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How to Level Ground for a Pool | Step-by-Step

How to Level Ground for a Pool | Step-by-Step

Wondering how to level ground for a pool? Then read on. This step is critical for homeowners wanting to avoid damage to their home and yard while also maximizing the life of the pool.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


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Why Pools Need a Level Base

If you landed on this article, you likely have an above-ground pool. And you likely spent a pretty penny on it. Leveling the ground evens the load on the sides and prevents an off-kilter pool from causing damage to your yard and home.

But how exactly do you do it? Don’t worry — our complete guide gives you the exact steps to take to have the most level pool base in the neighborhood. Read on to learn all you need to know.

Before You Start

The right tools and equipment will make your pool installation as smooth as possible. Here’s what you need to level the ground:

  1. Sod cutter: You need this to clear grass, but it can be quite tasking to use. If you have a decent budget, consider getting a rototiller.
  2. Wide shovel: This is useful for removing rocks, debris, and roots that can damage the pool liner from the site. You’ll also need it to dig into bumps. 
  3. A leveling device and a long wooden board: Use this to determine which areas on your pool site will require flattening or smoothening out.
  4. Wide rake: A wide rake will help you quickly smooth and level your pool site.
  5. Rolling tamper: This will help you to compress the sand over the pool site. A lawn roller will work just fine in the absence of a rolling tamper.

How to Level Ground for a Pool

As an image for a piece on how to level ground for pool, a guy squatting next to boards and levels to accomplish this

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How to level ground for pool is pretty straightforward if you know the steps to take. Here’s how to go about it. 

1. Choose the Right Spot

Start by determining the best location to mount the pool. Here are some considerations when deciding the right spot:

  • Flat ground: The flattest area of your backyard is an ideal spot to set up. Of course, leveling the ground for a pool usually requires some shoveling, but you can reduce your workload if you install the pool in the flattest spot in your yard.
  • Underground structures: The last place you want to have your pool is on sewage or septic lines. You also want to avoid any underground power lines and cables.
  • Shade: While shade around your pool is nice, it’s best to avoid big trees; they’ll drop leaves and dirt in the pool, creating unnecessary maintenance.
  • Ample space around the pool: Choose a spot within the boundaries of your property with about two to four feet of space around the pool area. This gives easy access to the pool in all directions.

2. Clear the Pool Site

Once you map out the best possible location for the pool, get rid of all visible obstacles. Installing your pool without first clearing the site can severely damage the pool liner, regardless of how flat a surface is.

Make sure you remove debris, rocks, roots, and grass from the site. Doing this by hand is nearly impossible, and you’ll find that investing in a robotiller will be money well spent.

You can also kill the grass by covering it with a thick tarp for a week. The lack of water and sunlight will cause the grasses to wither. Then, you can easily rake it up.

3. Use Leveling Tools

Once you’ve flattened the base, you need to level it. Given you’re dealing with hundreds (if not thousands) of gallons of water, it’s best not to just eyeball it.

Get one or more leveling tools to determine the high and low points on your chosen pool area. A laser or string level is best, but a long, straight wooden plank and a bubble level will also work.

Place the wood on the ground and use the leveling device to determine whether the ground is flat enough. Can’t find a long enough board to cover the entire area? No problem. Stakes and strings will work too.

Stretch those out from the center of the base, making sure the strings are tight. Use the level along the string to see if the ground is completely flat.

4. Flatten Out Bumps

Step 3 will highlight any areas that need work. Now, you need to level those bumps. It’s a pain, but necessary. Instead of building up the area, we suggest removing dirt.

Digging into raised levels to flatten the bumps gives you a more structurally stable base for the pool than attempting to fill a lower area.

5. Compress the Soil

Once level, you need to compress the soil to give the pool a solid base on which to sit. Gently spray water on soil for about an hour using a garden hose at low pressure.

Next, run a rolling tamper or lawn roller over the entire surface to compress the soil. Take your time on this step, as loose soil can erode and really skew you pool’s base.

6. Create a Smooth Layer of Sand

After leveling and competing the base, you need to lay a solid first layer. Get enough mason sand to create a smooth sand base (you’ll need up to a truckload).

This sand layer will protect the pool liner from any sharp objects you may have missed during the clearing process. You can order mason sand from a pool retail store, a local garden center, or any local landscaping supplier.

Once applied, use a rake to spread the sand and create a fine layer of at least two inches across the pool site. If there is a weak area, add crushed limestone to strengthen it.

7. Apply Treatment to the Pool Area

Spray toxic-free herbicides to prevent grasses from growing around the swimming pool area. Also, treat the pool environment with friendly fungicides to stop fungi growth. Then give the chemicals about two weeks to settle before installing the pool.

8. Lay the Pool Base Protector

Next, you’ll lay the base protector before setting up the pool. The best option is to use a purpose-built pool pad, but a tarp will also work. Without this extra protection layer, your hard work will be wasted.

In addition to preventing possible puncture of the pool wall, the base protector also gives the pool an extra layer of insulation that keeps the water cool.

9. Install Your Above Ground Swimming Pool

Finally, you can start setting up your above ground pool following the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, a square Intex pool may have different instructions than an oval pool from another company.

Things can also be different if you are installing an inflatable pool for your kids. And the manufacturer will list any specific instructions they have for the base.

Frequently Asked Questions

Image of an Asian woman floating on a donut floatie for a piece on how to level ground for a pool

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How do I level my ground for a pool without digging?

You can combine crushed stone or crushed limestone and mason sand to level the ground without digging. First, you need to achieve anywhere between one to two-inch levelness using the crushed stone. Next, use the sand to flatten out the ground further. 

How do you know if ground is level for pool?

The easiest way to know if your ground is flat enough to set up your pool is to use a leveling device together with a long wooden board, such as plywood. Lay the board on the pool site and place a leveling device on it to see whether the ground is level.

Can you put an above ground pool directly on grass?

You can put above ground pool directly on artificial grass, but doing so will damage the blades of the artificial grass due to the weight of the pool and the water. While some above ground pools can sit directly on your lawn surface, the chances of punctures and damages are high.

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We may earn a commission when you click this link, at no extra cost to you.

How Do You Level Ground for a Pool?

There you have it: how to level ground for pool in nine simple steps. Some of these might seem unnecessary, but you made a big investment in your pool, and skipping any of these can cause property damage or injury.

Don’t feel like doing it yourself? Click the green button above to connect with a local contractor. Even better? Quotes are completely free! So there’s no reason not to at least see what they’d charge.