Can You Put an Above Ground Pool in the Ground?

Can You Put an Above Ground Pool in the Ground

If you really want a pool in your yard but can’t afford to build an in-ground pool, then an above-ground pool is a much cheaper alternative.

That said, some people have wondered – why can’t they just buy an above-ground pool, bury it, and voilà, they have an in-ground pool for the price of an above-ground pool. Sounds like a good idea at first, until you really think about it.

If you are considering installing an above-ground pool in the ground, don’t do it. The pool walls of an above-ground pool are too thin to withstand the weight of the backfill. As soon as you empty the water for any reason, the walls will collapse, and you will have a very expensive mess you need to clean up.

If you just wanted to know whether it was a viable option or not, you have your answer and you can stop reading. For people who want to know more why this doesn’t work in more detail, as well as a potential alternative, then keep reading on and I will answer these questions.

Why you shouldn’t install an above-ground pool in the ground

Unfortunately, many people have had this bright idea to install their above-ground pool in the ground and the results have been disastrous.

Some people were fed lies by the salesperson, claiming that this is something you can do. Unfortunately, salespeople will say anything to make the sale. No, you can’t do this.

I mean, technically you can. But it’s not a good idea long-term. People have indeed successfully installed their above-ground pool in the ground. It seems fine initially, as long as you fill the pool up with water first before backfilling the hole the pool is in.

The water in the pool will help the pool walls hold up the weight of the dirt surrounding it. The problem arises when, for any reason at all, the pool is drained and it no longer has the support of thousands of gallons of water propping it up.

Suddenly, those thin metal sheets are left high and dry to hold up the weight of the dirt on their own, and they will easily collapse under that immense weight. Now you have a very expensive hole in the ground that was once your pool.

The cost of the above-ground pool, digging the hole and backfilling it, and now the cost of cleaning it up probably costs as much as, if not more than, the price you would have paid if you had just built an in-ground pool in the first place. The difference is, here you end up with nothing, and the other scenario you would still have a pool.

I’ve left out specific details, but generally speaking the above story has happened to many pool owners. And to make matters worse, there are additional reasons why this isn’t a good idea in the first place.

It’s not safe

When you use a product in a way that it was not designed to be used, then all bets are off. There is a very high possibility that it won’t perform up to the standards you expect it to, and that can pose a safety risk when we’re talking about swimming pools.

Even the manufacturers of above-ground pools warn you that their products are not designed to withstand external ground pressure. If that isn’t a big enough warning, then I don’t know what is.

Again, the walls of above-ground pools are just thin metal sheets. The only time they are able to hold up the weight of the backfill is when they are already filled with water.

Should that water be drained for any reason (intentional or otherwise), the walls will collapse under the weight of all the dirt. Anybody that happens to be near the pool when it collapses is in serious danger.

Additionally, the walls can collapse even if the pool is always filled with water. Constant exposure to wet soil will cause any man-made material to deteriorate. General wear and tear can also weaken the structural integrity of the pool frame and walls.

Basically, an above-ground pool installed in the ground is a disaster waiting to happen. It may be fine for a while, but I don’t know how you could have peace of mind knowing that at any moment, it could collapse and endanger the lives of anybody nearby.

It voids the pool warranty

Since pool manufacturers explicitly warn you against installing their above-ground pools in the ground, all of them include terms in their warranty that it will void the warranty when installed in the ground.

Should anything happen to damage the pool, don’t expect the manufacturers to provide any help. All repairs will need to be done at your expense.

Furthermore, no homeowner’s insurance policy would ever cover such an egregious misuse of your above-ground pool either. Basically, you’re on your own when you do something this risky.

It decreases your home value

A well-maintained in-ground pool can potentially increase your home’s value by a few percentage points. Yes, there are recurring costs associated with maintaining a pool, but if a buyer wants to use the pool, then this is a selling point.

And a buyer that wants to buy a home with a pool will be savvy enough to tell the difference between a legitimate in-ground pool, and an above-ground pool buried in the ground. These are not the same thing, and the latter will decrease your home value.

Aside from the fact that it’s unsafe (already a deal-breaker), it doesn’t look the same as an in-ground pool. If anything, it will be a blemish on your property, and it will become a burden for the next potential homeowner to clean up.

From their perspective, they need to spend even more money undoing your mistake, and they will probably walk away from a deal because of that unless you foot the bill to remove the pool and fill the hole in the ground.

Is there such a thing as a partially buried above ground pool?

There actually are pools that you can partially put in the ground, and they are called semi-inground pools. These pools are not the same as your average above-ground pools. They are specifically designed to be installed partially in the ground, so they are actually deeper than they look.

To accomplish this, the pool walls are much thicker and made with more durable materials so that it can actually withstand the weight of the dirt around it, even when the pool is empty. As you’d expect, a pool like this is heavy-duty to the max and it feels like you’re installing an underground bunker.

The price range is greater than the cost of an above-ground pool, but still less than the cost of installing an in-ground pool. Estimates are in the $10,000 to $25,000 range, whereas a fully in-ground pool is about 50% more expensive than that.

Furthermore, the warranty of a semi-inground pool does cover some cases where your pool is damaged while in the ground and empty.

If you really want to put an above-ground pool in the ground, consider installing a semi-inground pool instead. Otherwise, just stick with installing an above-ground pool above the ground, preferably on concrete.

Photo Credit: Chris Grazioli CC BY 2.0