In the water and above the ground: Less-expensive pools growing in popularity

In the water and above the ground: Less-expensive pools growing in popularity

July 24th, 2015 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

The above ground pool of Larry and Shannon Bennett and its surrounding deck work is seen Saturday, July 18, 2015, at their home in Ooltewah, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

There's nothing more refreshing than cooling off on a hot summer day than jumping into water — whether it's a lake, river, ocean or a backyard pool.

While the lake, river or ocean may not be a feasible choice for cooling off, a backyard pool might do the trick. And it doesn't have to break the bank, especially if you opt for an above ground variety.

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For more information about pools, both above- and in-ground, visit the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals at

According to Ken Paxton, vice president and general manager of The Great Backyard Place, formerly called The Pool Place, the average cost of a 24-foot round above ground pool is $5,000. The cost of an in-ground pool of equal size is $17,000. Both cost the same to maintain, he says.

Paxton, whose been in the pool business for 30 years, says both pools are popular with homeowners. People who buy the above ground ones do so more on an impulse, though, than the folks who want an in-ground pool, he says.

"As soon as school is out, parents start thinking that the kids need something to do and having an above ground pool would be good whereas an in-ground pool is more a year-round plan, something that requires more planning," he says. "But not only is an above ground pool less expensive, it's a quicker turnaround time. Typically, after the purchase, we say it takes about two weeks to get in the water."

Larry and Shannon Bennett of Ooltewah love their above ground pool. They've been enjoying it, as well as adding decking, landscaping and buildings around it, for a decade. They opted for a small pool, just 15 feet diameter, because it would be inexpensive to maintain, Shannon says.

"It is cost-efficient," she says, noting that maintenance — mostly chemicals — is about $30 a month. They keep it open only during the warm months.

But it's not just the pool that the Bennetts love. It's what Larry, a carpenter, has done around it over time, including massive decking, a pump house, a screened-in porch, a grilling area, a hot tub, landscape lighting and concrete walkways.

"It's amazing what the Bennetts have done with such a small pool," says Kristen Gans of Tri-State Pools on Lee Highway, where the Bennetts purchased their pool. "It just goes to show that you don't have to have a big pool. You can enjoy a small one and make it beautiful with decking, etc. The Bennetts have built a small city around theirs."

The pool area has become a sanctuary of sorts to the Bennetts.

Gallery: Above-ground pools growing in popularity

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"We have been though many hardships, but our family is strong," Shannon says. "Larry's way of making things better is to make our surroundings beautiful and a happy place. When I had breast cancer in 2008, he built me the screened-in porch because I wanted to be outside a lot. I spent 90 percent of my recovery time outside on the porch or in the pool."

Bruce Gans, owner of Tri-State Pools, says the 15-foot round pool is the smallest one they sell. It holds 5,500 gallons of water.

"The basic pool kit is $1,897. The most expensive pool we offer is an 18-feet-by-33-feet oval pool, which holds approximately 19,000 gallons. The basic kit for this pool is $4,695," he says.

Gans, who has been in the pool business for nearly 40 years, says above ground pools have become increasingly popular over the last 20 years.

"Consumers have realized that it is an affordable addition," he says. "Sales seem to climb each year as consumers realize that they can have a permanent vacation in their back yard — more affordable vacation, a 'staycation.'"

And, like an in-ground pool, accessories such as lights, slides, heaters and fountains are available for above ground pools. However, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals reminds owners that safety rules apply to all pools, in- or above ground, with the additional rule that diving and jumping should be prohibited in above ground pools.

"Above ground/on-ground pools are designed for swimming and wading only," according to the association's website. "They are not designed for diving, jumping or sliding. Do not use diving boards, slides, trampolines, or any other similar objects or platform on above ground/on-ground pools. Diving, jumping, or sliding is prohibited and is extremely dangerous and can result in death or paralysis."

The life of an above ground pool depends on how well it's maintained, Gans says.

"We have customers we have sold pools to over 30 years ago that continue to come to us to buy supplies for the same pool," he says.

Typically, though, an above ground pool liner lasts an average of 10 years, the same as a liner for an in-ground pool.

"Your typical backyard in-ground pool in this part of the country is a vinyl-liner pool," he says.

The Bennetts have never had to replace their 10-year-old liner and only minor adjustments have been made on the pump, she says.

Paxton says in-ground pools are typically sold in three styles: vinyl, fiberglass and Gunnite, a concrete and plaster mix.

"Vinyl has an average life of 10 years and, when you replace it, it's like you have a new pool again," Paxton says. "The others last about 15 years and the cost to refurbish them is a lot more than buying a vinyl liner. There's no question, the above ground pool is a lot more economical."

Pools, whether in-ground or above, can be built year-round, Paxton says, noting that the only time it's not recommended, especially when working with liners, is when the air temperature is below freezing.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.