How Deep Can You Bury an Above Ground Pool?

How Deep Can You Bury an Above Ground Pool

If you’ve ever looked up the cost of installing an inground pool compared to the cost of an above-ground pool, you’ll know that inground pools are exponentially more expensive.

However, some people have had the bright idea to bury their above-ground pool to get an inground pool at a fraction of the cost. When the pool walls inevitably collapse under the weight of the earth surrounding it, these people are the same ones that provide more cautionary tales that warn the rest of us not to do it.

Naturally, the next question is: if you can’t completely bury an above-ground pool, can you perhaps partially bury it? And if so, how deep can you bury an above-ground pool?

You can partially bury an above-ground pool at most halfway into the ground (approximately 2-2.5 feet) . Even burying it halfway exposes it to much of the same collapsing risks as fully burying it. Plus, semi-inground pools exist and they actually are designed to be partially buried. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend burying an above-ground pool, even partially.

Why you shouldn’t bury an above-ground pool

Even though it’s technically doable and people have successfully partially buried their above-ground pool with no issues, there is certainly a survival bias happening. People are focusing too much on the success stories and not enough on the disaster stories. That is why in this section, I will warn you about the possible problems you could encounter.

The pool walls could cave-in years later

This reason alone is the biggest and most concerning reason as to why you shouldn’t bury your pool at all, even partially.

Many people have buried their above-ground pool and it even worked well for many years. This is because when a pool is filled with water, the water creates an outward pressure that counteracts the inward pressure that the surrounding earth is exerting on the pool walls.

The issue arises when your buried pool is emptied for any reason. If you know that the pool water is the only thing holding your side walls up, you would never willingly empty the pool.

However, what if you want to thoroughly clean your pool? What about if there is a leak in the liner? Or what if several years have passed and it is finally time to replace the liner?

Even if you know you shouldn’t drain your pool, you can find yourself in a situation where the pool must be emptied. And as soon as your pool is drained of water, that is when the walls will cave in under the weight of the soil around it.

A partially buried pool is less likely to cave in owing to the fact that it is only partially buried, but there is still a risk of it happening. And if it does, then there is no fixing a collapsed pool except by replacing it entirely.

The above-ground pool pump won’t be as effective

An above-ground pool pump is at its most effective when it is placed below the water line. They are not able to suck water when they are above the waterline.

This isn’t an issue for inground pool pumps, but that is also why they are much more expensive than above-ground pool pumps.

If you want your above-ground pool pump to still be effective when used on your partially buried pool, then you would have to dig an extra hole underground for your above-ground pump so that it is still below the waterline.

Or you could just keep your pool completely above the ground and never need worry about the potential risks of burying one .

It may be prohibited by local bylaws

Depending on where you live, there may be local bylaws with regards to the pool’s accessibility by children.

Inground pools and perhaps even semi-inground pools may need to be surrounded by a fence as a safety precaution so that children don’t accidentally fall in.

Depending on how deep you bury your above-ground pool, you may be subject to these bylaws and will have to build a fence around your pool so you don’t get penalized.

You don’t know what you’ll find if you start digging

When digging into the earth, you may find something unexpected. And it’s almost never anything cool and exciting, like treasure or oil. No, it’s almost always headache-inducing

Some common obstacles are: an old tree trunk, old concrete structures, huge boulders, electrical lines that are not to code, water mains, pipelines, old dump sites for trash, human remains, etc.

A very common problem is running into water. Most areas are fine, but some properties are located in low or wet areas where there is a lot of groundwater.

As the landowner, it is your responsibility to determine what’s underground. The digger is just going to dig, and if you did not do your due diligence, then the job can take significantly longer (and more expensive) for each impediment that you find.

Semi-inground pools exist

Why would you bury something not designed to be buried underground when you can bury a semi-inground pool which is designed to be?

Unlike above-ground pools which have thin metal walls, semi-inground pools have much thicker walls that can withstand the pressure of the soil around it.

However, the issue is once again with the cost. Semi-inground pools cost much more than above-ground pools. However, they are still far cheaper than an inground pool and can also last for decades.

That said, if budget is what’s holding you back and you’re willing to risk the walls collapsing, then you can try partially burying an above-ground pool.

Workarounds to partially burying an above-ground pool

I am leaning more towards never burying an above-ground pool, even partially, but there are some workarounds you can do to give your pool the appearance of being underground.

Build a retaining wall around the pool

You could, for example, carve out a section of a slope to make space for your pool, and have the other side of your pool still be completely above ground.

To minimize the risk of the earth crushing your pool, you could build a retaining wall to hold up the soil. Then you can install your above-ground pool with no fear of the walls collapsing because there is a much bigger, more stable wall keeping the earth back.

Remember to leave some extra space so that you can still install the pool and so that you can still reach in to grab things out if they accidentally fall into the gap between the two walls.

Build a deck around the pool

Another way you can make your above-ground pool seem like it’s below the ground is if you build a deck around it. To be fair, some people sink their pool for a deck in the first place because they don’t want their deck to be too tall.

Regardless, if you build a deck around the pool, make sure you run the deck board under the pool’s top rails. That way, it will still be easy for you to change the liner in the future without the deck boards obstructing you.

Photo Credit: Chris Grazioli (CC BY 2.0)