Above ground pools are an affordable alternative to inground pools, but to last a long time, they need to be correctly installed. One of the most important things to consider is having a level surface for your swimming pool to sit on.
Below, I’ll cover the step-by-step process to level your backyard and confidently install your above ground pool. I’ll also discuss why it’s important to level the ground underneath your swimming pool. After you read this article, make sure to read my guide on what to put under an above ground pool as well for some different base options.
Materials and Tools You Need to Level Your Backyard
There’s a lot of discussion about the tools you need to level the ground for your pool. One school of thought is that the more basic the gear, the better. Others believe you can’t level ground for your pool without heavy-duty equipment. I’ve done both, and for simple above ground pools, I think the reality lies somewhere in the middle.
To level the ground in preparation for your pool, you’ll need:
- Large level
- Stakes for marking the ground
- Tape measure
- Spray paint
- Sub-base material like sand
- Hand tamper
Step-by-Step Process: How to Level the Ground for an Above Ground Pool
When it comes to leveling the ground for your above ground pool, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want to hire professionals or whether you want to tackle the job yourself.
After you survey the area (more on that below), if you find that it requires some heavy-duty machinery to move all the dirt you need to displace, I recommend hiring a local contractor to help you out. On the other hand, if it’s just a few uneven spots, you should be able to DIY without any issues. Let’s get into the steps.
- Survey the area
- Remove grass and debris
- Begin digging
- Assess the ground level
- Add sand layer
- Compact the ground
- Cover with protective base and set up your pool
Step 1: Survey the Area
Check with your local municipalities and utilities before you start removing sod or digging up the ground. They will let you know if you’re sitting on top of gas and electric pipes or buried cables and sprinkler systems. The last thing you want is to break a pipe and have a hazardous and expensive accident on your hands. For more information on this topic, read my guide on how to choose the right space for your above ground pool.
Step 2: Remove Grass and Debris
Once you’ve established there are no buried pipes and cables, you can begin clearing the ground for your project. First, you will need to remove the grass and any debris underneath. Rocks and roots in the ground can damage the pool liner, so it’s crucial to clear the area before installation.
Step 3: Begin Digging
This is where the shovel and wheelbarrow come in. It’s easier to level the ground by digging and reducing the height of hillier ground than by building up lower ground. This may take considerable time and effort, depending on how uneven the ground is. If that is likely the case, it may be worth investing in some heavy-duty equipment.
Digging down to ground level may also be complicated by the stoniness of the soil under the sod or the presence of large roots.
Step 4: Assess the Ground Level
As you work, use your level to ensure the ground is even. It will help you to determine how much digging is left. You must do this at multiple points across the pool to ensure the ground is completely level.
Step 5: Add Sand Layer
Once the ground is level, add a sand layer to smooth out the base. The sand layer protects the pool liner from any remaining debris in the ground. You need to add enough sand to cover the entire pool area with at least two inches.
Pour the sand onto the leveled ground and use a rake to spread it out in an even layer. Use the hose to wet the area and leave it to dry overnight.
Step 6: Compact the Ground
Now that the ground is dry and flat, it’s time to pack it in. Use a hand tamper or lawn roller to compact the ground.
Finally, recheck the ground to ensure it is thoroughly leveled and even. Many above-ground pool owners discover too late that their measurements were off. This is the time to make final adjustments and remove any missed bumpy ground.
Step 7: Cover with Protective Base and Set Up Your Pool
Adding a protective base layer prevents the pool liner from damage and punctures. Usually a foam or tarp material, the protective layer can also help insulate the pool and prevent heat from escaping into the ground. Lay out your pool pad over the flattened ground and you’re all set to install the pool.
How to Level the Ground for Your Pool Without Digging
It’s a daunting task to rent a digger or shovel all day long to level out the ground for your above ground pool. If you are dealing with very hilly or uneven ground, you may need to bite the bullet and either hire a professional or rent some heavy equipment. But if you already have a pretty even ground, there is an easy alternative to digging.
Use Sand and a Long Board Connected to a Rope
This is a method I have seen pool owners use before that is surprisingly effective. You purchase a twelve-foot-long piece of two-by-four and a standard piece of rebar. Attach a level to the board with duct tape. Drill a large hole through the two by four and place it on the rebar. Tie a strong twine around the two by four.
The board will then pivot in a circle on the rebar to flatten the sand as your pull it around with the string. Eventually, this will flatten the sand to be completely level, and the process requires almost no digging! For more effectiveness, have another person push down on the board while you pull it.
Why Your Above Ground Pool Needs to Be on Level Ground
A level ground plays a critical role in ensuring your pool is safe, sturdy, and ready for use. There are two significant aspects of an above ground pool that are affected by the evenness of the ground you build on:
- Water level
- Structural integrity
While not directly affected, even ground also plays a vital part in determining the longevity of your above ground pool.
Building on uneven ground can result in an uneven water level, giving your pool a shallow and a deep end. While this may seem advantageous, it can be dangerous for weak swimmers or children who cannot touch the bottom.
It’s not only the deep end that will cause you problems either. Pool equipment, such as pool cleaners, can get stuck in the shallow end. This impacts the pool’s cleanliness as an ineffective cleaning system cannot correctly catch debris like falling leaves or twigs.
Of course, aesthetics can be affected as well. A pool constructed on uneven ground doesn’t look right. And, like a picture that’s hung crookedly, it’s immediately apparent that something is off.
A pool built on uneven ground poses structural risks as well. The uneven foundation of a pool built on a slope causes an unequal distribution of pressure around the pool wall. When not built on level ground, a pool may be at risk for:
- Collapsing walls
If you’re exceptionally unlucky, the pool wall may be at risk of collapsing, destroying the pool. The pursuant flood puts you and your neighbors at risk of water damage as well as injury.
Finally, where you place your above ground pool has a significant impact on how level it is, but there are a few other considerations as well. When choosing where to put your above ground pool, consider:
- Even ground
Ideally, you want at least 3-6 feet between your home and pool. You’ll also want the ground to drain well; An area prone to flooding makes for a poor place to set up your pool. Similarly, a spot with many trees will result in you having to clean the pool more often than you otherwise would.
It’s also important to realize that while situating your above ground pool on grass is tempting; it’s not an ideal solution. The grass may keep growing, and if it does, it could damage the lining of your above-ground pool. What’s more, grassy areas may be hiding rocks or sticks that could cause even more damage.
And finally, for best results, you want your well-drained, unshaded ground to be level.
It’s a long, often arduous process if you choose to level the ground yourself. So work slowly and take your time. And be sure to check the level of the land as you dig. It will save you having to start from scratch after you’ve installed the pool if you check and double-check the ground is level before installing your above ground pool.
Questions? Let me know as I’m always happy to help.