which above ground pool style gives more room: round or oval

Oval Versus Round Above Ground Pools

It seems to me that when most people first consider getting an above ground swimming pool, they think it is oval. That’s a natural assumption as traditional in-ground pools are oval. After some research, though, most end up getting a round one instead and that’s usually because of the difference in cost. There are some other differences too, so let’s go over them. Shall we?

Why People Want an Oval Above Ground Pool

As I mentioned above, the biggest reason people want an oval above ground is because it looks more like an in-ground. Adding to this is the notion that round pools are synonymous with the cheaper above ground pools. And who wants to look cheap? Despite of the extra cost and effort to have them installed, some will get an oval anyway only for this reason.swimming in an above ground pool

People will also decide to get an oval, because of having limited space in their yards.  Many homes these days are built on smaller lots that can make getting a pool more challenging. Backyards can be narrow and when you consider any easements or setbacks, there may only be room for an oval that runs parallel with the home. Note: If you want to fit an oval pool in a tight spot, consider the buttress structure. The buttresses of an oval can protrude as much as three feet along the straight sides of the pool. This isn’t as much of an issue lately as most ovals now have what they call a “buttress free” or “yardmore” design which only takes up about a foot of extra space on both long sides.

Michael Phelps Approved?

Not so much. Another big reason why people want an oval above ground is so that they can swim laps in it. This is a big reason as many are looking for ways to exercise more and be healthier. Getting a pool can be expensive and money is tight for most, so justifying this major purchase often includes the exercise that can occur. Though, more often than not, the laps never happen.

Doing laps in a residential pool is a great idea, but is one that rarely occurs in the real world. There are many great ways to use a pool for exercise and many people will get in better shape and feel and look better by having one, but it won’t be from swimming laps. Sorry to be negative, but this is an accurate observation of nearly 30 years so try not to drown the messenger.

There are a select few that actually will swim some form of laps in their above ground. So, if you are planning on proving me wrong by being one of them, make sure to get an oval that is at least thirty feet long. That’ll help set you up for success.

The last reason people opt for an oval above ground is water volleyball. An oval is set up perfectly for volleyball as both ends are usually shallow and net poles can attach nicely to the narrow sides of the pool. Volleyball can be set up nicely in a round pool too, but it’s not as fitting as with an oval.

Why People Get a Round Pool

Homeowners decide on round pools mainly due to cost. A round pool that is sized to hold the same amount of water and have the same area than a similar oval can cost oval above ground poolbetween a quarter to half of the price. It’s not uncommon to pay about a thousand dollars less for a higher-end 18’ round above ground versus the same model 12’x24’ oval which has the exact same area. That’s quite a saving for something that is exactly the same except for its shape.

The cost to install a round pool is also considerably less than it is with an oval. Due to its shape, a round pool can distribute the heavy weight of the water easier and therefore doesn’t need that buttress system that is difficult to assemble. To have a pool guy like me install a round pool can cost about half as much as it would for a similar sized oval. Add the round pool purchase savings along with the installation savings and you now have a pretty big number.

You could save a couple of thousand dollars getting a round pool instead of an oval and the absolute only difference will be the pool’s shape. For most that’s hard to deny.matrix resin above ground pool

Attention Do-it-yourselfers:  Build a Round Pool – Feel Accomplished, Build an Oval Pool – Swear a Lot!

Even though there are fewer do-it-yourselfers these days, many will still install their own above ground. Installing an above ground swimming pool isn’t the most difficult thing to do as a novice, but it’s not easy either. Many who start doing the research for building their own will quickly decide not to tackle an oval and go with the much easier round assembly. This could be the best decision they have made in a while as ovals suck to install. I have a ton of experience, have good experienced help and the right tools for ovals and still prefer not to install them for double the price compared to the same sized round pool. Scared yet? Good. You should be.

Round pools are also more forgiving as they have a greater margin for error than ovals. This means that if you mess up an installation on a round pool it’s not as bad as when you screw up an oval.

So Why the Cost Difference?

I believe in the expression “you get what you pay for”, but sometimes things cost more for different reasons besides quality. That’s the case with oval versus round above ground pools. People will often think that an oval above ground is a stronger design or is made with better materials or will last longer than the less expensive round pool. This is not true. The only reason an oval pool costs more than a round one is because of the oval’s buttress structure.

Unlike a round pool, an oval has straight sides. These straight sides need a structure to keep the wall from pushing out when the pool gets filled with water. That structure is called a buttress system and it has to be heavy-duty and built well. These extra parts are expensive, have to be assembled and aligned and that jack the price way up.

Both shape pools in the same model will have the exact same wall; bottom and top frame; top rails and caps. Because of this, given the same conditions, the more costly oval won’t last one day longer than a similar round model. Just so you know.

60 thoughts on “Oval Versus Round Above Ground Pools

  1. Hello;
    I am hoping to get your opinion on the quality of Metric series Pools?
    How much more do sunken round pools cost vs. totally above ground?

  2. I was interested in an oval pool. I was told not to buy one. They said the side walls buckle out. Is this true?

    1. We have had a nightmare with our pool. We have a 12×24 oval. The sides buckled out and it was drained and repair five times from July to October. They finally tore it out and put in a new one. Same exact problem. They drained it and tried to fix it it didn’t work. I’m over it. I have no clue if it’s even safe.

  3. We are looking into an oval above ground saltwater pool. We want oval to save on space in the yard, but we have received feedback from a couple pool companies stating that they no longer do oval above ground due to the issues they have seen with the side walls collapsing. We also aren’t thrilled by the idea of having buttresses extend 3+ ft into the yard. In your opinion, is there a way to have a dependable oval above ground without protruding buttresses?

  4. What do you recommend between the steel walled pools and the resin/aluminum pools for above ground. Does one last longer than the other? I was NOT planning on doing a salt system. I have 2 teenage boys (with lots of friends) and a soon to be teenage daughter so the pool needs to be strong. Need to make sure whatever I get will last. Replacing a 24 foot round pool that’s 25 years old and was moved from the grandparents to our house but finally starting to degrade the walls. Yard slopes about 1.5 feet so one side is partially buried. Have a little more room so was thinking of going either 27 foot round or 18 by 33 oval. Any thoughts on that?

  5. I have available space for a 15 ft round or oval above ground pool. 13 year old and a 10 year old type 1 diabetic with continues blood monitor on his arm. My question is.. when there are older brother friends also playing in pool.. which pool is best for the ten year old?

  6. Which has more space in it a 28X16 Oval or a 20ft round. 28×16 pool. What round pool is about that size of the oval

  7. Hi thanks for the article, seen lots of great ones from you 🙂

    Is it possible to install a smallish (14 foot) above ground pool yourself using galvanised colorbond for the walls and buying a normal above ground pool vinyl liner?

    Would you need to buy the bottom and top rails from pool company.. eg get Sterns replacement rails, and add a decent filter or is it much more complicated?

    -is there a reason most splasher pools are only 34 inches high or so (90cm) and that from 120cm generally have the wider coping?/rails and side supports? is that to be safer if lent on/protect from sharp edges or does it really strengthen the sides a ton too? could you have 14 foot round pool with 120xm height and no additional vertical poles/supports if using 0.4 steel?

    it seems easy enough and then i can get a blur less ugly one lol. But would prefer to buy a cheap best way 90cm 4.26 hydrium pool then flood the joint lol.

    ta for your time

    1. Yes you can do that. I have seen a guy put only a liner into a hole he dug, fill it with water, and connect a pump/filter to it and he had a pool. Personally, I’m a fan of buying a manufactured pool, setting it up, and safely going swimming.

  8. Hi. I’m interested in purchasing a round pool but the only space I have for it is I’m the corner of my yard. The allotted space for the pool is roughly 30×30 ft with an additional 10-12 ft of possible deck space. What size round pool do you suggest? Thanks in advance for the help.

    1. I recommend a 24′ round size. That is by far the most common size and a good size for a family of five. You may have room for a bigger pool but keep in mind, the bigger the pool, the more maintenance.

  9. We have a small backyard, 66 1/2 ft wide x 30 ft deep, surrounded by block fencing (Arizona standard) on three sides and the back of the house on the one side. We want a big enough pool for our three teenage kids, and my husband and me. We’re getting sticker shock with the Doughboy above ground oval pool (28 ft x 16 ft). I like the idea of a recessed round pool but I don’t think the depth of are yard at 30 ft can take a 24 ft round pool, as we’ll need to have sufficient space between the house and pool to allow passage for when the time comes our A/C needs replacing and the block fence. I’m worried if we get a 21 ft round pool it will look and be too small for the five of us. What do you recommend? Thanks!

    1. A 21′ round is a nice size but may seem too small for a bunch of kids. I’d say to shop around for a less expensive oval. Doughboys are usually overpriced so you can probably find a Wil-bar oval of the same specs for considerably less.

    2. Out of curiosity where in Arizona did you find an above ground pool. I am only finding online places and I have tons of questions.

  10. My opinion whatever you like best we had a beautiful built in pool went to 9 ft deep in Michigan cost a lot for how much use you get and being smart paid pool place to open it and close it each yr .
    We also had a beautiful oval 15×30 pool my husband built 3 tier decking from off the back door wall and the pool it self had 3 ft wrap around deck !!!!Beautiful !!! Until it’s stain time every yr !!!
    We moved a few yrs ago and were now putting in a 24 ft above ground pool the reason for the 2 different shapes

    Purely the looks of it behind the houses for the size and looks of back of home and decking /design. Our other home was such a long ranch and attached garage couldn’t picture anything but oval .
    This home can’t picture anything but round.

    Wish I could post pictures !

  11. Hello Dan, can I change on existing 24′ round into an oval to fit into a new space? The buttress system seems to be the only difference by my understanding of your previous posts, can I by them separately?

  12. Hi Dan,I would to like put an above ground around pool,my backyard is no level,so I was thinking in putting a concrete floor,by the way is going to be my first pool,am 68 years old,what I need to know which one you would recoment,which one would be very strong that at least last few years,at my aged I don’t want to take it down every yearI live in kissimmee,Fl

    1. Concrete is expensive so if you are ok with paying that much, then go for it. You’ll definitely want to put a round pool on the concrete though. Which pool to buy is too big a question for me to answer here. Do some shopping and decide on one that cost more than the others and buy only made in North America too.

  13. Hello,

    I’m interested in installing an above ground pool in our yard. Right now we have a 16 x 15′ grass area right next to a concrete patio. Since the grass area is not very large, I was thinking to bring in someone to extend the concrete area, and then installing the pool on top of that. Is this even possible? If I do extend the concrete patio, I will have an additional 6 feet for a total area of 15′ x 24′. I would also like some room for a bit of deck or at least stairs leading up to the pool.

    Any suggestions are much appreciated!

    1. I’m a fan of having space around a pool and not cramming one in a too tight area. So if you only have a 15’x24′ area, then I’d say get a 12′ round or a 12’x18′ oval. The oval will be tricky to install on concrete though.

    2. Hi Melissa,
      We installed our 18′ round pool on concrete and used the thickest available carpet padding (doubled) as a barrier between the liner and the concrete. It worked perfectly!

      1. Weve had our “pro series” metal frame pool for six years and left it up in the winter……still going strong!

  14. I’m looking into a oval pool because I want 2 make it sloped 2 have a deep end I’m looking at a 15 x 24 pool how deep can I make it

      1. You can make it about two feet deeper max. but need to get an oval design that doesn’t have straps. Doughboy made pools are the only ones I know that don’t have straps. In my opinion, a 24′ round pool with a deep center would be better and less expensive.

  15. Other than lesser quality pool (Intex, Coleman), does anyone sell hard sided rectangular or oval pools that are 9 feet wide? There are very few options for narrow yards it seems. Even in the oval category, all I find are 12′

  16. Hi I was thinking of purchasing an above ground oval pool 8 ft by 12ft due to backyard limitations. I had some one come over to look at my yard for installation purpose and he recommended a 12 ft round pool stating the oval is too small might look like a tub whereas the round will appear to be bigger and price wise it would be cheaper. What’s your opinion? Looking to get a pool where both my kids 5 yrs old and 10 years old can enjoy and also us. Thanks

      1. Should be around 20% bigger, whether it looks it or not. The surface of a 12 ft by 8 is 96 sq ft. The surface of a round 12 ft (diameter) is 113.

  17. Dan installed a pool for my family just today and I would def recommend him if your in his area. Very professional and knowledgeable. On a scale of one to ten our experience was a ten. Pool looks perfect. Thanks Dan!

  18. hi Dan my name is Dennis Munro I have a pool to be put up and need replacement parts, you do that kind of work is so I need help and would you be interested in straightening my pool out put in a new liner in and top GA PS?

  19. Thank you! You changed my mind. I had a 21 ft round and loved it. Had it for 10 yes. We ripped down the old (huge) deck that butted right up to it. We now have a patio with beautiful pavers at ground level. I am kissing the deck butting up right to the pool now that we ar ground level. I have been looking into semi in-ground so we could sit on the patio and the pool would be pretty close to the same height as the knee wall allowing us so see the kids swimming while we are sitting on patio. Can I get your opinion. I will def get a round one again and have researched some 14 gauge pools that can be sunk 24 inches.

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