There is a misconception that above-ground pools are small. They can be very big, as big or even bigger than some inground pools in terms of how much water they can hold.
But one problem that remains is how shallow they are compared to inground pools. Most of them are so shallow you can stand up in them with your head way above the surface. Many people wonder: can above-ground pools get any deeper? And if so, how deep can they get?
Above-ground pools do not have to be completely above the ground, and indeed, you can dig up to 3 extra feet deeper, extending the depth from 4 feet to 7 feet. You will need a bigger pool liner to cover up the extra space you have created.
You can set it up so that your above-ground pool has a shallow end and deep end with a gradual slope, whether that means it is sloped toward the center of the pool or only on one end.
Common above-ground pool depths
Nowadays, the most common wall heights for above-ground pools are 48”, 52”, and 54”. Keep in mind, this is the wall height, and the pool water height is usually 6” shorter than that. Most pool owners are satisfied with this height (approximately 4’ of water depth).
That said, maybe you have a taller family, or you just like your pools to be deeper. Since the walls don’t get any higher (as that would pose some practical issues), the best option for a deeper above-ground pool is to dig deeper.
This is not the same as a semi-inground pool; you are not burying your pool walls. Instead, the pool walls remain at the surface with some ledge space as a buffer, and then you can dig deeper in the center of the pool. That way, you can potentially get an extra 1-2′ of depth at the center of the pool.
How deep can you dig for your above-ground pool?
Again, just to be clear, in no way am I advocating installing your above-ground pool structure in the ground, or even partially in the ground. The only part of the pool actually below ground level will be your expandable pool liner.
Now, with regards to a maximum depth, you might be wondering why you cannot simply dig a huge vertical hole and make your above-ground pool any depth you want.
There are two reasons for this. The first one is the size of the pool liner. If your hole is too big (and how are you digging such a deep hole in the first place), an expandable liner will not be big enough to stretch over it.
The second issue is that you should have a gradual slope from the shallowest area to the deepest area. Having a gradual slope makes it easier for you to pack the sand underneath so it’s easier to install the liner. It’s also safer so that you don’t accidentally have a misstep and then plunge to the depths.
Choosing the right pool liner
The included pool liner may be able to accommodate an additional depth of 3-4” or so, but anything deeper than that will require you to have a bigger liner.
If you want your pool to be noticeably deeper, then at the very least, you should line it with an expandable liner.
In case you are wondering how expandable an expandable liner is, it’s pretty much just a bigger liner that can accommodate a pool depth of up to 6 feet deep (from 4′).
You also don’t necessarily have to have a deep center; you can have one side of your pool be deeper and the other side much shallower. An expandable liner can accommodate both styles.
If you want an even deeper pool, then you’ll want to use a hopper liner. Hopper liners can accommodate a pool depth of up to 7′.
A “dig sheet” (kind of like a blueprint to ensure the liner meets your pool spec) is required so the manufacturer knows the shape of your pool and where the deep and shallow areas are.
Using a hopper liner, you can make your above-ground pool’s deep end have similar qualities to the deep end of an inground pool.
Installing the liner
Whichever liner you go with, the main concern is that the slope from shallow end to deep end is gradual, and that the liner is placed without getting wrinkled or damaged by UV rays.
There should be a ledge of at least 2 feet (3 feet for oval pools) inside the sidewalls before the downward grade begins.
Placing the vinyl liner can be difficult on a deeper pool. To minimize wrinkling and protect against sharp objects, you should consider placing a pool pad underneath the liner first.
Depending on the size of your pool, you may simply not have enough space for a deep pool. This is because the need for a gradual slope will limit how deep you can dig before you run out of space, and therefore you may not need a bigger liner in the first place.
Digging a deeper end for a round pool vs oval pool
It is much more straightforward to dig a deep end for a round pool compared to an oval pool.
The reason for this is due to the way they are designed. Most oval pools rely on metal straps that extend across the bottom of the pool to the other side for additional support.
Naturally, these metal straps will get in the way if your plan is to dig a deeper hole, and you will be forced to have a flat-bottom pool.
This problem is easily solvable if you have money. There are oval pool designs that do not incorporate metal straps but they are more expensive. However, this does solve the issue of not being able to dig deeper; alternatively, you could just stick with a round pool.
Photo Credit: Chris Grazioli (CC BY 2.0)