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Pool Performance (continued)

Above-Ground Pools Maintenance.

Don't kid yourself -- swimming pools are not all fun and games. They require ongoing maintenance and constant vigilance.
Owners' above-ground pool reviews recommend running the filter daily during swimming season to keep the water free of debris and algae. (This is true whether you're enjoying a framed or inflatable pool.) We read numerous reviews about all the pools we researched complaining about the inadequacy of the filter pumps and skimmers that come packaged in pool kits. Consumers say the water doesn't circulate enough, the filters easily clog, and the skimmers are too small or flimsy. The wall-attached filter pump and in-wall skimmer on the Summer Escapes 18' x 48" model suffers some particularly hearty dunks in above-ground pool reviews on Amazon, where users gripe about equipment failures and the difficulty of getting replacement parts or substituting some other pump/filter/skimmer system. One disgruntled owner reports spending $600 above and beyond the initial cost to make the Summer Escapes pool serviceable (the bill included a new ladder in addition to new purifying equipment) and another says he replaced the impeller twice within three years. One handy buyer of the Intex Easy Set 12' x 30" inflatable pool offers specific instructions in a review on Amazon for reinforcing what he describes as a flimsy plastic impeller in order to prolong its life.

Many owners of cheap pools assert that upgrading to more powerful pumps, bigger filters, and sturdier skimmers is the only way to keep the water fresh and free of debris and algae, and is definitely worth the extra expense. So, it seems, is upgrading to Intex's saltwater filter system. According to above-ground pool reviews on Sears, pool owners who have made the switch are thrilled with their decision, noting that the water stays clear and fresh and salt is far cheaper and less abrasive than chlorine.

Above-Ground Pools Longevity.

Our research indicates that if you get five years out of the best swimming pools, you've gotten your money's worth. Proper and regular maintenance, including fix-it patches on small holes, is definitely required to get your pool even this far. Intex pools are considered among the best swimming pools, and earn the most accolades for multi-year service, but they're not problem-free. We read several swimming pool reviews on Intheswim.com from owners who left the Intex 18' x 9' x 52" metal-frame pools outside through northern winters to no ill effect, and on Toys R Us about having enjoyed the 15' x 48" model for a good four years. Still, a few above-ground pool reviews report that pinholes tend to show up in the liner after a season in storage and spots of rust occasionally appear on the frame. One owner notes that bulging water from an unlevel pool caused the rods to bend. (Um, what do the instructions say?)

Review continues below

Users' experience with the Heritage 12' x 42" pool is mixed. One owner was well into her third season when she posted a pools review on Walmart, but another found leaks as soon as setup was complete. More than one review for this model says the ladder could be sturdier, a common refrain among owners of even the best cheap above-ground pools. The Seaview Club 18' x 42" gets a shout-out in a review on Sam's Club for its seeming stability, support structure, and substantial liner while the smaller 12' x 36" Heritage pool seems flimsy, according to above-ground pool reviews. The few reviews we could find for the Summer Escapes 18' x 48" pool are mostly critical. In comments on Amazon, owners share a litany of complaints about burst seams, leaks, broken pumps and impellers, and customer service that's seasonal, which heightens owners' frustrations when undertaking maintenance and repairs during the winter.

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