We purchased the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set so our reviewer (and her super-excited kids) could splash around and test out its capacity and durability (between Marco Polo games and water volleyball matches, of course). Keep reading for our full product review.
Summer is synonymous with swimming, and there is no better way to get your swim time in than with a backyard pool like Intex’s 24-foot x 12-foot x 52-inch Ultra Frame Pool Set. This affordable and convenient pool is an above-ground style, meaning it sits on top of the ground and requires no excavation. This particular model straddles the line between a budget inflatable pool and a professionally installed hard-sided pool. My family set up the pool in our yard, filled it to the brim, and spent hours splashing to see how Intex Ultra Frame pool stands up to kids and adults who love to swim. Spoiler: It exceeded our expectations.
Site Preparation: Can take some work
We found that the most challenging part about installing this rectangular above-ground pool is site preparation. The area for the pool must be flat and level. Some yards may only need light leveling, while others require more work. We live on the side of a mountain, and our yard is sloped, so we had to excavate to create a sloped area. The site also must be compacted and capable of supporting the weight of the water inside the pool, and you should avoid areas with sand or mud.
In order to distribute the weight of the pool and prevent the side supports from sinking into the ground, a piece of pressure-treated wood (or steel pad or concrete tile) should be installed underneath each U-shaped side support, and they must sit flush with the ground. We needed 18 supports. We also used a ground cloth (included) underneath the pool and were careful to remove stones, sticks, and other pointy objects before installation.
Setup Process: Bring some friends
Once the ground was ready, assembly only took us an hour or two. It’s possible with two people, but it helps to have three or four. We found that the instructions are very detailed and easy to follow as long as you read them carefully. The instructions are written for a variety of pool sizes, so be sure to follow the directions for your size pool. Besides written instructions, you also can find guidance online that steps you through the process.
The frame snaps together quickly and requires no outside tools to assemble thanks to Intex's Easy Lock System, which uses a push-button connector to assemble the poles. They slide together and, more importantly, come part easily. The only difficulty we encountered was inserting the metal side support bars into the pool liner. These bars were long (24 feet for our model) and were difficult to push into the liner. After struggling with one side, we coated the metal bars with a thin layer of cooking oil, and they slid right into the liner with ease.
This is as close as you can get to a professional pool without paying professional-level prices.
After assembling the pool, we needed to unpack and connect the filter. The filter unit comes mostly assembled, so we just had to attach the hoses and then add (#20 silica) sand. Of course, we needed an electrical source to power the filter pump—one that was positioned to avoid being soaked by water from the pool. There is a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, on the pump to prevent electrocution.
Filling the pool takes some time and varies depending on your source of water. We have a well so we could not fill the pool using a garden hose. Instead, our local fire department delivered a portion of the water for the pool. We filled the remainder with water from a pond on our property. The pool holds 8,403 gallons when it is 90 percent filled.
Design: Easy on the eyes
The Intex pool is large, with plenty of room for up to four adults or six kids to splash and play. Though it’s long enough (24 feet) that you could swim short laps or swim underwater after rings, this pool is really best for splashing, floating, or playing games. It’s not particularly wide, at 12 feet, but our kids still had ample space to play Marco Polo and even water volleyball.
Though not as elegant as some in-ground pools, this Intex has a contemporary appearance that sets it apart from the typical pop-up pool. The exterior is a slate gray color with a matching brushed steel frame. White trim marks the waterline on both the inside and the outside. The interior, like most pools, is checkered white and blue. If you had to clear and level an area for the pool, keep in mind that your backyard might look like an eyesore until you finish the landscaping around it. You might choose to fill in the surrounding area with crushed stone or grass or even build a deck around the pool to enclose it and allow you to sit poolside.
From a utility standpoint, the Intex pool has some design hits and misses. We love the aforementioned Easy Lock System. We put the poles together incorrectly once and could promptly fix our mistake. The pool was also designed with durability in mind. Unlike most pools that fail in a single season, we expect to get several seasons out of the 24-foot x 12-foot x 52-inch set.
There are a few areas where Intex missed the mark, though. The most significant oversight is on the filter pump. It can pump to waste, which is useful for draining off some water if you’ve overfilled the pool. However, the pump’s waste port does not include a hose and discharges right at the base of the pool and filtration unit. This means it can flood water around the base of your pool or soak the electrical connection if it is on the ground. The ladder is also flimsy, especially for adults.
Our overall impression of the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set was that it’s rock-solid. The powder-coated steel frame was sturdy and did not collapse when kids clung to the sides. The frame does have some flex, but it was engineered that way. When you are splashing and creating mini-waves, the corners of the frame will slide to absorb the force of the water. This reduces the chance the frame will break in the middle of a vigorous game of water volleyball.
Our overall impression of the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set was that it’s rock-solid.
The puncture-resistant three-ply pool liner feels rugged. We had zero leaks throughout the summer. The kids regularly bumped into and kicked the sides when they were playing with no effect. We even accidentally hit the side of the pool with a shovel, and there wasn't even a scuff.
Again, our biggest complaint with the pool is the ladder. It is necessary for climbing in and out of the pool, but its construction could be sturdier. The kids don't notice it, but once an adult starts to climb on it, the flimsy feeling is pronounced. You can purchase an upgraded ladder, but we'd prefer to see the higher quality ladder bundled with this high-end pool.
Filter Performance: Crystal-clear water
This pool is equipped with a 2,100 Gph Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump that does an outstanding job at filtering the pool. It uses two inlet ports and one outlet port to circulate all the water effectively. We filled our pool with pond water, and the water was crystal clear after only a few 12-hour filtration cycles. The filter uses Intex's Hydro Aeration Technology, which pumps air into the water during filtering and helps to remove sediment and other small debris.
An automatic timer allowed us to turn on and off the pump each day. We were able to set the filter to run up to 12 hours. It also has a pressure gauge that we checked during filtration. If the pressure got too high, then we knew it is time to backwash the filter and clean out the sand. The filtration unit has six functions, including standard filtration, backwash, rinse, re-circulate, waste/drain, and closed. This versatility makes it easy to clean the pool, clean the sand, and drain the pool.
Maintenance: Extra expenses
The sand filter does an outstanding job cleaning the bulk of the debris in the pool. We ran it daily, and it kept the water crystal clear. The pool does not come with a maintenance kit so we had to purchase one for skimming and vacuuming. We chose the Intex Deluxe pool maintenance kit, which connects to the built-in filtration system. This allowed us to vacuum using the filter pump. The kit also comes with a scrub brush to clean the sides and a skimmer to clean debris from the surface.
Winterizing: Take it down
The Intex Ultra Frame is rugged, but the company recommends you drain the pool and disassemble it for the winter. Storing the pool inside is strongly recommended if you live in areas where the temperature dips below 41 degrees. There are large drain plugs to drain the pool quickly. Disassembly of the frame is not too difficult, as all the pieces snap together and come apart quickly. Just make sure each piece is labeled so you can reassemble it with ease. All components, especially the hoses and filtration unit, should be stored inside where they will not freeze.
If you decide to store the pool outside over the winter, you should drain the pool below the inlet and outlet ports and remove both the hoses and filtration system. Add winterizing chemicals and cover the pool (with the included cover) if desired.
Safety: Safe for most, but not recommend for younger children
This pool is tall enough that a child cannot climb inside without using a ladder or some other structure. I like that the ladder is removable, making it easy to block access to the pool when it is not in use. Note that the age recommendation for this pool is listed as 6 years old and up. Younger children need supervision in this pool because it is 52 inches high. Our 6-year-old could not touch the bottom without his face going underneath the water. We drained the pool until he could stand with his head above water.
Price: Pricey, but worth it
Priced at around $900, this model is at the high end for an Intex pool. It’s as close as you can get to a professional pool without paying professional-level prices.
Competition: Intex is in a class of its own
Blue Martinique 15-Foot Round Above-Ground Pool: The Blue Martinique above-ground pool is hard-sided with metal walls that are built to last. The Blue Martinique is more durable, but it is at least $500 more expensive than the Intex we tested.
Intex Easy Set Inflatable Pool: Priced at $100, this inflatable 12-feet x 30-inch Intex is an affordable option with a smaller footprint than the Ultra Frame. This competitor would be ideal for homeowners who want a pool with minimal investment in time and money.
Yes, buy this pool!
The Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set surprised us with its quality construction and durability. It successfully stood up to a family of eager swimmers, and the sand filter was outstanding at keeping the pool clean all summer.