I live in New Jersey, which has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation. I also have three small children who are used to spending the summer at camp – partly for their own entertainment, but also so that I can get on with my work without a break.
While the summer camp on my neck of the forest has not yet been officially canceled, given the ongoing health crisis, these facilities are unlikely to find a way to open safely. When I came to this realization a few weeks ago, I did what many co-parents in my situation had started – I hurried to order an above-ground pool. I thought this pool could provide entertainment to my otherwise cooped up children, and it would be a relatively inexpensive investment too.
Case in point, you can buy an above-ground pool for $ 300 to $ 1,500, depending on its size and quality. Given that the full-time camp I live in costs nearly $ 4,000 per child, even an above ground pool would be a steal.
But the more I looked into an above-ground pool, the more I realized that my great idea was far from good. If you are thinking of saving summer with an above-ground pool, know that there can be some major downsides and hiccups.
A good investment in theory, but maybe not in practice
The attractiveness of the above-ground pool is clear. For just a few hundred dollars, you have the option to cool off and stay busy all summer without the huge investment of an in-ground pool. You might even decide to get rid of your above-ground pool after a summer.
Some above-ground pools are relatively easy to install. Others less so. And the less you pay for your pool, the more problems you are likely to have with it. While reading product reviews online, I came across horror stories of leaks, holes, and problems galore. One customer wrote that her $ 400 pool only lasted a week and a half before she had to empty it and throw it away.
But here are some of the other things I learned about above ground pools that stopped me from getting one: First, an above ground pool is almost guaranteed to ruin your grass underneath. This may not be a problem if you are creating an above ground pool that you expect to keep operating for years. But if you’re buying a cheaper version just to save the coming summer on your own, you need to prepare to have to pay for the landscaping after the fact.
You also need a really flat piece of land for an above ground pool to work. Many people have backyards that appear shallow – until they try to install a pool and find that the slightest slope makes this task unbearably difficult and results in constant pool leakage.
Another thing: a pool – even a temporary, above-ground one – could add to your homeowner’s insurance premiums. Suddenly, this cost-effective solution no longer looks so cheap for any warehouse.
But that was the real kicker for me: in some areas, including mine, you need a permit to install an above-ground pool – even a blasting pool. If you think this can’t be true, trust me, I was right there with you. But then I did a bit of digging, and apparently it’s a statewide law – in New Jersey, you can’t have a pool on your property that’s more than two feet taller without getting a permit, even if it’s a pool, which you inflate and deflate.
There are also different requirements to getting into a pool – you need to have a certain number of feet of clearance from fence lines, sheds, and other structures. Hence, you may think you can create an above-ground pool only to learn that you need approval from your local community and that your outdoor area actually does not qualify for a pool.
A great idea that went broke
As much as I would have loved to have made a pool available to my kids this summer, the reality is that I have never felt comfortable with the idea of having one at all. There’s a reason homeowners’ insurance rates tend to go up when a pool is thrown into the mix – the potential for personal injury is just so much higher.
And as much as my kids may enjoy a pool, the reality is that since I work full time, I don’t have the luxury of sitting in the yard four hours a day and watching them swim.
Not that my kids want to spend that much time in a pool anyway. We joined a local pool club in town two summers ago for weekend entertainment and we found our kids finished in an hour or two on most days. So if you are planning on installing an above ground pool this summer if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. It would probably have kept your children busy for a few hours a day at the most.
We have a new backup plan – a sprinkler system and a homemade waterslide setup. Since we have a hill on one side of our house that is great for sledding, we can drive down a tarp, put a tiny catch basin on the floor, and immediately build a water slide. Or maybe we’ll use the above-ground pools our friends have created if it’s safe enough.
In any case, if we don’t develop this above-ground pool, it can save us a world of trouble – even if that means our kids may be a little more restless when school is free for the summer.