Installing an above-ground swimming pool semi-inground has become very popular. Unfortunately, all above-ground pools aren’t the same.
Despite the huge price difference, many don’t know of the different types of above-ground pools. So, when they buy one of the much less expensive soft-sided pools with the intention of burying it partially, they get some opposition.
This is where this article comes into play.
A soft-sided (Intex, Coleman, Bestway) type above-ground pool can be installed semi-inground. The biggest issue with doing this though is that these pools don’t last very long. And replacing partially buried pools can be very laborious.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH BURYING A SOFT-SIDED ABOVE-GROUND POOL
As mentioned above, soft-sided pools don’t last very long. Sure, you can hear plenty of stories of people having one of these pools lasting for several years.
But these outliers cannot change the fact that soft-sided pools (those made by companies like Intex, Coleman, and Bestway) only last one or two seasons on average.
Digging a big hole, putting a pool in it, filling the pool, and then backfilling the hole is a big job. And since most designs of above-ground pools don’t last forever, they will have to be replaced at some point.
Traditional metal-walled above-ground pools will last ten years or more on average. With them, potentially having to replace them every 10-15 years isn’t so bad when they are semi-inground.
If you have to replace a soft-sided pool every two or three years when semi-inground would be a major pain to most.
WHAT IT TAKES TO REPLACE AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL THAT IS SEMI-INGROUND
The majority of above-ground pools that are set in the ground some are assembled in a hole bigger than the pool and then after the pool is filled with water, dirt is placed back around the outside of the pool (backfilled).
This leaves you with a swimming pool in a hole with earth sitting directly against the outside wall of the pool. This is how it is done, is a good way, and all that is needed.
In this common scenario, when a pool needs replacing, the old pool is drained and removed leaving the hole that the pool was in.
The issue here is that you can’t just install a new replacement pool of the same size in that hole. The hole must be made bigger than the size of the pool.
So, every time a semi-inground pool has to be replaced, the hole must be dug bigger all the way around it by at least one foot. This is so there is room to assemble the new pool in the hole.
DIGGING THE EXISTING HOLE ONE FOOT BIGGER ALL THE WAY AROUND IS A BIGGER JOB THAN MOST THINK
You might be reading this and thinking “What’s the big deal? You just shave the hole one foot bigger and set the new pool in”
Sometimes this is as easy as it sounds, but not usually. Consider the following things:
1 The earth has to be thrown out of the hole
You won’t be just shaving a wall of dirt down and placing it behind you at your same level. You have to throw the dirt up and out of the hole because you have to keep the hole bottom level and smooth for the new pool.
This makes the job considerably more physical. Throwing a few hundred shovels full of dirt up and out of a hole and you’ll feel it the next day.
2 There may only be limited areas to place the dirt
People build things next to their pools. They build decks, make borders, have plants, pool equipment areas, etc.
It’s not uncommon to only have a couple of spots around the hole to place the dirt, which can really add to the difficulty of the job.
3 There may be roots in the earth
Roots commonly will grow next to a pool. And they make it tougher to shave the hole bigger as they will get in the way and will have to be cut.
4 The dirt walls could cave in
If the earth is very loose (sandy), then the wall of the hole may collapse when trying to make it bigger. This can make you have to shovel out a lot more dirt than you thought.
ONCE THE REPLACEMENT POOL IS ASSEMBLED IN THE HOLE AND FILLED, YOU AGAIN HAVE TO BACKFILL IT
The job of replacing an above-ground pool that is semi-inground is not complete until you put the dirt that you dug out back in and around the pool.
This is the easiest part of the job but will take some effort for sure.
IF YOU BUILD A RETAINING WALL, REPLACING THE POOL WILL BE MUCH EASIER
Building a retaining wall all the way around the hole where your pool is going in will prevent you from having to dig the hole out every time you replace the pool.
This may be the correct option for you if planning on burying a soft-sided pool.
There are a couple of negatives to retaining walls though. Here they are:
A Retaining walls are expensive to make properly
You can hold the earth back with just some sheets of plywood nailed in place by some 4×4 post, but the odds are that it will fail in a couple of years.
Building a proper retaining wall will incur some expense but will be worth it if you don’t want to deal with any dirt getting in your pool’s hole.
B Well-built retaining walls require some building experience and hard work
A well-done retaining wall will take a lot more effort to do than digging the hole or installing the pool.
C Retaining walls leave a deep gap around the pool
When a pool is completely backfilled, then the ground is right next to the pool with no gap.
A retaining wall will leave an open gap between the ground and the pool. This is ok if you are building a deck over it or covering it in some way.
If left open, this gap can be a hazard as anyone or anything can fall into it.
IF BURYING THE POOL VERY DEEP, KEEP IN MIND THAT THE PUMP HAS TO STAY BELOW THE POOL’S WATERLINE
Above-ground pumps cannot draw water up like an inground-type pump can. So, you have to keep the pump below the water level so it can stay primed and pumping by gravity.
SOFT-SIDED POOLS CAN BE DRAINED, BUT IF DRAINED WHILE SEMI-INGROUND, THEY MAY CAVE-IN
Soft-sided pools are called so because their liners are their walls, which is just a heavy-duty, synthetic, canvas-type material.
It’s not rigid at all, so the minute there’s no outward pressure from the pool being full of water, the outside earth can push inward and start to collapse in.
So, if you are planning on having a soft-sided pool semi-inground, then I don’t advise ever draining it (unless you have a retaining wall around it).
A SEMI-INGROUND SOFT-SIDED POOL SHOULD LAST JUST AS LONG AS ONE SET ON TOP OF THE GROUND
Most soft-sided above-ground pools are made in China with very thin and low-grade steel frames. This means the steel usually doesn’t last long before rusting through.
When a pool is semi in the ground, it’s the earth that is holding the pool (water) in place, so when the metal frame starts failing from rust, it doesn’t matter as much.
The rust will still affect the looks of the pool and swimmers may have to deal with the rusty top frame, but the pool will not collapse.
2 thoughts on “Can You Put a Soft-Sided Above Ground Pool Partially in the Ground”
Dan, I have found your articles to be very informative. Do you know of any above the ground pool installers that service the Floral City area? The previous owners of our house put in a pool that we need to move. It is in the power line right of way. It’s a 21 foot round.
You can see if Full Metal Shovel is still installing pools. They are out of the Tampa area.