Above Ground Pool Center Drain

by Missy

We are getting ready to install a new liner in our above ground pool. Some of our neighbors have above ground pools and upon their installation they installed a center drain.

We want to do this when we install a new liner because we live in an area where there is a really fine dusting of coal dust and I hate to see that settled on the bottom of the pool floor.

Do you have any installation recommendations? Also I am not a big fan of these micro fine flying bugs that sometimes land in the pool and just swirl on top of the water. Any good suggestions for keeping them directed to the skimmer and not around me!!

Hi Missy.

Center drains have not been popular for many years. Automatic pool cleaners have taken their place in most pools. They act as a suction device drawing water from the pool bottom the same as a drain but they move around to get the dirt instead of you having to push the dirt to the center. The other big advantage to a pool cleaner is you do not have to cut a hole in the liner. You are not creating another place where the pool liner could leak. Center drain leaks can be very difficult to detect and even harder to fix.

Here are the basics if you do decide to go ahead with the drain. The intake side of the filter system should be converted to 1

1/2" pvc pipe. This will easily adapt to the 1 1/2" pipe coming from the drain. The pipe should come out of the ground and go into a three way valve. One side goes to the pump and the other one to the skimmer. This valve will regulate the flow of water from the skimmer and the drain. When you are skimming or vacuuming the pool, turn the drain off. When you are brushing the dirt to the center you would have the skimmer off. Other times they can both be open.

When installing the drain I dig the hole big enough and deep enough so that it will hold about a half bag of concrete and end up the lowest spot in the pool. You want enough concrete around the drain to keep it from shifting. You want to slope the ground around the drain enough so that the top of the drain becomes the lowest spot in the pool.

I run the pipe out the side of the drain and plug the bottom opening. The pipe should run under ground to the filter area and come up at least a foot from the pool wall on the outside.

If your skimmer is not working properly you may need to try changing the direction of the return fitting until you find the perfect spot for proper circulation. If your return eyeball does not allow you to change the angle you can make a simple pvc return that will properly direct the water around the pool.

Comments for Above Ground Pool Center Drain

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May 14, 2009
drain without a drain
by: Anonymous

Can anyone tell me if after you have installed an above ground pool, can you install a drain? We have an above ground pool that we use commercially and have just been advised that we have to have a drain that meets the new legal specifications. We were not informed of this at the time we constructed the pool and now don't know what to do. We didn't put in a drain because we were informed that they were dangerous and as the pool is inside and solar warmed, we just didn't put a drain. Can someone help me? Can we go in now and install a drain? It is an oval above ground pool that has been built to incorporate a deep end for dive training and swimming lessons.


This question has been addressed over here. Install Center Drain

If anyone has any other ideas please let us know.

May 17, 2009
need help fast.. pool leak
by: ddt3

I have a 27 foot round above ground pool. We had to drain it all out to get it ready this year. We have been out of our house since last Sept. because of hurricane damage. The pool never lost any water, so I know I didn?t have a leak. However, since I drained it completely, cleaned everything, and started filling it back up, I have water coming out all over the place. It will stop when the water line gets to the same level as the ground. This is about a foot in the ground. I have checked every square inch of the liner and the few patches that we have had to do over the last two to three years, not a problem there.

I then looked in the center drain basket to see if there was a leak there. Nothing. So I went and bought a plug to plug off the center drain, thought this would tell me if it was the drain line, but that?s not it either.

I tried to fill it last night after all this and I was disgusted to see all the water still leaked out except the remaining foot of water at ground level. If it is the main drain and where the liner bolts together, is there a way to fix this or even a sure way to tell if this is my problem.


Sure sounds like you have a serious leak. With the pool in the ground a foot you will not have the luxury of seeing wet spots around the pool pointing you to the hole. You will have to do it the hard way.

Normally when a pool is loosing water fast the hole is around the top of the cove area. That is where I would start. Go around the entire pool, at the top of the cove, and brush your hand over the liner. Dirt and other debris will move while a hole, looking much like a piece of dirt, will not. When a black spot does not move, check it a little closer, by scratching it with you finger nail.

It is very common for a pool to drain down to about a foot and then sort of quit leaking. The reason, most of the time, is that the pressure of all the water has been decreased allowing the hole, or holes, to close up and partially seal themselves. The one foot mark seldom has anything to do with where the hole is located. It is probably just a coincidence that this level is also how far you pool is in the ground.

If you do not find the problem around the outer edge, try walking over every inch of the pool floor. Holes in the pool bottom will usually leave a mushy spot in the sand. If you find a soft spot you have probably found the hole. The next step is to cover the entire pool floor on you hands and knees looking for the black spot that will not move.

You mentioned having cleaned the liner, so I am guessing that is what caused the hole. You said water coming out everywhere, if that means it is all around the pool, you may have an exception to the norm. I would guess you put a nice tear in the sidewall of the pool and something that big should be easy to find. You are still looking for black spots, marks or lines.

May 20, 2009
holes in wall
by: tbreebo

Hello there is some pea size holes in my pool wall at the bottom about 24 inches from the ground. Will it last the summer? Or should I drain it down and put aluminum flashing or duck tape at the holes? I bought a used replacement pool great deal, going to take it down tomorrow and take pictures as you suggested great idea. I don't want to take mine down do to the cost of the liner and liner installation. I would attempt putting in the liner my self but my pool has a bottom drain, I'd rather have a pro do it. Also, should I add more sand and re-level the blocks for the new used pool?



Holes of any kind in an above ground pool sidewall are not good. I would try to get these fixed as soon as possible. When you do go to change pools you should check the level of your blocks. Every footplate should be set at the same level. In most, but not all cases, more sand is needed. A thin layer of clean sand over the old base makes smoothing much easier.

Jun 04, 2009
Pool drain requirements
by: djv

I'm installing a 24ft above ground pool and I will be using a aqua bug cleaner. Do I need a bottom drain as well or would this be a waist of time and money to install.


This page explains my feelings about installing center drains in above ground pools. It basically says there is no reason to do it.

Above Ground Pool Main Drain

Apr 17, 2014
Main Drain
by: Anonymous

Bottom Drains are not only worthless in above ground pools but they are dangerous as well because of the shallow water cloths or hair can be sucked in and serious injury or death my occur.
Please don't install a main drain!!!! Automatic pool cleaner do a better job and are reasonably priced.

Sep 16, 2017
Bottom drains
by: Ken

I've had my pool for 11yrs (doughboy),I've had bottom drains in it when it was installed, never had problem. There were actually two drains, to reduce the suction, had to do with kid safety. I don't have to vacuum that much, I would recommend this. Makes pool maintenance so much easier!

May 20, 2018
Replacing liner with center drain...
by: Anonymous

Hi we have to replace the liner in our above ground Gibraltar pool, while the installation process after much research seems do-able. I worry about cutting the hole for the center ground drain. Can you please tell me the best way to replace the liner in a pool that already has a center drain in it.

Thank you


I can tell you how I do it. First off, cut the liner out from around the drain, do not remove the screws. If you pull the screws too soon and fill all the holes with sand then that's a different topic.

Just before you install the liner remove the screws and faceplate. With the liner in place and a few inches of water to hold it down, get in the pool and install a faceplate and new gasket. You will need a number 2 and number 3 phillips screwdriver and a sharp pointer like ice pick. You need to find two apposing screw holes and poke holes through the liner. On most drains you can find the places where the cover plate gets installed, you can back out a short distance and find the screw hole for the plate, poke a hole. Do the same for the other side. With two holes in the vinyl you can put the gasket under the plate and start two screws. From there you can insert the rest of the screws and tighten. You can now cut out the liner and install the cover.

Hope that helps.

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