How To Install Above Ground Pools

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel

A new pool is no fun until it’s holding water and proper installation is extremely important. In fact, nothing will get you heated up more than an incorrectly installed pool. Some of the problems that result from badly installed above ground pools may include uneven floors or a buckled/wrinkled liners. It’s much better – and less expensive - to do it right the first time. Many homeowners decide to tackle this project themselves. Here are some guidelines to help you install your new pool. Click for Above Ground Pools

Tips & Warnings


Things You'll Need

Step by Step

Step 1

Before you do anything, call upon your family, friends or neighbors to get some volunteers. Installing above ground pools is a job that takes more than one or two people. It will go faster and probably be a lot more fun if you get a crew together.

Step 2

Preparing the foundation for your new pool is the first step. Remove any sod that would be beneath the pool. Do not underestimate the persistence of grass. Nut grass, bamboo grass and Bermuda grass can grow right through an above ground pool liner. You will also need to remove sod all the way around the pool wall. Code in some areas of the country requires as much as six feet of sod removed from around above ground pools. This would mean a 6-foot wide “dirt road” around your pool.

Step 3

Once sod is removed, the ground will probably not be level. The higher ground within the sod-cleared area needs to be dug out to match the lowest ground. The ground must be measured using a level or a transit; you cannot determine level ground just by looking at it. It is not recommended to build up low ground due to the immense weight of water above ground pools hold. This weight will simply compress the earth back down. If the ground is not leveled, there is the potential for serious damage to the pool and injury to those in or near it. The wall could collapse or sink into the ground. If conditions require that you raise ground instead of leveling it, you should consult a pool professional familiar with installing above ground pools.

Step 4

Above ground pools can cause water to gather in your yard where it never had before. This is due to the pool blocking the normal flow of drainage. Often when water gathers around a pool, the owner assumes the pool liner has a leak and then tries to patch or replace the liner. This can be tedious and expensive so it pays to make sure you have adequate drainage before installing the pool. The advice of a professional is recommended, especially if your yard forms a natural valley.

Step 5

When the ground is level, you'll want to lay a foundation for the pool. Clean sand is the traditional base material for above ground pools. The sand acts as a barrier between the ground and the liner and helps to protect the liner from any rocks, roots or other hard objects. It also provides cushioning for the floor of the pool, making it more comfortable underfoot. For additional cushioning and liner protection for above ground pools, Gorilla floor padding is a tough, felt-like material that is extremely hard to penetrate. We recommend always using sand and adding the floor padding for extra protection. It is worth the investment to protect the pool liner as replacing a liner involves both the cost of the liner itself, installation, and refilling your pool. A uniform, 2-inch layer of sand is standard (check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific pool). Beware of using high alkaline substances such as peat moss as a base because it can corrode metal parts.

Step 6

Next will be the foundation for the pool frame, typically either patio stones or blocks which are sunk until flush with the ground. These blocks are placed beneath the pool posts and buttresses in order to support them. Each block must be level in all directions (both from side to side and front to back). Then you will also need to make sure the blocks are level with one another. From one block to the next block, there can be no more than 1/16” out of level. As with leveling the ground, you will need to use a transit to be sure each block is level. Unlevel supports can cause the walls of above ground pools to buckle, even with a variation of only 1/8” between the blocks. Your pool will come with the manufacturer’s specific instructions for placement of stones or blocks.

Step 7

Now you're ready to assemble the pool. Installation instructions for above ground pools vary based on the manufacturer and model so follow the guidelines provided in your owner's manual. Above ground pools will typically include the following parts: bottom rails, bottom plates, uprights, pool wall, top rails, caps for uprights, coping, pool liner, and hardware. A skimmer and return fitting is often included. If your pool is delivered by truck, you have the right and responsibility to open and inspect each package before signing the bill of lading. Don't let the driver rush you to sign the paperwork. You're responsible for any concealed damage so take your time and be sure no damage occurred in transit. Compare what you have to the manufacturer’s parts list and be sure you've received all necessary parts in good condition. Nothing is more frustrating than having a half-assembled above ground pool only to discover you’re missing part AB19 and it will take the manufacturer 2 weeks to ship it.

Step 8

Once the pool frame and walls are up, you should create a cove. This is a 6 – 8 inch wedge of sand built all the way around the inside edge of the pool wall. Creating the cove is mandatory for above ground pools – do not skip this step! The cove will keep the liner from slipping under the pool wall and provide a protective layer between the liner and the metal frame of the pool. Bevel the sand to form a 45 degree wedge along the entire inner circumference of the pool wall. The sand should be uniform all the way around and tamped down. As an alternative, pre-manufactured pool cove is available in two forms, Peel & Stick which has adhesive backing, and Clip & Stick which snaps onto the track of the pool wall. When the cove is completed, tamp down the sand in the entire pool area to even out the ground and reduce divots in the floor of the pool. Any sand on the pool wall above the cove should be removed to prevent it from rubbing against the liner and possibly causing pinholes to form.

Step 9

Now comes the fun part of installing above ground pools - the liner. Since this is the most delicate part of the pool, we recommend inspecting it first. Open the box containing your liner very carefully - do not use a sharp object. Unfold the liner and spread it out, making sure the ground is clear of anything that could puncture it. Check for any holes or tears and examine the seams to make sure they are properly sealed. This is very important as you do not want to discover a defect after you’ve filled the pool.

Step 10

After your liner passes inspection, spread it out in the sun. The sun's heat will warm up the vinyl, making it more pliable and easier to work with. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding preparing the liner. Your owner’s manual should give you details about installing the liner, including punching out the skimmer and return holes. Remember, above ground pool liners are not meant to bear any of the weight of the water so they must rest on the ground in all areas. Properly installed, there should be no air space between the liner and the ground, and no downward pressure on the liner. How you hang the liner on the pool wall will depend on the style of liner (overlap, beaded, or j-hook) so refer to the instruction manual for your above ground pool.

Step 11

Since there is extra material to compensate for any shrinkage of the liner, wrinkles in the liner material is normal and unavoidable. To smooth out the floor of the liner, gently push it toward the wall. To avoid damage, do not pull, drag or stretch the liner. Air between the liner and the above ground pool wall can contribute to wrinkles. To decrease this, you can use a vacuum hose, inserting it through the skimmer hole in the pool wall behind the liner. Use masking tape and cardboard to seal any gaps around the skimmer hole and vacuum hose. Turn on the vacuum and gently adjust the liner while the vacuum is running. You can turn the vacuum off periodically if you reach any areas where the liner becomes difficult to adjust. The vacuum can continue to run as you fill the pool but be sure to keep the hose above water level at all times. You can fill above ground pools with a common garden hose, or hire a water truck which is much faster.

Step 12

Once your above ground pool is up and filled with water, you'll need to connect your pump and filter system, heater, lights and any other pool equipment you may have. Follow the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer for each piece of equipment. The same goes for adding chemicals to above ground pools - the packaging should have instructions based on the volume of your pool.

Step 13

Inyo Pools carries a full line of above ground pools. We also provide all of the equipment, chemicals and accessories necessary for above ground pools. Please feel free to visit our Above Ground Pools Store.

Comments (1 to 40 of 54)

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User: Inyopools

william garnett - I do not believe there is an easy solution. You will have to empty the pool, pull up the liner and threat the soil for bugs. Are you sure your holes are caused by bugs and not weeds? You may have to put a weed killer down and invest in a good pool liner pad like the "Perfect Pool Bottom" pad.

User: william garnett

I am having trouble with bugs punching my liner and creating leaks, the pool company did not treat the ground or did not tell me of this problem may happen, what can i do??


Can the ground pool is better with moods or pool liner or both can be done. Pls reply via email thank u

User: Inyopools

F1000C - Unfortunately we do not carry the Polygroup F1000C pump.


Where can I get replacement F1000Cswimming pool pump or parts for it

User: Inyopools

Kori C - You will need a pool ladder to get in and out of your pool during installation and when you are swimming in it.

User: Kori C

How do you get out of the pool after walls and liner are up and in???

User: Lynn

If the top of a 27' round is level but the water runs to one side of the pool when filling, what does that mean? As we began filling it, the water is over ones ankles on one side but it's bone dry on the other. Don't know what to make of it since the top of the pool is within a 1/4" using a line level. Sure appreciate your help on this.

User: Inyopools

Sandired - Unfortunately our records do not show your buying a liner through us, but they do show that you have an above ground pool. The size of your pool is measured by its diameter. Please give us a call and we can make sure you get the correct liner.

User: Sandired

How do I measure what size pool I have I need a new liner. And can you check your records to see if we got our last liner from you? My husband passed away and he did all of this and so I am lost. It would be under the name of John Iannaccone, in York, SC

User: Inyopools

Tom T - Sounds like you have something like an Intex AG pool. We don't sell these pools but here is a link to a set of manuals and videos that explain how to set them up - Intex Above Ground Pools.

User: Inyopools

Tom - Generally the top rails don't go on until after the liner has been installed. Prior to installing the liner and filling the pool partially, the pool wall is very unstable. But if there is no wind during the night, you may be able to tape each upright and tie them to stakes around the outside to provide some temporary support until the next day.

User: Tom T

I bought a used pool, it is 16' wide & 40" deep, it is not set up with poles it is air around top of pool What is best way to set it up, how much sand etc. Thanks

User: Tom

I have limited help and don't think we can do a full install in 1 day. If I install the pool wall (18' x 52" round) with the uprights and top rails in place, is that stable enough to allow me to install the liner in the next day or two.

User: Inyopools

rising posts - I don't know how the posts would have risen without ripping out of the bottom plates or bottom rail. Sounds like a major problem that will be difficult to fix.


The posts for my pool have risen about 4-6 in.! The wall and liner did not! What is the outcome of this when the ground thaws? Can I save the pool. Big one... 30 ft round!

User: InyoPools

Jenny - You will have to make the diameter 12' to have the liner fit. Generally there is enough space in the top and bottom plates to push each of the rails closer together to reduce the diameter to 12'. Some of these plates have tabs to keep the rail from going too far into the plate. You may have to bend some of these tabs back to be able to push the rail in further.


I have just bought a Sterns pool second hand, paperwork says it is 12' diamater so bought a pool liner of this measurment, have erected the pool and it is measuring 12.5, with the pool wall measuring just under 44'. A 12' diamater should have the circumrence of 37'. Will this liner fit, can anyone help me?

User: Buymesome

Hello, I'm frantic! Why is everything not easy! Well, we are sinking an above ground Doughboy into the ground all the way except for 6 inches. It has 7 inch metal top rails. The paver installer does not know how to come away from the pool with the travertine. He is used to concrete in grounds where you run a bullnose to the water. We bought travertine 6x12 x 1 1/4 inch.....I thought he could turn one on it's side and go around the pool then lay the others flat, come off of there to form the patio. He is coming this week, pool is 16x 24 and will go in this week. HELP! Any info would be greatly appreciated!!

User: InyoPools

Myrt T - Most pools have a smooth inside wall all the way around. If by scallop effect you mean a rough or indented surface, I would not think that is normal.

User: Myrt T

On the sides of our oval pool it seems to have a scallop effect inside. Is that normal or should the walls be completely smooth all the way around?

User: InyoPools

Amanda - try

User: Amanda

ok we bought a used pool all of the top caps that want let kids hit the metal or sun rotted. we were told it is a leisure bay pool but we are struggling to find those parts anywhere. it is a 24ft round pool and is 52 inches tall if anyone knows where we can find parts i would appreciate it

User: Michelle

Thank you very much. The additional information I found will be very useful. Thanks again.

User: InyoPools

Michelle - We have written another series of How To Guides on installing an above ground pool. You will find this series under our How To Guides section below this guide. This series includes more information on where and how to place the patio stones.


`i really think that your website was helpful and want to say THANKS

User: Michelle

I am looking for help installing an Esther Williams 24 ft round above ground pool. I am reading that we should put blocks under the support poles. But I am not sure how the placement of the blocks should be. Should they be so many feet or inches apart? How much on each side of the support pole should the blocks be? Any tips or instructions would be helpful. We do not have the instruction manual since it was used. Thank you.

User: InyoPools

kim - You are going to have trouble finding parts for older pools. Most are not interchangeable. We do sell a few at this link under Muskin Pools. See if the dimensions match your rims/plates. Order one first to see if it fits. These parts are not returnable.

User: kim

can anyone tell me where to get replacement bottom wall tracks ,,cant fine anywhere

User: InyoPools

Stacy - Most people use the foam coving. It's more stable. And it sounds like your liner may not be lined up correctly. You may have to remove most of the water and start over.

User: Stacy

I think I have made a mistake, We purchased a used 27' round. I have a couple of guestions. I've used sand to make the cove and I'm not sure it is 6" to 8 " high. I was told that bugs like the foam cove's and not to us it? Is this true? the other thing seeing as the liner was already curt to fit the skimmer and return line. and it seems as though the liner has shrunk. I did not screw the top plates down before I added the water and it has pulled in the top of the pool breaking two of the top rails. Do I need to screw down the top plates or continues to add water and hope the water will push the top back out where the skimmer is?

User: InyoPools

Julie, You made some good points so I checked with the mfg and they set up the following sequence. 1- Install the bottom rails and plates on the ground and pavers. 2- Place 2-4" of sand inside the ring up to but not covering the bottom rail. 3- insert the wall into the bottom rail. 4- Level the sand to the wall over the bottom rail. 5- Put the coving over the sand or make the coving of sand. The coving does not have to attach to the bottom rail. . The bottom rail will keep the sand from moving out of place.

User: InyoPools

Rocking uprights - After you have the liner in place over the top of the wall, you can start adding the stabilizers and top rails. This will firm up the uprights. Once the water is in, the uprights will not move.

User: julie cross

So the wall rails/tracks are to also lie on top of the 2-3" of sand base? I thought that base was only supposed to be INSIDE the wall rails/tracks. Our instructions stated that the wall rails/tracks should not sit on sand but instead sit on solid earth due to the sand possibly eroding away and causing the wall to then be uneven.


we have just installed our 21 round pool...digging and leveling the ground, upright beams on pavers, bottom track,sand and wall are all in place...we have not put the liner or water in yet...but my concern is the upright beams can be rocked back and it becasue the water and liner are not in yet...does anyone know..

User: Julie Cross

Within the instructions for installing our pool, it recommended the typical 2 inches of fine sand. However, we purchased 1" foam insulation and pieced together a base with that. Will that be sufficient or will we need to add another 1" of foam? Also, for the cove moldings, the pictures I've seen show that it's cut out to fit over the wall track. If we have a 2" base either sand or foam, how will the notches fit over the track? The track will be too far down. Thanks!

User: InyoPools

Brian, If you have a steel pool, The manufactures caution you against placing any dirt against the outside wall. It will corrode the wall and base rails/plates. The only exception to this restriction is if you have an all resin pool. These can be placed in the ground or backfilled.

User: brian

so my next question would be, why would they sell me the "upgraded" expandable liner? and i had already dug the ground down about a foot and a half so the pool would be inset a little and because i planned on having 2 depths i have seen that you can back fill against the pool and i have read not to back fill...which is it? thanks for any input.

User: InyoPools

brian, Unfortunately, the bottom of your oval pool can only be one depth.

User: InyoPools

Yes, you can use a packed down gravel base for you pool. Just make sure you end up with 3-4" of sand on top after it has filter through the gravel. And use a Gorilla Pad between the sand and the liner in case any of the rocks work their way up through the sand.

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Tips & Warnings

Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions to be sure your above ground pool is safely installed and will be covered under warranty.

If you hire an installer to set up your above ground pool, try to get a personal referral. Research the company online and be sure they are reputable.

Please Note:

Inyo Pool Products is not responsible for any injury or damaged equipment
while using our guides. Using our guides is doing so at your own risk.
These guides are suggested use of your pool or spa equipment and may vary
depending on which product you are using.