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How to Install an Above Ground Pool

above ground pool tahitian round

Summer's here, and you, like many others, might be thinking about adding an above ground pool to your backyard. These pools are a great option for anyone wanting to invest in a little outdoor fun without all the complexities an in-ground pool entails.

An above ground pool is a DIY project that, if you have the gumption, can be accomplished in short time. Below is some useful information to take the worry out of how to install an above ground pool. This guide covers the basics. Used in conjunction with your manufacturer instructions, you can take on this project and enjoy successful results.

It's best to ask a couple of friends or family members to help you. The more people involved in the assembly process, the faster the pool can be setup. Don't forget to follow manufacturer instructions for specific details and a complete step-by-step guide for your specific pool.  

1. Level the Ground

The first thing you must do is level the ground. This step is the one that has the greatest affect on the outcome. An uneven surface cannot be leveled once the pool is up. It can also cause problems with overall performance. Water might slosh out or the sides might buckle. The best way to level the ground is to do the following:

landscape tools
  • Inspect the yard and choose the flattest area possible. Bumpy or uneven ground is a poor place to start so look for an area that's mostly flat or even already. Also, make sure the site is a foot or two larger than the pool in each direction.
  • Remove all grass, weeds, and rocks from the site. You can use a shovel or sod cutter, ideally a rototiller removes grass. If you have a few months to spare before installation, lay dark plastic sheets over the area to slowly kill grass with little effort.
  • Attach a leveler to a long board and see how level the ground really is. If you don't have a board, then pound a stake into the center of the area and attach a string and a level to be sure the ground is as level as it should be.
  • Remove any high spots. It's better to remove dirt to level the area than add dirt. This ensures the soil under the pool is solid.
  • Once the ground is level, dump sand onto the site. A 2" to 6" layer of sand is recommended.
  • Use a rake to spread sand over the site evenly.
  • Using a lawn roller, compact the sand. Check how level the ground is again, place a tarp or swimming pool protector over the sand, and perform a final check to make sure the ground is level.

2. Assembling the Track

pool walls

Now is the time to assemble the track that supports the outside walls. In some cases, the top rail, bottom rail, and uprights will snap together to make assembly easier. In other instances, you might need to gather some tools and assemble them with nuts, bolts, and screws. This depends on the manufacturer and the type of pool you choose.

Locate the area you wish to put the skimmer and return so you can start the wall behind the appropriate upright. Unravel the wall a little at a time, inserting the bottom rails as you go.

Do not unravel the wall all at once. Doing so only makes installation difficult. As you unravel the wall you'll need something to hold it up. Use landscaping stakes around the outside of the pool and clip the wall to the stakes as you go. If you don't have stakes, temporarily install stabilizer rails and uprights to keep the wall in place.

If the wall seems too long or too short, make the bottom ring larger or smaller by equally sliding the bottom rails in or out of the bottom plates.  At this time, it is also recommended that you use pool cove.

Pool cove is needed to keep the weight of the water from causing the liner to balloon out from under the bottom of the pool. It also keeps the liner from coming into contact with any metal edges. Pool cove is typically made from chemically neutral foam, prevents corrosion, protects the liner, and simplifies liner installation.

You can build your own pool cove using sifted earth or fine sand. It should be 6-8" high inside the metal wall along the circumference. Follow manufacturer instructions to ensure the track is assembled as it should be before moving on to the next step.

pool liner

3. Inserting the Liner

First, allow the liner to warm in the sun. This allows for the greatest amount of give. Next, smooth the liner and attach it to the sides of the pool. This step is determined by the type of liner chosen.

Start at the liner wall seam and hang the liner over the wall, making sure the seam is straight up and down, perpendicular to the base. This ensures the liner begins going over the wall straight. As you place the liner over the wall secure it as recommended for the type of liner you choose. Some snap into place and some require plastic coping strips.

If you end up with excess liner, continue pulling excess liner evenly and distribute over the wall until the excess is gone. Once the liner is secure, push the first inner stabilizer rail over the secured liner so it fits snugly and continue around the pool. From here, you can secure the uprights and add the top rail.

4. Filling the pool with water

Hook up the pump and filter system, fill the pool with water, and begin water maintenance.

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