I'm investigating installing an above ground pool and looking for any tips or suggestions. Our yard has a slope in one area, and is mostly flat above and below it. So, our plan is to dig a "U" shape into the slope, build a retaining wall, and install the pool there. It works out that a deck on the upper part of the slope (over the retaining wall) would then be about the same level as the top of the pool. The deck will go completely around the pool, but mostly be on the upper slope, along the long side of an oval pool. (Oval fits the terrain better)
(1) Are there certain brands or brands+models considered to be better? The $50 Taylor test kit seems to be a standard recommendation, is there the same type of common recommendation for above ground pools? We're looking at something on the larger end of the range at around 15x30 to 18x33, depending on the size a brand offers.
(2) A local pool store appears to sell Fox Pools Ultimate Pool, at nearly $9000 for that size range. Am I better off buying a pool locally or is an online store okay? I also see that size range for closer to 4k in other brands online. Something I liked about the Ultimate Pool is that it has an option for a composite wood top-cap that would match our existing decking material, and doesn't scream 'above ground pool' like the resin top caps. Another pool store with a different brand was also about 9k DIY (Doughboy I think), so are these pools that much better than pools than those that are half that?
(3) Are the coatings on steel pools good enough now that aluminum isn't much of an advantage?
(4) Do all AGP have walls that bow out between the uprights? I thought the extruded aluminum pools might have rigid panels, but they all seem to have multiple vertical seams between uprights that still allow the walls to bow out.