After 35 years of installing, selling, and repairing above-ground swimming pools, I’ve learned a thing or two about their manufacturer’s warranties.
During the discovery and decision-making process of buying an above-ground pool, the warranty is always one of the bigger considerations. But should it be?
Above ground pool manufacturer’s warranties only cover defects in the frame and wall of the pool. Regardless of the length of the warranty, they only cover 100% replacement for the first one to six years. Only warrantied parts are replaced. Shipping, labor, and any other incurred cost to replace defective parts are not covered.
WHY WARRANTIES ARE IMPORTANT TO BUYERS
In the US at least, we live in a world of insurance. We have to have insurance on big things we borrow against like cars and houses. Most have medical insurance too.
A warranty is nothing more or less than an insurance. Most things we buy now have warranties with them. Almost all items big and small, cheap or expensive have some form of guarantee in the form of a warranty.
Warranties have one big function. And that is to make the buyer feel secure about the product they are buying.
Even if an individual hasn’t had good luck with warranties in the past and doesn’t really believe that a particular warranty will really cover anything, they will still feel “warm and fuzzy” when they see a big fat long-term warranty attached to an item that they want.
In reality though, most warranties aren’t worth the paper or web page they are written on. They all are marketed as a guarantee of complete coverage for a really long time, but the details of the warranty always tell a different story.
Above-ground pool warranties fall into this big category. They do cover some stuff, but in the real world, they don’t do much.
THE LENGTH OF AN ABOVE GROUND POOL WARRANTY IS ALMOST MEANINGLESS. ALMOST
When I started building above-ground pools in the ’80s, the length of the warranties was much shorter than they are now. I remember when Wilbar came out with a 10 and 15-year warranty and that seemed long.
It seemed long because I knew then how long a typical above-ground pool lasted. And these pools would only last a maximum of 10 to 15 years before rusting.
Ten years later and I was seeing 20 and 30-year warranties, which was only silly. Today, there are 40 year, 60 year, and even lifetime warranties with above-ground pools.
To a veteran pool guy like me, these decades-long warranties seem ridiculous. And they are for the most part. But if you look closer at them, you will see that they are “prorated”. And with a prorated warranty, it really doesn’t matter how long it is. They might as well all be lifetime warranties as any claim over five years old will cost the pool owner about the same to get covered replacement parts as if they just purchase a brand new pool.
HOW A PRO-RATED WARRANTY WORKS
Most know about pro-rated warranties because of car tires. Car tires made pro-rated warranties famous.
You buy a car tire with a 40,000-mile warranty on it. If the tire wears out at 10k miles, then you can take it back and they will give you a new tire. This used to be a very long car tire warranty.
Tires are now warrantied more in years than miles. This is now why the mile warranty can be so much longer. Because it really doesn’t matter how many miles when you attach a time frame.
For example, Michelin has an 80,000-mile warranty on their Defender light truck tire for a duration of six years. Now, if the tire wears out in the first twelve months AND it didn’t wear prematurely for any reason other than a manufacture’s defect (Ex. Wear from out of alignment), then they will give you a replacement.
After the 12 months, Michelin will “prorate” the tire and sell you a discounted replacement.
This is a good example because just like an above-ground pool lasting 40 years, a light truck tire will most likely not come even close to lasting 80,000 miles. Personally, I have had two sets of this specific tire and only got about 40,000 miles out of them.
HOW A TYPICAL PRORATED ABOVE GROUND SWIMMING POOL WARRANTY WORKS
Let’s say that you bought an above-ground pool with a 60-year warranty. First off, that pool isn’t going to last 60 years. Period. If it lasts 20 years, it’ll almost be a miracle.
When looking at this 60-year warranty, you’ll notice that it will say something like “five-year full” on it. This is a good thing. This means that your warranty is really only five years long, which in the real world is a long warranty.
What “five-year full” means is that if there is a defective part or parts with the pool within the first five years of you buying it, then the manufacturer will replace those defective parts at 100%.
If in the sixth year, you discover that some of your pool is defective, then you will pay a prorated price for the replacements. And the number usually starts in the 6th year with something like 50%-55% discount.
Every year that goes by, you will pay a higher percentage for replacing the defective parts. For example, by the tenth year of you buying the pool, the warranty will require you to pay 75% of the cost of the part.
If this seems like a fair deal to you, consider these two things.
The first is that most parts that fail due to a manufacturer’s defect will do so within the first couple of years, so the likelihood of any parts being covered beyond the first five years or less is very slim.
As an example, let’s say 7-8 years go by and the top rails of the pool have started to sag and discolor. You submit this to the manufacturer and they consider that with the age, this is normal wear and tear, so they won’t cover replacing them.
Had you submitted those sagging and discolored top rails in the first few years, they may have covered them because it has only been a few years.
The second thing is with the cost of the warrantied parts. Even with you only paying a portion for the parts, the price will still be high. Manufacturers charge a lot for parts. Many times over the years, I’ve heard people either live with the defective parts or get a new pool instead of paying for the warrantied parts at even a 50% discount. This is partially because you still have to pay for shipping (and sometimes a handling fee) and still have to pay for the labor to replace the parts.
WARRANTY WILL COVER MANUFACTURER DEFECTS, BUT NOT USUALLY RUST
By far, rust or corrosion is the biggest issue with above-ground pools. Some parts will rust prematurely and no one knows exactly why. Pool owners will typically assume that when they start to see rust or corrosion on the frame or wall of their pool, that it will be under warranty. Yeah, not usually.
If you buy a good quality above-ground swimming pool, the chances are very good that you won’t see any rust anywhere in less than five years.
Before the five-year mark, the most common area for rust is in the wall under the skimmer or return fitting. 99% of the time, this is caused by poor skimmer/return installation or poor quality gaskets.
Manufacturers know this well, so when they get sent a pic of a rusty wall under a skimmer, it’s an easy decision for them to not honor the damage under warranty. And they shouldn’t as it wasn’t their product’s fault.
Overall, when it comes to early rust/corrosion(during the first five years), the manufacturer will cover the cost of them in reference to the warranty timeframe. This is after they have ruled out any reasons why the parts rusted beyond them being defected.
They will investigate your pool and see if you have a salt-chlorine generator or if the pool was buried in the ground some. These two things don’t cause premature rust in my opinion, but if your warranty says it will be voided by a chlorine generator or buried, then they won’t cover anything.
In reality, the manufacturer will closely scrutinize any rust that is only a couple of years old.
AN EXAMPLE OF A WARRANTIED RUSTY WALL
I installed a Matrix model about ten years ago and one year later, the wall developed a rust hole in it. This hole was about halfway up the wall and in an open area with no evidence of any trauma(a scratch or puncture) and was rusted clean through the wall.
Wilbar, who was the maker of the pool, took their time investigating this rust spot. Now, this was one of those rare situations where the rust was clearly the result of a defective wall, but Wilbar is so used to seeing rust spots caused by other things that they seemed to have a hard time believing even this very obvious manufacturer defect.
They eventually sent the replacement wall after several weeks, but the pool owner still had to pay for the shipping of the wall (which isn’t cheap), and for me to disassemble the pool and replace the wall. Oh, and Wilbar didn’t pay for the new liner that was needed for the job either.
So, this 100% covered by warranty 18’ round wall wound up costing the pool owner a little over $1100.00 to have it replaced. This included:
$110 to ship the new pool wall
$225 for a new liner
$700 disassembly and reassembly of pool
$100 water replacement and chemical start-up
This customer didn’t have a choice but to replace it as the pool was new and the wall was rusted completely through. In most cases when the rust isn’t as crucial, the pool owners will choose to live with their rust instead of paying to have them replaced even if the parts in question are 100% covered. By the above example, you can see why.
WARRANTIES FOR “SALT FRIENDLY” POOLS
As a general rule, above-ground pool warranties are void if you add a salt-chlorine generator to the equipment. This is because some think that the salted water causes premature rust.
I don’t think saltwater causes rust, but manufacturers will find any reason to blame the cause of their products failing( and I don’t blame them). At first, manufacturers were not allowing salt generators for any of their pools. Then they started warrantying some of their models that were considered “salt friendly”.
Now, if you buy an above-ground pool that the manufacturer considers “salt friendly”, then it will be covered for rust just like any other above-ground without a salt-chlorine generator.
If you are planning on having a salt pool and want to be covered, make sure your warranty clearly allows your model to be a salt pool.
Learn more about what makes an above ground pool “salt friendly” here
SOME WARRANTIES DON’T COVER PARTIALLY BURYING THE POOL
Sinking above ground pool in the ground some has become very popular. Many manufacturer warranties say they won’t cover the pool if it’s buried in the ground partially or fully.
In reality, partially sinking an above-ground pool won’t cause any damage. It can cave in when the pool is drained to replace the liner, but that has nothing to do with warrantying the parts as damage from a cave-in would clearing not be covered.
There are some models of above grounds that have special walls which allow for semi-inground installation. These are considerably more expensive, but the manufacturers will warranty them when going in the ground.
ARE ABOVE GROUND POOL INSTALLED ON AN EXTREME OFF-GRADE COVERED BY THE WARRANTY?
This is a very common question. Most yards aren’t exactly level. And some yards are at a pretty big slope.
A swimming pool has to be level, so when installing in a yard with a lot of grade/slope, half of the pool(on the high side of the yard) may be in the ground a couple feet or more.
Now, because half of the pool is buried down in the ground and the other half is completely out of the ground(the low side of the yard), some may think that the pool’s warranty will be voided. This is not usually the case.
It’s kind of senseless, but as long as some part of your pool is completely above ground(usually at least half of it), then it will be covered by the warranty. Since pools have to be level, most will be in the ground some even if the yard appears to be perfectly level.
In Florida, which is considered a flat state, I estimate that most of my installs will be at least eight inches in the ground on the high side of the site. This is why the warranty has to cover pools being in the ground some. Because almost all of them are to some small degree.
A FEW TIPS ON WHAT TO DO AND EXPECT WHEN MAKING A WARRANTY CLAIM FOR AN ABOVE GROUND POOL
Got some issues with your pool and want to see about the warranty? This may help some.
1 It’s usually better to deal with where you bought the pool instead of the actual manufacturer – Manufacturers are known to be poor communicators and very slow to act. Some retailers can expedite you getting your warrantied parts from the maker.
This is especially true if you have a warranty issue within the first year or so. Some retailers will feel more obligated to help you when the pool is still new. They also may have a “crash kit” of extra parts that they may just send you to solve the issue.
When your pool has some years to it though, retailers are more prone to just tell you to contact the manufacturer. They more than likely won’t have any extra parts of your pool model hanging around if your pool is older,
2 Be patient with the manufacturer – As stated above, pool makers are notorious for poor communication and taking their time.
Also, as irritated as you might be with the situation, don’t be mean. Manufacturers are not used to dealing with the public and won’t tolerate Karens or angry jerks as much as you think they will. Pissing them off will make things worse for you, I can promise you that.
Send them whatever pictures they want and hopefully they will help you to your level of satisfaction.
3 The warranty only covers the pool wall and frame – Issues with the liner and equipment(pump/filter) should be directed to their own separate warranties.
The pool manufacturer usually only makes pools. Usually. Regardless, the other parts of the pool like the pump/filter, liner, and ladder are made by other companies and have their own warranties.
4 Consider ALL costs to replace warrantied parts of the pool – This is a big consideration, especially when dealing with a replacement wall.
Many parts covered under the warranty will incur some additional costs to replace. And as stated above, the maker will not cover these additional costs to you. The following are potential added costs.
- Costs of prorated parts under warranty
- Shipping of warrantied parts
- Any labor to remove and replace parts
- If a new liner is needed for reassembly
- If a new skimmer/return is needed for re-assembly
- Water cost to re-fill pool if necessary
- Chemical or salt replacement if refill necessary
Getting some things covered under warranty may be a bit of a battle. Knowing what the costs will be even if you get the parts under warranty may make you decide it’s not worth the aggravation.
This happens way more than you might think. After doing the math, pool owners often decide that for the same cost (or just a little more), they can get a whole new pool.
5 In many cases, it’s better to wait until it’s time for a new liner before replacing faulty/rusty parts – When the liner needs to be replaced in the pool, it has to be drained and some (if not all) of the top of the pool has to come apart.
If you can, waiting for it to be time for a liner change makes financial sense as you then will need to drain the pool and take the pool apart. At that point, it’s easiest to replace the parts as they had to come off anyway for the liner change.
My advice is to do what many do. And that is receive the warranty replacement parts as soon as you can, but keep them for your next liner change if possible.
That way you won’t be paying anything extra to have these parts installed as they will go on during the liner change after the old parts come off.
6 Above ground pool warranties are typically NOT transferable – If you bought the house with a pool or bought a used pool, keep in mind that if the maker finds this out, they most likely will no longer honor the warranty.
RANDOM FACT: You can make a new hole in the pool’s wall when adding an additional return jet and it won’t affect the warranty. Same goes if making a new hole for a pool light or adding an extra skimmer
DOES A LONGER WARRANTY MEAN A BETTER POOL?
I have sold my fair share of pools over the years as well as installed more than my share. When I sold them, I would pay attention to the warranty that came with all the models.
I did notice that upgraded pool models usually have longer warranties. Now, are upgraded models better pools? Not always.
Upgraded models that carry longer warranties usually have more “bells and whistles” and are nicer-looking pools, but they won’t last any longer than a basic model will. Not usually anyway.
The longer warranty for these nicer models is there to help make you feel safer about spending more for them. That’s really about it.
SOME TYPICAL ABOVE GROUND POOL WARRANTIES
Before making any decisions based on warranties, check these out and read them. They will tell you about all the situations that will essentially void the warranties in some way. These are very typical warranties