Above ground swimming pools have been popular for over 60 years now and until about 15 years ago, they were all manufactured with metal walls. Thats when the soft-sided above ground pool started to become available widespread. Soft-sided above grounds came out of the retail gate hot and heavy and within a few years, they were outselling their steel wall counterpart. But after just a few years of increased prosperity, the soft side pool craze began to wane and sales dropped off considerably. Today, soft-sided above ground pools have survived mainly as an extremely inexpensive pool option and the metal wall above ground has returned as the preferred quality above ground design. Lets take a look at some pros and cons of each type of above ground pool.

With the exception of a very few, soft-sided or canvass sided swimming pools are all ultra inexpensive and are made in and arrive from China. There are only two real advantages to these pools – they cost very little and they install very easily. Chinese soft pools can come complete with pool, ladder, and pump & filter for a low as $300.00 and the vast majority of them are sold in the range of $300 to $800. They’re are some canvass pools that are a little nicer that go for over $1000 as well. Soft-side pools also install very quickly and easily as well. For most, you just make sure the ground is level, throw down a tarp, and do a simple assembly right on top of the tarp, hook up the equipment, and start filling with water and its ready to go. Now for the bad news – they’re super cheaply made and don’t last very long.

Most all of these soft sided pools will only last one swim season and then they have to thrown out. Some will last two seasons and if you are lucky and don’t use it much, you could get three seasons worth before its off to the landfill. These pools not lasting very long is not the worst part though. The worst part is having to try to work with the super poor quality and super undersized pump and filter that comes with it. This Chinese equipment works horribly at maintaining the pool water and most people are constantly fighting green pool water as a result. To help put things in a proper perspective, a good working quality pump and filter usually cost between $300 and $500 by itself which is often the same price as what an entire soft-sided pool cost. So if real above ground pool equipment cost that much, imagine how cheap and insignificant the pump and filter that comes with the chinese soft pool is. We in fact get thousands of inquiries a year from soft-side pool owners asking if they can get a better pump and filter for their pools to which we have to reply “no”. Real pool equipment most often cannot be retro-fitted on to these soft pools because the fittings and openings that they come with are not universal and can only fit stuff from that particular Chinese manufacturer. This is often the biggest reason pool owners will give up swimming in a green unhealthy pool and take it down and throw it away.

Most other standard sized things don’t fit on these pools either. The above ground swimming pool industry has many options for steps and ladders to which most won’t fit on a soft-sided pool. Also, most of the many automatic pool cleaners can not only hook up to these pools(from non-standard openings), they wouldn’t work well anyway due to a lack of good suction from a poor and small pool pump. People generally are discouraged to build a deck next to a soft-sided pool because they know the pool won’t last and they’ll be stuck with a tall deck and no pool.

Part two of this blog will cover the pros and cons of metal walled above ground pools.


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