"> 3 Questions to ask yourself when deciding what size above ground pool to get. – Above Ground Pools Know it All

3 Questions to ask yourself when deciding what size above ground pool to get.

Above ground swimming pools come in three different shapes and several sizes. The question “What size should I get” comes early on during the deciding and buying stage of having one.

For the past 35 years, I have helped thousands of people decide on which size above ground pool to get. I have spent hundreds of hours talking to people on the phone, texting, emailing, and in person about the potential pool sizes that they may get.

I’m tired of talking about it, so I wrote this article to do two things – help people decide what size above ground pool to get, and so I don’t have to talk about it as much in person and on the phone.

When deciding what size above ground swimming pool to get, consider these three things. One – What’s the reason that you are getting the pool? Two – How many swimmers will there be using it? And three – How big is your yard?


Above ground swimming pools come in three shapes. This will be a consideration depending on the size of your yard, what you will be using the pool for, and how you want a pool to look in your yard.

1 Round shape above ground pool

Round is the most common shape for above ground pools. They are the least expensive, easiest to install, and come with more size options. Most of you will choose a round shape pool and so would I.

2 Oval shape above ground pool

Oval shaped above grounds aren’t as common but are popular. They cost considerably more and are a lot harder to install, but some get them for swimming laps better and having more of the look of a traditional inground pool.

3 Rectangle shape above ground pool

This shape is really only a consideration if you are wanting the less expensive soft-sided Intex/Coleman type above ground pool. And with those, they cost less and are easier to install.

Metal walled above ground pools in a rectangle shape are what I consider rare. In the 36 years of installing pools, I have only installed a couple of them.

During the decision-making process of getting an above ground, most will quickly dismiss getting a rectangle pool due to big things like expensive cost, unavailability, and finding someone to install it.

NOTE: Because they are so rare, I will not cover rectangle shaped above grounds in this article


People are different. Some decide to get an above ground pool in the morning and order one by that afternoon. Others spend years deciding on getting one. I had a lady some years back that called me for three years asking questions before she pulled the trigger.

Regardless of how long it takes you to buy a pool, you’ll want to ask yourself these three questions before choosing a size.

1 Why do I want a swimming pool?

This may initially sound like an obvious and stupid question, but it’s not. Many times I ask this question to pool buyers and I get a pause and a silent “pfft”. As they answer this seemingly dumb question, many start to realize that they hadn’t really thought about it.

I usually smile and chuckle to myself when I see that they have to think about the answer that seemed so silly to them a half a second earlier. Here are some common answers:

“I want one for my kids to swim in”

“I just want to be able to cool off when I’m done mowing the lawn”

“To entertain in my backyard”(have pool parties)

“It’s really just for my dogs”

“As a place to hang out, float, and relax”

“For exercise or swimming laps”

“Rehab for the elders living with us”

“Something we can use together as a family”

“I’ve just always wanted a swimming pool” (my favorite)

Asking yourself why you want a swimming pool will absolutely help you determine what size to get. As an example, many tell me that they “want a place for their kids to hang out at home instead of somewhere else”.

If this is the case, you’ll want a pool that can accommodate more than just your kids because to keep them home, they will want to invite their friends over to swim with them. And if you have a couple of physically social kids in the right age range, you may want to get a pretty big pool for them.

Another example is if a single person or couple only just want a pool to cool off or lay out in with a cocktail after work or something. With that, they don’t need a big pool.

I have installed many very small 12’ round pools for people like this and they are happy with that size for years.

The last example I will give is if someone wants “to have an oasis in my yard”. To some, the aesthetics are just as important as usage or even more so. In this example, the homeowner will have an idea of how the entire area will look after adding a deck, landscaping, lighting, and other backyard oasis components.

They will need to know just how big the pool will be in reference to the overall look they desire.

2 How many swimmers/users will be commonly using the pool?

This should be the easiest part of the formula for determining what size pool to get. You can start with how many people live in the household. If it’s just the two of you, then you may want to go with something smaller.

If you have four kids, two dogs, your parents living with you, and a pet duck, you’re definitely going to want a bigger pool.

If you have a lot of parties or have close neighbors that will come over all the time to use the pool, then consider that too.



12' round

1-2 People

15' round

1-2 People

18' round

1-3 People

21' round

Up to family of 4

24' round (most popular size)

Up to family of 5

26' round

Up to family of 5

27' round

Family of 6 or less

30' round

Any size family

33' round

Any size family

12x24 oval

1-2 People

15x30 oval

Up to family of 4

16x32 oval

Up to family of 5

18x33 oval

Any size family


Any size family

  • Consider a large dog as a household family member
  • Consider friends of the kids in the household coming to swim
  • If having lots of pool parties, go bigger than chart
  • Remember that the bigger the pool, the more cost and time for maintenance

3 How big is your yard?

For many, the size of their yard is the biggest determining factor to what size above ground pool they get. It seems to me that the closer you live to a city or town center, the smaller the lots and backyards are. Some are only able to fit a small pool in their yard.

Here in America, we all know that (wait for it) um, bigger is better. This seemingly old adage is still alive and well when it comes to above ground pools.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cram too big of a pool in a yard that was too small for it. People will cut down trees, remove nice landscaping, move sheds, and take up patios just to make room for the biggest pool they can possibly get in the yard.

If you are like this, then cool. No judgment here. Just consider that it’s nice to at least be able to walk around the outside of the pool.

For others more sensible about the size of their yard versus the pool size, it’s good to consider things like easements, how close big trees will be to the pool, being too close to the house, the flow and usage of the other components of the yard, and the yard’s overall aesthetic when choosing the size pool you’re about to add to it.


As a general rule, most people think that by getting an oval-shaped pool, it will be bigger than a comparable round shaped one. This is often the opposite.

Round shaped pools don’t seem like it, but they have more surface swim area than they appear to have. Here are some examples of ovals and how big they would be if they were round-shaped.

12×24 oval = 18’ round
15×30 oval = 22.5’ round
18×33 oval = 25.5’ round
21×42 oval = 31.5’ round

In comparing standard sizes here’s what’s bigger:

18’ round = 12×24 oval (same exact swim area)
24’ round is bigger than a 15×30 oval
26’ and 27’ rounds are bigger than an 18×33 oval
33’ round is bigger than a monster 21×42 oval


A lot of people add a deck either eventually or right after they install the pool. I have heard many times that if some would do it over, they would’ve gotten a bigger deck and a smaller pool.

In thinking about having a pool, most are thinking about the pool itself. They are thinking about how big the pool can be and who will be swimming in it. It’s only later that some pool owners consider the deck of the pool.

In most cases, the deck of the pool will get used just as much if not more than the actual pool will. This is why many wished later that they got a bigger deck. And some who do the maintenance will wish they got a smaller pool.


One of the top ten reasons why people want to get a pool is so they can swim laps. This is either for rehab on some injured body part or for exercise.

Above ground pools aren’t ideal for doing laps, but many happily and successfully do them. For this, the feedback that I have gotten was that a length of at least 30’ is needed.

This will usually mean that those wanting a pool to swim laps in as their primary reason for getting a pool will choose an oval over a round shape.

Some initially think that they might be able to swim laps in a round pool in a circle. This doesn’t work well at all. Laps need to be swam in a straight line, so decide whether you are going to get a monster 30’ or 33’ round pool or a 15×30 or longer oval shape.


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

2 thoughts on “3 Questions to ask yourself when deciding what size above ground pool to get.

    1. I’m sorry. I don’t have much knowledge about that. Have seen a few set-ups where pool owners can swim in one spot using an elastic harness if that is what you mean.

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