Best Framed Swimming Pools

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
149 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best framed swimming pools

Last Updated November 2019

In the heat of summer, when you feel like you live in a furnace, a framed swimming pool in the backyard sounds pretty inviting. And it is, no doubt about it. A pool is a fun summertime gathering place for friends and family. With a pool in your yard, you’ll never have trouble getting people to come for a visit. You might have trouble getting them to leave, but they’ll seldom turn down an invitation to go for a swim.

But owning a framed swimming pool isn’t all fun and games. There are some requirements that go along with having a pool, such as security and daily or weekly maintenance. When shopping, you need to decide on size, filter, cleaning mechanisms, and ladder.

We’re here to help with all of that. Our buying guide has plenty of useful tips to get you started, as well as recommendations for framed pools we think stand out from the crowd and accessories that can help you make a splash with your next pool party.

Chlorine in swimming pools kills germs that will make you sick, but it doesn’t happen instantly. Wait at least 24 hours after setting up your pool and shocking it before you get in the first time.

Key considerations

Size

Before you buy a framed swimming pool, you need to know how big your yard is. Even a pool that’s 12 feet in diameter needs a sizable yard to allow adequate space around it. You need to allow for at least 5 feet of clearance on all sides, which means that a 12-foot round pool is going to require an area that’s 22 feet in diameter devoted exclusively to it.

Capacity

A pool that’s 12 feet in diameter and 2.5 feet deep holds approximately 1,700 to 2,000 gallons of water when it’s 90% full. (You never fill a pool to the rim because it spills over.) That’s a lot of water added to your water bill. You’ll also need to constantly add water to the pool as it evaporates, gets splashed out, and gets flushed out when you backwash the filter pump when cleaning the pool.

Power

A pool filter needs electricity to run. Is there an outlet near the spot where you want to put your pool, or will you have to run an extension cord out to the pool? If you do, remember that the extension cord is going to be there as long as the pool is there because the pool pump has to run for several hours each day, including while you’re using the pool. Give some thought to where you’ll place the pool and how you’ll get electricity to the pump. This is going to increase your utility bill, too.

Location

The breeze rustling through the leaves and dappled sunlight dancing on the water’s surface may be calming, but trees and bushes near your framed pool mean that leaves and twigs will end up in the water. Swimming pools are like leaf magnets. Try to position your pool as far from any trees and bushes as you can.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Always have at least one flotation device on hand at all times around a swimming pool.

Framed swimming pool features

Filter

Your framed swimming pool is going to need a filter to keep the water clear and clean. There are two kinds: sand and cartridge.

  • Sand: This is the oldest and best-known type of pool filter. When the pump forces water through the sand, the rough edges of the sand particles catch dirt and debris, cleaning the water. They work well and are dependable. Sand filters last for several years before you have to change the sand.

    On the downside, sand filters are heavy. It takes 200 or 300 pounds of sand to fill a small sand filter. If you get a framed swimming pool with a sand filter, make sure you know where it’s going to go, because once it’s in place, you aren’t going to want to move it. Sand filters aren’t as energy efficient as cartridge filters, and they need to be cleaned by backwashing, a process that uses a lot of water.
     

  • Cartridge: Cartridge filters are easier to clean than sand filters and don’t require backwashing, so you don’t have to waste nearly as much water. Cartridge filters are more expensive than sand filters and have to be replaced about once a year, sometimes more often.

Material

  • Sides: The fabric on soft-sided framed swimming pools is almost always triple-layered polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Rigid pools are made of fiberglass with a PVC liner. Most pools are blue, though occasionally you’ll see other colors like orange or yellow.

  • Frame: Depending on the size of the pool (and how much weight the frame has to hold), the frame is made of either PVC pipes or galvanized steel with a rust-resistant coating.

Ground cloth

It’s important to place a ground cloth beneath an above-ground pool. The durable material protects the pool liner from getting punctured by stones or twigs. Water is heavy (8.34 pounds per gallon), and all that weight pressing down on a tiny pebble can lead to it puncturing the bottom of the pool. The ground cloth provides an extra layer of protection.

Assembly

Pools with an inflatable rim generally don’t need any assembly. You take them out of the box, inflate the rim, and start filling them with water. By contrast, small pools with rigid poles can take anywhere from half an hour to a day to fill. The larger the pool, the longer it will take.  Be prepared for that.

Accessories

  • Pool skimmer: A skimmer, a fine mesh net with a wide mouth attached to a long pole, is for scooping leaves and floating debris out of the water. If you’re looking for an affordable option, we like the Milliard Pool Leaf Skimmer Net.

  • Vacuum head: When you need to vacuum the bottom and sides of the pool, a low-priced vacuum head that runs off the filter pump is a necessity. Swimline makes a popular triangular vacuum head and sells them in one-packs and two-packs for convenience.

  • Vacuum hose: connecting the vacuum head to the filter pump is the vacuum hose. You need a hose that can reach across the swimming pool. Poolmaster’s Heavy-Duty In-Ground Pool Vacuum Hose is a top seller, and you can choose from a range of hose lengths based on your need.

  • Wall brush: Swimming pool maintenance also requires a brush to scrub the bottom and sides of the pool to dislodge any algae or other debris that has attached itself to the pool. Swimline’s aluminum brush for pool walls and floors is an affordable choice with stiff bristles for a good clean.

  • Chlorine tabs: these slowly dissolve in the water to kill algae and microorganisms that will pollute the water and turn it green. Chlorine tabs come in three-inch or one-inch varieties. Clorox sells tabs in a variety of quantities for your convenience.

  • Shock for swimming pools: Shock is powdered chlorine. It is used to “shock” the pool into the correct pH balance when you’re first filling it with water or when the water has turned green or cloudy and you need to give it a quick boost of chlorine to “shock” it back into balance. We like this shock treatment by HTH because it reliably kills bacteria and algae, keeping your water safe and balanced.
EXPERT TIP

Make sure the swimming pool ladder is well anchored before using it.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Sweat, cosmetics, and body oils will contaminate the water in the swimming pool if you get in the water without a shower.


Staff  | BestReviews

Framed swimming pool prices

Under $50 is where you’ll find wading pools. They are either wading pools or so close to it, it makes no difference.

$100 to $300 is where you’ll find pools that are 12 to 15 feet in diameter and 30 to 48 inches deep. These pools will require an investment of time and energy to set them up and several thousand gallons of water to fill them.

Over $300 is where the larger, more permanent pools are found. There’s no upper limit on these pools and what they cost. You need to look carefully at the filter pumps that come with them. Often, they’re not big enough to handle the volume of water and you have to purchase a separate filter pump.

Tips

  • Get the best water testing kit available. Cutting corners on water testing is how people get in trouble with their pools.

  • The optimum temperature for swimming pool water is 76 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Always shower before you get in the pool.

Other products we considered

We like the Intex 15ft x48in Pool Set. This is a complete set with the filter pump, a ladder, a ground cloth, and a pool cover. Not only is it complete, but it is also ready to start filling with water in 15 minutes. You just inflate the top ring and turn on the garden hose. Normal water capacity is just over 3,700 gallons.

We also like the massive Intex 18ft X 52in Ultra XTR Pool Set. Again, it comes with everything you need. The interlocking metal frame is galvanized steel with a rust-resistant coating. The sand filter requires you purchase the sand separately and the pool holds nearly 7,000 gallons. It's also the most expensive pool we looked at.

Showering before swimming makes pool maintenance easier because there is less to clean up.

FAQ

Q. My pool smells like chlorine. Do I have too much chlorine in it?

A. Just the opposite. The chlorine smell is from used chlorine, called chloramine, in the water. If you can smell chlorine in your pool, it means you need to add more chlorine.

Q. Why is the water in my pool cloudy?

A. The pH balance could be wrong, you could have a bad filter, or there could be too much dust and debris in the water.

Q. What is a flocculant?

A. Flocculants are a class of chemicals used to clean swimming pools when other methods aren’t working. They make floating particles in the water clump together and sink to the bottom of the pool. It makes it easy to vacuum them out of the water.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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