How to Install an Above Ground Pool

Written by Michael Dean
April 25, 2024

installing an above ground pool

I don’t blame you for deciding to take the plunge and invest in an above ground pool. But once you buy it, there’s the huge task of installing it in your yard. That said, above ground pools are not nearly as complicated to install as inground pools, so many pool owners opt to DIY install.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about installing and setting up an above ground pool, including choosing the right site and prepping the area. I’ve also provided detailed step-by-step instructions for setting up different types of above ground pools. So, whether you have a steel frame, resin frame, hybrid, or inflatable pool, I’ve got you covered.

Main Takeaways

  • To install an above ground pool, you first need to choose the site and prep the site. Then to set it up, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Not all above ground pools are the same; the installation process differs according to the type of above ground pool you have, such as steel, resin, hybrid, or inflatable.
  • Above ground pools are much easier to install than inground pools, so DIY should not be overly difficult as long as you properly prep the site beforehand and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to a T.
  • If you’re unsure at any point during the installation process, hire a professional to install it for you.

Choosing The Site For Your Above Ground Pool

The location you decide to place your pool is critical because it is challenging to change once you set it up. If you want a quick and easy build, I suggest you place your pool on a piece of flat, level ground. If you don’t have a flat garden, don’t worry, pools can be placed on a slope; they will just require extra digging and a retainer wall to be put in.

You will also want to ensure that your pool is not under low-hanging trees or bushes and has good drainage. Plus, people often overlook the distance of your pool from a hose pipe, so unless you have a mile-long hose pipe, build your pool close enough so you can refill it easily.

Finally, you’ll want to check for any above ground pool permit requirements in your area.

For more information on site choice, you can read my article on how much space you need for an above ground pool.

Prepping The Site For Your Above Ground Pool

Once you’ve decided on the best spot to install your above ground pool, prep the site. To start, you need to consider the pool frame’s actual size and allow more space to work with. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself an extra 5 feet of room. Use a tape measure, and spray paint or a marker to mark the outer line. Once you’ve marked out the area, remove all the grass and debris. Then it’s time to get digging.

Make sure you’re using a site level as you dig so your floor is level; this will save you a lot of trouble and money. You can level the ground using shovels or a mechanical digger.

By now, your ground should be level and compressed with no rocks or pebbles. Laying a pool base is the next step. Many above ground pool companies use around 2 inches of sand as the base of the pool. Sand is a popular option because it is cheap and quick to lay out. While sand does work decently, it will also liquefy when it gets saturated with water, so I recommend using pure dirt as your base. If you have more time and a higher budget, your best bet is to pour a level slab of concrete on the area where you plan to build the above ground pool. This creates an excellent barrier between your pool frame, the vinyl liner, and the soil. Read my guide on what to put under your above ground pool for more information about each option.

Your site is now ready for assembly.

How to Set Up an Above Ground Pool

Different types of pools have different methods of installation and equipment that are needed. I provide a set of general installation instructions and the supplies you will need below for each type of pool, but note that all above ground pool kits will come with an extensive instruction booklet for you to follow.

Steel Frames

Now that your site is prepped for your steel frame pool, let’s install it.

Step One: Spread the Tarp

Open and spread the tarp provided on the ground.

Step Two: Examine All of the Parts

Lay out all the parts so you can see everything is there. All equipment should be provided for installation by your choice of pool supplier.

Step Three: Check That the Pump Is Facing Upright

The pump should face upright so that it is in the correct position to be pumped. Also, check that the drain valve is in the right area.

Step Four: Place the Pool Frame on Top of the Tarp

Ensure all the frame pieces are laid out like the diagrams in your instruction booklet.

Step Five: Build the Frame

Insert the pole rails into the pockets provided in the tarp. Each pole is connected with a T- connector to hold the frame together, then pull up the tarp, creating the “walls.” Small pins will be provided; these will need to be inserted into the pre-drilled holes. Continue inserting all poles and footings until the frame is secure.

Step Six: Check That the Drain Cap Is Closed and the Liner Is Wrinkle-Free

Doing this simple check will save you headaches down the road.

Step Seven: Fill the Pool With Water

Ensure you balance your pool chemicals after filling the pool, and then you’re ready for swimming!

Resin Frames

Installing a resin-framed above ground pool is very similar to steel-framed pools. However, more tools are required. As always, once your site is ready for installation, let’s move on to the required steps.

Step One: Place the Resin Frame Down on the Ground

Here, you will need to lay down the channel and posts provided in the correct layout where they will be bolted together.

Step Two: Insert and Tighten All Bolts

Using your hammer and spanner, insert the bolts and ensure they are tight enough to prevent the frame from moving.

Step Three: Cement the Posts of the Frame Into the Ground

This step is not required, but placing the posts into cement after assembly is advisable to ensure extra durability.

Step Four: Unroll the Pool Wall and Place It Into the Bottom Panel Strips of the Frame

Make sure the filters and drainage openings are in the correct position.

Step Five: Tighten the Pool Wall With More Bolts

A handy tip is to cover them with duct tape to not tear the vinyl liner.

Step Six: Place the Liner Inside the Pool

You can do this by rolling from each end.

Step Seven: Fill the Pool With Water

The pool can now be filled with water when the liner is smooth and compact.

Hybrid Pools

The hybrid pool is a combination of resin and steel frames. The installation process is very similar.

Step One: Lay Out All the Parts You Will Need

These will all be provided in your “kit.” You will also need cement, a spanner, and a hammer.

Step Two: Bolt the Outer Frame Together Using Provided Bolts and Washers

Ensure your bolts are secure!

Step Three: Roll the Wall Out and Put It Into the Panel Strips

Roll the wall out once the frame is intact and place it into the panel strips, just like a resin pool installation. The walls may seem warped, but they are built to do that, as to provide flexibility.

Step Four: Check That the Filters, Drainage Valve, and Pump Holes Are in the Correct Position

This step is important to ensure you can set up your equipment correctly.

Step Five: Check That the Pool Liner Is Smoothed Out

Wrinkles in your above ground pool liner are your worst enemy.

Step Six: Fill the Pool Up With Water

The same step as any other pool!

Inflatable Pools

The inflatable pool is the easiest pool to install. Here are the steps to do so.

Step One: Place the Pool Tarp Over Your Smoothed and Prepped Surface

The area prep I discussed above still applies to inflatable swimming pools.

Step Two: Unfold the Inflatable Ring on Top of the Tarp and Smooth It Out

While it may not seem as important, getting the wrinkles out early will also save you some headaches here.

Step Three: Check That the Pool Pump Hole Is in the Correct Location

I like to have my pool equipment on the side of the pool that is less visible to my family and guests.

Step Four: Install Support Beams (Only for Some Models)

Some pools may come with support beams that will need to be installed. These will need to be attached to the pre-drilled holes provided.

Step Five: Inflate the Top Ring Until It Is Firm

You can use an electric or hand-powered pump to do this.

Step Six: Install the Inflatable Pool Pump

Install the pool pump and attach it to an intake/outtake hose.

Step Seven: Begin Filling the Pool With Water

As the water rises, so does the inflatable ring, which then causes the walls to rise and hold the water.

As a final tip to first-timers, the most important things to remember are: follow the detailed instructions in your booklet, have a couple of friends over to help you, and finally, always make sure there is no debris to tear your pool liner.

How to Install Popular Above Ground Pool Models

Here are a few of the most popular above ground pools with guides on how to set them up.

Intex XTR Prism Pool

Check out the instructions manual for a guide on how to set up the pool.

This is one of Intex’s most popular pools. It is durable, large enough for the entire family, and relatively easy to set up DIY.

Bestway Power Steel Oval Pool

Check out the instructions manual for a guide on setting up the Bestway Power Steel Oval Pool.

Bestway is another major player in the above ground pool market. The power steel oval pool is a large study option that you won’t need to hire a professional to set up for you.

Summer Waves Elite Frame Pool

Here is the instructions manual for the Summer Waves Elite Frame Pool.

This is a quick set-up and heavy-duty, circular framed pool that any homeowner can set up in their yard.

Intex Easy Set Inflatable Pool

Here are the instructions for setting up the Intex Easy Set.

The Easy Set is one of the most accessible pools to set up, but you’ll still want to make sure it is inflated and secured properly. This inflatable pool is simple, affordable, and a perfect temporary summer solution.

Electrical Needs For Above Ground Pool Installation

While above ground pools do not require as much voltage as inground pools, they still need electricity to run the pumps. An above ground pool typically requires around 120 volts, so this does mean that you should install a dedicated circuit breaker. This way, you won’t blow breakers or trip the electricity in your house.

I strongly suggest having an experienced professional install anything electrical-related.

DIY Or Professional Installation?

The whole idea behind above ground pools is that they are much easier to install than an inground pool and are often marketed as great “DIY projects.” However, when choosing to install it yourself, you must have the site thoroughly prepared beforehand and be able to read and understand the instructions thoroughly. On the other hand, if you have the budget and are not confident in your building skills, a professional installation from a reputable pool company in your area might be the best for you, offering a stress-free installation.

Above Ground Pool Installation Problems and How to Fix Them

There are some problems that you may encounter when you begin installing an above ground pool. Here are some of the most common above ground pool installation issues.

Uneven Ground

The most common issue I see with above ground pool installation is uneven ground at the pool’s base. This is why it is imperative to properly prepare your above ground pool site before installing the frame and liner. The ground must be properly cleared and compacted. Otherwise, the pool liner may rip, or the ground will not be stable. This problem gets even more imminent if your above ground pool is sloped. The walls could collapse on a sloped above ground pool causing massive amounts of water to spill into your yard and home.

How to Fix it?

The best way to prevent this disastrous scenario from happening is to ensure you prepare the ground properly for your above ground pool. Use a level throughout the process to make certain the base is flat and secure.

Poor Drainage Area

It is also essential to understand your yard’s drainage and flood-prone areas. If you install your pool in an area that is prone to flooding, water can build up around the base of your above ground pool, rust the walls, and weaken the barriers. In extreme cases, flooding in your yard around your above ground pool can also cause your pool to collapse.

How to Fix it?

The main way to avoid this is to know your yard. Place your pool in a strategic area where water does not gather, and if needed, fix the drainage issues in your yard by adding more dirt. This should all be done before you install your pool. Otherwise, you may have to tear it down and start over.

Using Only Sand for The Base

As I mentioned above, sand, while a cheap material for building a base of an above ground pool, can spell out disaster when it gets saturated. When it gets saturated with water, sand liquefies and can cause your pool to shift and collapse. This can be a major safety hazard and can essentially destroy your yard and cause lots of water damage to your home.

How to Fix it?

My recommendation for avoiding this is to either not use sand at all or use a mix of sand and dirt as the base of your above ground pool. After all, sand is not known for being the best foundation material. You know the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Guess what material its foundation is made out of? You guessed it. Sand!

Need Some Maintenance Help?

Send me a message! I can answer any of your pool maintenance, equipment, or other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is it to put in an above ground pool by yourself?

Generally, it is not too hard, but it helps to have a couple of people to assist. It will undoubtedly make the installation process a lot quicker.

What to put underneath an above ground pool?

An above ground pool needs a sturdy and level base underneath it. The best base is concrete, which will not shift but is also the most expensive. Your next best bet is dirt, as dirt does not liquefy when it comes into contact with water. Sand is a popular choice because it is easy and affordable, but it shifts much easier than dirt or concrete and is not nearly as stable.

How much will it cost to install an above ground pool?

The installation price varies between different styles and sizes; if you’re installing it yourself, the average cost is $750 and upwards. But if you decide to have your pool professionally installed, the costs can start anywhere from $3,000.

I hope you are feeling confident about installing your own above ground pool and what tools, costs, and installation processes are involved. But if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out.

If you need to uninstall your old pool, read my article on how to take down an above ground pool. And if you haven’t pulled the trigger on a new pool yet, check out my design recommendations and my best above ground swimming pools article.

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