Above-ground pools are incredibly popular for their simple installations, easy maintenance, and budget-friendly affordability. However, they don’t last forever. Many pool owners recognize that above-ground pools don’t last as long as in-ground pools. They often use vinyl liners, which can’t withstand the same pressure as fiberglass and plaster.
Above-ground pools last between 20 to 30 years before they need to have extreme repairs or full replacements. While the vinyl liner typically has to be replaced every one to two decades, the pool’s support beams and body can last a bit longer. Inflatable pools typically last about 2 to 8 years.
Throughout this article, I’ll explain how to know when you should replace your above-ground pool, tips to make your pool last longer, and whether or not they can be permanent. I’ll also provide details about rust and other detrimental issues that can harm your above-ground pool.
When Should I Replace My Above-Ground Pool?
You should replace your above-ground pool when the walls and floors get brittle. This process usually takes two to three decades. It’s almost impossible to replace the walls and floors since they’re often one big piece. You can get new support beams to preserve the walls, though.
Many above-ground pools last an average of 20 years. However, you can do a lot of preventative maintenance to expand the pool’s lifespan. On the other hand, not using the correct chemicals or cleaning the walls can cut up to a decade off of your above-ground pool.
Keep an eye out for these signs to know if you need to replace the swimming pool:
- Rippled or broken floors and walls
- Non-stop rust patches all over the edges and under the vinyl liner
- Dipping throughout the entire swimming pool (one side is deeper than the other)
- Breaking components, ranging from the ledges to the built-in skimmer basket
Can Above-Ground Pools Be Permanent?
Above-ground pools can be permanent if you replace the liner and equipment. The support beams don’t last forever, but they can be replaced as needed.
You can preserve an above-ground pool’s aluminum body by preventing rust and corrosion. Use diluted chemicals to lengthen your pool’s lifespan.
There are three things that get in the way of your above-ground pool being a permanent installment:
- All pool liners eventually need to be replaced. Vinyl liners last a while, but they need to be replaced after several years. If you don’t replace the liner, you’ll have to deal with countless leaks. The vinyl will break apart and get into the plumbing, which causes many expensive repairs and replacements.
- Your above-ground pool equipment will need maintenance. Pool pumps, filters, heaters, salt systems, booster pumps, and vacuums need to be replaced after several years. Most above-ground pool equipment lasts between 5 to 10 years, though proper maintenance can make them last over 12 years.
- The structural support can corrode and fall apart. Your above-ground pool walls, floors, and support beams will eventually degrade. Almost all above-ground pools are a single piece of material. If the wall has a big crack, you might need to replace the whole swimming pool. Fortunately, it can take a very long time for this to happen.
While above-ground pools are rarely permanent, they can stick around for many decades. However, you have to abide by the necessary maintenance and replacement schedules. If you’re unsure if the trade-off is worth it, read some of my notes and suggestions below.
Is an Above-Ground Pool Worth It?
An above-ground pool is worth it because it’s cheaper than an in-ground pool, you don’t need harsh chemicals, and you don’t have to deal with underground plumbing.
Many people prefer above-ground pools because they’re easier to install and remove. They also don’t require massive holes in the ground.
Ask yourself these questions to know if an above-ground pool is worth it for how long it lasts:
- How many years do you want the pool to last? Since most above-ground pools last between two to three decades, it’s important to know if you’ll get the most out of it. You can also get an inflatable above-ground pool (such as an Intex or Bestway pool) that lasts up to eight years.
- Do you have the necessary equipment and chemicals for the gallon total? Choosing the right pump and filter sizes can make a world of difference. You’ll also need enough chemicals to maintain the pool’s chemistry. Without these items, your pool won’t last too long, and you’ll waste your time and money.
- How often will you use the above-ground pool? If you’ll use it multiple times each summer, it’s more than worth getting an above-ground swimming pool. They’re fun, reliable, and relaxing. They’re also great for pets as long as you trim their nails and keep them away from the vinyl liner.
How to Make an Above-Ground Pool Last Longer
To make an above-ground pool last longer, follow these steps:
- Brush the vinyl liner one to two times per week. Vinyl liners stain quite easily. You can use a soft bristle brush to remove algae. Another suggestion is to get a pool vacuum for algae to limit the amount of brushing you have to do. Consider getting a vacuum that climbs the walls.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals in an above-ground pool. Liquid acid, high-chlorine granular shock, and a few other concentrated chemicals aren’t designed for vinyl swimming pools. Above-ground pools can use dry acid, liquid chlorine, chlorine tablets, and low-chlorine granular shock.
- Remove and prevent wrinkles from forming in the vinyl. Wrinkles are caused by people jumping in the pool, a worn vinyl liner, and heavy ladders or steps. Get rid of vinyl pool wrinkles with a shop vacuum, rubber water shoes, and a clean plunger. The wrinkles can weaken the liner and cause tears.
- Maintain the pool’s chemistry as accurately as possible. Check the pH, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, phosphates, calcium hardness, and chlorine weekly. Above-ground pools have sensitive liners that can warp or become brittle if they’re not maintained properly. Keep all of the above-ground pool chemicals for routine maintenance.
- Use a solar cover to keep algae and debris out of the pool. The Sun2Solar Solar Blanket comes in various sizes, all of which have a 12-mil thick liner. These solar covers provide optimal heat retention, algae prevention, etc. They also prevent your water and chemicals from evaporating.
It’s quite easy to make an above-ground pool last longer once you create a reliable routine. While they’re much cheaper than in-ground pools, they need an equal amount of maintenance. Failure to reduce wrinkles, brush the pool, and maintain its chemistry will shave several years off of your pool’s longevity.
Do Above-Ground Pools Rust?
Above-ground pools rust if the water line gets below the skimmer basket or if there’s too much chlorine on the outer metal ledges.
However, most pools are treated to prevent rust. Make sure you dry the pool equipment after a heavy downpour to prevent the internal components from corroding.
You can use steel wool to remove rust on your metal pool equipment. However, you’ll need a soft brush to get rid of all rust in the pool. Never use abrasive chemicals or materials near the pool’s vinyl liner.
Pools rust when the water dries on the metal components. Rust and corrosion form in pool pumps, heaters, and salt systems with leaks. Minor leaks can send water into the pump’s motor, causing the shaft and bearings to rust. You’ll hear grinding and screeching, followed by overheating and tripping breakers.
Pro Reminder: Algae often looks like rust. It can be brown, black, or orange. Make sure you’re dealing with rust before using steel wool and rust preventatives. Chlorine removes algae, but it won’t get rid of rust and corrosion.
How Do You Protect Your Above-Ground Pool Walls?
To protect your above-ground pool walls, try these tips:
- Keep the pool on a stable, level surface. Soft soil, rocks, and grass will sink into the ground from the weight of an above-ground pool. Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, which means your 5,000-gallon swimming pool is incredibly heavy. I suggest putting the pool on a concrete pad or hiring professionals to level the ground beforehand.
- Replace the support beams if they rust, corrode, or weaken. These support beams hold the walls; without them, the walls would cave in. Most support beams last a couple of decades, but numerous factors can shorten the lifespan. For example, shifting soil or rust can make them fragile.
- Clean the pool walls once per season. Use a soft bristle brush, warm water, and dish soap to scrub the outside of the swimming pool. You can also use an all-purpose cleaner if it’s free of harsh chemicals and additives. Always check with the manufacturer to know which chemicals they recommend.
- Hang a pool cover over the edges to preserve them. I suggest getting a solar cover that’s about one foot longer on all sides. Lay the cover over the edges, and you won’t have to worry about rust, mildew, and corrosion. Make sure you remove the cover for a couple of hours weekly to let the chemicals off-gas.
- Make sure the ladder is higher than the wall to prevent abrasive friction. The ladder should be high enough to keep it from scratching the edges. Check if the ladder is flexible since these ladders often dip a couple of inches when people walk on them. The ladders and steps in a pool can cause all sorts of damage.
Above-ground pool walls and floors are the most important parts of making sure you don’t have to replace the pool. The liner and equipment will inevitably have to be replaced, but you can maintain the floors and walls for a long-lasting (if not permanent) above-ground pool. The problem is that most pool owners forget the importance of cleaning and protecting the pool.
What Ruins an Above-Ground Pool?
Above-ground pools are ruined by wrinkles, harsh chemicals, abrasive brushes, direct sunlight, and uneven surfaces.
Your pool needs to be meticulously cleaned and maintained to prevent it from wrinkling and corroding. Consider a weekly routine and a monthly deep clean for the best results.
Let’s dive into each of these problems below.
- Wrinkles: Wrinkles can ruin a pool liner because they stretch the vinyl and cause weak points. They often form when the liner is old, when people land on the liner at various angles, and when the ladder or stairs press the vinyl for too long. Removing these wrinkles can drastically increase the pool’s longevity.
- Harsh chemicals: Never use muriatic acid or highly-concentrated calcium hypochlorite in an above-ground pool. These chemicals are incredibly harsh and should only be used in plaster and pebble swimming pools. They can weaken the vinyl and deteriorate the walls and floors in an above-ground pool.
- Abrasive brushes: Make sure you stick with a soft bristle brush. Metal brushes can shred through a vinyl liner in a few minutes. You’ll cause an expensive mistake with a cheap brush, so it’s not worth it. Instead, opt for a soft brush that’s specifically designed for vinyl and fiberglass pools.
- Direct sunlight: I recommend using solar rings or solar blankets if your above-ground pool is under direct sunlight. The sun’s harmful UV rays can weaken and discolor the vinyl liner. They can also deteriorate the exposed walls and support beams. However, these issues aren’t present if you have an indoor above-ground pool.
- Uneven surfaces: Loose soil or plants can create an unstable surface under the swimming pool. Make sure the pool’s floors are level from end to end. I suggest doing an annual checkup with a leveler tool to know if your swimming pool is dipping. It’s easier to treat minor misalignments than complete overhauls.
You can make your above-ground pool last much longer if you acknowledge and prevent all five of these issues. They’re quite common, but the simple routine suggestions mentioned throughout this post will preserve your pool and help it last for as long as you want it to.