Many years ago, above ground swimming pools were only made having steel frames. The pool frame is simply the bottom track (where the bottom of the pool wall slides into), the uprights (the vertical posts that attach the bottom track to the top rails), and the top rails (which connect together and lay over the top of the pool wall). These older steel frames would for the most part hold up well and look good for years. Today’s above ground pool frames are greatly improved and you now have the option of getting parts of the pool frame made from either steel or resin.
When it comes to an above ground pool frame, the top rails are the most important part. They are mostly what you see and interact with when using the pool. They also have the most exposure to direct sunlight and the pool water. It’s important to have good quality top rails as part of the pool’s frame so here’s a look at the differences and advantages of steel top rails verses resin top rails.
Steel Top Rails. Manufacturers like Doughboy and Wilbar have been making tops rails out of steel for more than half a century so you could say the bugs have been worked out. The pros to steel top rails are they will never crack, warp, or break and are coated so they will look good for years and in most cases will not rust. Steel rails will also not crack or break off where they screw together under the top caps. Steel top rails also cost less than the resin ones. The cons to steel top rails are that they can fade and possibly get some rust over the years. They can also get dented from heavy abuse by horseplay. Finally, steel top rails can get hot to the touch from direct sunlight beating down on them. NOTE: The metal top rails that come with overseas(Chinese and Japanese) pools are of cheaper thinner quality and don’t hold up nearly as well as US or Canadian made steel top rails.
Resin Top Rails. Above ground pool manufacturers have been making resin top rails for nearly twenty years now and they have stood the test of time. The pros to resin top rails are they will never rust or fade and always look good. They won’t dent and there is no paint or coating to wear off. Resin rails are generally more stylish and don’t get nearly as hot to the touch from the sun as steel rails do. They may sag a little from extreme horseplay but not nearly as bad as steel rails do. The cons to resin top rails for above ground pools are they cost more money and are usually only available with upgraded models. Also, some resin designs are prone to crack where they are screwed to the top connector (which is just a nuisance during during installation and re-liner installation). NOTE: Just like the steel top rails, resin top rails from overseas pools are thinner and cheaply made resulting in them not lasting as long.
In the general sense, resin top rails overall are a better choice over steel ones but like most things that are better, they’ll cost you more. They will give you more too by looking better longer and never rusting.