How to Level an Above Ground Pool
Having an above ground pool comes with a number of challenges. One is to to get the pool setup level on the first try. Another is often how to level an above ground pool after it’s been filled with water. That may be because of problems with the initial setup or because legs settled into the ground sometime after.
An above ground pool needs to be setup on level ground. Manufactures typically state a pool should be level within an inch, while those who are OCD may try to do even better. An above ground pool that is off level by 3 inches or more is unsafe.
That means all the footings need to be within an inch of the same elevation. If the footings are at the same elevation then the top rail will follow the footings. Unfortunately you often do not discover your measurements were off until you fill the pool with water and see that the water line is not even with the top rail. Then you are left with how to level an above ground pool after it’s been filled with water.
Sometimes a pool will be level when erected and then after rains and water splashing out around the pool base some footers will sink into the ground due to erosion or rise due to root encroachment. Should an above ground pool lose it's level footing some action needs to be taken.
Dangers of an Unlevel Above Ground Pool
Consider the following... your family and friends are enjoying an afternoon in your pool, some sitting just a few feet away relaxing on a sunny evening. All of a sudden the side of the pool starts to rip open or the pool starts to lean due to the waves caused by the kids playing. Before anyone can take action, kids and over 17,000 gallons, 28 tons, of water flood the yard, dousing those sitting near the pool. Screams are heard, expletives are yelled, kids are coughing from the water in their mouths and nose, and hopefully, there are only some minor injuries.
Water weighs 8.34 lbs/gallon. A 24 foot round and 5 foot deep pool contains 17,000 gallons that weighs 141,780 lbs. That is over 28 tons that the pool walls needs to hold. That 3 inches that a pool is off level is putting 7,000 pounds of unequal pressure on the high water side of the pool. Would you want to be in the pool while a group of people is putting 7,000 pounds of force on the side of the pool trying to pull it down?
Even if the pool does not catastrophically collapse the unequal pressure can warp the track and frame and stress the liner. Above ground pool supports are not designed to carry unequal loads around the legs and frame.
How do you keep everyone safe? It’s quite simple, spend the time to level the pool as described below. And if you discover the pool is out of level then you have to start over by draining your pool. Unfortunately it often takes two or three tries when erecting an above ground pool for the first time to get it level. The water is inexpensive compared to the damage to people and property that a pool collapse can cause.
How Do You Level Your Above Ground Pool?
Pools should be erected on virgin soil that is well compacted and has not been dug up. Beware if the site was used for construction where fill from excavation from building the house was dumped.
Always dig down to level pavers. Never try to put fill under a paver to raise it. You must put the legs on solid blocks. No matter how solid your ground looks the legs are likely to sink into the ground if not set on solid blocks.
- Use a 5 to 6 foot 2x4, and a heavy-duty level. You will have to ensure the beginning, middle, and ends of the 2x4 are all level between each of the cement pavers.
- Invest or rent a builder’s level with a laser sight, or a manual builder’s level. This will involve the assistance of another person; however, it can be much faster with better results.
- Build a Water Level as described below or rent a 360-degree laser level and you can do the leveling on your own.
- Each ‘joint’ of the pool frame needs to be on a level surface overall. Get cement pavers for each joint or leg of the track/frame, and ensure they are level with each other and the surface of the top of the ground around it. You will have dig down to make the pavers level with the ground it. 8x8 inch or larger 4 inch thick cement pavers are the favored material for this. The cement pavers must be larger than the legs of the pool to compensate for any slight movements of the pool while filling it or at times when kids do cannonballs or make large waves in the pool.
- Intex recommends using 2x6 or 2x12 pressure treated boards instead of pavers to support the legs on their rectangular pools. The support for the legs needs to be large enough so the legs do not hang off the sides of the support, and so the legs have room to spread out as the pool is filled.
- Cement is not recommended for a pool to go on. It can cause wear and tear on the bottom of the pool. Most cement slabs have a slope to help drain water so are unsuitable for pools.
- Put the pool together according to the instructions, then start filling it!
How to Use a Water Level
Getting the pavers or blocks level is the key to having a level pool. A water level is an inexpensive tool to check that each paver is the same height. You can build a water level or buy one on Amazon and other sites.
To build a water level attach a vinyl hose hose to two objects, such as two jack stands, and place them next to each other and at the same height. Add some food coloring to the water. Look at the water in the tube, each side should be at the same height in the tube. You can mark the tube with a piece of tape and now you know at what height “level” is inside the tube. If you raise or lower one of the ends of your tube, the water level stays constant but the mark you made on the tube will be either above or below the “level” mark.
You should chose one paver, generally the highest, that you wanted to level every other paver to. Remember that you want to dig down to level a paver, never build the ground up. Put one end of the water level on the reference high paver and move the other end to a different paver. Looking at the the water in the level you will see if you need to make adjustments to that paver. Then move on to a new location and made adjustments until they all are level to the reference paver.
Just imagine the water in the tube is your pool water level and the tube is the sides of your pool. This will show you if the water in your pool is at the same height all along the sides of your pool. Because the height of the water doesn’t change but your sides could be out of level.
Once you think you have all the pavers level do a final check. With one end on the reference paver, move the other end from one paver to another and see how close to level they all are. Taking your time and having patience in leveling the blocks can get your pool level within 1/2 inch or less. Now you are ready to begin assembling your pool.
How To Level an Above Ground Pool After It’s Been Filled With Water
If your water level is off by more than three inches you should fix it. We wish we could give you a simple fix to level a pool that has been filled with water but there are too many safety issues with the often-used simple fixes. Here is the best solution to level a pool that has been filled with water for having a fun and safe pool season:
- Drain your pool!
- Take the pool apart and move it aside, then allow the ground where it was to dry.
- Make sure the area your pool’s track/frame will be on is level. Even if you have to hire someone to do this. The ground will need to be dug down. Do NOT add dirt or sand to build up any low spots to match the high spots. The weight of the pool and water will compress it making all of your work for nothing.
Taking the steps outlined above will ensure your above-ground pool can be used the entire pool season, and potentially for years to come without the concern of a potential burst or warping of the track/frame. It’s the least you can do to keep your investment and family safe.
What Not to Do With an Unlevel Pool Filled With Water
Do not try and lift or move a pool full of water.
Many discussion boards mention simply cutting the legs or lowering the high side of the pool. Unfortunately, this can lead to undue stress on the track/frame and usually stresses the liner on the legs that are fixed as it can lead to odd angles unseen from the outside of the pool.
Do not try any tricks such as cutting the legs or hoisting legs up onto supports. This will cause irreparable damage to your pool and is a huge safety hazard to your family.