Whether you are a new pool owner or have owned one for years, it’s never too late to learn about the essential pool parts that keep your pool up and running. Even if you don’t do your own pool maintenance, knowing the basic parts of your pool and their functions can save you money and make you a smarter consumer of pool supplies and services. Here, our experts break down the essential parts of both inground swimming pools and above ground swimming pools.

Inground Pool Parts

Illustration showing parts of an inground pool, including skimmers, returns, main drain, filter, pump and motor, etc.Illustration showing parts of an inground pool, including skimmers, returns, main drain, filter, pump and motor, etc.

The Suction Side

Good circulation is important in keeping your swimming pool clean.  Think of your pool’s circulation system as having a suction side and a pressure side.  The suction side consists of your pool skimmers, main drains and your pool pump.  The pressure side is made up of your pool filter and your water return jets. The suction side pushes water into the filtration system and the pressure side returns the clean water to your pool.

Pool Skimmer

The skimmer is the opening built into the side of the pool that contains a plastic skimmer basket. When your pool pump is running, water is continually sucked into the skimmer where large debris such as twigs, leaves, and bugs are trapped in the skimmer basket. This prevents them from getting into your filtration system. Skimmer baskets should be emptied regularly to keep your pool functioning properly.

Main Drain

The main drain is usually located on the pool floor, in the deep end. It serves the same purpose as the skimmer, sucking water into the filtration system. Even though it is called a drain, it is not usually used to drain the pool.

Suction Lines

The suction lines are the PVC pipes that carry water from the pool skimmer and main drain to the pool pump.

The Filtration System

The filtration system is what keeps your water sparkling clean, and it consists of the pool pump and motor, and pool filter.

Pool Pump and Motor

The pool pump is responsible for creating the suction in your pool’s circulation system, pulling the water in and forcing it into the pool filter to be cleaned. A pool pump contains a spinning impeller that is powered by a motor. Pool pump motors come in a range of sizes. The size you need depends on the size of your swimming pool.

Pool Filter

While sanitizers do the chemical work of cleaning pool water, the pool filter does the physical work. The pool filter removes tiny particles of dirt, algae, and other debris from the pool water as it passes through. The three main types of filters are sand filters, cartridge filters, and diatomaceous earth, also called D.E. filters.

The Pressure Side

As the name suggests, the pressure side of your pool’s circulation system pushes water from the filtration system back into the pool, the final step in the circulation process. The pressure side consists of the return lines and return jets.

Return Lines

Return lines are the pipes that carry the water from the pool filter back into the swimming pool.

Return Jets

Return jets are the small openings in the pool wall where the return lines connect to the pool, returning the filtered water back into the pool.

Above Ground Pool Parts

Illustration showing the parts of an above ground poolIllustration showing the parts of an above ground pool

Many of our customers choose above ground pools because they are an affordable option and do not require as much space as an inground pool.

Pool Walls and Frame

The structure of an above ground pool consists of the pool walls and frame. These parts need to be kept in good shape in order to extend the life of your pool.

Steel Wall

The walls of an above ground pool are made of steel. The steel is corrugated for strength and coated to resist corrosion. Above ground pool walls can be round or oval shaped.

Vinyl Liner

The vinyl liner goes on the inside of the steel wall, creating a seal to keep the water from leaking out. Vinyl liners can be purchased in a variety of colors and styles to add to the ambiance of your swimming pool.


The pool’s frame is what holds the pool walls in place and gives the pool its strength and structure. Above ground pool frames can be made of steel, resin, or a combination of both. Pool frame parts include:

  • Vertical uprights: The posts around the outside of the pool that provide support for the pool wall/top rails.
  • Bottom track/base track: Forms the bottom outer rim of the swimming pool. It contains a groove in which the pool wall sits.
  • Bottom plates: These sit at the base of each upright, connecting the uprights to the base track.
  • Top plates: Found at the top of each upright; they connect the uprights to the top rails.
  • Top rail: This is the top ledge of the swimming pool. It can range in width from 2” to 12”.
  • Top cap: Can be made of plastic or resin; it covers the top plates and gives the pool a more finished look.

Circulation System

The circulation system in an above ground pool works the same way as an inground pool does, with a suction side, pump and filter, and pressure side.


As we mentioned before, the skimmer pulls water in and catches large debris before it enters the filter. Above ground pools typically have only one skimmer that is located near the top edge of the pool.

Pump and Filter System

Just like in an inground pool, the pool pump sucks water in through the skimmer and pushes it through the filter where it passes through the filter medium to remove contaminants and algae.


The return is the place where the water goes back into the pool after running through the pump and filter. Above ground pools typically have only one return jet.

Other Pool Parts

Pool Heater

While a pool heater is not an essential piece of pool equipment, it sure is nice to have. A pool heater makes your pool temperature more comfortable for swimmers and extends your pool season while also making the time you have to use your pool more enjoyable. Doheny’s carries a huge variety of gas, electric, and solar pool heaters, as well as solar pool covers to fit any budget.

Pool Cleaner

An automatic pool cleaner takes a lot of the work out of keeping your pool water clear and free of debris. Choose from suction side, return side, or robotic pool cleaners, depending on your needs and budget.

When you understand the parts of your pool and what they do, you can save time and money on pool maintenance as well as pool equipment upkeep and troubleshooting. Doheny’s carries a huge selection of pool equipment, supplies and replacement parts for all types of pools and hot tubs. Visit us online at dohney.com or call our pool experts at 800-574-7665.