Swimming Pool Anatomy: What Are All the Parts of a Pool?

Written by Michael Dean
November 1, 2023

diagram of swimming pool parts

Swimming pools have a lot of parts. From the pump and filter to the skimmer, jets, suction lines, and valves, it’s no wonder new pool owners can get overwhelmed with the different parts they need to identify.

In this article, I will break down every part of your swimming pool, and by the end, you should know how to identify different parts and how each part fits into the puzzle that is your swimming pool. Let’s dive in (no pun intended)!

Main Takeaways

  • Pools require a lot of maintenance from owners, so it is important to understand how each part of the pool works and learn to identify them.
  • Your pool parts fall into several parts of your pool system, including the suction side, the filtration system, and the pressure side.
  • Saltwater pools require a few more parts than chlorinated pools due to the saltwater chlorination system.
  • Above ground pools work similarly to inground pools, but they generally have fewer skimmers and return lines, as they are typically smaller.

Why Knowing Your Pool Parts Is Important

Swimming pools come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. That’s why it’s important to know what parts make up your pool so you can adequately care for it and keep it working the best it can over its lifetime and yours.

Buying and maintaining a pool is a considerable investment. Therefore, you want to know as much as possible about your pool equipment and setup before buying it. What kind of filtration system does it have? How do you maintain your pool? What sort of chemical feeder do you have?

You will also need to understand what materials your pool is made of to ensure you use chemicals that won’t damage it. Finding the answers to all of these questions will help you better understand your pool and how to care for it. So, what are the major parts of a pool?

Major Parts of a Pool

Every pool has the same primary components, whether an inground or above ground pool. The seven major components of a pool include:

  • Motorized pump
  • Water filter
  • Skimmer
  • Lines
  • Drains
  • Returns
  • PVC plastic plumbing connecting all of these elements

Some parts are on the pool system’s suction side, while others are on the pressure side. Both sides are crucial in keeping your pool clean, free of algae and bacteria, and safe for you to use. Below, I break each area down for you in detail.

Breakdown of the Suction Side of Your Pool System

The suction side of your pool has the job of drawing water up from your pool to the pump. It is the part that begins the circulation process.


The skimmer, found on the pool’s side, pulls water from the pool’s surface into the filtration system. It is your pool’s first line of defense regarding cleanliness, as it helps rid the collection of leaves, insects, and pollen. Automatic pool cleaners are part of that defense system as well.

The debris goes through a flapping door called a weir and goes into the skimmer basket that traps the items. You will need to empty the skimmer basket periodically to keep it from clogging and keep your filtration system working well.

Main Drain

There are two types of outlets in almost every pool. The first is the skimmer, and the second is the main drain. The main drain is located at the bottom of the pool and pulls debris that has fallen to the base.

The pump suctions water through the drain and dirt or small matter; however, if the drain holes are covered, it cannot do its job correctly, and pressure can build up in the pump, causing problems. In the past, when the main drain was covered, one problem was the suction became so strong that some swimmers, including children, got stuck in the suction, causing them to drown.

Thankfully, today’s pools include stricter safety precautions for main drains, with newer inground pools having two of these, but caution should always be taken, and owners should keep the main drain(s) clear of debris for this reason.

Suction Lines

The suction lines are either flexible or rigid PVC pipes running from the skimmer to the pump system. Depending on your pool type, the suction lines can be found above ground or underground. Suction lines can leak, causing problems with the system. If the suction lines are above ground, the leak is easier to find and fix. If they are below ground, the leak can be harder to find and more costly to repair.

Breakdown of the Filtration System

The filtration system is the lifeblood of how the pool operates. It pumps the water through the necessary steps to keep the water clean, usable, and warm.

The Pump

Think of the suction lines as the veins and arteries of your pool and the pump like the heart. The pump flows the water through the pool system and is vital to how it works. It carries the water through the filter and chlorinator. This keeps the water clean, prevents stagnation, and ensures there is a proper mix of chemicals. The pump is also responsible for the flow of water through the pool heater.

There are several types of pumps on the market, and which one you choose is a personal preference; however, you will need to determine the flow rate and head to find the right size pump:

  • Flow Rate – refers to the water quantity and is measured by gallon per minute (GPM).
  • Head – refers to the resistance to flow, such as how many bends in the pipe your water must go through, the size of the pipes, and the distance the water needs to travel. Moreover, this is measured by feet of resistance or feet of head.

These factors will also play into how often to run your pool pump each day.

Which pump you choose will determine the cost of the pump. A new pump can run over $800. And pumps need to be replaced every 8 to 15 years; look for common signs along the way you may need to replace it. I cover those signals in my article on deciding whether to replace your pool pump motor or the whole pump. If you just need to replace the motor, head to my guide on how to replace your pool pump motor.

The Filter

Chlorine only does half the job when it comes to cleaning your pool. The pool filter does the rest. The filter traps small particles of dirt and bacteria; once it’s clean, the water filters back into the pool.

There are three different types of filters:

For more, head over to my guide on the best pool filters.

Breakdown of the Pressure Side of Your Pool System

The pressure side does just that: It pushes or pressures the clean water that has gone through the filtration system back into the pool.

Return Lines

There are usually two to three return lines, depending on the pool size. Return lines carry the water from the circulation system to the return jets.

Return Jets

The water then goes from the return lines to the return jets, where the water goes back into the pool. The return jets are movable to control the circulation of the water. Pointing them down helps with better chemical and temperature distribution and overall filtration. If you’re having trouble with your jets, read my return jets troubleshooting guide.

Pool parts diagram:

A. Skimmer
B. Return lines
C. Main drain
D. Skimmer
E. Check valve
F. Sanitizer
G. Filter
H. Heater
I. Jandy valves
J. Pump
K. Check valve

Head to my complete pool plumbing diagram explanation for more information on this chart.

Inground Pool Setups

Inground pools come in various sizes, shapes, and styles, so no one description will fit them all; however, they all work very similarly.

They have a suction side, a filtration system, and a pressure side, including all the above-mentioned parts.

However, when choosing what type of inground pool is right for you, there are three main types: Fiberglass, concrete, and vinyl liner.


There are quite a few pros that come with getting a fiberglass pool setup:


  • Built off-site so faster to install
  • Low maintenance
  • Durable and therefore suitable for resale
  • Works with saltwater
  • Lower lifetime cost


  • The initial cost is higher
  • Not customizable


While usually more expensive, a concrete pool can be worth it for some owners:


  • Customizable shape and size
  • Durable, much like fiberglass


  • Because it is poured on-site, it is a slower installation
  • Concrete is a rougher surface
  • Not compatible with saltwater
  • More chemicals are required
  • Concrete is porous; therefore, it requires more maintenance
  • The highest cost of ownership

Vinyl Liner

Much like fiberglass, vinyl liners tend to be more affordable and more common for a lot of pool owners:


  • Lower cost initially
  • Customizable shape and size


  • Vinyl liners require replacing and can be costly
  • Warranties on vinyl liners can be tricky
  • Vinyl liners can harbor algae growth

Above Ground Pool Setups

Above ground pools may not have the lifespan that inground pools have, but they still have their benefits. For one, they do not cost as much, and they are easy and faster to construct. Bonus: Because their filtration systems are above ground, they are easier to repair or replace if needed. Side note – if you’re interested in this pool type, check out my article on the best permanent above ground pool.

However, they work similarly to inground pools with one exception: they typically only have one skimmer and one return jet.

Parts of Above Ground Pools:

  • Wall, generally one piece and made of galvanized steel
  • Some above ground pools have service panels where the skimmer and return fitting are
  • The frame in an above ground pool secures the wall and provides much of the strength of the pool
  • Top rails form the top ledge of the swimming pool
  • The top rack or stabilizer is above the top of the wall but below the top rail
  • Base track helps form the bottom rim of the pool structure
  • Uprights or posts
  • Top plates are on top of each upright
  • Some above ground pools have boots, which are fitted at the bottom of the uprights and are for aesthetic purposes
  • The vinyl liner covers the inside surface of the swimming pool and may wear or tear overtime needed to be patched or replaced
  • Skimmer
  • Pump and filter system

Additional Considerations for Saltwater Pools

Although the name may make you think that saltwater pools have a lot of salt, they only have a minuscule amount of salt compared to a natural body of saltwater. Plus, they come with these kinds of pros:


  • The addition of salt requires less chlorine, keeping costs and chemicals down
  • Requires less maintenance
  • Swimmers like the softness saltwater give their skin
  • Swimsuits keep their vibrant colors


  • More of a financial investment upfront
  • The generator continuously runs, making for a higher electrical bill.
  • The salt can cause corrosion and damage to surrounding equipment over time.
  • If repairs or maintenance are needed, they can be quite costly.

Of course, a must-have equipment for your saltwater pool is the salt chlorine generator, which turns salt into chlorine to sanitize your pool.

Optional Additional Equipment

Other optional pieces of equipment you can invest in to go along with your pool. Are they necessary? No, but they can improve your enjoyment of your new pool.

Pool Heater

It does what the name says; it keeps your pool at a comfortable temperature so you can enjoy it for longer. Pool heaters are available for both above ground and inground pools and include solar, electric heat pump, and gas.

Chemical Feeder

Above ground or inground pools need the right balance of chemicals, but that can take time and energy on your part. A chemical feeder is not necessary to run your pool but automatically feeds the right amount of chlorine and chemicals into the pool, creating less work for you.

Pool Cover

A few different pool covers include standard winter cover, security cover, automatic pool cover, and solar pool cover.

  • Standard Winter Cover – This is the most common and least expensive of the pool covers. It is usually made of a tarp-like material but does the job of keeping debris at bay. The only downside is it usually only lasts two winters.
  • Security Cover – Sturdier and more costly than the standard winter cover, the security cover is made to keep debris and children and pets out of the pool when covered.
  • Automatic Pool Cover – The most expensive of all of the options is also the most convenient. Unlike with the other covers, this cover rolls out over the pool with the touch of a button.
  • Solar Pool Cover – The primary purpose of the solar pool cover is to extend your pool’s season. It can warm the water earlier in spring and keep it warmer later in the fall.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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The Inner Workings of Your Pool Demystified!

Pools are complex systems with a lot of different parts to keep track of. Hopefully, now you understand the inner workings of your pool and are better equipped to take care of it! A pool is a significant investment but will bring you years of joy should you take the plunge.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any more questions or concerns!

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