The best hard-sided pool
Many of us dream of having our own backyard pool, but an in-ground system is expensive to install, and it can't come with you if you move out of your house. Instead, you could choose a hard-sided pool. The largest models are bigger than some in-ground pools, giving you plenty of room to swim and play.
This guide contains all the information you need about hard-sided pools as well as some suggested models. Our top choice is the Cornelius Pools Phoenix. Measuring 24 feet in diameter (with smaller options also available), it's a spacious choice for the entire family.
Considerations when choosing hard-sided pools
Hard-sided pools are usually constructed of either steel or aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than steel, and the slight flexibility allows it to move with the water, causing less stress on the joints. Steel is a solid choice, too, and tends to be a more affordable option than aluminum. Resin-hybrid pools are a less common option, using resin to form the frame and top rails with metal or resin-coated metal panels (because pure resin panels aren't strong enough to hold the water in a large hard-sided pool). Since resin doesn't rust or warp, a resin-hybrid pool should last longer than a 100% metal option. You'll also find a small handful of hard-sided pools with wooden exteriors. These look great and are sturdy, but tend to be expensive.
The vast majority of hard-sided pools are circular because circular models are able to withstand the pressure of the water inside without the need for buttresses. However, you can find some oval or rectangular options if this suits your space better.
Circular hard-sided pools start at around 10 feet in diameter and go all the way up to a whopping 30 feet across, which is large enough to do some serious swimming. Oval or rectangular pools are usually approximately twice as long as they are wide, so you might find 12-foot by 24-foot or 16-foot by 32-foot options, for example.
The outer shell of the hard-sided pool isn't necessarily watertight on its own, it needs a PVC or vinyl liner to sit inside. Some hard-sided pools come with the liner included, but in other cases you need to buy it separately.
Your hard-sided pool should at least have an exterior ladder to help you get in, but ideally an interior ladder, too, for easier exits.
Some hard-sided pools include a cover to keep out bugs, leaves, and other debris when not in use.
Hard-sided pool prices
You can find some small, basic hard-sided pools starting around the $600 mark, with the largest, highest-quality models retailing for more than $6,000. Expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for a solid mid-range option.
Q. How do I fill my hard-sided pool?
A. A large hard-sided pool can hold in excess of 20,000 gallons. You can fill it using a regular garden hose, but it will take a long time -- and you should expect a hefty water bill. Depending on where you live, you might have a local service that delivers water to fill pools. This is an easier option, as you don't need to do it yourself, plus it can sometimes work out cheaper than filling your pool from a tap drawing from the municipal water supply.
Q. Do I need a professional to assemble my hard-sided pool?
A. Unless you have impressive DIY skills, we'd generally recommend hiring a professional to set up your hard-sided pool. If you're up for a challenge, two to three people can assemble a large hard-sided pool in a couple of days, but it is a tricky task.
Hard-sided pools we recommend
Best of the best: Cornelius Pools Phoenix
Our take: A large, sturdy steel pool that's fairly easy to assemble if you have some DIY knowledge.
What we like: Durable and high quality from a company that offers excellent post-purchase support, should you need it. Measures 24 feet across, though you can select smaller options.
What we dislike: Liner sold separately.
Best bang for your buck: Bestway Power Steel Frame Pool Set
Our take: If your budget doesn't stretch to a metal or wooden hard-sided option, this steel frame pool deserves closer examination.
What we like: Easy to set up. No separate liner required. A range of size options to choose from, up to 22 feet.
What we dislike: The PVC-coated polyester mesh material means it arguably isn't a true hard-sided option.
Our take: Made from resin-coated steel, this sturdy pool is rust-resistant and offers a range of subtle exterior pattern choices.
What we like: Liner and skimmer included. Available in eight sizes from 12 to 30 feet in diameter. All parts fit exactly, rather than "universal" parts, which tend to be an okay fit for several pools instead of a perfect fit for one.
What we dislike: Overlap liner isn't the neatest option.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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