"> 21 point inspection for a used above-ground pool – Above Ground Pools Know it All

21 point inspection for a used above-ground pool

Buying a used above-ground swimming pool used to be less common. Since 2020 though, with disrupted supply chains and an “economy destroying” level of inflation, people are buying used above grounds a lot more.

Not all used above-ground pools are in good enough shape to purchase or re-sell though. Some will not come apart well and others may be too corroded to last very long.

The good news with buying a used above-ground pool is that you can get something really nice for much less than the crazy prices for new ones since 2020.


1 You are buying a house that has an existing above ground pool

Just like with the rest of the house, inspecting the pool before buying is a good idea. The pool may look to be in great shape but isn’t.

2 You are buying the pool itself

In most cases, people sell and buy used above-ground pools while they are still up and full of water. Then they must be disassembled and re-installed at the purchaser’s yard.

This is a good opportunity to inspect the pool as a functional swimming pool and not just a bunch of parts in a garage.

NOTE: This article is not about inspecting soft-sided above-ground pools like those made by Intex or Coleman. Soft-sided pools like this usually only last a season or two (on average), so buying one used for anything more than “really cheap” or free is not recommended.


I want to make this your focus right from the start. If you absorb only one thing from this article, remember that rust is the enemy to you buying a used above-ground pool.

Rust or corrosion is not great for any part of the pool, but the wall is where rust will be your biggest concern. The wall holds all of the water, so if too rusty, then it may fail in a little while.

An above-ground pool bursting open from a rusted-through wall is the greatest catastrophe an above-ground can experience. You don’t want to buy a used pool, put it up in your yard, then six months later you have a mini-tsunami.

Scared yet? Good. Don’t buy a pool with a rusty wall. And don’t sell one either.


1 Ask for original paperwork or any information on the pool

Being able to take a look at the original receipt will give you a lot of good info. This information will help you decide if the pool is worth it to you and verify some of what you were told about it. Find out the following:

A How much was paid for it
B What size is the pool
C Pool manufacturer and model
D Pump/filter specs and info
E Date it was purchased (how old is the pool)
F Liner type

You may have noticed that I didn’t list warranty info on the list. In truth, above-ground pool warranties aren’t very good and are usually not transferable so don’t make any warranty status (that you are being told) a factor in the sale.

Also, if the seller has any maintenance or repair paperwork (receipts, e-mails, etc.), then that would be helpful. It will be good to know if the liner or pump was ever replaced.

2 List all of the pool’s extras

Usually, when someone is selling a pool, they will want to include everything that they have associated with the pool. Extras may include:

A Chemicals
B Chemical storage
C Pool covers
D Pool floats
E Pool service/cleaning equipment
F Ladder/steps
G Toys
F Decking
G Misc. (patio stones, equipment pad, timer, etc.)

The cost of some of these things can really add up, so consider these as “deal sweeteners” if selling or buying the pool.

3 Check how well maintained it is around the outside of the pool

It has been my long-term observation (36 years installing) that above-ground pools that are well maintained around the outside of them will last much longer.

Look to see if they have some mulch or rock and a border around the pool. Having this ensures that the outside wall of the pool never got cut by a weedeater or had anything growing up next to it (which may trap moisture).

4 Find out if the pool was professionally installed

I’m not just saying this because I’m an installer, but pools that are installed well will last longer. Finding out that the pool was installed by a professional should give you some peace of mind.

This is not a guarantee though. Some “professional” installs are horrible and some DIY installs are perfect. Statistically though, it’s better when installed by a professional.

5 See if the pool is level

A metal-walled above-ground pool installed off-level may not affect anything, but it’s good to know whether it’s level or not.

If you are inspecting the pool because you are buying the house, then you want to know this as it may be something that will bother you later. It may not too. Just depends on your personality.

If you are inspecting because you will be putting the pool up at your home, then it’s good to know as it may give you a small fight when you install it level this second time if it is off two inches or more.

Learn how to check for level here

6 Take cross-measurements to see if the pool is in a good round shape

Above-ground pools aren’t Swiss watches. This means that they aren’t made to go up perfect. Round pools can easily go up more “egg-shaped” instead of round and stay up.

Again, if you are checking out a pool with a home, this may or may not matter to you.

If buying just the pool and re-installing it though, then when you re-install an egg-shaped pool and try to get it the correct round shape, it will fight you going up. Keep in mind that this pool was egg-shaped for a while, so some of the frame parts will have that memory.

Measure across the pool in a straight line from inside to inside (liner to liner) at several different spots. The number should be somewhat consistent everywhere. If so, then the pool is round.

7 Make sure no parts of the pool are missing

This is more important if you were buying a pool that has already been disassembled. Above-ground pool parts can be hard to find and expensive, so make sure you have everything.

When you are looking at an above-ground pool for sale while it’s still up, then it’s easy to tell when there is something missing. Look at all of the top caps, top rails, and uprights.

Usually, when up, the only missing parts will be some pieces of the top caps of the pool.

Make sure too, that the pool has a complete pump and filter. If it looks like something is missing over at the equipment area, ask and find out. Don’t assume anything.

8 Inspect the top rails for shape

The top rails for a metal-walled above-ground pool can be made of steel, aluminum, or resin.

If steel or aluminum, check for corrosion and if misshaped. Rusty top rails may not be a deal-breaker for you, but that should take some value from the sale as they are ugly, sometimes dangerous(sharp), and small pieces of rust can fall into the pool, which can be very annoying.

If the top rails are made of resin, then they can fade and warp over time. Certain models with resin top rails will droop down and lose their shape in a couple of years. This is worth noting as it doesn’t look as good.

9 Inspect the top caps

Top caps come in all different shapes, sizes, and designs for above grounds. Some will be one piece and simply snap over the top rails and others will be two or three-piece and have a very specific way they attach to the top rails/uprights.

Most top caps are made of resin (even if the top rails are metal). This is a weak link with the frame of above-ground pools.

Top caps are the first thing to break and crack, so inspect each one of these closely. See if they are solidly in place and for any cracks or breaks.

Top caps have no structural value with the frame of the pool, but they do cover where the ends of the top rails connect. And you want that area covered for looks and safety.

10 Inspect the uprights

The pool’s vertical posts or “uprights” are made of either metal or resin. If metal, check for rust and any denting/disfigurement. If resin, check for any cracks.

Make sure the uprights are tightly in place and not just hanging there. Any uprights loose from the bottom track(or top rails) are a cause for concern. This means something has broken, badly rusted, or came apart when filled due to being severely out of shape (See #6)

11 Look under the top rails all the way around

This is an important step!

Look under each top rail both from the inside and outside of the pool. What you are checking for here is rust/corrosion.

In reality, chlorine and saltwater don’t cause much rust, but the trapped fumes from chlorine can cause it for sure. With above grounds, the air just above the waterline can get trapped under the top rails and eventually cause rust.

Usually, if a frame of an above-ground pool has rust, it will be under the top rails, so it’s very important to look under each and every top rail.

Secondarily, looking in this area may show you some resin parts that are in brittle, bad shape, or out of place.

12 Expose the bottom track of the pool to inspect

Metal-walled above-ground pools have bottom tracks that the wall fits into. You will be able to see the tracks on the outside of the pool.

In most cases, the bottom track will be covered with dirt or rocks/mulch. Use a shovel to scrape away the dirt/rocks/mulch and expose the bottom track. It will run in a curve between each upright.

Bottom tracks for above-ground pools can be made of steel or resin. If steel, check for rust. If you notice that the wall is out of the track in some places, don’t worry about it. It’s fine not in the track.

If the track has some rust, that’s not ideal, but may still be ok. If rusted really badly, then you may need some new parts when re-installing. And that can be a pain.

13 Check the entire wall for rust or corrosion

This is another important step. The pool’s wall is the worse place to have rust.

Look at every part of the outside of the wall from top to bottom. Rust can be at the very bottom of the wall, so you will see that when you inspect the bottom track (See #12).

The most common area for wall rust is under the skimmer and under the return fitting. Look under these areas very, very closely.

14 Check skimmer box and return fitting

There are usually only two openings in the pool’s wall. And they are where the skimmer and return fitting is attached.

These are by far the most common areas of the pool’s wall to have a leak and eventually rust/corrosion. Look very closely under the skimmer and return. Look for any discoloration on the wall.

If there is any discoloration, it will usually be vertically shaped and look as if something has/had been leaking. And this usually means that the skimmer or return either was or still is leaking.

Check the skimmer box. It will be made of plastic and should look good with some shine to it. If the plastic looks dull or brittle, then it may need a new skimmer if and when you re-install the pool.

Same thing with the return fitting. It is made of plastic and should look good.

15 Check pool equipment

Take a nice long look at the pump and filter and any other components to the pool’s equipment. Look for anything that resembles a leak.

A If any valves, turn them to make sure they move well
B Take the lid off of the pump basket. Make sure it comes off easy.
C If a sand filter, turn the multi-port valve to see how well it moves.
D If a cartridge type filter, take off the lid/top body to access the element. Note how hard or easy it is to take off and put back on. Check the condition of the element inside.
E If connected with plastic flex hoses, inspect their condition. New ones may be needed for the re-install if they are old
F If hard piped, check the PVC piping making sure nothing is leaking.

Turn on the pump and inspect everything while in operation. Check for active leaks or loud noises. Make sure the water is returning back to the pool very strong by putting your hand over the return fitting inside the pool.

16 Inspect any add-on equipment

An above-ground pool may come with things like a salt-chlorine generator, ionizer, chlorinator, Frog system, heater, etc. Many times, these components will only work the first year the pool is installed and then just remain plumbed in but not being used.

Check to make sure these things work. The pool seller may tell you that they don’t too and that’s ok. Most of these add-ons are not needed but it’s good to know if they are in operation.

If there are any pool lights, check them to make sure they are working.

If an add-on is not working, you’ll be able to leave it out of the equipment when re-installing the pool. Again, they are add-ons to help with pool maintenance and chemistry but not necessary.

17 Inspect the ladder/steps

There are all kinds of different ladders or steps that can be on an above-ground pool. This is where people get in and out of the pool, so you want something sturdy and safe.

Check the condition of the ladder/steps making sure they are assembled and attached well. Give them a good shake to see how they move.

18 Check all electrical

Check the condition of any outlets, timers, or electric connections to the pool’s equipment and/or lighting. This is mainly if you are buying the home along with the pool.

People run electricity in all different ways and levels of quality for above-ground pools. If inspecting the pool because you are buying the house, you may want to upgrade the way electricity was run to the pump.

19 Inspect bottom for wrinkles or divots

Make sure the pump is off and the water still, look down into the pool and inspect the bottom. This is mainly again just for inspecting a pool that is staying with the house.

Look for big wrinkles and any channels or divots in the bottom. This will tell you how hard it will be to vacuum and keep clean. It may also tell you if the pool was installed professionally or DIYed.

NOTE: If buying a used above-ground pool to take down and re-install later, you will absolutely need a new liner.

20 Inspect the pool’s liner

Good quality above-ground pool liners last from 5-8 years before needing to be replaced. If check this pool because you are buying the property it’s on, then you’ll want to see the condition of the liner.

Notice if the liner pattern is fading and how faded it is. Look for the original pattern at the top of the liner(under the top rails on the inside) or behind the inside steps.

While looking under the top rails, find out the liner type. It will either be an overlap, unibead/j-hook, or beaded. You will want to know this if you have to buy a new liner when re-installing the pool.

21 MOST IMPORTANT!!! Check the inside of the pool’s wall for corrosion

I saved the most important inspection point for last because you may not be able to do it.

The inside of the wall of an above-ground pool is where rust/corrosion can kill the pool. Unfortunately though, the pool must be drained and the liner removed before you can do a complete inspection of the inside surface of the wall.

Many will have no choice but the buy the pool and start disassembling it until they can see whether it has rust on the wall.

If everything else with the pool inspection looks good, then the pool is most likely ok, but not always. An above-ground pool can look great on the outside but have catastrophic rust or corrosion that you can’t see on the inside of the wall.

My advice as the buyer and seller is to make the deal to buy/sell, but if, while disassembling the pool, severe wall rust is discovered, then the deal is reduced or off.


Some think that aluminum cannot rust. And they don’t rust per se (turn reddish-brown and flake off in big areas), but they do corrode.

There are so many retailers that sell continuous roll aluminum walled pools as pools that cannot rust/corrode. And they certainly can!

When aluminum walls corrode, it’s more subtle looking but is just as deadly to the pool. Aluminum walls corrode in small areas that turn white and then form tiny pinholes. And these pinholes will eventually cause the wall to split open and send the water out into the yard tsunami-style.

When the pool has an aluminum wall, check for white spots on the inside of the wall. Check further for tiny pinholes. If you see this, don’t buy the pool.

NOTE: This does not apply to the more expensive extruded aluminum walled above-ground pools. They will corrode but are thick enough to never form pinholes.


Dan writes with the knowledge of having 35 years (and counting) in the above ground pool industry.

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