How Deep Can an Above Ground Pool Be?

There are a number of considerations involved with installing an above-ground swimming pool. The pool’s location, design, and size are just a few points to consider before beginning the installation process. One question that may come to mind during the planning process is how deep can an above-ground pool be?

In general, above-ground pools are designed in three heights: 48 inches, 52 inches, and 54 inches. That being said, a pool’s wall height doesn’t determine how much water an individual will have to swim in. Most pools have a water depth of 6 inches less than the pool wall’s height.

In addition to having these three wall heights, many above-ground pools also have a deep end. If you’re interested in learning more about how deep above-ground pools can be, read on to learn the average depths of above-ground pools and how to create a deep end in your pool.

How Deep Are Above Ground Pools?

Though deep above-ground pools are now favored for their high water levels, their tall heights were originally designed for a different purpose. Rather than providing deeper water levels, deep above-ground pools were originally built to give privacy to swimmers. As deep above-ground pools became more popular, however, pool-owners preferred filling their pools as high as possible.

Because most pool-owners now fill their above-ground pools as much as their pools allow, the average depths of above-ground pools are 48″, 52″, and 54″. Keep in mind that the actual water depth may be lower than this, as most above-ground pools are filled only as high as the midpoint of the pool skimmer.

While the aforementioned depths are the most common sizes for above-ground pools, it is possible to have swimming pools deeper than this. In fact, many above-ground pools are as deep as 8 feet or more. This is made possible thanks to the elasticity of the vinyl liners.

Additionally, a swimming pool’s dimensions affect the pool’s ability to be deep. The smaller your swimming pool is, the less likely it will be any deeper than 54″. Large pools, on the other hand, may have tall wall heights and even a deep end.

Can You Have a Deep End in an Above Ground Pool?

As you consider how deep of an above-ground pool you should install, you may come across the question, Can you have a deep end in an above-ground pool? Though above-ground pools are often thought to have the same depth the whole way across, it is possible to have both a shallow and a deep end in your above-ground pool. Here’s how:

Deep ends in above-ground pools are made possible through the use of expandable liners. While many people think expandable liners are used to expand un-expandable liners, their purpose is actually to add additional vinyl. In order to understand this better, we’ll take a closer look at how pool expandable liners work.

Pool Expandable Liners

What confuses many people is that vinyl pool liners are already expandable. In fact, there really is no such thing as an un-expandable pool liner. The purpose of expandable liners is not to make a pool suddenly expand, but instead to add additional space. Unlike standard pool liners, expandable liners are crafted with 12 inches of extra side vinyl material. Due to this increase of material, above-ground pools are capable of having a deeper water level in the middle.

By adding expandable liners to your swimming pool, you can have an additional foot of depth in the center of the pool. In addition to the increase of material from the expandable liners, the vinyl liners will continue to stretch, accommodating spaces not shaped exactly like perfect pools. With these two materials combined, many above-ground pools can exceed the average depth of 4 to 4.5 feet.

Once your expandable liners are installed, the process of creating a deep end is easy. In most cases, the best way to make a deep end is by digging out space in the center of where your pool will sit. Depending on how deep you want the middle to be, you may dig a foot or two below the ground’s surface.

Remember, any time you dig out an area to increase your pool’s depth, you should use an expandable liner. Without an expandable liner, the pool will be unable to have a deep end.

A Proper Slope Matters

Before digging out a deep end in your above-ground pool, it’s important to plan out a gradual slope. For safety reasons, most liners are designed to not stretch farther than one foot deeper than the pool’s center. For example, because of this restriction, pools that are five feet deep will have a middle depth of six feet.

If you find the pool’s center depth too shallow for your liking, you can always install expandable liners. As we explained earlier, expandable liners increase the vinyl side material by 12″, allowing your pool’s center to have an additional foot of depth.

Pool Size is Important

The size of your pool greatly impacts your pool’s ability to have a deep center depth. Because above-ground pools require a gradual slope, smaller pools are unable to accommodate the same amount of depth as a larger above-ground pool.

Not having a gradual slope on a small or large pool can be uncomfortable as well as dangerous for swimmers. One such danger is that the steepness of the slope can make it difficult for individuals to get out of the deep end. Additionally, automatic pool cleaners may get stuck in the deep end of the pool, and uncomfortable bumps may form due to overstretching of the liner. Thus, it is always necessary to have a gradual slope, even if you desire a deep end in your small above-ground pool.

In general, above-ground pools are available in the following sizes: 12’, 15’, 18’, 21’, 24’, 27’, 30’, and 33. While it is possible to have a deep end on each one of these sizes, you’ll have a deeper depth the larger the pool is. In short, if you want a deep center pool depth, consider investing in a large above-ground pool.

Consider Your Above Ground Pool Shape

In addition to selecting an appropriate pool size, you’ll also want to choose a specific shape for your above-ground pool. Above-ground pools come in rectangular, square, oval, and circular shapes, although oval and circular are the most common. If you’re interested in creating a deep end in your above-ground pool, it’s important to consider your pool’s shape.

Because most circular pools lack braces and straps, they are easier to work with when digging deeper at the pool’s center base. Oval pools, on the other hand, are built with straps and braces, making it more difficult to create a deep end. And while it is possible to buy oval pools without braces, these pools tend to be more expensive than regular oval pools.

If you’re looking for the easiest pool to work with, consider using a round above-ground pool. With their flexible design, circular pools will easily create deep and shallow ends when placed at a dug-out location.

How High Should the Water Level be in an Above Ground Pool?

Once you install your above-ground swimming pool, you may wonder how high an appropriate water level is. Whether your pool has a flat bottom or has deep and shallow ends, understanding the proper water level is essential for maintaining your above-ground pool.

As a general rule, the water level should be six inches below the top of the swimming pool. Another way to determine a pool’s water level is by looking at the skimmer. For most swimming pools, the water level should be at the midpoint of the skimmer. Depending on the skimmer you have, you may also use the top screw of the skimmer as a marker for where your water level should be.

Having a water level too low or too high can cause serious damages to your pool. Here, let’s take a closer look at why your pool’s water level should stay at an ideal height.

Dangers of a Water Level Too Low

A water level too low in above-ground pools can cause serious damages to both the filters and the motors. A pool’s mechanical equipment needs an appropriate flow of water in order to operate smoothly. When the water level becomes too low, the filters slowly begin to fail and may even become permanently damaged.

Not only are low water levels more serious than high water levels, but they are also more common. Due to evaporation and loss of water caused by splashing in the pool, pool water levels can quickly drop. What’s more, vacuuming, backwashing, and pool leaks can also cause water levels to lower.

In addition to causing damage to the filters and motors, low water levels in pools can ruin your pool’s liners. Because above-ground pools rely on water to maintain their structure, the liners can shrink when the pool is empty or only partially filled. Once the liner shrinks, it will need replacing. Without a sturdy liner, your pool is at risk of collapsing in harsh weather.

How to Prevent Damage Caused by Low Water Levels

In order to keep your above-ground pool running efficiently, it’s important to monitor your pool’s water level. During hot weather, you may check the water level as often as once a day. If the water is at or below the bottom of the skimmer, turn the filters off immediately. You may then add water until it reaches an appropriate water level.

Dangers of a Water Level Too High

Another issue concerning pool water levels is having a water level too high. While this isn’t as serious as a water level too low, there still are some drawbacks.

Most commonly, high pool water levels occur during heavy rain showers. After just one thunderstorm, you may notice your pool’s water level is higher than the skimmer or even overflowing. Fortunately, there is little harm in this.

The main issue of a high water level is that the filter system becomes less efficient. In order for the skimmer to properly work, the water level must remain at the skimmer’s level. When a pool is overflowing, the skimmer is unable to properly filter the water.

When a pool is overflowing, debris is more likely to float over the edge of the pool rather than becoming trapped in the skimmer. While this saves time in cleaning, it also means the skimmer is unable to properly run.

Overflowing may also occur when a hose is accidentally left turned on. In this case, the main concern to worry about is flooding. While little damage may be done to your pool, high water levels can cause significant damage to patios, decks, and even your house. If you notice your pool has a high water level, it is important to take action immediately to prevent water damage on your property.

How to Lower a Pool Water Level

There are several options for lowering a pool’s water level. When the water level is only at the edge of the pool, little interference is necessary. Most likely, the water will evaporate or get splashed out by swimmers.

If you feel the water level is too high and is flooding areas surrounding your pool, you may consider backwashing the filter. Simply put, the backwashing process reverses the flow of water in a swimming pool filter. By backwashing the filter, you can drain water until the water level returns to normal.

Maintaining a proper water level is a major part of above-ground pool maintenance. By monitoring your pool’s water level, you can prevent making costly repairs on both your pool and your home.

Whether you install a shallow pool or a deep above-ground pool, it’s important to check your pool’s water level several times a week, if not daily. If you notice an unusual water level, it’s important to immediately take action. Whether this means draining out water or filling the pool with a hose, proper maintenance can prolong your pool’s lifespan. In return, you can enjoy having an above-ground swimming pool for many years to come.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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