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How To Level The Ground For Your Pool – A Step-by-Step Guide

Your kids have been pressuring you for a swimming pool every single summer, and you’ve finally caved and invested in an above-ground pool for your yard.

But before you can start throwing up the walls and filling it with water, you need to do a little preparation work on the bit of ground your planning for your pool to call home.

Read on to discover why leveling the ground for your pool is such an important step, and understand the steps required to make the job as easy as possible.

Why Your Above-Ground Pool Needs Even Ground

The Water Level Will Be Uneven

Installing a pool on uneven ground creates a safety hazard. You’ll end up with a shallow and a deep end, which can be dangerous to smaller children if they cannot touch the bottom.

The uneven water level can also create problems for your skimmer and other cleaning equipment if they get stuck in the wrongly created “shallow end” you’ve managed to construct in your swimming pool.

The Structure Will Be Weak And Compromised

The other significant risk with an uneven pool is the added pressure it places on particular sections of your pool liner and wall. Because the weight is not distributed evenly on all sides, it can cause the walls to buckle, twist and even break.

In a worst-case scenario, the damaged section of the wall will just give out, and your pool will be destroyed. This can send a flood of water through your yard, putting swimmers and anyone who happens to be nearby at risk of injury.

The Pool Will Just Look Wrong

I’ve seen my share of uneven pools, and it’s immediately noticeable. Like a glass balancing off center, when the water is not close to being level in your pool it’s a real sorry sight.

You can immediately see one side is lower than the other, and you can bet everyone else who comes to your yard and sees your pool will think the same way.

What You’ll Need to Level The Ground

Leveling a particular area of your yard in order to install a pool isn’t particularly tricky, but it’s a job made far easier with the right tools to hand.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sod cutter or rototiller. Clearing the grass is one of the most back-breaking steps, and if you can use the right machinery to get the job done faster, my advice is to do it.
  • Extended length of board and a level. As you lay the board flat on the planned pool site, it’ll become immediately apparent which particular areas need to be flattened out.
  • Pick and a wide shovel. Removing any rocks from the site is critical to ensure no damage is done to your pool liner, and wide shovel will help you to dig out the bumps.
  • Wide rake and a lawn roller. To smooth and level the sand on the site, you want a rake that’s as wide as possible, then a lawn roller to compress the sand down flat.

Oh, and don’t forget the desire to do a few hours of work preparing the site.

Leveling The Ground (Step-by-Step)

Armed with the right tools, creating a level site for your swimming pool is a straightforward process, so long as you follow these steps.

Read on to discover exactly what to do.

Step 1: Find The Right Location

Once a pool is set up it’s almost impossible to move without draining it and disassembling it completely, so it’s essential to choose the right spot before you start.

I’d recommend finding the flattest area of your yard, as it’ll simplify the following steps. Flatter means less shoveling, and your back will thank you for it.

Also remember to look up. A bit of shade is 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 line. Settle on a spot that’s well within your property boundaries, where you’ve got at least a foot or two of buffer around your pool in every direction.  

Step 2: Clear The Site

Now before installing a pool, it’s essential to clear the site first. Grass, rocks and other debris underneath can damage the liner, perhaps even destroying your pool.

The first step is to remove the grass. With a 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. Any stones, roots or anything that could damage the liner needs to be removed.

If you’re planning ahead with your pool installation and have a few weeks to kill, pegging out a thick tarp on the area you’ve chosen to use will starve the grass of any sunlight and water. This will make it much easier to dig out.

Step 3: Create Your Leveling Device

It’s no good to merely eyeball the pool’s location to ensure its level. If you’re off by even a couple of inches it can cause significant problems once it’s filled with water.

You need a leveling device. The easiest approach is to get a long, straight bit of board, and once you’ve placed it across the intended site for your pool, use a level to see how flat it is.

Doing this will also highlight any high or low points on your site.

If you’ve not got a bit of board that’s long enough you could also use stakes and some string, stretching it out from the center while holding it tight. Then you can use your level to sight along the tightened string to confirm you’ve got the site completely flat.

Step 4: Fix The Bumps And Holes

By now, it should be clear where any leveling problems lie. Your job is to smooth these out, and this is where it can get tiresome. Because you need to shovel it out one scoop at a time.

I’d recommend digging into the ground to get it level, it’s actually better to remove the bumps in the dirt as opposed to adding more, as it helps create a more stable base.

Don’t be afraid to dig down, it’s a good rule of thumb to sink your pool at least two inches down into the soil, as you’ll be topping it off with sand once you’ve got the base flat.

Step 5: Smooth It Out With Sand

After leveling the ground, you need a truckload of sand. The sand creates a base, protecting not only the liner of your pool but to provide a buffer against grass and weeds, or any other sharp objects you may have missed in the dirt.

Getting sand delivered is as easy as a phone call to a landscaping supply company or your local garden center. Ask for enough to create at least a 2-inch thick layer of sand across the entire area of your pool site, though if you end up with 6-inches or more this is totally fine.

Once it’s been delivered, use a rake to spread the sand evenly, then give everything a good water, and leave it to dry. I’d leave it overnight to flatten and dry out.

Step 6: Compact The Sand Down Hard

After you’ve let the sand come to rest, it needs to be compacted into a solid base for your pool. The best tool to get the job done is a lawn roller, which you can rent easily from most garden centers. Go over the entire base for your pool, and pack it down flat.

Then it’s time to bring out your level. Your goal here is to ensure nothing has changed and you’ve still got everything completely flat. If not, grab your shovel to level it out, then use the lawn roller to pack it down firm. Take your time to get this right.

Step 7: Lay Your Base Protector Down

Finally, you need to lay out your base layer. If you like, you can purchase a specialized pool pad, it’s usually a large foam or tarp base that goes under your above-ground pool as another layer of protection for the vinyl of your swimming pool.

The base 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.

At a minimum, I’d recommend laying out a sheet of tarp over the ground, just in case.

Because if you happen to puncture your liner, it can be a nightmare even to find the hole to patch up once your pool is filled. It’s a far smarter move to put adequate protection in place in these initial steps. Once your protector is in place, you’re ready for the final step.

Step 8: It’s Time To Start Setting Up Your Pool

Depending on the model there will be slight variations in the instructions, but they all follow a similar theme. Follow the steps carefully, and your swimming pool will be set up fast so your kids can start enjoying the water in no time.


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 for season after season.

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