Permanently Remove Plastic Top Rails
by Aidan Mullen
(Kingston Springs, TN)
I am in the process of building a deck around an 18'x33' oval above ground pool. I'm OCD and REALLY want it to look good!
The guys who installed our pool last year did a really BAD job. The plastic pool rails around the edge were installed very arbitrarily and don't line up. I've tried to fix this, but it turns out it's the way they installed the pool wall and liner bead trough.
SO.... I want to cantilever the deck over the top rail. Looking very closely at the design and assembly, it doesn't look like the top rails actually have anything to do with the structure or stability of the pool walls. They look to be purely cosmetic.
I am NOT a professional pool installer however, so I am asking for some pro advice. I AM very technically inclined, so I've made my observations carefully. My question is: Can I safely remove the plastic top rails on this pool, and overlap my deck, leaving enough room to change the liner and install a winter cover when I finish the edges?
Your observations are correct, the top rails are not normally a structural component. That is especially true with the resin top rails. If the pool is off by just a touch, and too much pressure is put on one post, usually a transition from straight to round post, the resin top rail will pull out from the screws holding it in place. No pool damage is done when this happens, the pool just shifts enough to separate the rail from the top plate.
You should be able to completely remove all the top rails with no problems. Back in the old days the top rails were little more than the metal rods we have today. A properly installed round pool should stand just fine with nothing more that coping strips on top to hold the liner in place.
There was actually a cheap 12' round pool sold years ago that had a resin wall, no bottom rails and only coping on top. It had no uprights or top rails. It was really cheap and hard to install, but if done right they held water.
Your deck could always add a little support to the pool. Just add a 4 x 4 from your deck posts to the pool uprights, about half way up. This little bit of extra support would assure you that nothing would move.
The only other thing to consider are the metal rods under the top rails. On some pool models the rails hold the rods in place. On other pools the rods tuck into the upright top plates. Just make sure the rods are secure and will not pop off and puncture the liner.