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Thread: Trying to level and making it worse

  1. Back To Top    #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Middleburg, FL

    Trying to level and making it worse

    We set up our frame pool last summer on ground that we thought we had leveled, but ended up with stretches on some sides and gathers on the others. Rain creating mud around the feet which sank down made it even worse. We're going to use pavers this time. Anyway, we decided to take it down and re-level before swim time this year. The ground is VERY bumpy, but now hard packed earth (in most places) so I found the lowest of the depressions and started to dig down to the level of those areas. I'm guessing I'm going to have to go down at least 3" or so.

    I am having two problems: 1. The dirt is really packed clay mixed with soil. When we dug holes for fence posts it took my husband, two friends, and an auger to get down three feet - in about 2 hours.
    2. When I start digging down, I pull up clumps of dirt - 4" x 1" and larger, so I'm creating even deeper depressions.

    I've tried using the swing level, but until everything is even with the depressions it's useless - swinging on high ground. I thought about renting a tiller, but they seem to go deeper than we need to. If we didn't get so much rain, and our whole yard was properly graded I'd just dig down a few more inches, but water tends to collect near that area and I'm not quite sure what might happen to the dirt pit. Unfortunately, this is the only place we can put the this point I'd love to hire someone to do it, but that just isn't in the budget.

    Any suggestions would be helpful.
    14'x42" Summer Waves frame pool, Intex 2800 Sand Filter, Intex SWG
    "Well behaved women rarely make history..."

  2. Back To Top    #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Roscoe, IL

    Re: Trying to level and making it worse

    I have a suggestion if you have any future fence holes to dig. I got through 3' of solid clay in an hour or two, myself, without an auger, for fence posts. This was after the one-person auger I rented just refused to work (not just because of the clay, but because it couldn't cut through tree roots!). Between not going through any roots and digging into the clay without pulling it out and then getting stuck and taking a half hour of hard work to removed, I'll never again rent an auger for clay. Let me know if you want details on that. I've got pictures!

    The fence posts were actually for a privacy fence to go around an 18' hard sided (metal sheet) pool I had picked up from craigslist for free if I took it down. I ended up taking it down, moving it, building a fence, and getting the ground 75% leveled before winter hit, then I got a job, moved, and sold the house. All that work for NOTHING!

    Anyway, leveling sucks. I couldn't think of a better way of doing it than what I did, short of hiring someone to come in with an electronically leveled skidsteer to do it, which probably wouldn't have fit and I didn't have the money for. So the only spot I could put the pool was a former garden, and had 1' of nice, fluffy, black garden dirt. Great for settling weird. I started off by paying a couple hundred to rent a tiny skidsteer to remove this top dirt down to the clay underneath and try to rough level. Turns out, driving a skidsteer isn't easy. Luckily someone my friend knew came over and drove it, but I ended up being over 7" different between sides of the pool. So, I drew a circle using spray paint and a string, and dropped the first paver flush with the ground at the lowest point, and marked out the rest of the 15 or so paver points. These I dropped to level with the first one using a water level, which was a simple 2x4 stand with some marks and a clear hose filled with water and dye. Assuming no air bubbles, the water at each end, no matter how far apart, will be at the same height. I had a "level" mark on each, with marks showing each 1/4" I was up or down from the other stand. (If you do this, I have pictures somewhere, but 1/4" height marks are actually 1/8" marks vertically due to how the water behaves...I think that's right...). I finished by dropping an additional paver level with the rest in the center of the circle. I now had a ring of pavers sunk to their final height and level to each other within an 1/8" of each other.

    Now the backbreaking work. I used a spade to rough level a strip with width of the spade by kneeling and shoving it horizontally forward to "shave" off a flat layer of clay. If there was a lot of dirt to remove I'd rough it out with a shovel, and use the spade horizontally for the last few inches. I'd go across the entire line from center to a paver, higher than final, then lay a straight 2x4 long enough to go from center to outer ring. It would show the high spots, which I would trim down, then lay the 2x4 down, and repeat. Eventually, it becomes flat and level with the pavers, and the 2x4 should touch both the center and outer paver and touch the ground (more or less, it was within 1/4" to 1/2") the entire way. There was now a "line" leveled from center to edge about 6" wide. I repeated this for each of the remaining pavers.

    Now the really backbreaking work starts. I had split the circle into pieces of a pie, with lines level splitting the pieces. I now started, again using the spade horizontally, digging out the "pie pieces" one at a time. The amount of distance between level lines varied from nothing at the center to around 4" at the outer ring, which was close enough to eyeball the ground to within an inch or so, which I figured was close enough and a couple inches of sand (or foam, as I later found and decided to use) would take care of the rest. I dug out about 3/4 of the "pie pieces", slowly and painfully, before winter came.

    Oh, and I did use a tiller for some of the digging. I had a tiny little Mantis 2 stroke, didn't dig very fast and being light is pretty controllable, I would use this to loosen the dirt/clay until I got close, then finish by hand. A big tiller might get out of control pretty easily though.

    I understand this might be all very confusing, I think I have pictures I could dig up for if you're interested.

    Hope this helps! Doing it by hand is certainly possible but it most certainly won't be easy or fun!
    Hot tub: Indoor Intex 28409E "Six Person" inflatable. 290 gallons. Taylor K-2006 test kit with Taylor 9265 Speedstir and TFT CYA test. Using dichlor/bleach/borax/muriatic acid.

  3. Back To Top    #3
    CJadamec's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Quaker Hill, CT

    Re: Trying to level and making it worse

    A simple, cheap, and accurate way to measure your ground to get it level is to use a Water Level.

    A tiller can be used to just loosen the surface of the dirt to make it easier to level. Also a pickaxe, or a mattock is very handy in hard soils. Use them to loosen the high spots to make it easy to shovel off the loose dirt. Another handy tool is a flat shovel, you don't want a pointed or rounded shovels for leveling the ground.

    Once you have the area to within an inch of two of level you should top it off with a thin layer of masons sand which will fill in any small low areas. Make sure to compact the sand with a lawn roller or tamper. The sand will give you a nice smooth base for your pool.

    After the sand is in you locate where the pavers will be and dig them down so that the top of the paver is level with the top of the sand. Use the water level to make sure each paver is level to each other. Even though we call them pavers what I'm talking about when I say paver is a solid concrete block.
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