Installing an above ground pool is an easy weekend project for 2-3 people. Why pay some company more than the cost of the pool to install your aboveground pool? If you work out their hourly rate, you're being charged over $300 per hour for above ground pool installers. Do it Yourself and install your own pool!
With just 1-2 helpers, and some simple hand tools and a drill, you can have an above ground pool installed and filling with water from the hose in 1 day. If you have a sloping hillside or drainage issues or are sinking a pool into the ground, it'll take 2 days of work. One day to cut and grade the earth, and the following day for pool assembly.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Choosing the best location for your pool is an important decision, they are very difficult to move later! A spot that is flat and close to level, will be easiest to prepare, but for many homes, the best location is a sloping hillside. In this case, they cut into the hillside, and build a retaining wall of block or timber, giving at least 10 feet from the pool walls to the start of the slope.
- Close to water, a garden hose that you can use to fill the pool.
- Close to power, a grounded GFI outlet, to plug in the pump.
- Close to house, or at least visible from the house.
- Close to Setbacks or Easements, but not encroaching.
- Sunny location, without overhanging or nearby trees.
- Good drainage, around and away from the pool.
ABOVE GROUND POOL SITE PREP
One Week Before: Call811 before doing any digging on your property. A phone call to #811 will schedule a technician to come to your home and mark the property for underground utilities. It's the law, even if your yard is very flat and you do not plan to dig deeply - call them a week before any digging.
Also a week before the pool arrives, mark the area where the pool will sit by placing a stake (or stakes for oval pools), in the center of the pool, and tying a long string to the center stake. Measure and mark the string at the radius of the pool, plus 1 foot. For example, an 18' round pool would mark the string at 10 ft. Then hold the string taut and slowly walk around the outside, with spray paint, to mark the grass/soil with an outline of the pool.
Next step is to spray the weeds with RoundUp®, or other herbicide, to kill everything within the pool outline. This step is not absolutely necessary, but if you have the time to do it, and can do it about a week before installing the pool, it will make the job of leveling the ground a bit easier. Alternatively, if you want to use the grass elsewhere, you can use a Sod Cutter machine (a beast to operate!) to cut out the grass, and move it to another area.
Ground Leveling: Now comes the real work. If you have a sloping location or hillside to contend with, you may need to use a skid steer loader or otherwise get some mechanical help. If the ground is fairly flat, the work can be done with picks and shovels. A flat and square nosed shovel is a good tool, to shave off high spots and fill low spots. You may not need to actually remove any dirt, but get rid of weeds and rocks by raking the area with a garden rake.
To check for level, use an 8' long 2x4, with a carpenter's level taped to the wood. Move the 2x4 around the circumference of the pool, keeping one end in the center, and moving it on the outside. Work each "slice of the pie", leveling the ground and then moving forward, until you've gone all the way around. It's also helpful to set up your center stake again, with the string attached to another stake outside of the pool perimeter. The check for equal measurement from the string to the ground. Work the area until the ground under the string is level all the way to the edge, then move the string a few feet and repeat.
Tamping & Wetting: If the soil is loose, hand tamping it, or using a motorized tamper is a good idea. The pool will weigh from 50-110,000 lbs. when full of water, so be sure that your soil is packed, or the pool will do it for you, but possibly unevenly. Use water from a lawn sprinkler to saturate the area and help loose dirt settle into place.
ABOVE GROUND POOL INSTALLATION
Set Blocks in Place: To provide support for the uprights, or the posts in between each wall panel, it is recommended to sink a concrete block, a patio paver into the ground, at the finished height of the pool floor. Using your center stake and string again, measure from block to block, typically 8 ft, center to center. Dig down to place the block on solid footing, and at the same level. Use your string and stake again to be sure that the blocks are all within 1/8" of each other, in height.
Pool Floor / Pool Base: To protect the pool liner, it is recommended to top your bare soil with sand or other smooth, compactable material. Two inches of sand makes a nice base for an above ground pool; it's cheap, readily available and soft to the touch. Problem is, it's too soft, and over time, heel marks and other floor irregularities will begin to show up. Stone dust is better than sand, as it lays flatter and resists shifting. A base of vermiculite or a sand/concrete mix can also be used, for the most durable and hard floor material. To spread the material level, use the stakes and strings again, as well as a carpenter's level taped to an 8' 2x4.
Connect Bottom Rail: The bottom rail is a track that holds the pool wall and the uprights in a locked position. The bottom rail pieces connect end to end where they meet up at each connector plate, which also serves as the base plate for the upright posts between each wall. Once you have all of the rails locked into place, take several cross measurements, to be sure that the pool is perfectly round, or oval. You may wish to also check level again, by running strings across the pool, from base plate to base plate. Pull the string tightly, and hold a carpenter's level at the level of the string. You can also use a transit, or shoot a laser beam from a patio paver, across the pool to the opposite paver. Check for level on each patio block before shooting the laser across the pool. The pool base or floor should come up to the top of each patio block that you place to support each upright.
Roll out Pool Wall: The pool wall material is a solid sheet of galvanized and laminated steel, rolled up tightly. Installing the pool wall involves unrolling it while simultaneously pushing the bottom of the wall into the bottom rail or track. You will need 2 helpers for this stage, to help stabilize the wall and hold it into the track, while you unroll the wall. Use a piece of cardboard underneath the roll, to prevent divots in the floor, and to keep from damaging the base of the wall while you move it around.
The skimmer cut-out is normally close to the beginning of the roll, so start at the place where you want the skimmer to be, which is also where your pump and filter will be located. After just 3-5 minutes, you'll have the wall standing up in the track, use the bolts to connect both ends together, being sure that the smooth carriage bolt ends are on the inside, with the nuts on the outside of the pool wall.
Install Foam if Desired: Foam on the walls gives a nice soft touch and helps protect the liner. Same goes for floor padding that you can place underneath the liner. Pool Cove can be used to make a smooth and even transition between pool wall and floor, and helps protect the liner from overstretching in this area.
Install Vinyl Pool Liner: with 2-3 helpers, drape the pool liner over the pool walls and clamp it in place with the coping strips. For beaded liners, attach the bead receiver to the top of the pool wall and snap the liner edge into the track.
Install Uprights, Stabilizers and Top Rail: Secure the upright by snapping it over the base plate on the outside of the wall. Position the stabilizer plate on the top of the upright, and screw into the upright. Now position the top rail on the top edge of the wall, and screw into place at the uprights.
FILLING YOUR NEW POOL
To avoid wrinkles while filling, you can set the liner with a vacuum. Connect a large wet/dry vac into the pool return, and tape a cardboard panel over the skimmer opening. Turn on the vac, and the liner will suck into place. If there are any wrinkles, shut off the vac and reposition the liner, moving wrinkles toward the walls, and turn the vac on again.
Drop in a garden hose, which should add 300-600 gallons per hour to the pool, depending on your flow rate or water pressure. If using a wet/dry vac, keep it running until the pool fills to just below the pool return. Fill the pool all the way full, and then as the final steps, set up and connect the pool pump and filter to the pool skimmer and return. Screw on the faceplates, on the pool side, and cut out the vinyl inside the skimmer and return faceplates.
Visit our above ground pool section, to view our selection of above ground pools - now that you know how to install it! If you have any questions on how to install your own above ground pool, please feel free to call me at 800-983-POOL, or send me an email!
Larry Weinberg SPP Pool Expert
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