I am often asked about an above ground swimming pool’s depth. Above grounds come in three main wall heights: 48”, 52”, and 54”. Some of the really inexpensive models are also available as a 42” height wall (which is much lower), but I’m not going to include them because they are really cheap and don’t last very long. Now for those of you who can’t read a tape, the 48” is the same as four feet; the 52” wall is four feet and four inches; and the 54” wall is four and a half feet tall. Already too much math? Sorry, but here’s more.
Now the above numbers are the height of the actual pool’s wall and NOT the real depth of the water. An above ground pool has a top structure and a skimmer and the water level is not meant to reach the very top of its structure. In general then, the water level will be about six inches below the top of the pool. So, the average water level is going to range from 3’,6” to 4’ deep. The next question that usually comes to mind is, “Is this pool deep enough for me and my family?” Some shorter people or people with small children will ask if this is too deep.
In most cases, a depth of about four feet would be fine for pool owners. Some people though want a pool that is deeper than that. Maybe they don’t want to be in control all the time by always being able to touch the bottom of the pool. Maybe they want to drift aimlessly around a seemingly bottomless abyss while they wonder about the dangers beneath their feet. OK, probably not, but some do want to have a deeper pool so that their bodies are better covered by water while they are standing in the pool. So to those wondering, you can have a deeper above ground pool. But how much deeper?
At this point it’s worth mentioning that all round shaped above ground pools are capable of having a deep end/center. Most ovals, though, are not capable of having a deep end/center. Most oval pool designs have metal straps that run under the pool’s bottom and therefore it will not allow you to dig your pool deeper. Just so that you know.
Related How-to Guide & Video: How To Install Above Ground Pool Liners
So How Deep Can You Go?
This depends on two things – what type of liner the pool has and how big the pool is. In most cases an above ground pool with a deep center is about one foot deeper in the middle. That’s the average and what I would recommend. Well, with the way above ground pool liners are these days, I’d safely say you can go about 10” deeper since liners are made with less material than they used to be. I would say go down about only a foot deeper for two reasons. One is you can still use a standard size liner and the other is you can shape the pool’s bottom better.
A vinyl pool liner can stretch. They are designed to be a little smaller than the pool so when you install them, they can expand to fit perfectly to something that may not be that perfect. It’s been my experience that a standard size liner can accommodate a pool bottom that has a gradual grade down to about one foot deeper in the center. If you go any deeper than that, the liner may be too tight. Now if just a foot deeper in the middle is just not enough, you can go deeper but you will need to get what is called an expandable liner.
Why Is It Called an Expandable Liner?
I don’t know why it is called an expandable liner. It’s confusing as most people think the term “expandable” means the liner is made from a different material that maybe expands more or better than a standard liner. It doesn’t and is made with the same material as any other liner. They’re not more special or any cooler. The only difference between an expandable liner and a standard liner is that the expandable has about 12 inches more side vinyl material. This extra material will allow you to go down an additional foot for your pool’s deep center. If you’re good at math then you’ve probably already figured out that with an expandable liner you can now have a two foot deep center for your pool. Keep in mind too that expandable liners only come as overlap types. There are no j-hook or beaded liners that are also expandable. If you want a nicer looking j-hook or beaded liner for a pool with a deep center that is deeper than one foot, you can get that. It’s going to cost you though, because that would be considered as a custom liner and they are pricey.
The size of a pool also plays a factor in how deep the center can be. You wouldn’t want to have a two-foot deep center in a round pool that is only 12′ in diameter as the area is too small so the grade to the center will be too great. This brings up the other major consideration – shaping.
Shaping a Deep Center for an Above Ground Pool
Standard above ground pool liners are designed for flat bottoms. They have a flat round bottom piece with no extra material to accommodate a shape other than flat. Like I mentioned earlier, they do stretch quite a bit so a hooper can be made and the liner will fit its contour with little issue. Though, a concern is wrinkles. If a deep center is
shaped properly, the liner’s bottom will have a few or no wrinkles at all. Though, the shape has to be more like a dish instead of an upside down pyramid. Sharp edges and deeper grades will most certainly produce wrinkles in the liner that will run perpendicular to the pool’s wall. It’s not the end of the world to have wrinkles, but they do make it harder to vacuum the pool, don’t look that good and you can feel them. Having some wrinkles shouldn’t affect the liner at all. Also, you should allow for some flatness on the bottom of the pool before the edge of the hopper for the deep center. This means having a smaller dish in the center of the pool instead of the pool’s bottom being shaped more like a giant satellite dish (like the ones from the eighties) from wall to wall.
Deep centers for above grounds are pretty cool but not my favorite option and will make the job of installing the pool bigger. I charge an extra $250 for a standard one foot deep center on a 24’ round pool and never really want to do the job. They can make it slightly harder to maintain your pool too and if not shaped well, it will give an automatic cleaner some trouble. Though, when they are done well, pool owners seem to enjoy them so don’t mind my negativity. They’re just a pain to dig.