Above ground pools are an affordable alternative to inground pools, but you have to install it correctly to make sure it can last you for years to come. One of the most important considerations 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. Later in the article, I’ll also discuss why it’s important to level the ground underneath your pool. Let’s dive in.
Materials and Tools You Need to Level Your Backyard
There’s a lot of discussion about the tools you need to level a 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 most 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 for Leveling 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 would recommend hiring a local contractor to help you out. If it’s just a few uneven spots though, you should be able to DIY without any issues. Let’s get into the steps.
Step 1: Survey the Area
Before you start removing sod or digging up the ground, check with your local municipalities and utilities. They will let you know if you’re sitting on top of gas and electric pipes or buried cables and sprinkler systems.
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 trying to build up lower ground. Depending on how uneven the ground is, this may take considerable time and effort. If that is likely to be the case, it may be worth investing in sturdier equipment.
Digging down to ground level may also be complicated by the stoniness of the soil under the sod; The number of roots you encounter may also be a complicating factor.
Step 4: Assessing the Ground Level
As you work, regularly consult with your level. It will help gauge how level the ground now is and allow 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, you’ll need to add a sand layer to smooth out the base. The sand layer protects the pool liner from any remaining debris in the ground. You’d want enough sand to cover the expanse of your pool area in a thick layer of 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 really pack it in. Use a hand tamper or lawn roller to compact the ground.
Finally, recheck the ground to make sure 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 any final adjustments and remove any missed bumps.
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 a pool pad over the flattened ground and you’re all set to install the pool.
Why Your Above Ground Pool Needs to Be on Level Ground
Level ground plays a critical role in ensuring your pool is safe, sturdy, and ready for use. There are two major aspects of an above ground pool are affected by the evenness of the ground you build on:
- Water level
- Structural integrity
While not directly affected, location also plays a strong part in determining the longevity of your above ground pool.
Building on uneven ground can result in a pool that has 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 has ramifications on the pool’s cleanliness, as an ineffective cleaning system cannot properly catch debris like falling leaves or twigs.
Of course, aesthetics can be affected as well. A pool constructed on uneven ground just 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 at risk may collapse, 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 obviously has a significant impact on how level it is, but there are a couple other considerations as well. While choosing where to put your above ground pool, consider:
- Even ground
Ideally, you want at least 3-6 feet between your home and your pool. You’ll also want the ground to drain well; An area prone to flooding makes a poor place to set up your pool. Similarly, a spot with too many trees will see you cleaning 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, grass in an unprepared area may be hiding rocks or sticks that could cause even more damage.
And, of course, 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.
Once the ground is level, you can install the pool, fill it with water, and enjoy! Looking for a pool recommendation? Head over to my top picks for the best above ground pool.
Questions? Let me know, always happy to help.