Home & Garden

Are inflatable pools worth your time and money?

What to know about this summer staycation staple

Are inflatable above ground pools worth the effort? Credit: Getty Images / BanksPhotos

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Summer is officially upon us, but this year, the typical activities associated with our hottest season may not be the relaxing options they have been in the past. For you and your family, traditional ways of having fun in the sun, like beaches, public pools or parks, and traveling may be more stressful than they’re worth.

Since most of us will be staying at home this season, backyards have never been at such a premium for enjoying the sun. If there was ever a year to invest in turning your yard into a tropical getaway, it’s this one.

While smaller fixtures may seem like a no-brainer for getting through the hottest days of the year, buying something bigger—like an inflatable pool—may seem daunting.

We’re all hoping 2021 will be more or less back to normal, so it makes sense to question whether or not it makes sense to spend a lot of money on a temporary outdoor item you may only use for a few months. Even if you do end up investing in an inflatable pool, is the entertainment and serenity it can provide worth all the work necessary for setup, takedown, storage, and maintenance?

To help you figure out if an inflatable pool may be right for you, here is a look at the product space, what these products can offer you, and hidden hassles you might not have considered.

What is and where to buy an inflatable pool

inflatable pool intro
Credit: Intex

Most inflatable pools are basically just large vinyl bowls, but some come with a frame for additional structural support.

Inflatable pools are essentially more robust versions of the kiddie pools you may be familiar with. They tend to cost anywhere from $100 to over $1000. Some premium models are much more robust and have a frame to help reinforce their structure.

* Get the Intex 6ft x 20in Easy Set Swimming Pool on Amazon for $109.94
* Get the Intex 18ft x 48in Easy Set Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover on Amazon for $1599.99

How to inflate and set up your pool … it’s easy

setup
Credit: Getty Images / AleksandarGeorgiev

Setting up your pool may seem straightforward, but there’s quite a few considerations you have to make before you even get started.

Most inflatable pools have relatively simple setup instructions—though you may still require additional hardware to do the job.

First of all, you’ll need to inflate the outer ring. This requires access to some kind of air pump to fill it with the required volume in a reasonable amount of time.

Next, you need to fill the pool with water. See? Simple.

Additional considerations when setting up the inflatable pool

Unfortunately, while the actual setup instructions may be simple, there are other considerations to address when setting up your inflatable pool.

There may be zoning restrictions

Zoning restrictions vary depending on where you live, but most areas have rules about where you can set up a pool. These rules can vary based on your state, county, town, or even the specific community in which you live.

One of the more common rules requires the pool be a certain distance from property lines and the main house. Other areas require fencing around the pool or other safety-based installations. Make sure you’re familiar with any applicable zoning requirements for where you live.

Does your yard have firm, flat ground?

examining grass
Credit: Getty Images / WINEXA

Your pool needs to be set up on soft, solid soil—any rocks or debris underneath can cause your pool to spring a leak.

If you live on a hill, or you have a marshy or sandy yard, setting up a large inflatable pool is a waiting game for disaster. Your pool could sink or start to slide down your yard.

Once you have a decent spot picked out, you’ll need to carefully survey the area, making sure to remove any and all rocks or other debris as you go. Remember, an inflatable pool is made out of a sheet of vinyl: Setting it up on a rock or other hard, sharp, or pointy surface could result in your pool springing a leak.

While leaks can be fixed, some sealants need to cure in a dry environment. Having to empty and refill the pool again effectively triples the most time intensive part of the pool setup—and that’s not counting the monetary or environmental cost of wasting all that water.

* Get the Fix A Leak Pool Leak Sealer on Amazon for $27.89

Homes with small children or pets may require fencing

One of the biggest questions from consumers is: “Do I need a fence around my inflatable pool?” Legally-speaking, that question doesn’t have a simple answer: As we mentioned previously, rules can differ based on your state, county, town, or community.

Aside from the strict legality of the situation, it’s probably best to err on the side of safety when it comes to children and pets. Inflatable pools are big enough to pose a drowning hazard, but often have sides shallow enough to allow children or animals to climb up and over while unsupervised. If you have kids or pets that may not know how to swim, it’s probably best to invest in a pool with fencing around the sides, just to ensure everyone’s safety.

The pool will probably kill your lawn

Placing a large, heavy, vinyl structure on top of grass for any length of time will kill even the most robust species. Your lawn will get crushed, flushed with chlorine water, and denied access to sunlight.

So, if you’re the type of person who cherishes a highly-manicured lawn, you may want to invest in a permanent pool structure rather than endure a circular patch of dead grass in the off-season.

Cleaning an inflatable pool, i.e. how long you can leave the water

clean pool
Credit: Getty Images / Dmytro Varavin

Keeping your pool clean requires more than a few chlorine tablets in a floating dispenser—you’ll need a filter pump to make sure those chemicals are getting evenly distributed throughout the water.

After setup is complete and you’ve filled your inflatable pool with water, you’re good to throw a couple of chlorine tablets into a floating dispenser and call it a summer, right?

Unfortunately, no. If you’re planning to have your inflatable pool set up for any stretch of time—which is the intention—you’re going to need a filter pump.

A filter pump is a necessary part of pool maintenance for two key reasons. First, it removes dirt, insects, and other small bits of debris from the pool. Second, it allows for a better distribution of chemicals to combat bacteria.

Just chucking in a few chlorine tablets won’t cut it: While the area immediately around the chlorine may be clean, the rest of the pool is going to get green and slimy incredibly quickly. You may be able to take a few minutes each day to skim out bugs and debris, but it’s very hard to come up with a manual solution for algae growth.

One alternative may be to get a pool cleaner robot, which are like aquatic relatives of the Roomba. While cute, these pool pals are best used for routine maintenance, and they aren’t able to erase algae as well as well-distributed chlorine from a filter pump can. Consider these cleaner bots as a supplement to your filter pump, not a substitute.

While most inflatable pools over a certain size do come with their own pump, many user reviews claim the packaged-in pump doesn’t have the throughput necessary to move enough water around.

Pumps can run anywhere from $50 to $400, with the expensive ones typically being the most powerful. If you’re planning to invest in a larger inflatable pool, you should also factor the cost of a good pump into your budget.

Summer is over—what now?

out of season
Credit: Getty Images / YinYang

Once the season is over, it’s time to put your pool into storage—but how you store it could greatly affect its longevity.

The whole point of an inflatable pool is that it’s a temporary fixture in your yard that can be emptied, deflated, and stored until next summer. This means you’re going to need a dry place with enough space to store your pool, pump, and additional accessories. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking care of your pool during the off-season to keep it functioning for its estimated 10-year lifespan: These things are built sturdy enough to last a few decades, but won’t even survive one year without taking the proper precautions.

We’ve skimmed a few tricks off pool maintenance blogs that seem like good ideas for keeping everything in good condition.

For starters, it’s recommended to rub petroleum jelly on all the rubber washers and gaskets to help prevent them from drying out and to maintain a good seal the next time you set everything up.

It’s also recommended you sprinkle talcum powder on the vinyl of the pool itself, to keep it dry, soft, and mildew-free during the off-season storage.

Additionally, bundling up everything may be a bit cumbersome—we’ve seen a few places recommend wrapping everything in plastic, both to protect the vinyl and to keep a coherent package that’s easy to carry in and out of storage.

Is buying an inflatable pool worth it for your summer staycation?

conclusion
Credit: Getty Images / Animaflora

If you have the yard, budget and storage space, an inflatable above-ground pool may make a great local alternative to a trip to the beach.

This depends on whether you have the budget, the yard, the storage space, and the necessary equipment for keeping your pool clean and maintained.

If you check all those boxes and you’re looking for relaxing summer fun, it’s very likely that an inflatable pool is for you. It may also make sense if you have a smaller yard that you want to make accessible again once the heat dies down, or if the investment in a permanent pool installation is out of your budget.

If you’re looking for a somewhat smaller investment than an inflatable pool, we recommend checking out our list of the top-rated inflatable pools and sprinklers on Amazon, or these splurge-worthy solutions for helping this summer feel like other summers.

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