secret that, because they’re typically smaller and more shallow, above-ground pools are a safer option. Above-ground pools have walls that stand above the ground which prevent adults and children alike from accidentally falling in while they walk past or around the pool. The lack of depth also provides fewer chances for swimmers to jump, dive or sink beneath the surface in dangerous, or even life-threatening, ways. In-ground pools, however, can be modified to be much safer with the installation of various safety features that can prevent drowning accidents. Pool alarms, motion detectors, safety fences, pool covers, rope lines and nets all make in-ground pools a lot safer, especially for small children.



Both types of pools generally require about the same level of upkeep, including water treatment, cleaning, chemical balancing and filtering. Each pool type, however, has its own maintenance advantages and disadvantages. While an above-ground pool is generally easier to maintain due to its size, many pool owners don’t run the pump with consistency or pay as close attention to the water balance, which can make it more challenging considering the cleaning pumps and equipment are typically not as robust as those involved in in-ground pools. Still, an in-ground pool’s equipment is a lot more expensive to maintain and replace in the event of major cleaning issues or breakages. Though they’re more durable, the long-lasting aspect of an in-ground pool means that interruptions in equipment function or water quality have a higher price tag and demand more time and attention. 



Perhaps the most important consideration for an in-ground vs an above-ground pool is whether it’s something you and your family will use and enjoy for a long time. Even with an outdoor deck and dedicated landscaping, you can always remove an above-ground pool and reconfigure the area for another purpose should you decide to use the space in a new way. With an in-ground pool, it’s not so simple should you change your mind down the road. 


The permanent nature of an in-ground pool can still spell benefits for your home, as its appearance generally resembles a more natural body of water when it rests at the surface of the rest of your yard. Because they’re designed to be permanent, they’re usually designed with durable, long-lasting materials that will enable you and your family to enjoy them for many, many years. 


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