Raising Ground For Above Ground Pool

We just purchased an 18' x 52" AG pool, metal frame. Our backyard is not level and slopes about 3-4 inches across where the pool would sit.

I'm not sure we can 'dig out' as there are utility wires running underground in that area. I have read that sand can shift causing problems. I'm not against using sand, but do I need to create a 'box' in which to contain the sand bottom?

What else do I need to lay down?? Any help would be appreciated - have never owned a pool of any kind. Thanks.


Sand should never be used to level with for an above ground pool foundation. Sand should only be used as an even 2-3 inches under the liner only.

If the ground needs to be raised you should use something that will pack like dirt or crushed granite. The ground should be leveled, packed and watered until solid. In many places there is no such thing as clean fill dirt and the next best option is something from the sand a gravel yard like their crusher run or a crushed granite.

Keep in mind also that any raised area needs to extend beyond the pool by at least a couple of feet. If a retaining wall is needed after that point to hold the fill in this should be done also. You do not want this added soil washing out in a heavy rain.

Once the area is level and the pool track laid down and leveled, then the sand can be moved into the center of the pool. That process is shown on this page.

Above Ground Swimming Pool Installation

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Above Ground Pool Base Material

I purchased a new Sharkline Navigator extruded aluminum above ground pool (24'). This will be cut into a sloping backyard. We built new last year and "dished out" where the pool would sit.

My issue is that the level was 18" too low to meet up with the upper patio. After going round/round with different opinions, I have added 30 tons of "stone dust" (1/8" and smaller") to raise the level where the pool will sit.

My installer is VERY hesitant, and keeps repeating the old "I won't be responsible" phrase if it settles after installed. The stone dust has compacted very nice, and I plan on renting a plate tamper this weekend to really pound it in good, and I have already pumped 100's of gallons of water onto it to get it to set up a little.

Just looking for other experts in the pool field with opinions before this install ...

thanks a lot


It sounds to me like you are doing everything right. There are a few things to keep in mind whenever you build up an area like this. Like you stated, you want to make sure it is thoroughly packed. This would include watering and tamping.

Another important factor is to allow a large ledge beyond the pool. Ideally a 24' pool should be centered in a 30' level area. Three foot is the minimum ledge I would want to see. You may, or may not, need a retaining wall to keep this filled area in place. That is not always needed but you need to sure the built up area will not wash away with the first rain.

The last precaution I would take is to make sure all of your supports sit on patio blocks. This will help a lot in case any minor settling does occur.

Setting pools on raised areas is very common and done for many reasons. In Arizona we do it mostly to raise the pool up out of an irrigated yard. Your installer is either just protecting himself or is not familiar enough with this to be able to give you good advise. I think you will be just fine.

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Liner Lifting at Wall Joint and Feel Harware

by Steve
(Montreal, Canada)

Hello, I was in the process of opening my SIMA round 21' above ground pool when I noticed my liner raised at a wall joint. Upon further inspection, I could feel that the liner had lifted and felt the hardware(screws?) under it with my hand. This is exactly where there is a support beam on the outside as well. The pool is not even 3 yrs old and was wondering what the issue could be. I did notice the ground wet and soft around that support foot and seam so I was thinking could that have caused this problem? Perhaps that beam moved and that caused the joint and liner to be stress and detach off the wall? I am also wondering if I'll need to replace the whole liner or if it can be repaired at the joint or where the liner has lifted?

Thanks for the help...apreciated.

Hi Steve

I'm not sure I have enough information to answer this question. I would assume the wet ground is from a hole in the liner. The liner should never be in contact with any metal that could tear it. It sounds like you need to drain the pool, rebuild the cove and patch the liner.

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Fix Pool Foundation

by Kaisa Kynaston
(Magna, Utah)

Full view, unicorn is on the high end.

Full view, unicorn is on the high end.

I recently purchased my first pool, a Coleman Sierra Vista 2 18'x48" with porthole windows. I've spent all summer prepping this foundation by myself. It took longer than I anticipated which I guess is normal. But since I don't have a truck I spent the time cutting the grass knocking off the dirt and using my green recycle garbage can. After six or seven weeks of filling the garbage can, the next step was to dig out the excess dirt around the area where the pool cuts into the small hill in my yard. While digging out the grass, I had already gone down about three or four inches removing as much as the rocks and tree roots as possible. However, with fibromyalgia I knew I couldn't dig a manipulate the dirt by myself. So at this point I hired the couple of men who do this stuff regularly and who work on pools. When they arrived I asked them which was better, one: to dig out the dirt from the hill at the highest point down to the lowest point (which is my preferred method and the way I planned on doing it all along) or two: to move the dirt from the highest point to the lowest point, building up the foundation and leveling it in the middle as my family and I had attempted to start doing the night before? The men said this would be the best way. I think they meant it would be the easiest way. My being tired of the project and wanting to get it done so I could actually enjoy the pool before it got too cold; I gave them the go ahead to start.

Looking back I think that was mistake number one. I should have gone with my original plan. Once the men finished the basics and started the leveling I completed it off and on into the next day, srinkling it and letting it settle multiple times. Once I was confident that it was fairly firm I started bringing my sand over and leveling it, repeating the sprinkling and settling process.

The day I intended to set up the pool I noticed the four baby skunks that live under my shed had decided to investigate the sand. I didn't mind the cute little footprints even though they ruined my perfectly leveled ground, but I did mind the few places where they decided to stop, drop and roll to investigate. I sprinkled some of my remaining sand over the area and continue to level until I felt it was close enough to level as before. Here comes my second mistake. Not sprinkling it and letting it settle again or maybe this wouldn't have made much of a difference? I'm not sure but, I believe it may have helped.

Since I was eager to get it done and I planned on spending the day setting up and filling the pool so we could hopefully swim the next day, I decided to go ahead. While my ex-husband was at the house I had him help me carry over the pool so I could roll it out and begin setting it up. Otherwise I would have had to have dragged it over myself doing the best I could not to mess up my sand and my leveling which would have been impossible. As I mentioned I believe this may have been mistake number two.

Up to this point I feel I did everything right, but I definitely could have done things better and different. I completed the setup of the pool and started the filling process. As l watched the pool fill, I noticed that it wasn't as level as I first thought there was about a 2-in or so difference maybe 3-in at the most dipping down and right from the hill. It didn't look to be too much of an issue so I continued to let it fill. All was good until about 10 hours later when the water reached above the outlet valve. That's when I learned that I had a leak around the valve. I was missing a gasket and it was continually streaming down the outside and into my foundation.

I made a quick jump over to Lowe's to get a new gasket and some plumbers tape. I didn't realize it before I went to Lowe's but I didn't have a plug for that particular outlet. So I spent 30min +/- trying to hold the tube in place while placing the gasket and wrapping plumbers tape around the threads. All with water gushing out onto my chest and down into the foundation of the pool. This is what sucks about doing projects alone. Once this leak was sufficiently taken care of I discovered another leak around my chlorinator outtake valve. Luckily I just needed to replace that gasket and added plumbers tape for extra security. All set ready to go, pools looking good... Except now more of the foundation had been washed away and or sunk farther on the side it was already a bit low.

I walked around the frame making sure all legs were in place and everything was straight everything looked good there were a few that were leaning a tiny bit but not too much, I figured I would continue to watch it. Obviously by now you figured out my mistake number three, which at this point still hadn't occurred to me because it was never in my original plans. It just didn't pop in my head. I did not put up a retaining wall around the raised foundation.

Within 24 hours of having the pool completely filled and after the leak fiasco, my pool is leaning downhill The poles are all upright without threatening to buckle, but some are leaning or are at an angle and some are higher in areas than others. I've checked the legs and liner and there's some bulges nothing serious. See pictures. I figure there's only a little over a month left of potential swimming days left. It looks like I'll need to take down the whole pool and fix foundation. 🥺

My intent was to take my time to do everything right in the beginning and work out the links this summer. This way it'll be ready to go next spring. Just open the system and go and not have to worry about it again for a while. I know I was dreaming. I even started with the salt water system from the beginning even though it costs more to start up. Bottom line is I did my best to do it right from the beginning. The idea of draining the pool and losing all the startup money I put into it with the cost of the water, salt and chemicals to balance everything out, just makes me sick. For now we'll just need to take it easy and be extra careful around the areas where the pool is leaning and slightly bulging for the next month and a half.

Once the pool was up and ready, my original intent was to add my plastic landscape dividers around the edge the 20 ft area with the 18-ft pool centered inside. Placing pavers down for my stair and entry system and pump/chlorinator area. Between the edging and the pool I have rubber mulch to be placed down in between. Now, after raising the foundation it won't substitute as a retaining wall. So I need to deal with that issue first.

Here is what I'm thinking about doing. When the season's over I'll drain and clean the pool then have people help me lift it off the foundation and onto the grass so I can repair the foundation.

As far as the foundation goes, I see two options to do this. The first is not something I relish in doing given all the money and time I've already put into this foundation. But it would be to remove all of the sand and the excess dirt and go back to my original plan of digging down and making a more stable foundation at the lowest point. The second option is moving as much of the sand as possible to the high side and repairing the low side by bringing in more dirt or other filler and rebuilding the foundation on that side. Then redistributing the sand before building a retaining wall around 75-90% of the pool (which has the raised foundation) in order to secure it in place.

Once I'm sure the foundation is level and firm, I'll add my planned pavers and additional pavers to the area where the legs will sit. My intention would be to complete this before the winter months and place the pool back on top along with salt and partial fill the pool, winterizing it so when spring comes it's ready to go and just needs to be opened up. This will give the winter to help the ground settle and the foundation firm up more. Or I can take the pool down and put it up on the newly settled foundation. I'm leaning away from doing this mainly because I don't have a place to store the pool and legs without moving the whole heavy system into my house and into the basement. I'd rather not lug it around and move it that much and risk the chance of puncturing the liner. Unless I can find a large enough patio storage Rubbermaid for a good price before the season ends. I doubt I'd find one large enough to hold the pool and the legs. Another reason as mentioned before, I'd like to get it all taken care of so I don't have to worry about it come next spring.

I know this was a long and drawn out story, but I gave as much detail as possible because I would like some legitimate input on what you guys think I should do. As I mentioned before was doing my best to do it right the first time and I still consider this part of the first time. I don't have to do this again year after year cuz I was too lazy to do it right the first time. Any tips or suggestions are welcome, but please be nice and remember this is my first time. I've done it all by myself with the exception of the few people helping me with small parts. So overall, I'm pretty damn proud of myself. However, every time I look at my pool leaning and see it swaying more and more...my heart sinks and I feel sick. But I know it can be fixed and you guys will give me great advice.

Hi Kaisa Your plan sounds good. The most important part is that all of the legs sit on blocks that are all level with each other.

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