How Out of Level Can My Above Ground Pool Be?


When it comes to excavating for an above-ground swimming pool. It’s important to follow several key steps to avoid an un-level pool. Water is heavy and when it freezes it becomes a dangerous weapon to the stability of your pool. We will provide more on these topics below.

When a pool is unlevel it becomes not only unsafe for swimmers but can create many problems with the components of your pool. Damaged uprights, top rails, sidewall bowing are just the start of the potential damage an un-level pool can create.

Did you know above-ground pools can come in sizes up to 21’x43′? Filled with water that’s 200,000 lbs of water! This is equivalent to a Boeing 757-200 and or a Blue Whale parked in your backyard. It’s not something you want to mess around with!

Boeing 757

How to Properly Excavate for an Above Ground Pool

An Above-Ground pool has different excavation requirements than an In-Ground pool.

Top Soil (grass) needs to be removed. Excavated pad size will always be larger than the pool size. Example: Pool size is 15’x30′. Needs to be excavated at 21’x32′. The lowest elevation is determined and the entire excavation takes place removing any slope in the way.

The Excavated area should be within 1/2-2″ level across the site. The actual pool install process requires you to use a laser level to ensure the pool’s base is within 1/16th of an inch level.

The amount of material that has to be dug up is often overlooked. The following chart gives you an idea of how much material (your yard) needs to be dug up in order to install a round, oval, or semi-In-Ground pool.

Cubic Yards to be Excavated

Please keep in mind slope of the yard can dramatically decrease the amount being excavated.

Pool Size ftExcavation area6″ Cubic yards12″ Cubic yards28″ semi in-Ground Cubic Yards

Please look at this site and notice it isn’t level.

water in the hole
Unlevel site

Since you don’t have the use of water like this. It’s best to use a Rotary laser leveling device. There are many devices like this on the market. Most do a great job.

We’ve used many and here are 3 of our favorite rotary laser kits.

How an Unlevel Above-Gorund Pool In Winter Can Prove Disastrous?

If an above-ground pool isn’t properly leveled it can pose severe problems in wintertime. Water freezes into a large block of ice. Equilizer Pillows often fail during the winter and this allows the water inside the pool to freeze into one large piece of ice.

An equalizer pillow helps to keep the water from freezing into one large block of ice. When it fails (which is 75% of the time) It can create a situation during late winter or early spring when temps start to rise.


When temps start to rise the large frozen ice begins to melt and if the pool isn’t level. The large ice will settle towards the area which is lower in level. This places a large strain of weight on the pool wall.

(Robelle Industries has better than average Equalizer Pillows on Amazon – Equalizer Pillow Selection)

winter damage

Please note: Most pools that succumb to winter damage are because of the large block of ice not being equalized causing them to fail.

Strain is placed on the top of the pool and eventually, the weight is too much and the pool implodes.

Another common issue with winter damage is when a pool continually leaks at the pool’s skimmer and return. After years of leaking it can degrade the strength of the pool. The ice has its final say to a pool like this.

There are several steps one can take to prevent these issues from happening to your pool. Please watch a video I made a couple of years back that still holds water (pun intended).

What Goes underneath an Above-Ground Pool

Have you ever wondered what is underneath an above-ground swimming pool? I’ve been on many backyard pool visits. My customers ask me this at every backyard pool visit.

Above-ground pools must have a base material in order to withstand many tons of water weight. Mason Sand or Stone Dust is what installers use. Other accessories include Rhino Pad, Armor Guard, and or Liner Shield. These three items are GEO textile materials that protect the pool’s liner. They all lay between the liner and the base material.

What is Mason Sand?

Mason Sand comes from larger rocks like granite, trap rock, and or limestone. It’s crushed and then it goes through a screening process. It goes through the screening process twice. By doing this it creates a nice smooth consistency. It feels like beach sand or what we in the business call pool sand.

What is Stone Dust?

Stone dust is a larger rock crushed into dust. Also called Quarry dust is coarser than Mason sand. It packs like concrete and creates a hard pool base. Much like an in-ground pool base. It’s used in concrete construction. A Stone Mason will use for laying pavers.

How Much Material do we need?

These materials come in volumes of yards and or tons. We have a chart that we use to know what amount we’ll need to get for a particular size pool. See the following chart it will show you the amount we order when installing a pool.

Base Material Chart for Different Sized Pools

Pool Size in ftMason Sand YardsMason Sand TonsStone Dust YardsStone Dust Tons
Base Material Chart

Do I need a Protective Padding Under my Pool’s Liner?

A floor pad goes between the base material and your pool’s liner. It protects the underside of your pool’s liner from smaller-sized rocks from poking the liner. It’s a good idea to have one.

Most pool manufacturers will extend the liner warranty if you use the padding. For that reason, it’s a great idea. Generally speaking any added security you can get is a Good Idea.

Rhino Pads on Amazon!

We recommend Rhino Pads for your above-ground pool.

How to Properly Landscape Around The Outside Of An Above Ground Pool

Landscape rocks or crushed stones are most common around a pool after it’s installed. They serve two purposes. One is they keep moisture from staying near the pool wall. Moisture against the pool wall can cause it to rust faster. Second, when spread around the pool perimeter it creates a strong base. Pool and base become one solid structure.

The most used rocks are 3/4″ crushed stones. It can be anything you like. What you don’t want around an above-ground pool is mulch! Do not use mulch as it keeps moisture against the wall. It will cause the pool wall to rust quicker. We recommend Peastone for most above-ground pool landscape materials.

How Much Landscape material do we need?

This will depend on the size of your pool. Please see the following chart for how much-crushed stone or pea stone you’ll need.

Pool Size in ftYards Needed
Landscape Material Chart

The chart is based on Yards and the stones will be laid 3 inches thick. They will lay about 2ft away from the pool wall. Your exact amount will depend on your project scope.

landscape material

The most Important aspect of finishing a pool with landscape rocks is to provide the stability for the structure of the whole pool. The pool sits in this structure and the entire pool with landscaping becomes one unit.

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