Placing your pool on uneven ground is a bad idea.
Not only will it create an uneven water level, but it also places a disproportionate amount of pressure on one side of your swimming pool, and we all know how that one ends.
This article will explain how to do the “groundwork” the right way, including 7 easy-to-follow steps for leveling the ground for your pool.
What Equipment Will You Need?
Before going over how to level the ground for your pool, you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment for the job.
Let’s start with the essentials:
- A shovel for digging out raised areas of the ground, as well as removing vegetation, rocks, and debris.
- A rake for loosening dirt and removing small pieces of debris.
- A wheelbarrow for transporting removed soil and debris.
- A length of board to provide a flat surface for the spirit level.
- A spirit level to accurately measure the ground level.
- Masonry sand for building a suitable base for the pool.
- A hose for wetting the sand (only if it’s too dry).
- A hand tamper for compressing soil and sand.
If you have a bigger budget and you’re looking to make this as easy as possible, consider making some additional purchases or upgrades.
Here are the nice-to-haves:
- Some string and steaks for marking out the area.
- A sod cutter or tiller for digging and clearing the area faster.
- A wide rake for better coverage of the area when raking.
- A laser level for an easier way to measure the ground level.
- A lawn roller for better and faster ground compression.
How to Level the Ground for a Pool (Step-by-Step)
Now that you have your equipment sorted, it’s time to start leveling the ground for your new swimming pool.
Simply follow the steps below:
Step 1. Choose the Right Location
Once the pool is set up and filled with water it’s almost impossible to move without risking any damage, so it’s worth spending time picking the right spot.
Start by looking for the flattest (but still accessible) areas of your yard, particularly where there are fewer hills and bumps. Flatter ground means less shoveling and your back will thank you for it.
Don’t forget to look up as you do this. Shade is always nice, but large trees above will drop leaves and other debris in your pool, making it harder to maintain and keep your pool clean.
Finally, stay away from any septic or sewage lines, underground cables, or power lines for obvious reasons.
Step 2. Clear Vegetation and Debris
Grass, rocks, sticks, and other debris underneath a pool can cause serious damage to the liner, sometimes without the possibility of repair.
The best approach is to remove the top layer of soil with a shovel or sod cutter. You can cut, roll and relocate it to another area of your yard, or you could hire a rototiller to do the job a little quicker.
If you’re planning ahead for your pool installation, pegging out a thick tarp on the area you’ve chosen to use will starve the grass of sunlight and water. This will make it much easier to dig out.
Step 3. Check the Ground Level
Even if the ground looks level, you’ll be surprised how far off you can be without using a level or ground-level calculator to check it.
A common approach is to get a long, straight bit of board and place it across the leveled area. After that, simply place a spirit level or bubble level across the top edge of the board to get a reading.
Alternatively, if you used some stakes and string to mark out the area, you can add another point to the middle and create a web to visualize the distance from the ground at various points. It’s not perfect but it works in a pinch.
Step 4. Fix the bumps and holes
At this stage, you should have a good idea of where the ground needs work, whether it’s digging down or filling in the slope.
Be prepared, this part involves a lot of digging, shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow, and raking some of the soil to even out the ground. You’ll also want to periodically check your level to make sure you’re still focusing on the right areas.
While it may seem more laborious, digging out bumps to level the ground is a better strategy than trying to raise the dips with soil. This will give you a more stable base and allow room for an adequate layer of sand.
Note: If you don’t have enough soil to level the ground after digging out the bumps, you can use some of your masonry sand.
Step 5. compact the Soil
Now that you’ve disrupted the ground in order to level it out, you’ll need to compact it down to provide stability for your pool. Not doing this could cause the pool to sink and sag after filling it with water.
Grab your hand tamper or lawn roller and start applying it to the area to compress the soil. It may take several goes over to solidify the soil, but you should eventually be able to walk across it without the ground shifting.
Again, it’s always worth another level check before moving to the next step, as it’ll be much easier to correct now than later.
Step 6. Add a Layer of Sand
While you could just plop your pool on top of compacted soil, adding sand creates a base that protects the liner of your pool against grass and weeds or any sharp objects you may have missed in the dirt.
Masonry sand (or builders’ sand) is ideal for this because it’s finer than most other types of sand, which helps create a smoother and more level surface. Top sand or even play sand can work as a substitute, though.
Getting sand delivered is as easy as a phone call to a landscaping supply company or your local garden center. Buy enough to create at least a 2-inch thick layer of sand across the entire area of your pool site.
After pouring the sand onto the site, use a rake to spread it as evenly as possible across the area, while also removing any last bits of debris or stones, before allowing it to settle overnight.
Step 7. Compact the Sand
Just like you did with the soil, you’ll need to compact the sand into a solid base using your hand tamper or lawn roller.
If the sand is dry to the touch, try grabbing a hose and spraying it with water beforehand. The added moisture will act as a lubricant for the sand, allowing it to compact more tightly. The denser your sand base, the better.
Finally, perform one final level check to ensure nothing has changed and it’s still completely flat. If there’s any unevenness, sprinkle sand in shallow areas to make minor corrections.
Optional: Add an Extra layer of protection
While you don’t necessarily need to do this, it’s worth considering putting an extra layer of protection for your pool.
For example, look at purchasing a specialized pad, which is really just a large foam or tarp base that goes under your above-ground pool. Failing that, even just placing down a regular tarp will work.
Adding this additional layer serves not only to reduce the risk of a puncture in the liner but to better insulate and prevent heat loss from the water as it seeps into the cold ground.’
The Bottom Line
Don’t neglect the importance of adequately preparing and leveling the ground for your swimming pool.
If you get it wrong or slack off at this critical stage, your pool will never look quite “right,” and you even risk creating a safety hazard in your yard that could give out at any time.
Take the time to do it right, and your pool will last season after season.