Empty Pools: The Hidden Dangers of Above Ground Pools

All pools are designed to hold water – that sounds like an obvious fact. Still, particularly in the case of an above-ground swimming pool, it’s something that needs to be seriously considered because there are times when it must be drained, for example, to replace contaminated water or repair an accidental tear in the lining. So, the question to investigate is: will an above-ground pool collapse without water?

No above-ground pool can be left without water for more than fifteen minutes without being in danger of collapsing. Apart from the external frame, there is no other support holding it up. It is designed to remain upright with the weight and force exerted by the water with which it is filled.

An above-ground pool is an excellent alternative to a more expensive in-ground pool. If it’s well looked after and maintained, it could last seven to ten years. The most significant danger is that it will collapse if the water which supports the walls is drained. While the basic rule is to never drain the pool, there are times when it’s unavoidable, so let’s examine why it may happen and what you can do to keep the pool intact.

Above-Ground Pools Collapse If Empty? Reasons And Solutions

There will be times when you will have no choice but to empty your above-ground pool even though there is a risk of it collapsing. We look at the reasons and how to hopefully avoid this happening.

Reasons To Empty Your Above-Ground Pool

Over the lifetime of your pool, there will be times when you have little choice but to empty it completely.

  • There may be a tear in or damage to the vinyl lining that needs to be repaired.
  • After a lengthy period, the chemical build-up in the pool may be too severe to be corrected, and the water may have become unsafe to swim in.
  • There may be algae growth that algaecides have failed to remove or calcium deposits that need to be scrubbed away from the vinyl lining.
  • There may be building alterations that necessitate the moving of the pool to a more suitable position in the yard.

Why Does An Above-Ground Pool Collapse Without Water?

Apart from these essential reasons listed above, draining your pool should be avoided to prevent it from collapsing for the following reasons:

  1. The liner is installed initially slightly small and stretches as the pool is filled. When the pool is emptied, the liner will shrink back, but because it has hardened over time, it won’t expand again when you refill the pool. The result – it will either tear under the weight of the water or pull the top of the pool inwards, causing it to deform and collapse.
  2. A strong wind blowing against the walls of an empty pool will, in all likelihood, cause it to collapse as there is no counteracting force holding it up. Above-ground pools are not designed to be freestanding structures without the weight of the water to support the walls of the pool.
  3. Extreme temperatures, either heat or cold, will damage the lining of the pool if left without water, weakening the structure and possibly hastening its collapse.
  4. The age of the pool will be a factor, as the strength of the frame, as well as the lining, will diminish over time. Proper maintenance will result in an above-ground pool lasting for ten years or even longer, but when without water to support it, an old pool is more likely to collapse than a newer one.
  5. The size and location of the pool are two other factors to consider. The larger the pool, the more it is affected by strong winds and heat when without water. This is particularly true if it’s in an exposed position in your yard.

Preventing Above-Ground Pools From Collapsing Without Water

I don’t want to underplay the risks of collapse when your above-ground pool is empty, but there are certain things to do to prevent it from happening or at least reduce the risk.

  • Leave the pool empty for as short a time as absolutely necessary. It’s recommended that an above-ground pool stand empty for no longer than fifteen minutes, but that’s not always possible. Just minimize the time required to refill the pool, carry out repairs or remove contaminants.
  • Try and support the walls of the pool from the inside while it’s empty. You can brace the walls by stacking heavy objects or propping wooden stays against them. That will provide some resistance against the inward pressure trying to collapse the pool.
  • Before emptying the pool, ensure that the frame is correctly and tightly secured. Whether you have a steel, resin, or hybrid frame, all fastenings should be checked and tightened, and the pool needs to be on level ground.
  • Emptying a large above-ground pool could take eight to ten hours and even longer if you’re siphoning through a garden hose. The best time to start the process is after sunset, so there is no chance of the sun damaging the liner. If that’s not possible, schedule the drainage so the pool is not empty during the hottest part of the day. Refill it as soon as you have completed the necessary work.
  • When you’re planning to repair your pool, schedule the work for the cooler months rather than in the heat of summer. With less chance of sun damage, there’s also less risk of your pool collapsing.
  • Care and maintenance of your pool throughout the year will lengthen its lifespan and also make it more resistant to collapse. Always use a pool ladder to enter and leave the pool, avoid putting weight on the framework by sitting or leaning on it, and keep the liner in good condition by regular vacuuming and keeping the correct chemical balance in the water.


Depending on several factors, as I’ve outlined, the danger of an above-ground pool collapsing without water is a serious one and could result in a totally wrecked pool. If you have no choice but to drain the pool entirely, I’ve also detailed the steps that should help minimize the chance of the pool collapsing.

Alongside pool collapse concerns, you might wonder about leaving above ground pools out in winter. Find out more.