"> Oval vs Round Above Ground Pools – Above Ground Pools Know it All

Oval vs Round Above Ground Pools

Future above ground swimming pool owners have about twenty decisions to make. Some of the more common ones are “How big of a pool,” “Where in the yard do we build it,” “Are we going to build a deck with it”, “Where do we buy from,” “How much do we spend,” “Which liner do we get,” and the list goes on.

One of the big decisions early on that people have to make with above grounds is “What shape do we get?” Do we get an oval or a round pool?”

Oval Vs Round above ground pool

If you are in this stage of deciding on an above ground pool, you are in luck. I’m going to tell you everything about whether to choose a round-shaped pool or an oval-shaped pool.


Round shape

Round above ground pools are by far the most common shape. They have the simplest design, the least expensive, and the easiest to install. Round above grounds have a lot of sizes the choose ranging from a display model 8’ round all the way up to a monster 36’ round.

Oval shape

Ovals are much less common but there are a lot of them. Their designs are much more complicated with a lot more parts, cost considerably more, and can be an outright pain to assemble and install. Ovals range in size from a tiny 8’x12’ up to the giant 21’x43’.

Rectangle shape

Rectangle above grounds are very uncommon. I don’t know too much about them because of this. Well, that and I usually turn down the opportunity to build them. In truth, I have only built a couple of them and that is good with me. They are slightly more complex than ovals, the most expensive of the three shapes, and are the hardest to install.

Please keep in mind that I am not talking about the Intex type soft-sided rectangle pools. They are much easier and cheaper but I don’t like installing them either.

This is the last that I will mention rectangle-shaped above ground pools in this article as they are way too uncommon to be relevant.


They cost less to buy

Round above grounds have a lot fewer parts so that means they cost less than ovals.

Easier to self-install or DIY

People aren’t as physical as they used to be, but a lot of homeowners still will attempt to install their own above ground pool. It’s not as easy as some think, but round pools are a hell of a lot easier to install if you don’t know what you are doing than ovals are.

When people ask me if I think they can install their own above ground pool, I always say the same thing. “If you are fairly mechanically inclined, you can probably pull off installing a round pool. But I wouldn’t advise trying to install an oval.”

Simpler design

Because of their shape, round pools hold the water (which is quite heavy and above the ground) more evenly. This means the design is simple and there is much less that can go wrong. I like it simple. Simple is good.

It may circulate better

With above ground pools, good circulation can be an issue. Inground pools with different shapes will have several jets spaced out so it can return the filtered water back to the pool more evenly. More importantly, those jets will work together to help make the entire body of water move at the same time. This will prevent any dead spots in the pool where water doesn’t move much.

Above ground pools only come with one return jet and it is really close to the skimmer, which is where the water comes in to be filtered. The result of that can be the pool as a whole not circulating its water very well.

With a round shaped pool though, that one jet can be turned to send the filtered water returning back to the pool more parallel with the pool’s wall. So, because the pool is a cylinder, this parallel flow will cause a whirlpool in the entire pool. This leaves no dead spots.

Can be easier to keep clean

As a result of this whirlpooling of the pool, a lot of the debris will make its way to the bottom center of the pool (which is the very middle of the whirlpool). Now, you just have one small area to clean the debris gathered to the center by the flow.

It’s better for having a main drain

If the round pool has a main drain installed at the very middle bottom of the pool (which is where it should be installed), then this whirlpool effect will send the debris right to it and some of the smaller stuff will get sucked up and sent to the skimmer and filter. This will keep the pool cleaner.

It’s easier to have a deep center

I don’t really like shaping and adding deep ends or deep centers in above grounds. But I have to admit that they are nice.

There are a couple of issues when making and having a deep end/center in an above ground. The biggest is the potential wrinkles they cause in the liner. Standard liners for AGs are made for flat bottoms but they can accommodate about a one-foot deep center/end. Sometimes even if I have shaped and set the liner, there will be wrinkles.

Also, any time a deeper part of the bottom of and above ground is close to any part of the pool’s wall, there can be problems.

With a round shaped pool, you can have a deeper part of the bottom in the middle where it is far away from any part of the wall. This means there is plenty of room to make a more gradual dish which will make it easier for the liner to not have any wrinkles in it.

It cost less to have installed

Any shape above ground pool isn’t cheap to have installed. Round pools though have a much less expensive installation cost.

As an example, I currently charge $750.00 for the basic installation of an 18’ round pool. For a 12’x24’ oval pool (which is exactly the same amount of water and swim area as and 18’ round), I charge $1150.00. That’s a big difference for essentially the same size pool.

Better for playing games like Marco Polo

Games of hide and seek are very popular in swimming pools. Round shapes are more open space from the edges of the pool which gives more open area for certain water games.


Doesn’t have the look or shape of a traditional inground pool

When people envision a swimming pool, they think of a long shape with a deeper end. They see this because most residential and almost all commercial inground pools are this shape. Round shaped pools don’t have that look or feel.

Also, just as rectangle or oval shapes are synonymous with inground pools, round shapes are synonymous with above ground pools. Some people don’t want the look of the cheaper and less respected round pool. They can’t afford, or don’t want to pay for, or can’t put in an inground pool, so they want to get an above ground and it not look as much like one. I get that.

It might take up too much space in a narrower back yard

As more houses get built, the lots they are built on get smaller and smaller. This can have an effect on the size of a backyard. If a yard is narrow, meaning the distance from the back wall of the house to the back of the property line is much shorter than the width of the yard (from side to side), then it can be tough to fit a round pool of any real size.

Keeping in mind that there are easements and setbacks that municipalities require which give a narrow yard even less ability to have a bigger round pool in. If the back of the property’s set back is ten feet (which is the case in many areas of Central Florida, then an average-sized round pool (24’) may not fit legally.

You can’t easily swim laps

One of the biggest reasons mainly women want to get a pool is so they can exercise in it. And swimming laps is probably the most common activity when considering this. A round pool has to be pretty big in order to make any sensible length of a lap in it.

Using a 24’ round pool for example (as it’s the most common size pool), would be a very borderline distance for doing laps. Twenty-four feet long for a lap is not very far.

Now, if your plan is to get a monster-sized pool, like a 30’ or 33’ round, then you’ll be able to do the laps better as its a longer run in one direction. The drawback here is that those are giant pools that take up a lot of space and take more time and money to maintain.

Harder to play volleyball in

When considering a pool, many think of epic games of water volleyball with friends and family. And because of their depth, above grounds make excellent pools for this. Round shaped pools aren’t as symmetrically ideal for this sport.

I’m not saying that volleyball is out with round pools. You can still mount a net across the circle and you’re good to play. It’s just not ideal.


12x24 oval above ground pool

Shaped more like an inground pool

Let’s be honest here. Inground pools are nicer, more expensive, and are preferred by almost everyone. Many who are getting or have an above ground pool would love to have an inground instead. Problem is that inground pools aren’t feasible to install in certain places and cost a shit ton of money.

So to be honest here, most get an above ground pool as an alternative to an inground. This means that some will want it to look as close to an inground as possible. And since the traditional shape of an inground pool is an oval of some kind, people will want an oval-shaped above ground pool.

May be better for smaller yards

As mentioned above, some backyards are smaller. And because a yard has to be at least a little longer than the house, smaller usually means narrower.

With narrower backyards (meaning a shorter distance between the back of the house and the back property line), an oval-shaped pool will fit better. This is, of course, as long as the pool is installed parallel with the house and not perpendicular, duh.

Better for swimming laps

If this is one of your big motivators for getting a pool, then an oval may be better for you. Keep in mind that you will most likely want at least a 15’x30’ length. Anything smaller will make it less comfortable to do a lap in.

An added deck can look more symmetrical if the pool is parallel to the house

If an oval pool is built parallel to the back of the house(and it usually is), then when adding a wood deck, the deck can be built as a rectangle that runs symmetrically with the house and the pool.

This can look better for personalities that like a more organized looking structure. Typically, wood decks are made in square and rectangular shapes. Oval shapes fit better with these shapes.

You can play volleyball better

As mentioned above, volleyball is a very popular game in swimming pools. This game consists of two sides with a net in the middle. Oval pools are perfect for this.


Cost considerably more than a round pool

Oval above ground pools have longer straight sides. When the pool fills with water, something has to keep those straight walls from pushing outward. This is where buttresses come in. Oval pools must have a buttress system of some kind to keep the long sides of the pool’s wall in their shape. This means a lot more parts and a lot more design.

Some of you may now be asking “What’s a buttress?” You can go google yourself to death about that later. What I want to say now is that this makes an oval pool need a lot more parts and requires a lot more engineering than a round shaped pool. And with that comes more cost.

Much more difficult to self install or DIY

As an above ground pool installer for more the thirty years AND a DIYer, my opinion is that most people who are fairly mechanically inclined with a couple of decent friends(offer beer after the job is done) can install a round-shaped pool. Installing an oval is a different story altogether.

Installing an oval above ground pool is a real challenge. Even the shortest, most egotistical guys out there who successfully installed their own oval may not admit that it sucked, but you won’t see them install another one. I know this because I’ve heard this for three decades. Oval pools suck to build, period!

May have a hard time finding an installer to install it

During the off-season (fall and winter), I will build almost any kind of above ground. During the busy hot summer season though, I don’t build ovals. And I understand them maybe better than anybody and build them well.

I don’t build them in the summer for two reasons. One is that I am busy with round shape installs and they are much easier. And the other is that it’s hot out and I don’t want to install those “pains in the asses” in a Florida oven.

Many other installers stay away from ovals completely and they should. They don’t have enough experience with them, so when they try to build one, it comes out bad and problematic. After that, they avoid them until they are maybe hungry in the offseason.

And you want someone good and experienced to install your oval. Not just some guy who has only installed mostly round shapes

Some designs are poor

OK so I’m being nice here. As a possible perfectionist, I am qualified to think that most of the oval designs are poor.

AG manufacturer giants like Wilbar and Doughboy have some really challenging oval designs. Sure, the guys who design and engineer these things might have gone to college and wear a clean shirt to work, but they are in no way brilliant with their work. In truth, I’m usually embarrassed for these guys when I’m trying to make sense of their engineering.

Many oval designs will can be assembled and installed well and the long/straight sides still are not perfectly straight. This is often the result of a poor design with too many adjustable parts.

I often fantasize about bringing one of these “easel geeks” out into the dirt and heat and have them assemble what they design. I would have the absolute time of my life watching this! If Wilbar could have these guys build at least one of their designs, it would be an eye-popper for their air-conditioned egos. If they had to build a hundred of them in ninety plus degrees in the direct sunlight, I am certain that they would change everything they do. End of rant.

Cost more to have installed

If you have been reading above, then I don’t need to say more. Ovals have more parts, are harder to get correct, take more time to install, and have challenging, stupid designs, and are mostly engineered poorly.

These things make a professional like me charge almost double to install an oval-shaped pool.

Main drain may not be as effective

In many cases, it’s not a good idea or it’s impossible to have a main drain in the very center of an oval pool. This is because there may be a buttress strap running under the pool directly through the center.

Also, a main drain may work better if installed in the middle of one of the two “radiuses” in an oval shape. This is because of the curve of the pool. A main drain is not at all bad in an oval pool. It’s just not as effective as it is in the middle of a round-shaped pool.

Most designs don’t allow for a deep center/deep end

I often get inquires about having a deep end in an oval pool. Most oval designs don’t really allow for that.

About ninety percent of the ovals that are sold have straps that run underneath the pool which connect the opposing buttresses. These straps get in the way of being able to deepen the floor of the pool.

Some models don’t have straps. Doughboy makes most of them. These models will allow for a deep end or a deep center. Be aware though, that you may pay more for this design. And you will pay me more to make a deep end too.

Harder to install in a concrete slab

Oval pools have buttresses which sit lower in the ground than the pool’s bottom track. This makes it very difficult to install on concrete. In almost all cases, installing an oval on a concrete slab will require a sandbox be built.

Not as good for certain “hide and seek” games

This isn’t a big deal or anything, but it is worth mentioning. Oval pools are longer and narrower, so there is not as much overall distance from the middle of the pool and the edge. This makes for less of an open area for hide and seek.

If going semi-inground, you have to dig a bigger hole

Since ovals have buttresses and they stick out from the wall of the pool (on the straight sides), a bigger hole has to be dug when partially sinking in the ground. This means more earth has to be moved and more dirt has to be replaced or “backfilled” when the pool is done.


If you have read this article (and not just skimmed through to this), then you probably know my opinion. But just in case, I’d say most should go with a round-shaped above ground pool. They are less expensive to buy and have built, much easier if for do-it-yourselfers, and all pool installers will build them.

If you must get an oval, it should really only be because your yard is too narrow, you are most certainly going to swim laps, you have a need to spend more for the same thing, and/or you plan on getting your husband or boyfriend to install it and you really don’t like him very much. Other than these reasons, do yourself a favor and choose a round pool instead.


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

2 thoughts on “Oval vs Round Above Ground Pools

  1. Thank you for your informative post. I currently have a second hand ipool which is sitting waiting to be put up. If ever I can afford a nice above ground pool it will certainly be round. Thank you again.

  2. Thank you for the read. We are having to replace our current pool, round and was wondering what others recommended. Reading this article, we will definitely go back with another round pool and hopefully to help with covering it in the winter, will be able to partially put in ground..still waiting for our property to be marked for buried utilities.

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