How to Install & Set Up an Above Ground Pool

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Even before it arrives, you can get to work on setting up your above ground pool. Whether you’ve got a sturdy, semi-permanent walled above ground pool or an inflatable easy-set pool, you’ll benefit from getting your backyard prepped.

A cleared and leveled area for your above ground pool will ensure it’s safe and help it last much longer. This guide will help you level the ground for an above ground pool and cover some general set up tips for a few popular types of pools.

How to Level Ground for an Above Ground Pool

To get your yard ready to set up your above ground pool:

  1. Find a spot in your yard that is semi-level, provides enough space around the pool, and has easy access to water.
  2. Mark the center point of your pool and trace the outline to accommodate not only the pool, but the frames and some extra room around it. Mark your perimeter with stakes or chalk/paint.
  3. Clear out any grass, sod, roots, rocks, debris within your marked perimeter.
  4. Check the level of the cleared area. If there’s a high spot, lower it to match the low spot before adding sand.
  5. Add sand, wet, and tamp/compact/smooth it down. Repeat the tamping process a few times. Make sure the sand base is level.
  6. Begin assembling your above ground pool according to your manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Place frame supports on thin plywood or blocks to prevent them from digging into the sand base.

Choose a Spot for Your Pool

The first step to setting up your above ground pool is choosing where in your yard to put it.

You should already have a rough idea of where your pool is going to go, given the fact that your yard space is going to dictate the size and shape of the above ground pool you’ve bought.

With your rough area in mind and the dimensions of your pool – including any frame supports that slant out – take some rough measurements to find a spot that will accommodate the pool, the frame, and some extra space around it.

NOTE: Some cites/counties require a certain amount of space around certain types of above ground pools. There may also be restrictions on how close you can install your pool to your fence or property lines. Check with your local zoning regulations to be sure.

Tools and Materials to Level Yard for an Above Ground Pool

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In order to level the ground for your pool, you’ll need:

  • Shovel.
  • Rake.
  • Tape measurer.
  • Rope.
  • Stakes or markers.
  • Level(s).
  • 2x4s (long enough to span beyond the distance of your pool) for checking the area’s level.
  • Plywood or cement blocks for resting supports.
  • Sand.
  • Pool bottom kit/pad (optional).
  • Water.
  • Tamper.

These materials will get you started in clearing and leveling the ground for your above ground pool. Of course, you’ll also need the tools and hardware required for your particular pool model.

Finding Level Ground

With some rough spots in mind, try to find the area that’s already the most level. You can check this by rigging up some 2x4s about the length of the area and taping a few carpenter’s levels to the top. At this point, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but choosing the most level spot will make your job much easier.

Also take notes of grass, weeds, rocks, trees nearby. The less stuff you need to clear, the better.

If you’re going to need to do some digging, be sure to call your city or county’s DIG hotline to make sure there’s no power, gas, or water lines under your pool. You won’t need to dig deep, but it’s better to be safe.

Also take note of where any sprinkler lines in your backyard run. You may want to cap off any nearby sprinklers that would wet the base of the pool.

Another crucial thing to consider when choosing an area for your pool is access to water. Determine if there’s a hose faucet nearby or if you can get a hose that’s long enough to reach your pool. If you can’t get water to your pool with a hose, you’ll likely need to find a place that’s large enough for a water truck to access.

How to Prep and Level the Ground

With your area marked out, you’re ready to start clearing it. You’ll need to remove EVERYTHING from the area – grass, rocks, roots, sticks, etc. If you need to remove a large area of grass, consider renting a sod cutter from your local hardware store.

Even the strongest pool liner is susceptible to imperfections in the base. Believe or not, grass can actually grow through some pool liners!

With the area clear, get out your level set up again and determine where your high and low spots are. You can simply move the level around your area or you can affix it to a stake in the center of your area so you can rotate it.

If you have high spots larger than 2″, you’ll want to dig them down to match the low spots. Do not try to build up low spots.

With the initial leveling complete, you’re ready to add the sand.

  • Add enough sand to fill the area. Even it out with a rake.
  • Wet the sand and tamp it down.
  • Repeat this process a few times.
  • Check the level, tamp and add sand and tamp again as necessary.
  • If you want some added protection for your pool liner, you can purchase an above ground pool bottom pad/liner.

With your yard completely level, it’s a good idea to let it dry. Now you’re ready to assembly your pool!

Easy Tips & Pitfalls to Avoid When Installing an Above Group Pool

These easy tips will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls and problems people run into when installing their above ground pool:

  1. Make sure the bottom is smooth and cleared of all debris. You’d be surprised what can pierce and puncture a strong above ground pool liner. Make sure your base is as smooth as can be.
  2. Do not try to build up unleveled ground or steep slopes with sand, instead, lower the high spots first. Building up a low spot is sure to sink and sag over time.
  3. Extend the sand base well past the pool liner, walls, and supports. If you have a sand base that only as big as the pool itself, sand will disperse over time and the pool will sag and fail.
  4. Place plywood or cement supports under your pool’s frame supports. This will spread the support’s weight evenly over the sand and prevent it from digging in.
  5. Be sure that your sand base is well tamped and compacted before installing and filling your pool’s liner. Uncompacted sand will sag and compress unevenly, leading to pool failure.
  6. Take your time on tamping and leveling the base. A few rounds of wetting, tamping, smoothing, and leveling the sand will ensure that the surface is smooth and even. That’s why it’s a great idea to start leveling the ground before your above ground pool arrives – sometimes the excitement of getting the pool unpacked and set up can make you rush.

How to Level an Above Ground Pool with Water in it

If your above ground pool already has water in it and you notice the water level isn’t even, you’ll want to fix it as soon as possible.

Uneven water levels can put stress on the walls of your above ground pool and lead to leaks, rips, and structural failure.

If the water level is only slightly off, you’ll probably be okay. However, if you notice a few inches of difference in the water level from one side to another, you should try to fix the problem.

To level an above ground pool with water in it:

  • Drain a little bit of the water out to make lifting the sides of the pool easier. Halfway full is typically a good point.
  • Remove any leveling blocks you may have placed under the pool on the side that needs to be raised/lowered.
  • Use a shovel to move the ground underneath the pool in order to raise/lower it.
  • Replace the leveling blocks on the properly leveled ground.
  • Fill any holes or voids left with dirt, sand, etc.
  • Confirm that the water in the pool is even.
  • Refill the pool with water.

What to Place Under Your Above Ground Pool on Grass?

If you’re setting up your above ground pool on your back lawn, you’ll want to place something between your pool and the grass to ensure an even surface and to prevent grass from growing up through the pool liner.

Simply placing your pool on the grass can lead to problems of shifting, pin holes, and sinking.

Some of the common options for installing your above ground pool on grass include:

  • Concrete Pads: Pouring a concrete pad for your above ground pool will help ensure it is flat and level and will prevent any shifting. However, bare concrete can be abrasive on the pool liner as water shifts while the pool is being used. You’ll typically need to combine a concrete pad with a softer barrier between it and the pool.
  • Above ground pool ground pads: Ground covers and pads that a specifically designed for above ground pools are another good choice. These come in a variety of different sizes and are made of strong, durable material that will last a long time and help keep your pool safe. These types of liners can be relatively expensive.
  • Sand: Sand is a good inexpensive option to place under your above ground pool. The main drawback here is that you’ll need to take time to make sure the sand surface is level. As the sand settles and shifts, you may need to go back and level it again in the future.
  • Foam mats: Foam mats of various sizes and thicknesses are a comparable option to pads specifically made for above ground pools.
  • Carpet padding/floor underlayment: Padding and underlayment made for flooring and carpet is another option if you’re installing your pool on a tighter budget.

How to Set Up Your Above Ground Pool

Once you’ve cleared and leveled your yard, you’ll be ready to assemble and fill your pool. You’ll need to follow the specific instructions that cam with your particular above ground pool, but some of these general steps should get you in the right direction.

Some common tools you’ll need for pool set up include:

  • Screwdriver.
  • Adjustable wrench.
  • C-clamps.
  • Screws, bolts, nuts, stakes.

Easy Set & Exposed Frame Above Ground Pool Set Up

If you’ve bought an easy-set/easy-fill or exposed frame above ground pool, you’ll need to:

  • Assemble your frame supports as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Some attach with screws or nuts, others simply snap together.
  • Cut out plywood or find thin cement block large enough for your frame legs to rest on without interfering with the pool’s liner.
  • Slide the frame legs and supports through the appropriate slots in the pool liner.
  • Attach any additional rope supports that wrap around the frame legs.
  • Smooth out any wrinkles in the liner.
  • Set up and hook up your hoses, filters, pumps, skimmers.
  • Begin filling the pool with water.
  • Add chemicals as per the above ground pool’s opening procedures.

Walled Above Ground Pool Set Up

If you have an above ground pool with solid walls, you’ll need to:

  • Lay out and attach the bottom wall rails. You can add cement or plywood blocks under the connecting plates.
  • Begin installing the wall into the bottom rails.
  • Build a sand cover or use a foam cove all the way around the walls.
    • A sand cover should be about 6 to 8″ high and beveled at a 45 degree angle. This prevents the liner from slipping under or becoming damaged by the wall or rails.
  • Install the upright supports.
  • Install the liner and liner clamps.
  • Put on the top rail.
  • Smooth out any wrinkles in the liner.
  • Set up and hook up your hoses, filters, pumps, skimmers.
  • Begin filling the pool with water.
  • Add chemicals as per the above ground pool’s opening procedures.
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