Inground? Above Ground? How About the Middle Ground?

There are many different types of swimming pools - fiberglass, concrete, geometric, freeform, salt water, chlorine. But the biggest dividing line is undoubtedly between inground and above ground pools. "Inground" means the pool is buried or built into the property. "Above ground" means the pool sits on top of the ground. The former is prized for its beauty, the latter for its affordability.

What many people may not realize is that there exists a third option that's halfway between the two. It's called a semi above ground pool, or if you prefer, a semi inground pool (I guess it depends on whether you're a pool-half-empty or pool-half-full type of person). This variety of swimming pool is partially buried, so it blends seamlessly into the landscape. But because it's not completely underground, construction is cheaper and less labor-intensive.

Why Semi Above Ground Pools Make Sense

Semi Above Ground PoolAlong with many other downsides, inground swimming pools are horribly expensive (moreso in some parts of the country than others). This is mostly because of the amount of labor involved in digging a huge hole in your yard. With no wall to keep dirt and grass out, inground pools also have to have decks built around them - another big expense.

Above ground pools have their own problems. These gigantic tubs are only a fraction of the price of inground swimming pools, but they don't blend in very well. Some of them look nice with shrubbery or a wraparound deck built around them, but let's be blunt - many of them are just plain ugly.

A semi above ground/semi inground swimming pool has a price range in between the other two options. They also look great with the right landscaping - in some cases matching or surpassing the looks of a top-notch inground pool.

Other Advantages

The cost vs. beauty calculation isn't the only reason many homeowners go with semi above ground swimming pools. They're also a great option for sloping landscape where neither an inground nor above ground pool makes sense. In these cases, a semi pool looks a lot more natural, as you can build it right into a hill.

If you want to plant your pool in the middle of a garden, a partially buried option also works well. The pool wall doesn't stick out of the earth far enough to detract from your flowers or other plants, but just enough to protect them from chemically treated pool water.

As compared to an inground pool, it's also safer to have an exposed wall around your pool. It makes it less likely that someone might accidentally stumble in - particularly children or pets.


It's not exactly accurate to say semi above ground swimming pools combine the best aspects of inground and above ground swimming pools. They're more of a compromise between the two, sharing both the upsidesand the downsides.

While cheaper than a similarly sized inground option, these pools still tend to be quite pricey. They cost more than high quality above ground pools due to the excavation involved. There are semi inground pool kits you can buy that allow you to perform the installation yourself, but not all homeowners are comfortable undertaking such a big project.

Also consider that burying the pool even partially could subject it to local regulations governing inground pools. This could make the process of applying for permits more complicated, and cost you more money in fees.

One more thing to keep in mind: Burying your pool makes it a permanent part of your yard. One of the advantages of an above ground swimming pool is that you can take it down during the winter, take it with you when you move, or resell it if you grow bored with it. If the pool is buried, you're stuck with it.

Semi Inground Pools are the Best Option... For Some

The advantages of semi above ground/semi inground pools should be obvious by now. It's why, over the years, many homeowners have installed Esther Williams semi inground pools and other brands rather than choosing an expensive inground pool or an ugly above grounder.

Of course, there are still plenty of people who choose inground and above ground pools. Some may not be aware of the other, "middle ground" option. But others have simply made the determination that a partially buried pool doesn't fit their needs. Unfortunately, when it comes to installing a pool, the decisions are seemingly never straightforward.