In the early half of this century, most consumers considered the
dream of owning a backyard pool just that, a dream. Pools were for
movie stars and millionaires, not the hard-working family next
door. The introduction of aboveground pools — a grown-up
version of the wading pool — turned those dreams into a
During the late-1920s and early-’30s, firms experimented with
the construction of a portable, aboveground pool. At that time,
their efforts resulted in crudely fashioned yet workable,
heavy-canvas tanks, supported by wooden barrels or steel
By the 1940s, manufacturers such as Haugh’s Products (now
Atlantic Pools) and Doughboy Recreational began experimenting with
masonite, steel and aluminum framing. Initially, tubular or
roll-form framework made of steel or aluminum supported the pools.
The liners, typically made of treated synthetic fabric, fit over
the top rail like a sleeve and were tied or snapped into
These early aboveground pools, like the concrete pools before them,
lacked circulation systems and were drained and refilled as needed
to keep the water fresh.
From the mid-’50s through the ’60s, other industry
players such as Bilnor Corp., Coleco (later purchased by Lomart
Industries), Muskin Leisure, Wilkes Pools and the Delair Group
added lines to the market. The new pools sported epoxy-coated steel
walls supported by posts made of galvanized steel or extruded
aluminum. A 2-inch-wide top rail (expanded to approximately 9
inches by the 1990s) provided structural support. On the
pools’ interiors, manufacturers introduced vinyl liners,
designed to withstand harsh winter weather — allowing pools
to be left outside throughout the year.
By this time, circulation systems began to show up: Home Pool
Equipment and Lomart, which provided a total package with a filter
system in 1958, have been credited as being two of the early
innovators. Soon, pools were available with heavy-duty sand and
gravel filters and automatic in-wall skimmers.
Pools of the ’60s featured 48-inch walls and came in a
circular shape for even water-weight distribution. By the
late-’60s, manufacturers found ways to provide supplemental
support through exterior buttresses, allowing them to introduce an
Rectangular and square pools followed, although industry purists
consider these pools to be onground rather than aboveground pools.
Many of these incorporated some excavation work to allow for a
In an attempt to sell to the masses, manufacturers sold the
colorfully packaged pools at local stores including flower shops,
toy stores and department stores — Macy’s and
Bloomingdales among others. Catalog retailers also did a booming
business in abovegrounds, especially Sears and Spiegel.
Abovegrounds were even sold door-to-door with salespeople
displaying miniature models.
By the mid-’70s, aboveground pools attracted even more
consumer attention with advances in construction and aesthetics.
The pool walls, which had traditionally featured a plain or painted
galvanized-steel surface — which resembled barn-door planking
— received a bit of a facelift through the introduction of a
vinyl-laminated exterior wall. While providing an updated look, the
coating allowed for greater protection against rust and
When the thin vinyl sheeting became unavailable, manufacturers
returned to the painted finish, which had grown up to include more
advanced inks, color choices and coating options. Thanks to new
painting techniques and patterns, aboveground pools began to fit
attractively into the home’s outdoor décor.
The late-’70s and early-’80s saw manufacturers
enhancing the look of the liner. With new printing processes, the
traditionally aqua-blue PVC-vinyl liners now offered pebble-like
patterns on the bottom. Later, the choices grew and new wall
patterns, including geometric shapes and tile-line mosaics,
The new patterns caused a minor problem — how to attach them
without disrupting the design. The Delair Group, which produced
both inground and onground vinyl-liner pools, introduced a new way
to hang liners in the mid-’80s that eliminated the previous
method of painstakingly adjusting the pattern along the tile line.
The firm placed a beading on the top edge of the vinyl liner, which
then hooked onto the pool wall. This application, which was not
widely used until the ’90s, created the look of an inground
liner in an aboveground pool.
The 1980s brought with it several challenges. For one, society had
become more litigious and manufacturers had to answer questions
regarding product-safety issues. Working in conjunction with the
Consumer Product Safety Commission, they created and included
water-safety information packets, safety signage and decals with
For another, a decline in sales led industry leaders to question
whether the product had saturated the market.
Aboveground pools also owed a part of its evolution to happier
trends in the mid-’80s. Responding to the popularity of resin
furniture, Aqua Leader introduced some of the first pools to
feature resin frames in 1987. Others soon included similar
materials, providing a durable and often higher-priced
The aboveground industry grew in other ways in the late-’80s
— a new wall height of 52 inches introduced by Home &
Roam and others had a snowball effect on many ancillary products.
The extra 4 inches required changes in the specifications of the
liners and ladders, among other products.
By the ’90s, aboveground pools, which could be found in both
simplified and higher-end models, provided consumers with a range
of options. Several firms experimented with alternative wall
materials, including several soft-sided versions that hearken back
to the canvas tank and wading pool of old.
For a more upscale look, manufacturers began incorporating many of
the features and amenities associated with inground pools, such as
fiberoptic lighting and elaborate decking designs. Regardless of
the options chosen, the latest pools have provided today’s
families with a new sense of style — still at an economical
price when compared with ingrounds.