Inground pools are a summertime luxury that not every homeowner can afford to have installed in their backyard.
Traditionally, the alternative to inground pools were above-ground pools, which provided the same function at a fraction of the cost.
But now, you can opt for the hybrid model; the semi inground pool.
What is a Semi Inground Pool?
A semi inground pool (SIP) is designed with a half-in, half-out look: half of the pool is buried in the ground, with the other half exposed.
These designs vary, as some sink the pool a few feet into the ground (giving the top half a raised look), while others are half built into the slope of a hill.
SIPs have a consistent depth throughout, and are usually around 4 feet deep.
Semi Inground vs Inground vs Above Ground Pools
So how do they differ when compared to their traditional counterparts?
Some SIP designs are strikingly similar to above ground pools, but they use thicker walls and can’t be broken down and relocated once installed.
The reason for the SIPs stronger walls is because they need to withstand the natural ground forces when buried. Above ground pools don’t have to worry about this as they’re a standalone structure, and the pressure of the water provides its wall strength.
Compared to inground pools, SIPs aren’t installed as deep into the ground. This has a few benefits we’ll further discuss below.
Cost wise, they’re pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be. As the hybrid pool, they’re cheaper than an inground pool, but more expensive than an above ground model.
Benefits of Semi Inground Pools
Let’s take a look at the reasons why many homeowners are choosing to invest in a semi inground pool.
They Last Longer
First and foremost, they have a pretty good lifespan, and if you take care of them they have an excellent lifespan.
Most middle of the road models can last you anywhere between 10 and 20 years, with high end models easily lasting 30 to 40 years.
When you’re considering upping the value of your house with a pool, having one that lasts multiple decades will go a long way.
They’re Easier To Install
Compared to inground swimming pools, SIPs aren’t as labor intensive when setting up. This cuts down the installation time significantly.
While excavation is still required to sink the bottom half of the pool (or build it into a hill), there is considerably less work involved. Less digging also means less chance of hitting things like tree roots and having to re-route any utility lines that might be in the way.
They Leave Less Mess Behind
With concrete, rebar, and a ton of plumbing, inground pools create a big mess during installation.
SIPs don’t really have this issue. Depending on the model, their walls are mainly aluminum, rustproof, and the plumbing is easy to manage. However, some high-end wall designs add concrete or stone to the exterior – and some will even use glass panels!
In addition, SIPs have a raised lip which helps to block debris and bugs from getting into the pool. This means less cleaning for you, and less fluctuations in your pool water’s chemistry.
Water Stays Warm Longer
Inground pools are naturally cool, because their entire structure is surrounded by earth.
Semi inground pools keep the water warmer, and for long periods of time. This is because half of the pool is raised up out of the ground, so the sun’s heat easily transfers through the exposed walls and into the water.
With naturally warm water, your pool heater won’t have to work as hard (if at all) to provide you with the health benefits warm water affords you – stress relief, relaxed muscles and joints, as well as improved blood circulation and breathing.
They Blend Into The Surroundings
Unlike above ground pools (which stick out like a sore thumb), SIPs can blend seamlessly into your backyard environment.
This can be done through strategic positioning (if your backyard has a high to low slope), or by constructing a raised pool deck that is either attached to one end, or 360 degrees around the pool.
Looking out from inside the house, many SIPs can easily be mistaken for an inground pool.
Drawbacks of Semi Inground Pools
Nothing in this world is perfect, is it? Let’s take a quick look at some of the downsides to this style of swimming pool.
Water Stays Warmer Longer
While this is part of the pros, it can also be a drawback to semi inground pools.
Warm water all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. For instance, chlorine is used up quicker in warm water. This means you’ll be using it more frequently, and as a result, buying it more often.
Cool water is also healthier and easier for humans to swim in.
To keep the water cool in a SIP, you may have to invest in a chiller, which may increase your monthly energy bill.
Your Choices Are Limited
Semi inground swimming pools have a lot of model options to choose from, but they’re still fairly limited when compared to some of the pool shapes you can get in an inground model.
SIPs usually come in traditional shapes like circles, ovals, and rectangles. If you’re looking for more of a freeform look, you may not find it in a SIP.
How Much Do They Cost?
The question I’m sure you really want answered is, “how much will a semi inground pool cost me?”
Well, it really depends on the materials and the design.
Inground pools require lots of labor, heavy duty materials like concrete, and long install times. They usually run anywhere between 35k and 50k, with yearly maintenance fees in the $3,500 range.
Above ground pools are markedly cheaper. Prices range from $1000 to $8000, and if you want it installed, an average total would be in the $3,500 range. You can always save installation money on above ground pools by putting it together yourself.
The price of semi inground pools also varies. This is because there’s multiple pool sizes to choose from, as well installation fees, and of course landscaping that has to be designed around the pool.
Some homeowners want a big pool with a wood deck, while others prefer a small pool with a stone deck. The point is, there’s lots of options that factor in.
Having said that, the average cost for a semi inground pool installed is usually in the $16,000 to $25,000 range. Monthly costs for maintaining a SIP will be similar to those of an inground pool.
Semi Inground Pool Design Ideas (3 Examples)
There’s no shortage of pool designs when it comes to semi inground pools. Here are a few ideas you can chew on:
Example #1: Sloped Semi Inground Pool
This semi inground pool is built directly into the sloping hill of this backyard, leaving half of it exposed. They’ve decided to add some stone to the outside wall and coping to keep the design in line with the concrete walkway and deck.
Additionally, stone will help reinforce the pool wall, and draw more heat from the sun which gets transferred into the water.
A very common shape for SIPs, this circular model also has a ladder with steps to make entry and exit easier.
Example #2: High Deck Semi Inground Pool
Definitely more of a luxury model, this rectangular semi inground pool has been impeccably designed with dark stone to contrast the light aqua pool water color.
This model sinks the bottom half into the ground, leaving the top half exposed. The added height allows for triple sheer descents to be included in the design.
The addition of stone will provide the same advantages as in Example #1, and entry steps are included right in the pool’s flooring (top right corner).
Example #3: Low Deck Semi Inground Pool
Sitting low to the ground (but not as low as an inground pool) is this semi inground pool with step entry.
Designed with a striking blue and brown aesthetic, the wood used is actually composite. Composite is great for pool decking as they’re resistant to water, UV light, cool to walk on, and will save your feet from potential splinters.
The low deck also caters to those with bad knees, and the 1 foot high lip acts as a barrier to keep the rock debris out of the pool.
The Best of Both Worlds
Semi inground pools may not have the mass appeal that inground swimming pools do, or the DIY-friendliness of an above ground pool.
But what they do have is a unique look and budget appeal.
With the right design, they can give your backyard a luxurious and contemporary feel that can rival any high-end any pool.