Well, this isn’t exactly a blog post on how to build a deck next to an above ground swimming pool. Such a post would involve descriptions on setting 4×4 posts and then attaching 2×6 runners followed by 1×6 decking. This is instead a guideline on the best way to build a wooden deck directly next to a pool so that you still keep in mind its future needs.
Every year I replace quite a few liners in existing pools. Some of these pools have wooden decks adjacent to them. Wooden decks can really make a pool nice. Some are beautiful with multiple levels, fancy railings, built-in seating, and walls of latticework for privacy. Others are very basic, but are just fine for getting in and out of the pool or basking in the sun. Though, when it comes to replacing the pool’s liner, some decks pose a problem. So, with this post I’m going to give some guidelines on how to build a deck next to an above ground pool so that you will still be able to change the liner when the time comes.
I Can Change Your Pool Liner, but First I Have to Cut Your Deck
There is nothing worse in the world of changing liners than arriving to do a changeout and discovering that the deck is in the way and needs to be cut. Some will spend thousands of dollars building a beautiful deck. They’ll do a great job of getting the deck to align perfectly with the pool’s top rails only to have me have to pull out a circular saw and cut it when it is time to change the liner. This can be prevented though with a little forward-thinking and so here’s a few suggestions.
Study How the Top Rails of Your Pool Come Off
For most above ground pools the top railing has to come off completely during a liner change. The top rails themselves all attach pretty much in the same manner. The real variable from model to model is how the top connectors come off. The top connectors are situated at the top of the pool. These top connectors cover the ends of where the long top rails meet. These top connectors are all different. They vary from the simple one-piece “snap cap” that easily snaps in place to the more complex three-piece cap that has five screws.
Most top connectors are attached with screws to each upright of the pool’s frame. These screws are secured below the top railing. Confused yet? These screws are the ones that you specifically need to keep into consideration when you are planning where the deck is going to be placed. The reason is that these screws will have to be unscrewed when it is time to change your liner. It sucks to have to crawl under a deck to get to these screws, but with some models you may not have a choice.
In most cases you’ll be able to position the deck just below where these bottom screws are so that you can access them via the top of the deck. If you can do that, you’re golden when it is time to change your liner. You may not want to though, if those screws are too low in reference to the very top of the pool. I’d say build the deck below these screws regardless of how far down they are from the top, but some people won’t want to do that. Some want the deck to be as close to the top of the pool as possible. They might think their kids are going to trip over the pool’s top rails if the deck is too low or they don’t want to see any of the pool wall from the deck. I get that and it’s cool. If you must build the deck higher than these screws, then allow enough room below the deck to get to the screws for later removal.
If You Can Help Yourself DO NOT Run the Decking Boards over the Pool’s Top Rails
Probably the biggest mistake people make when building a deck for their above ground pool is they run the decking boards over the pool’s top rails. I get it. They want to have the look of wood running right to the water and completely hide the pool’s frame. That’s a nice look, but not that nice for three reasons.
The first is the reason for this blog post. The deck will be in the way when you need to take the pool apart to change the liner. Some who know this but do it anyway do so with the plan of taking the deck boards off, because they used screws instead of nails for the deck. Just so you know, this plan very often doesn’t work. Sometimes you can get lucky and all the deck screws will unscrew and you can easily take the boards out of the way. Most of the time though it’s no bueno as at least a couple of the screw heads break off making it really hard to pry off the boards. Too many screw heads break off and it’s sawdust time!
The second reason is that it doesn’t look as stylish later. Wood is a natural product so over time it’ll warp or bend from being exposed to the elements. When you build a deck over the top rails, there has to be a straight edge along the waterline. You can be a true master woodworker and get that edge perfect, but over time it won’t stay that way.
The third reason you may not want to run the deck boards over the pool’s top railing is it may make the deck sit too high in reference to the pool’s water level. The water level for an above ground swimming pool is about six inches below the top rail. Adding a deck over the top rail can now make the water level more than eight inches below the deck. This may be OK for you, but you also may not like being too far from the water.
Run the Deck Boards Under the Top Rails
This is my favorite method and is the way to do it. It makes it at least easier to replace the liner later. It creates a nice height for the deck in reference to the water level. Most importantly, it looks better. It looks more uniform and the boards don’t have to end perfectly straight. You also don’t have to worry about them warping later as their ends are hidden from sight.
Building Your Deck over the Pump and Filter
Yea, don’t do that! I know some of you have the idea that the deck will keep the pool equipment out of the sun and that way it’ll last longer. That’s cool and all, but it’s not worth it. It’s a pain to service your pool equipment when it’s located under a deck. There are lids to take off, valves to turn, filters to pull out, and O-rings to lube. These things are a pain when you are crawling underneath and there are spiders and bees to deal with overhead. If you are convinced that the pool equipment must be covered, then have the pump/filter away from the deck and build a doghouse that is easy to remove for it. Trust me, your lower back will thank you.
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