15 Steps Guide to Install an Above Ground Pool

By Cesar Riel

You have ordered an above ground pool for your home and are wondering whether you can install it yourself or not. Well, you can install an above ground pool in your backyard without hiring professionals. You may need to rent some of the equipment, but you will complete the installation with the right set of tools and detailed guidelines. In this article, we are going to help you install an above ground pool yourself. BY doing a DIY installation, you can save a lot of money. This money can then be used to make your pool appear nice or install ladders or make a deck around your pool.

How to Install an Above Ground Pool?

Before you begin the installation, please keep in mind that the installation process may take 2-3 days, and you will need 2-3 people to work with you. Hence, it is best to clear your schedule before digging into the work and ensure that you have all the tools and capital ready.

Time Required: 2-3 Days

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Hard

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Shovel
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Duct tape
  • Sand
  • Water filter for above ground swimming pool
  • Skimmer/return fitting
  • Carpenter’s level and transit (optional)
  • Patio blocks (2″x8″x16″) – one for each bottom plate
  • Box cutter with a razor blade
  • Tamp
  • 5/16 Wrench
  • ¼ Wrench

The Procedure

We suggest you go through all the steps before starting the installation. We don’t want you to get stuck halfway through the installation process and end up changing the pool site or facing unnecessary delays. Please be patient through the process, as speeding up the process can impact the installation quality. Any step performed in the wrong way can have catastrophic implications later on.

Step 1: Arranging the Tools

Before beginning the work, you must organize all your tools and all the pool parts. It is best to keep a table near the installation site and arrange all the tools on it. Another thing that will save you some time and make your work easy is to separately arrange all the screws and bolts you need.

Step 2: Choosing the Pool Site

Once you have the tools organized, the next step is to choose the pool site. It would help if you looked for a flat area in your yard for pool installation. You must make sure that there are no utility lines and underground installation at the installation site. You must avoid electrical and gas lines, septic tanks, cesspools, dry wells, tree stumps, roots, buried materials like building material or trees, and sudden slopes within 4-5 feet of the pool. Ensure you check all the state and local laws before beginning the work, and your pool site must comply with the local laws. It is best to avoid asphalt, tar, or oil-based surfaces for pool installation. If you opt for an oval-shaped above-ground pool, you will need to leave an extra 2-3 feet on each side to accommodate the buttresses. If you plan to install a deck around your pool or plant flowers, or place planters around your pool, leave some space for the beautification of your pool as well.

Step 3: Measuring the Pool Site

swimming pool's land measurement

To measure the pool site, you will need a reference point for marking the center point. A wall nearby to the installation site will serve as a reference point for this measurement. Measure from the wall and mark the ground from where you want the outside wall of the pool. You can use chalk or spray paint for marking. Now you have to measure half of the width or the radius of the pool. To do this, measure the distance equal to the pool’s radius from the outside wall mark and stake the tape measure at that point.

It will be the center point of the pool. Both these marks must be parallel to each other. Now pull the tape measure equal to the radius measurement of the pool and add one extra foot. This extra foot will help you avoid any errors you may make later on in the installation process. For example, if your pool’s total size is 24 feet, pull out the tape measure to 13 feet. Now mark a circle all the way around with spray paint on the 13 feet mark from the center point of the pool.

You have successfully marked the pool installation place, and you have also given yourself some extra room to work. To check the level of your site, you can use a transit. You can rent the transit from a local equipment rental outlet. If you can’t find a transit, you can use a long straight board with a carpenter’s level to measure the ground’s flatness. You will be using this equipment time and again during the installation process.

Step 4: Preparing the Installation Ground

After measuring the pool site, it is now time to prepare the installation ground. Begin by removing all the sod from the inside of the circle. If you want to check your physical strength, you can do this with a shovel, otherwise, rent a sod cutter from a nearby rental shop and make the work easy for yourself. Operating a sod cutter is easy. All you need to do is lookup for a sod tutorial online, and you will be on your way in a matter of minutes. Once all the sod has been taken out, rake the area clean. You will need all hands on deck to do this quickly. To make your work easy, place an empty cart in the center of the pool so you can through the remaining sod in it. Your aim in this step must be taking out all the sod, roots, debris, rocks, and any other thing you may come across while raking. After clearing all the debris, check how to level the site is. While checking the level of the ground, determine the high and low points of your site. If you have some high spots in your ground, dig them away to come at level with the low area. It is critical that you dig the high areas and do not build low areas. If you build up the lower area, it will cause the pool to saddle, and you will have some serious problems in the long run. It can also compromise the structural integrity of your pool. Make sure that after digging and raking, the entire area has 1-inch flatness. Do not proceed to the next step unless you have achieved perfection in this step.

How to set up an Above Ground Pool on Unleveled Ground?

In case you can’t find a leveled ground for pool installation, you will need to make it flat before starting the installation process. Suppose you have highs and lows on the installation place. The best way to go about installation is to dig the highs and make them level with the flat ground. If the lows are not too deep, you must make the remaining ground to its level. In case the low points are very deep, consider choosing another spot. If you don’t have the luxury of another spot, install concrete pads, level the pool, and then cover the surface with a pool base or sand. Once the ground is leveled, the remaining steps are the same. Do not proceed with pool installation on the unleveled ground as it can lead to leaks, structural problems, and wrinkled pool liners.

Step 5: Assembling Bottom Tracks

Before starting this step, you must identify and separate all the above ground pool parts from the boxes. Arrange them neatly near the installation site. After leveling your ground, you are now in a position to start the installation process. Determine which bottom plate your pool has. The three common types are metal bottom plates, resin bottom plate, and a resin bottom cuff.

Similarly, there will be three types of bottom rails. You may have a metal bottom rail, a resin bottom rail, or a stabilizer bottom rail. The bottom rails are larger than the stabilizer rails. The metal and resin bottom rails are straight cut on both ends, whereas the stabilizer rails have a male and a female end. Stabilizer rails are also smaller than the two kinds of rails. After determining the bottom rails and bottom cuff, spread the rails in a circular shape around the installation site. Assemble the bottom track by sliding the bottom rail in the bottom plate up to the plate’s little bump. The bottom tracks for the resin plate and resin cuff are assembled in the same way. Once bottom tracks assembly is complete, measure the pool in several places to ensure that the pool is accurately round and measures the correct size according to the pool dimensions. Once the measurements are okay, you can stake the ring in the position. Now level each of the bottom plates and make sure that all the parts are within ½ inch of each other.

Step 6: Inserting the Patio Blocks

It is now time to insert the patio blocks into the ground. You must dig the ground to install the patio blocks to ensure that the track sits on solid ground. You must ensure that the block is leveled in all directions. Here a carpenter’s level will come in handy. Once the blocks are in, recheck the plate’s level to ensure it is at the same height. You may have to adjust the patios to get the bottom plates at the same level. You can also do this with the help of a long straight board and a carpenter’s level if you don’t have a transit with you.

Step 7: Putting in the Sand

After confirming that the ground is leveled, it is time to throw in the sand. You will have to remove one bottom rail to cart in the sand. We suggest that you mark the rail before opening it so you can return it to the original (leveled) position after adding the sand. Put in the sand or pool base in the pool area and replace the bottom rail you took out. Spread the sand equally in the entire pool area. Your aim must be to give a carpet like look to the sand.

Step 8: Setting up the Pool Wall

Setting up walls

After settling the sand, bring the pool wall into the pool. Place it on a flattened carton box and ensure that the skimmer cutout side is at the top. We suggest using landscaping stakes around the pool area to help you hold the wall during the installation process. Unfold the wall and begin by placing the wall in the center of the bottom plate. Continue to complete the wall circle and use clamps to hold it in its place. Arrange the wall so that the skimmer or return cutout doesn’t fall on top of a bottom plate. In case the wall does not line up properly, remove the wall and move the bottom rails in/out of the bottom plate to get things adjusted. It should be done evenly around the pool and not just at the places where the pool joints lie.

Step 9: Connecting the Wall Bars

connecting the side bars

Now you have to connect the wall bars. If your pool has single row pool bars, they will be pre-attached with rivets. Line up the two sections and secure them using wall bolts and nuts. Make sure to insert a bolt in every hole and tighten them properly with a hand screwdriver. Don’t leave any holes empty as it can cause the pool to break once filled with water. Make sure that the wall bars don’t touch each other.

Now get inside the pool and cover all the bolt heads with 2-3 layers of duct tape. If you are working alone, use a ladder to get in/out of the pool. One person should stay inside while the pool is being installed. The duct tape will protect the liner from the edges of the hardware.

For staggered wall bars, you will need to attach them. To do this, line up the two bars of the wall so they touch each other. Place one wall bracket on the inside and one outside of the pool. Now connect them using the wall bolt and nuts. Duct tape them in the same way you did for single row pool bars.

Once the walls have been installed, check that the ground is leveled and build a 6-8 inches high cove with pool sand around the inside of the walls.

Step 10: Installing the Uprights

The next step is installing the right on the bottom plates. You can determine the top side of the upright by locating an extra hole on the center or each side of the top covers. The upright can be secured to the bottom plate using screws with a screwdriver or power drill. If your pool has bottom cuffs, you don’t need to screw down the uprights. All you have to do is insert them in the cuffs and push them down. The uprights will snap on their place with little force. Make sure that all the locks have entered the upright without any complications.

Step 11: Smoothing out the Sand

Now grab your tamp and punch down the cover you built-in the 9th step. Make sure you don’t scratch the surface of the walls. Smooth the sand or pool base using a rake. It should look like a carpet. Now wet the sand will a spray hose. Don’t use a simple garden hose. Now tamp the sand. It will help in providing an even bottom and eliminating the footprints from the sand.

Step 12: Installing the Liner

Grab the liner box and unpack it on a flat surface. Leave it under the sun for 10-20 minutes so you can work with it easily. While the liner rests in the sun, take a break and relax. Reroll the liner in such a way that it becomes easy for you to carry it to the pool. Brush the pool base lightly to clear away any uneven lines caused by tamping. Now bring the rolled liner into the pool and spread it evenly. Take off your shoes as you don’t want to damage the liner from your shoes’ heels. If you have a liner with a design, make sure that it is spread according to the design as you don’t want it to be installed in the wrong way.

If you have a V-bead liner, the beads will hang directly on the pool wall, and you will not need to use any coping with it.

For the snap bead liner, you need a separate bead track. The track is installed on top of the pool wall, and the liner is snapped in this track.

The liners are hung over the pool wall for overlap liners and then secured with plastic coping strips.

Once the liner has been secured to the pool walls, begin taking out the wrinkles in it. It would help if you eliminated the wrinkles towards the walls of the pool. Start from the center and walk in a backward position while gently pushing the wrinkles with your heels back.

Step 13: Adding the Top Stabilizer Rails

Once the liner has been installed, it is now time to install the top stabilizer rails. These rails will connect and form a circle around the pool. After the stabilizers are installed, you don’t need the landscaping stakes and the clamps. Take them out. You need to install the top plates by snapping them over the stabilizer rails and screwing them with the upright. Check the straightness of the uprights with the help of a carpenter’s level. Now install the top rails and tighten them loosely. After placing all the rails, tighten the screws holding them completely. Now you need to attach the top covers. Refer to the installation guide to install the top cover as there are different designs and attaching mechanism for top covers. Make sure that you install the top and bottom half correctly and connect them. Pat yourself on the back for the work done. Remember, the work is not yet finished. You have erected the pool, and now you need to complete the other steps given below.

Step 14: Installing Skimmer and Filter System

Turn on the water and let it reach 1-2 inches. At this point, you can still remove wrinkles from the liner. Once you are satisfied with the liner’s straightness, fill the pool to half of the depth. Now consult the skimmer and filter installation guide and install them with the utmost care and attention to detail. Once they are installed, fill in the pool to its maximum capacity. Refer to the instruction manual to check the maximum water depth.

Step 15: Installing Safety Labels

Install all the safety labels, signs, or warnings that come with the pool. Read the usage instruction guide to ensure that you enjoy a safe swimming experience. The best place to attach the stickers is the outside of the pool, near the entry point of your pool. Make sure that all the labels have clear visibility.

Final Words

By installing an above ground pool, not only you have saved a handsome amount of money yourself but also added a huge achievement in your DIY notebook. Decorate the pool according to your taste, call your friends/family for a pool party and tell them about your experience while swimming in your pool.

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