OMG....Help!!! Digging/leveling drama galore!

kb109

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
94
Columbus, OH
Finally started (kinda) the ground prep for our new Intex Ultra Frame pool. Here’s the problem.... the info we find is very contradicting. Do we start digging from the low end or start from the high end down to the low end? How are we supposed to know how out of level this slope is? Just by using stakes and string? Lord help us lol
 

kb109

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
94
Columbus, OH
Oh and I contacted SEVERAL excavating contractors from Angie’s List and all are saying they don’t do this type of work or can’t help us. How freaking hard is it to bring your machinery over and level a 20 foot patch of land and get paid for it? Yes the slope is pretty bad (see previous thread pics) but my god...
 

PoolGate

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 7, 2017
3,158
Damascus, MD
I guess this depends on your slope. I would take a long 2x4 and lay it out with a long level on it. You could use a transit if you know how. That is what a builder would use. I would probably start digging on the high end.
 
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kb109

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
94
Columbus, OH
Digging from the high end makes the most sense to me but some are saying start low and others start high. Just like with the sand vs no sand debate (we will discuss that when the time comes lol). I honestly trust the pool experts on this forum more than I do some of the sites I’m finding on google.

EDIT: And don’t even get me started on the YouTubers lol they are the most contradicting of all. If anyone knows a GOOD YouTube tutorial of leveling done right, feel free to post it!
 

cfherrman

TFP Guide
May 10, 2017
2,210
Hays, Kansas
Did on the high end and use that to fill the low end, or don't use fill at all. Any fill over 1" will get compacted by the pool so you want to avoid over use of fill including sand.

Start with a straight-ish 2x4 with a 4' level on top. That will get you in the ball park. I used a 2x4 with a hole in it and a stake in the center to level the sand, it gets close enough. When your putting down pavers many people make a water level.

The thing I wish I did different is to put down xps foam.
 
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kb109

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
94
Columbus, OH
So should I dig up the area and THEN level it? It’s too hard to tell where the midpoint and all that good stuff is when it’s sitting on a slope.
 

GotZoom76

Member
May 6, 2016
22
Minot, ND
I would definitely keep checking around to see if someone can help. My situation included the removal of about 12 tons of decorative rock followed by 18 tons of dirt to fill. I did everything myself after that.

I would dig from the high end and push to the low end. Once the low end starts to fill I think it will be easier to see if you missed any of the low spots. Like others have said, grab a long 2x4 to not only smooth areas out but you can set a level on it to check as you go. Once you are as close as possible to being level, I would rent dirt compactor. Go over the area several times and fill low areas as needed.
 

badams

Bronze Supporter
Jan 7, 2019
58
Chickamauga, GA
I have tried a couple different basic techniques, and I am in now way an expert, just trying to get my ground level without spending much. I am a couple weeks into leveling my ground and what I believe has been working best is using a line level with a string set to 1 stake at a specific height. I then go around in circle patters out from the stake to see where I need adjustments. When I get to the pavers I will rent a transit level from HD to be more accurate. The transit level can be laser or an eyesight one but if you rent it it is a laser level with a laser sensor that will indicate if you have to go up or down.

This video made is what made the most sense to me as far as explaining the transit level.

As far as finding where to start, I started from my lowest point and worked out from there, I found the lowest point by using a line level. I just put a stake in the ground outside insdie the cirlce measure the height of the line and then with the laser level went around to my suspected low spots until I knew which part was the lowest. There was a good section that had to come down 5-6 inches but most areas were within 1-2". I tried using the 2x4 technique but that didnt work well for me, I have hard clay so I would spend more time trying to line up the board and overall it didn't seem like it would be all that accurate due to the clay coming out in clumps and some other issues I had. It may work well when it comes to the sand part though. I started digging from my low point as it allowed me to slide the shovel along the ground to cut under the high parts. At some points when I had my kid helping I dug up my higher end since I knew it had to come down a bunch but now I find I am having to do extra work to smooth the transition between the two area as there may be a 1/2" difference between them which creates a ridge. All my research has found that you do not want to fill your low ends as over time that will compact and either cause unevenesss or if on the outer areas can cause the sand to come out from underneath.
 
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Teald024

TFP Guide
Use a garden hose and layout where you want the pool to go. Find the center and put a stake in the ground. Use a string tied to the stake and then tie around a can of spray paint. Spray a line on the ground that is about a foot bigger than the pool. Then take all the sod off the ground.
Make yourself a water level if you want to go simple. There are posts or Youtube on how to do that. The water level will give you a good idea where the high spots are and how much needs to be removed. You can use the spray paint to draw circles around the high spots that you find with the water level. It'll make it easier to keep track.
After you have taken the sod off, find the high ground and remove. It really doesn't matter where you dig first, but you may find that to dig the highest parts away, you may have to start at a lower section.
If you are going through all the trouble of leveling, I wouldn't use the removed dirt to fill low sections. Fill dirt will compact and if not done properly, it will just sink down in no time once it has the pool above.
 

Smokeyhill

Gold Supporter
May 26, 2018
126
Follansbee, Wv
It's not as hard as you might think. I have leveled both of my pools (18' and the new 24') by hand using a roto-tiller and a shovel. It's a lot of work, but the process is simple:

1. Remove all of the sod. ALL OF IT.
2. Find the lowest spot in the pool area. To mark out the pool rough dimension, simply drive a piece of rebar where you would like the center of the pool to be. Make sure the top of the stake is higher than the highest point in the pool dimension by several inches. Tie a string to the top of the stake. Pull the string taught to the furthest dimension of the pool and use a line level to level it. Keeping the line taught and roughly level, walk around the center stake and spray paint a line at the end of the string. Now you can find the lowest spot in the dimension.
3. Since I don't know the dimensions of your pool, I will use my 24' as an example. Take a 14' 2x4 (very straight) and lay it on it's edge the the 1.5" side facing up. About 4" from one end, drill a hole into the narrow edge slightly larger than the diameter of the rebar stake you have in the center of the pool, and about 1.5" deep.
4. Place the 2x4 on the rebar using the hole you drilled.
5. Rotate the 2x4 around the pool perimeter so the end is over the lowest spot.
6. Place a 4' level on the 2x4 and hold the 2x4 level.
7. Have an assistant screw another 2x4 vertically on the end of the level 2x4 so that it creates a "leg" of sorts with one end on the ground.
You should now have a long 2x4 sitting on a piece of rebar (in the hole you drilled) with the other end supported by another 2x4. Like this:

day 3.jpg

I used an old mobile home truss, but the idea is the same.

8. From the lowest point, measure from the ground to the top of the horizontal 2x4. Remember that number. I actually turned my shovel upside down and put a mark on the handle as a permanent reference.

9. Start digging around the perimeter, moving the 2x4 around with you as you go. Check with a 4' level often. When all points around the perimeter are dug down to level, start at the low side again and dig a path toward the center stake, using the measurement you obtained earlier to check the depth as you go.

10. Simply continue around the pool area until all points match the first measurement.

11. Your pool base is level.

It's hard to tell from the pic, but I dug down nearly 15" on my high side. In the background you can see the dirt starting to pile up. It's a lot of dirt. I use it to fill low spots and such. Save the topsoil for raised bed gardens.

Questions? Ask away. I have lots of pics.
 
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kb109

Bronze Supporter
Dec 24, 2018
94
Columbus, OH
Thank you all so much for your suggestions! Things are going much smoother now. Still lots of cuss words being thrown around but we at least have the right materials now and semi know what we are doing thanks to this forum!!
 

Dawng

Member
Jun 7, 2018
13
Lombard IL
We did this same thing last year. Literally same issues (everyone tells ya something different. Our yard very uneven! Paid landscapers to do our circle of ground leveling. Once up our pool was so crooked(and had a hole in the brand new Intex pool), it had to be taken down! My husband and I ended up digging down by each leg and put pieces of wood blocks under each leg and leveled each one until all was level! There was just no getting the ground level. Our landscapers came twice and we still had to do it this way. If you are digging definitely high side down to low as ground settles and shifts so doing opposite will cause you lists of issues! Do not put dirt on low side..take it out of yard! We also left our up over winter (Chicago), and all is well!
 

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