Conventional wisdom dictates that inground pools should be reserved for the financially comfortable, while above-ground pools are the thrifty alternative for more frugal folks looking to swim at home.
While this idea is not necessarily false, it fails to recognize a third alternative: semi-inground pools. This option serves as a middle ground for those who can’t settle on a conventional pick.
What Are Semi-Inground Pools?
The name essentially says it all: a semi-inground pool, also known as a SIP, is a hybrid model where a portion of the pool is below ground while the rest remains exposed above ground.
SIP designs can vary considerably—some leave just a few feet exposed above ground, while others are only buried a few feet in the ground.
In general, SIPs maintain one consistent depth throughout the entire pool, usually about four feet.
Semi-Inground Pools Compared To Other Pool Types
Many people have no idea that a semi-inground pool is an option at all, so they’re naturally curious how SIPs compare to in-ground and above-ground pools.
The answer to this question comes down to the specific pool design. Some SIPs mimic above-ground pools very closely, with a couple of notable differences.
Because part of a semi-inground pool’s walls will always be buried, they must be thicker to withstand the natural forces within the ground.
Since an above-ground pool is a standalone structure (that can generally be disassembled and moved to a new location with relative ease), the walls are not as strong.
SIPs also have some noticeable differences from inground pools. Inground pools are buried significantly deeper in the ground than SIPs, which can be trickier for many reasons.
In terms of cost, semi-inground pools fall roughly in the middle between in-ground and above-ground pools, likely as one would expect for a hybrid model.
Semi-Inground Pool Pros
When it comes time to choose the right pool type, it is vital to consider the benefits that come along with a semi-inground pool.
They Are Durable
Unlike many above-ground pools (which only last about ten years on average), semi-inground pools can have long lifespans, particularly when properly cared for.
A decent SIP can last upwards of 20 years, with high-end versions lasting up to 40 years. Since a pool can potentially increase home value by up to 7%, it is savvy to choose one that will last.
They Require Less Labor
Part of the reason inground pools are so expensive is that they require a great deal of labor to install, including quite a bit of excavation right at the start of the process.
While SIPs still require some excavation, the amount of work needed to install a semi-inground pool is significantly less than what is necessary for an inground pool.
They Need Less Clean Up
Another byproduct of less excavation and labor is less mess to contend with once a semi-inground pool’s installation is complete.
There is less displaced soil, debris, and machinery to worry over, meaning homeowners can begin enjoying their pools right away following installation.
What’s more, SIPs are easy to keep clean since their raised edges block debris (like leaf litter and bugs) from quickly making their way into the water.
They Can Be Built To Blend in
Many people who cannot afford inground pools forgo the idea of having a pool entirely because above-ground pools generally stick out so sharply against the aesthetic of their homes.
Since SIPs have such flexible designs, it takes relatively little effort to create a semi-inground pool that blends into the natural landscape or complements design elements already present in a backyard.
For example, a semi-inground pool can be partially buried in the natural slope of a backyard. Alternatively, you can surround it with a deck that matches one already built behind a house.
The Water Temperature Stays Comfortable
Inground pools are notorious for cold water since the naturally cool ground surrounds the pool. Given that the average pool heater costs about $2,000, a natural solution to this issue is ideal.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, once the water in above-ground pools gets warm, there is no easy way to cool it off again, and it can start to feel like taking a bath by the end of summer.
SIPs offer the best of both worlds. Since semi-inground pools are only partially buried, the water still warms up with the ambient air temperature, but it also cools off slightly thanks to the ground.
Semi-Inground Pool Cons
Although SIPs have some definite perks, it is wise to consider this option from every angle, and there are a few drawbacks to consider.
Shapes Are Limited
Although the sky’s the limit when it comes to design possibilities with a semi-inground pool, the options for shapes are relatively limited compared with inground pools.
For the most part, SIPs only come in traditional shapes like circles, ovals, and rectangles, so those seeking a more unusual look may have to opt for inground.
Warm Water is Unavoidable
While many people consider it a positive thing that the water in SIPs stays warmer longer, the reality is that it can be frustrating for people who prefer to take cooler swims.
Though SIPs are not quite as warm as above-ground pools, they certainly do not offer the same cool, crisp water that some expect from swimming in inground pools.
Average Cost of Semi-Inground Pools
One of the first questions that anyone considering a semi-inground pool asks is, “how much does a semi-inground pool cost?”
Unfortunately, this question is also one of the toughest to answer in a simple manner because there is a great deal of variability in both the design and materials used for SIPs.
On average, the total installation cost of a semi-inground pool is somewhere in the range of $16,000 to $25,000, with monthly maintenance costs that hover around a few hundred dollars.
That said, it is necessary to understand that this range can fluctuate based on factors like pool size and landscaping in addition to the design and materials used for a specific SIP.
To put this cost in context, exploring some average prices for other types of pools may feel helpful. Inground pools are the most expensive option, mainly due to the labor involved.
The average inground pool can cost anywhere between $35,000 to $50,000 to install; yearly maintenance will run an average of $3,500.
Above-ground pools are significantly less expensive. Generally, these cost about $1,000 to $8,000. Mainly thrifty homeowners can save thousands by installing these pools themselves.
With any of these options, other factors can cause the overall project price to rise sharply. For example, if a homeowner also wants to build a deck, it will require more money.
The average cost of a semi-inground pool falls between the standard prices for the other two popular pool types, making it an ideal option for those hoping to split the difference.
Semi-inground pools can be incredibly striking when applying a little creativity to the design process; here are a couple of quick ideas to enhance the visual appeal of SIPs.
Build Into a Hill
SIPs are perfect for yards with significant slopes. One side of the semi-inground pool can be buried in the hill, and the other side can remain exposed for a striking aesthetic.
The buried side of the pool can have a deck or patio built around it, or it can simply flow naturally from the hill as if it is part of the landscape.
Add a High Deck
High decks are a great way to trick the senses without incurring the extra cost for those who want more of the luxury appeal often associated with inground pools.
A deck that rises to the edges of the pool walls will give the illusion of an inground pool. With various materials available for deck construction, this design can appear very high-end.
Build It Into the Patio
Surrounding a semi-inground pool with patio pavers is a great way to make it appear like an organic part of the backyard.
This design concept works exceptionally well if the SIP is added to a backyard that already features a patio. Using the same pavers creates a sense of continuity, so the new pool doesn’t stick out.
Where Luxury and Affordability Merge
Many people think that having a pool at their home is out of reach because inground pools are so wildly expensive. Others shy away from the idea because they don’t like the look of above-ground pools.
Semi-inground pools may not be quite as luxurious as inground pools or as affordable as above-ground pools, but they strike the perfect balance between these two options.
With careful planning and design, a semi-inground pool can feel just as high-end as an inground pool, but it will come at a fraction of the cost.