Above ground pools are an amazing piece of kit that can allow you to swim in your small backyard or garden.
I discovered the benefits of using a small above ground pool during the 2020 pandemic when all the public pools were closed.
As my garden is small with limited space, I had to carefully choose the smallest above ground pool available. I had to ensure the pool was large enough for me to swim front crawl in, yet small enough to fit in my garden.
As a general rule, the smallest recommended above ground pool for swimming is 4.5m x 2.2m x 0.84m (14.7ft x 2.2 x 7.2ft x 3ft) as this size is large enough to accommodate all adult heights, however, it is possible to choose a smaller above ground pool for swimming if you are shorter.
In this article I will share:
- What is an above ground pool?
- How do I calculate what size pool I need?
- What is the smallest above ground pool for swimming?
What Is An Above Ground Pool?
Before diving into the details about above ground pools and what sizes are available, it might be useful to explain what an above ground pool is and why it can be advantageous.
An above ground pool is a self-contained pool typically made from a soft plastic pool liner, inflatable walls or metal sheet panels that will sit on top of the ground in your garden.
Unlike typical in-ground pools, which are pools that are dug into the ground, an above ground pool will sit proudly on ground level.
Just like an in-ground pool, an above ground pool will still need to be filtered and cleaned, requiring a high level of maintenance, just like a regular in-ground pool.
Above ground pools have some big advantages which include:
- No ground building work required. Typically, they can be assembled in an hour, straight from the box, with no specialist knowledge.
- They are not a permanent fixture and you can take them down if needed, making them a great option for smaller gardens.
- If you move home, you can take an above ground pool with you.
- If they have any issues such as a leak, they are easier and cheaper to fix, unlike an in-ground pool where construction issue costs can run into the thousands.
If you would like to learn more about how an above ground pool differs from an in-ground pool, I have covered this in greater depth in the following article, How Much Does It Cost To Setup A Small Garden Pool? (For Swimmers)
How Do I Calculate What Size Pool I Need?
Assuming that your objective is to swim and train in your above ground pool, you will need to ensure that:
- The pool is long enough to accommodate your height
- The pool is deep enough to accommodate your pull stroke
1. Ensure The Pool Is Long Enough To Accommodate Your Height
The pool needs to be long enough to accommodate your full extended height when doing the front crawl.
You should stand on your tip-toes and stretch your arms high above your head with your fingers extended.
Measure your total height from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers. This height plus a couple of feet will be the absolute minimum that the pool needs to be.
If you buy a pool that is just long enough to accommodate your extended swim height, your fingers and toes will hit the pool walls as you swim and as a result, you will end up adjusting your swim stroke, which is not a good idea.
To be on the safe side, always go bigger. However, I appreciate that this is not always possible if you are limited in space and have a small garden.
I have a tiny garden and when I was purchasing my small above ground pool; I did not have the luxury of going bigger to be safer.
Below is a picture of me in my garden pool. I am 1.5m in height (Xm in full extended height) and this is me in a 2.2m pool.
Therefore, I have around 0.7m (2.2 feet) of extra space and it works fine. I have my swim tether set up so that I am nicely held in position and my toes and fingers do not hit the ends of the pool as I swim.
Personally, I would love the next bigger size pool in his range as it would have so much more room for me, but when your garden is small, you have to work within the space.
2. Ensure The Pool Is Deep Enough To Accommodate Your Pull Stroke
It is important to ensure the pool is deep enough to swim in and accommodate your stroke, otherwise, your fingers will hit the bottom of the pool.
In UK public pools, the shallow end of the pool is typically a minimum of 0.9m (3 feet) [source]
This minimum water depth will allow most adult swimmers to swim comfortably.
It is possible to swim in shallower water, but this will depend on your size (specifically your wingspan) and weight
If you have very long arms, they are going to get a lot closer to the bottom of the pool. Plus, the heavier you are, the more you will sink, bringing your fingers closer to the bottom of the pool.
A lot of adults will find they can swim in 0.75m (2.46 feet) of water. However, their fingers will probably touch the bottom of the pool.
This may or may not be a problem for you, depending on your size and personal taste.
For me, when I swim in my garden pool my fingers just touch the bottom of the pool and I am not bothered by this. At first, I was concerned that it would affect my swim stroke as mentally you might adjust your stroke to stop this from happening, but this did not happen.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to pack up and return to an above ground pool if you have used it, so try to get a deeper pool of at least 0.9m (3 feet) if you will be bothered by this.
Even better, find a shallow pool in your area and see how you swim in it. This will give you some sort of idea of what depth of water you like to swim in and where your personal minimum pool depth might be.
I have covered the minimum water depth for swimming and how to calculate this in much greater detail in this article, Minimum Water Depth for Swimming – How much water do you need?
What Is The Smallest Above Ground Pool For Swimming?
The smallest above ground pool for swimming should be selected based on your height.
If you are 5 foot and under, you will “just” be able to fit into the Intex Small Family Frame Pool 260 x 160 x 65 cm, 2.282 Liters
I know this as I am 5 foot and this is the pool I have. When I swim, my fingers just touch the bottom of the pool.
If you are taller than 5ft but not super tall, the next size up is the Intex 28272 Metal Frame Rectangular Pool without Filter Pump, 3834 L, Blue, 300 x 200 x 75 cm
As this pool is just 0.75m deep, most adults may find that their fingertips touch the bottom of the pool as they swim.
Finally, the safest option for everyone, because it is long enough to accommodate even the tallest of adults and is 0.85m deep, is the INTEX 28273NP 177.25in x 86.625in x 33in Rectangular Frame Pool – Blue
This pool is 4.5 meters and 2.2 meters wide with a depth of 0.85m. This is a big pool, so may not be ideal for your small garden.
As someone who has a small garden, I have hunted high and low for the smallest above ground garden pool for swimming.
In conclusion, how small you can go will depend on your height. The taller you are, the bigger the pool you will need to accommodate your height.
Throughout my journey, the minimum depth of water required to swim in has really surprised me. With a swim tether and a pool of at least 0.75m, most adults will be satisfied with their garden pool.
Of course, the deeper and bigger you can go the better, but most adults will be able to swim fine in 0.9m (3 feet) of water, so this is not too far off the depth of most small garden pools.
Buying a garden pool is a big investment of both time and money and it is important to get it right, especially if you are limited on garden space. Once you fill it with water, it is much harder to return.
If you would like to know more about the costs involved in setting up a garden pool, check out this article, “How Much Does It Cost To Setup A Small Garden Pool? (For Swimmers)“