by Gregt
(North Vancouver, BC)

Hi. I live in what seems to be an incredibly rocky, clay-filled area (compared to the install videos on YouTube ... dragging a 2x4 with a level taped to it through my dirt is useless).

I spent the last 5 days, all day, doing my best to level the site for my 15x26 pool. I started with a 4" slope and I totally understand the "dig down, don't build up" rule. Here's the current situation:

1. I have one hole about 2' deep, seriously, where I dug out a giant boulder, it is mostly well inside where the wall will go but does overlap the wall area a little.

2. I have one area, about 4-5 square feet, on the edge, where the soil basically crumbled apart as I dig into it, and I ended up 2" below my target level.

3. Finally, I have about 20-25 spots throughout the pool area where I dug up rocks of 3" - 6" size which left small depressions.

I have filled in all of the above with sand and tamped it with a machine. To be clear, this is BEFORE I have started with the 2" sand base, I am still working on the "initial levelling" step.

I know I am not supposed to "fill in" but trust me, if I kept "digging down" to the lowest level, I would just keep finding worse and worse rocks and would never get there.

Any advice hugely appreciated!

Hi Greg I do not go for the "no fill in" theory. It all depends on what you fill it in with.

A good crushed granite with plenty of ledge can safely build a low side by several feet. The more you raise the area, the more you need a ledge.

In your situation, I would not have filled in the holes with sand. I would have use a crushed granite or a crusher run. Something that will pack solid.

The sand will stay in place as long as it has no place to go. So, from where you are at I would be sure that all the footplates were on blocks. It would not hurt to also have the rails on blocks. It's more work but may be worth it.

I would also use a preformed pool cove. You want to make sure the sand has no place to shift to, or wash out to.

What you are doing can work, just be careful.

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Leveling and Tamping

by Don

I'm going to attempt to install another above ground pool this summer. (18x33 Tahaitian buttress free). I had one at the other house and have moved (Cantar, buttress free, 15x30).

Seeing how this isn't "my first rodeo", it should go smoother than the 2 months it took to set up the previous one. But that baby was nuts on level!

My question: After the guy with the skid-steer leaves, should I rent a plate compactor to tamp the dirt down?

The soil here is sandy, and this will be three years after the house was built.

I rented one last time and it was kind of a mistake trying to level after the tamping. But the ground was so ripped up I thought that it needed to be done. After the tamping it was like concrete, extremely hard to set the side uprights with plates.

Thanks for your time. I enjoy your site and the posts from the pool forum. It's very generous of you to donate your time to people like myself and others who need a little help.

Thanks, Don

Hi Don. I would level the ground with shovels and then rake out smooth. Using a transit, or laser level, you should be able to get the entire pool area well within an inch of level.

buttress free pool braes

Next I would set all of the side braces. This will be much easier before tamping. When a trench is dug and leveled you should tamp it good before setting the brace. Do this on every one.

With the braces set, and the entire pool area level and smooth, if you see a need for tamping, now would be the time. Do it just before laying out your end rails.

Once the end rails are set be sure to level each individual bottom plate, and then the rails between them.

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Difficulty Leveling Ground

by Glen
(Oklahoma )

Dennis, I have viewed many of your responses but here is my question anyway. I have purchased an 18x38 Doughboy AG. I want it sunk in the ground about 18" mainly due to the slope in my yard. But I live here in Oklahoma and the ground is rock hard dirt.

I have a tractor with front end loader & box blade and have dug out my area 3' over the total size of pool. OK, here is the question, can I build a 3"-4" crusher run / screenings base all the way around the perimeter for the post to set on? It would be easier to compact that than to level this ground. Then put the sand in to level the inside out? The ground is now within 3" of level.

Thanks, Glen

Hi Glen Crusher run makes and excellent base to work on. It packs well and is a lot easier to level than rock hard dirt. Be sure to extend this pad way beyond the pool area. It would not hurt at all to coat the entire area with crusher run. It would be so much easier to get a really smooth base before you add your sand. The sand should be an even two inches or so but not used to level rough ground.

Be sure to get the entire area down to within 1 inch, or better, before any construction is started. Sounds like you are off to a great start, good luck.

If you have not already be sure to check out my installation pages.

Above Ground Swimming Pool Installation

Above Ground Pool Liner Installation

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15x30 Above Ground Pool

by Siever
(New Jersey)

Do I really need a transit to level my above ground pool? How much sand should I use for a 15' x 30'?

Hi Siever.

Laser Level

There are several ways to level a pool but not any as easy as a transit or a laser level. This is especially true with an oval pool because there are so many places that need leveled and constantly checked. I level the trench, front and back. I then level the block that sits under the brace. Once the brace is set in the trench I check it front and back to make sure it is perfect. All this leveling is done for one brace and you will have between six and twelve, depending on the model of pool you have. That is a lot of extra work using a 2 x 4 and carpenters level or a water hose.

The rental cost is so cheap for the couple days you will have it, I could not see doing it without one.

Read more about pool leveling and oval pool installation on these pages.

Leveling an Above Ground Pool

Above Ground Swimming Pool Installation

Above Ground Oval Installation

Atlantic Above Ground Pool

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Compacted Sand

by Rick McComb
(Winnemucca NV)

I hope I did not do an oops on setting up my 30' x 52" pool. My ground was only 2" out of level over 30' so... I receded the high side so the 12"x12" patio block was at ground level and then set the low side block on the ground. I used wet sand and rented a compactor to compact all the sand to a real hard base.

I put blocks at every support and in-between every support but I did use compacted sand between the blocks. I will be installing the pool later but should I dig all the sand out from between the block and fill with filtered dirt? I will be using 2" of sand inside the pool wall when it goes up. I did not think that the pool could push the compacted sand out from between the blocks. I was going to back fill around the pool on the outside with landscape bricks and gravel.

Hi Rick. By backfilling around the outside of the pool with dirt you might be all right. The best thing, of course, would be to remove the sand and use dirt. The two inches of sand under the liner is just fine, just not under the pool frame.

Your biggest concern is the sand washing out from under the pool. If your outside the pool landscaping can guarantee this will not happen, and this is possible, it should work.

above ground pool bottom rails on solid base

An ideal pool rail base would look something like this photo. This was an area prepared just for the bottom rails out of a crusher run type of material. It is easy to level and packs solid. Good, hard packing soil, works just as well. The bottom rails, if at all possible, need to be sitting on firm, hard packed, soil.

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How to Compensate for a 6 Inch Ground Slope

by Bill Austin
(Athens, Georgia)

This past weekend I purchased an Intex 15 X 4 ft Metal Frame Pool. I know is was stupid not to check beforehand to be sure, but I went ahead and setup the pool on what I believed was, for the most part level ground(maybe 1 to 2 inches off at most).

I began filling the pool with water and went off to run some errands. When I returned the pool was half full and noticed that there was a 6 inch difference in elevation between from front to back.

Being concerned about the integrity of the pool, I immediately shut off the water and began doing some research. I read your response to another person under the topic of "Unlevel Concrete Pool Location". So here is what I am thinking of doing.

The metal frame legs of the pool is basically 1.5 inch thin wall tube steel. I'm thinking about getting some heavy gauge galvanized metal pipe long enough to drive into the ground to slide the pool legs over (or inside of) this pipe which will also be set to correct the difference in elevation on the low side. My thinking is that this will provide stronger reinforced legs and level the metal pool frame from front to back and side to side. Then I was going to adjust the liner bottom such that it will sit on the sloped ground surface. Essentially, this will level the top of the pool (Frame) and will also result in having the pool bottom sloped with the ground slope to provide one side 6 inches deeper than the other side.

My question for you is, do you think this will work? Any other suggestions you have would be appreciated.

Thank You, Bill

Hi Bill. It sounds possible but I honestly can not tell you if it would work or not. The best thing would be to take the pool down, level the ground, and reinstall it.

My concern would be putting to much pressure on the liner in the low area. I don't see how you can raise the top without stressing the walls and base.

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