Summer is almost here, which means it’s almost time for fun in the sun. What’s one of the best things to do in the summer? Swimming! Everyone loves to go swimming to keep cool on hot days, and having a pool in your backyard makes that so much easier. I, for one, wish I had a pool in my yard to relax in all summer.
Getting an above-ground pool set up can be quite difficult and get expensive fast. One way to cut costs is by leveling the ground for your new pool yourself. And the less digging involved the better. I know it sounds very complicated, but follow these steps and the whole process will be done in a breeze.
Step 1: Pick a Spot
Picking a spot for your pool is very important. You need to know the dimensions of the pool to make sure the spot is big enough, but here are few more things to consider when picking the spot of your pool. How flat the ground is, what is in the area, and your city ordinances.
Ground that appears relatively flat will need much less work than a spot that has an obvious slope. Obviously, unless you have a perfect yard, it’s not going to be completely flat. Even if it looks flat, there is a good chance it’s not.
You also want to try to pick a spot that doesn’t have any tree stumps or large bushes in the way to make clearing the area that much easier.Picking a spot in your yard that visibly appears flat and doesn’t have much in it will not only make the rest of this process that much easier but that much faster as well.
The last thing to consider when picking the spot for your pool is city ordinances. Cities require that pools be a certain distance from your property line and some require that your fences be a certain height for your own privacy. Since it is different for every city, it is important to look up your city ordinances.
Step 2: Mark the Location
Want to hear about two things that suck? Overworking, and thinking you’re done only to find out you did it wrong. That’s why it’s important to mark the location of your pool. You don’t want to make it crazy big and do more than you have to, but you don’t want to find out that after all your hard work the area is too small.
To prevent both of these things, you need to mark out your pool. To do this, hammer a stake into the ground where you want the center of the pool to be. The stake can be metal or wood, it doesn’t really matter, just make sure it is firmly in the ground.
Tie a string around the stake, then measure it so that it is 6 inches longer than the radius of your pool. Tie a can of spray paint to the end of the string and spray the ground, making sure there is no slack in the string as you do so. Keep the shape of your pool in mind as you do this, especially if your pool is square.
Step 3: Clear the Area
I already mentioned this when I talked about picking the perfect spot, but you need to clear the area that is now marked. That’s why picking a spot that didn’t have any tree stumps or large bushes makes this part that much easier.
You don’t want any sticks, bushes, or rocks under the pool. It will ruin the bottom of the pool, and also you don’t want to be stepping on something when you’re in the pool. This is the time to dig up anything larger as well if the area has a tree stump or bushes.
I wish that was it, but it’s not. You also have to get rid of all the grass. This will make it easier to actually level the pool. A shovel may be needed to start clearing the grass, but as the soil loosens up you may be able to pull it up with your hands. Don’t worry about packing down the ground as you go, that will be coming later.
Step 4: Leveling
Once all of the grass is gone, it is finally time to see how level, or flat, the ground is. Put a level on a 2X4 piece of wood, securing it by either tying it or duck taping it to the wood. It’s important that the 2X4 is about as long as the radius of the pool. It will make this process faster.
You also want a longer level, preferably a 48-inch one, because it will be much more accurate than a shorter level. With one end of the wood in the center of the pool, lay it on the ground. You will have to do this for the entirety of the marked area because you want to find the lowest point and lower any points higher than it. This is much easier and faster than trying to raise the area to the higher points.
You want no more than a 2-inch difference from the lowest part of the pool to the highest, to make a deep end of the pool. This part may require some digging to make it as level as possible, but hopefully not much. It will really depend on the spot in your yard that you picked.
Step 5: Time to Tamp
Tamping the ground is very important because it will make sure that your pool has a strong, solid base. Tamping, in this case, means flattening the ground, smashing it to make it very flat. It’s important that you use an actual tamper for this and not just your feet. Once you have tampered the entire area, you will want to check to see if it is still level.
If there is a lower area and you have extra dirt from leveling the first time, you can add some to the area and tamp the ground again, afterward checking to see if the ground is now level. If you don’t have any extra dirt, you may have to dig a bit to lower the area that is higher, once again tampering the ground then checking to see if it is now level. It is very meticulous work, but it will be worth it in the end.
Step 6: The Foundation
There are three main options for your foundation, land grading, sand, or crushed rocks. Land grading and sand have a very similar process, the only difference between them and crushed rock being that you don’t use any water with the rocks. You can’t really go wrong with any of them, as they all make for a strong and sturdy base for your pool.
Land grading is making the ground level. However, it has to be more level than it was during the tamping process. This is where you really don’t want to make any mistakes. If you have access to a big pile of dirt or have any extra diet leftover from leveling the ground earlier, this will be a little easier, but it is not actually needed.
Using the tamping process from earlier, you need to make sure the ground is completely level. If you have extra dirt, now is the time to use it, adding to any lower areas. Keep in mind, a 2-inch difference to have a deep end is fine as long as it is only on one side. Wet the ground with a hose or sprinkler, then tamp the area once again. This will help ensure that the ground underneath the pool is as compact as it can possibly be.
If you choose to use sand, make sure it is masonry sand. Masonry sand is very finely ground to make sure there aren’t any rocks or pebbles in it. Because of this, it is used for many construction projects, including being mixed into cement to make it stronger. You will want to add a layer of sand, around 2 inches of it, onto the ground and tamp it.
Wet the area with your hose thoroughly, then tamp it again. This is important for both sand and land grading because you want the base of the pool as sturdy as you can possibly make it. There are some requirements for the amount of sand used for an above-ground pool. You can find a few on this blog, however, it may be smart to see if your city has any specific requirements.
Before adding the rocks, double-check that the ground is level. Once the area is covered in rocks, you won’t be able to change the level of the ground itself. After checking, add a layer of rocks to the area. Try to make it as even as possible, using the level to check.
Next, it’s time for more tamping. It’s important to tamp the entire area so there are no sharp rocks sticking up. You can do this however you feel is easiest, but starting at the center and working your way out is a good way to make sure you go over the entire area.
Step 7: The Pump
I hope you didn’t think I forgot about the pool pump! For the pump, you must make sure the ground it is on is level as well. To do this, you will have to know the size of the pump, then follow the same steps as above. You can choose to do this at the same time as the rest of the pool, or do it separately, the choice is up to you!