Pool Deep Ends - The Real Pool Guy

Above Ground Pool Deep Ends

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?

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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.expandable-liner

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?

You can call this the Gravity Method, AKA the Lazy Man

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

Example of Liner wrinkling.
An example of Liner wrinkling.

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.

If you have any questions on your above ground pool then we would be happy to help, feel free to give us a call at 1-877-372-6038 or email us at upload@inyopools.com If you liked this article then make sure to sign up for Blog and get our Free 128 Page Pool Care Guide.


64 thoughts on “Above Ground Pool Deep Ends

  1. Hi there,
    I had an Intex 10’x20’x52” until last summer when did our last patch. My hubby ordered the wrong size 9’x18’x52” and Intex won’t take it back and they no longer make my liner. Any ideas where to find one?

    1. Other than a landfill, I have no idea. Intex pools don’t last long enough to be able to find anything more than a couple years old. This is like trying to find an original motor for a 1972 Chevy Vega in 1974.

  2. Hi Dan, Great article! I have a, 30′ round, 48″ walled Esther Williams. The walls are partially below ground most of the way around. I’m going to replace the liner and am thinking about digiging out 4′ to make it 52″, with a little deeper center. Do you think this would work or is it not advisable to dig below the pool wall? If not could I still do a creeper center with a 48″ liner? I will be ordering an “Esther Williams” replacement does this limit anything as far as adjusting depth? TIA!

    1. I suppose you could do this but you have to worry about exposing the bottom track and support blocks. I don’t advise this but if you are determined to do it, go out away from the wall at least 6″ and then dig down. You may get some vertical wrinkles close to the wall though. Liners stretch pretty good so I think you will be ok with a standard liner.

  3. If my above ground pool walls measure 52” do I have a 52” pool or 54” ? I need to know this so I can order a new liner

  4. I have a 32 x 16 doughboy with a 7.5′ deep end. I’m replacing the liner and need to get rid of the deep end.What’s the best material to use to fill the deep end–rock, gravel and sand, with a 2″ concrete layer on top? Then vermiculite/cement on top of that? Will rock try to migrate sideways? Any and all suggestions appreciated!

    1. I would just use dirt but I suppose you can fill it with any of those things mentioned. 2″ of concrete is overkill but if you are going to top the hole off with concrete, make sure and get a liner guard for the pool. Liners don’t last long resting against concrete without getting small leaks.

  5. we have a round concrete pad that we currently have an Intex above ground pool that is 12 by 24 by 48 in. With a concrete pad is there any way of going higher than 54 in? I am at all person and I’d like to have 60 in? Any advice? And know my husband will not allow me to touch the concrete pad

  6. Hello – we are purchasing a 28’ Round doughboy this spring and just bought a pool heat pump from this site. Anyways we are still contemplating adding the deep end because we are worried we will lose a lot of the standing area that most people relax in. If we wanted to do a deep end and not a deep Center how much area of the pool would the slope and deep end take up. I understand that it needs to be a gradual slope and not a quick drop off.

    1. This is a round pool so you could have a deep CENTER instead which I like better. You can make the deep center as big or small as you want. I recommend having a good ledge of flatness before starting your slope. If you are only going down a foot, then the hole can be smaller. If you are planning for a two foot deep center though, you’ll want the hole bigger so the slope is more gradual. Either way I would say to leave at least a four-foot ledge all the way around.

      A deep end in a round pool can be as big as you want also but is trickier to shape. Doughboy has a dig sheet and it will have you start the slope right at the wall on one side. Personally I don’t like that as you can’t stand by the wall on the deep side. Their dig uses takes up about half of the pool. Most people are happier with a deep center I’d say.

  7. Interesting article, thanks.

    Do you know of any above ground pools with graduated heights that can accommodate toddlers to adults?

    1. I do not. I once installed a liner for an oval pool that was in the ground and the homeowner filled in one end making it only three feet deep. The liner was not custom and did not fit well. A better option is to get wedding cake type steps which will offer a shallow landing for small kids.

  8. I have a friend that purchased a home with a pool that is partially above ground and partially inground. I would estimate the pool to be approximately 15 X 30. The shallow end is 4-feet. The floor gradually begins dropping off about half way from end of pool. The deep end is about 8 feet deep. The liner is old and may need to be replaced. A local pool shop said they know of no one that will even attempt to replace that liner. Obviously, she will need to get precise measurements before proceeding. Before she gets too far into this mess, is there any hope in replacing that liner?

    1. I’d say it’s possible as the liner is old meaning it was pretty durable. 8 feet seems a little too deep though you may want to fill it in a bit on the deepend after you replace the liner. Find a second opinion I’d try to anyways

    2. If the pool is truly 8 feet deep, then you’ll need a custom made liner or an expensive Doughboy liner. It may be hard to find someone who will do this job as the pool is in the ground some and that could be tricky. I have 32 years of experience and would probably pass on it. If you do find someone, make sure they are experienced and if they don’t want to look at it first, don’t use them.

  9. Hi I appreciate your advice dan, My question is will adding the deep end affect the integrity of the pool itself? Adding the extra water weight to the pool makes me a little nervous.. I’m buying my first house this month and my money is tight, i’m debating buying a cheapo Intex/summer wave pool to try this out before getting a nice above ground pool in future years. Is my yard going to flood if i try this lol

    1. Adding a deep end to a pool shouldn’t affect it’s integrity as long as you have at least an 8″ ledge between the wall and where the deep end begins. I think it should be more than that though. And I think it’s a good idea to get a cheap Intex pool first so you can see if you like having a pool. This has been a trend in the last ten years or so.

  10. I want to get a 15 by 30 but I need it to be at least 6 foot deep. I want the pool to go half way in the ground. Does one end have to be dug deeper to get that 6 foot I’m looking for. Or is there a longer pool that I may need to accomplish the 6 foot deep end.

    Thank you. Carrie

  11. I ahve a 30′ round by 52″ deep above ground pool. I found a really good deal on a liner J-channal style, but it is for a 30′ round 54″ deep pool. I would like to have a deeper center. My question is , could I use the 54″ deep liner on my 52″ pool and make it deeper?

    1. Yes I think that would work. I think the extra material is in the wall section of the liner so you’ll want to make a bigger or wider deep center so it will draw the extra wall material inward and towards the pool’s bottom.

  12. Hi, I have installed a 18′ by 52″ round pool in my yard…the problem is that there is an 18″ difference from the height of the slope to the bottom of the slope…I have dug the poles down 18″ at the highest point of the slope to level off the top of the pool with the the poles on the lower side of the slope…therefore giving me a sloped bottom of the pool with a deeper end…my question is do you think this will work as long as the top is level…I am nervous about filling it up, and afraid that there would be too much pressure on the deeper end at the bottom of the slope….any information would be greatly appreciated before I fill it up. Thank you!!

  13. I ordered the wrong size liner for my pool–ordered a 15x30x48 pool is 15x30x52. Can the 48 liner be made to fit?

  14. Hi We purchased a used Wilkes Genesis on ground pool 16 x 32 with a 6 ft hopper. We are trying to find dig specs but not having much luck. Any suggestions 🙂

  15. I have never understood why the 52″ pools cost so much more than the 48″. For instance, an 18’x52″ pool currently in our area at a big box store is $489.00 while the exact same brand pool in 18’x48″ $is 298.00. Same type of material, same cheap pump, and yes, it is an extra few inches, but just don’t see why such a huge price difference between 48″ and 52″ height pools of the same circumference.

  16. Hi Dan, We currently have an Ester Williams 27ft. 52in round pool that needs to be replaced. It came with the house and we love it, but it was damaged by a storm. It has about a 2ft lip around the side and then drops to a little over 6ft in the middle. I understand that we need an expandable liner, but are all pools created equal? What pool brands do you recommend?

  17. Hi Dan, this is very informative!
    I am looking to get an above-ground, rectangular pool to put in my garage during winter that is tall enough to install an endless pool system in. What is the minimum depth a swimmer can do breaststroke, and how much extra wall height do I need to prevent water from continually splashing out? It doesn’t need to be as long or wide as it needs to be tall I think, and something I can disassemble for removing from the garage as soon as it’s nice to swim outdoors.

    1. I am not sure if what you want is for sale. If you have found something like this for sale though, ask the sellers your questions. If you are planning on engineering and building it yourself, my short answer is don’t do it. A guy like me could probably figure something like this out but a non-pool guy is gonna have a lot of wet and failing trial and error periods before you get what you’re thinking of. If ever.

  18. Hello, I would like a to install an oval or square above ground pool with a slope going from the center to the outside, is that possible?

    1. Yes. but you need an oval that doesn’t have straps. Doughboy makes models of ovals that don’t use straps. I’m not sure if you’ll find a rectangle pool without them though.

      1. I have a rectangle above ground pool 16x32x48 I would like to go 1’ deeper? Is it possible? My pool is strange it has metal beams around, it’s bolter on concrete. Ever hear of this?

  19. I have a 27ft above ground with a wall height of 52″. The middle is dug to about 5ft. Its a gradual slope to the center where we have a main drain. We need to replace the liner for the first time this year and I don’t know what size liner to buy. Would a 27ft liner work ?

  20. Hi! Great site! I bought a house exactly a year ago from today. I have a 30′ above ground pool (that has been terribly difficult to rid of algae). Everything went well when I looked at the house and during the inspection. Then things (pretty much everything!) started falling apart. Now today, funny enough, there is no water in my pool at all. I often wondered when walking around in the pool if there were animal tunnels under it because the bottom would change and small depressions would form. There was water, then all of a sudden it’s empty. Even the big blow up things to hold the cover up in the center seem to be gone and there’s no water around the pool. The cover, which is actually a 50′ by 50′ tarp is the only thing visible in there. I’m thinking tunnels or, gulp, sinkhole? Anyway, I spent thousands on a beautiful deck that surrounds the pool (the old one fell apart in April) and am hoping the deck doesn’t need to be taken down. Sorry for the long-winded intro here, but I want to give you enough information. Have you ever heard of this kind of thing before? Do you think it can be “fixed”? Could the algae problem somehow be related? Do you know of any way the ground can be reinforced so it doesn’t happen again? I’d like to have it deeper next time, do you think that would be feasible? Finally, do you have any suggestions, etc? I just have to laugh because, well, it kind of figures! Thank you very much and take care! 😊

    1. Hi. This sounds like you have moles under your pool. The algae problem is separate. Other than concrete, I don’t know what you can put down to prevent this. Please read my article on Moles and above ground pools. It may help.

  21. I have a 32 ft round with a 52 inch wall. I have a 2 ft shelf around the perimeter then then pool drops to 6ft deep.

      1. I have a question! We recently purchase a home with a 16×32 dough boy pool with a shallow end and deep and with walk around edge also. The pool guy doing our new liner is charging us $2500 just fornthe liner and telling us were gunna need a water truck to come in and fill the pool with a large volume of water because of the deep end instead of us just using a garden hose which we would prefer to do is he right or trying to make a buck off the water company referal or somthing?

    1. I’m doing a pool this summer and I’d love to get the kind of depth of 6ft like you have. What do you mean by a 2 ft shelf?

      1. (2′ shelf) means, begin your deep center/end away from the pool’s wall. The bigger the pool, the farther from the wall you can go. If the deep center starts too close to the pool wall, it could affect the life of the liner. I don’t know why exactly, but know it could.

  22. Thanks for this info. I would like to get an unground but not sure I want to spend that much. So I was thinking of getting a nice looking above ground with a deeper end or middle. The one I would like to get at Family Leisure in Indianapolis is a 54″H 43′ L 22’W and its shaped in a rectangle. Would this be possible to have a deeper end if they could it and by these dimensions? Thanks

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