how do I prevent above ground pool from becoming misshapen?

Out of Shape Above Ground Pools

I often say, “Above ground pools aren’t Swiss watches.” I usually say this to lower the expectations of pool owners for whom I’m about to install as some think just a little too highly of above grounds. Most of these pools are great and certainly worth the money. When installed correctly and maintained well, they will last many years providing the same enjoyment that other more expensive pools provide. However, they’re far from perfect.

Building above ground swimming pools takes a certain attitude. I am somewhat of a perfectionist so it took me some years before I finally got the concept. And that concept is having a “make-it-work” attitude. Above grounds usually come with poor and vague installation instructions. Just about everything with an above ground is adjustable and the few dimensions given in manuals are painfully inaccurate. Do-it-yourselfers often quickly abandon the numbers that come with their pool’s manual and they should because these numbers are almost always wrong. The numbers will be close, but not exact and we’re not playing horseshoes here. Or are we?

Above Ground Pools, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades

There are different do-it-yourselfers in the world spanning from the “it-has-to-be-absolutely-perfect” all the way to the “if-it’s-standing-today-it’s-fine”. As a guy who has built thousands of above grounds and seen thousands that were built by novices, I’d say it’s best if neither of these extreme do-it-yourselfers attempt to build one. If you fall somewhere in the middle, then you should be OK. However, there are a couple of key things that have to be done right at least somewhat. Getting the pool’s shape right is one of those key things.

So what is meant by the pool’s shape? I mean you’ve bought a 24’ round pool. Won’t it be a 24’ circle of water? Well, it should, but may not be as an above ground pool can end up being more like the shape of an egg instead of a circle. As an example, a 24’ round pool can be 25’ across one way and 23’ across in the opposite direction and still stay up, have a liner free of wrinkles and hold water for years. It probably won’t last as long as a correctly shaped pool, but these wonky eggs can last longer than I often think. The same holds true for oval-shaped pools, but it’s more important for an oval-shaped pool to be its proper shape. Ovals are a pain to build regardless as they need to be squared as well. They lose their shape quickly when they aren’t correctly squared. In the end, the oval-shaped pool will be up and hold water, but only after a lot of swearing and cutting and beers.

Getting an above ground to its correct shape is important becauset it will make it last longer, but there’s a more important reason. When a pool is out of shape, nothing fits right during the installation. Everything will be a struggle as the wall may not line up, the top rails won’t go together right, the uprights may be tilted, and it will be more of a challenge getting the liner straight.

How Does a Pool Get Built Out of Shape?

Well, that’s easier to do than you think. Back in the eighties when I started building these things, most of our pools were built out of shape. We didn’t know any better so it didn’t matter much. We just swore more, bled a lot, and the pool looked off, but we still got paid because people didn’t know any different. There are two main ways a pool gets built out of shape. The first is the bottom track isn’t shaped right initially or at all. And the second way occurs when the pool wall comes together. The bottom tracks of above ground swimming pools have to be assembled by sliding them into connectors. Nothing is precise so there are adjustable gaps in the connectors and the track doesn’t sit perfectly in them either. The result is the track can easily become a shape other than what it is supposed to be.

The other way a pool gets built out of shape is not a result of a lack of building ability, but because the pool is not precise. The bottom track can be set perfectly in place being truly round and level and according to the dimensions of the pool. Then when the wall is rolled into this track and set in the groove, the wall can wind up longer or shorter than the track itself. When this happens, the track must be adjusted as the pool’s wall is in one continuous piece and cannot be shortened or lengthened. The result is the track gets moved inward or outward depending on if the wall was longer or shorter than the track. Are you following me here? If the track isn’t adjusted evenly, then the pool winds up not being shaped properly.

Frustration Meter at 10!

I’d like to add that these above ground pools aren’t built in a test room. Rolling out a long four-foot wide piece of sheet metal and standing it into a track is hard enough. When you consider that it’s hot and there’s dirt and the wind is blowing, it is downright challenging! Often it’s nothing short of a miracle that a couple of guys got that wall spun all the way around and that it is still standing. Then they discover that the wall is longer than the track. As the wall is in danger of blowing down and damaging itself and/or the track and since it cannot be cut, these guys are in a time-sensitive pickle. (This is one of those moments when DIY Bob remembers how expensive he thought my installation price was). The dangers of the wall blowing down and it not fitting induce panic and anger so these guys will then lengthen the bottom track in any way they can to get the wall to line up. And that is how the pool becomes egg-shaped.

So How Then Do I Make Sure My Pool Has the Correct Shape?

Get it a gym membership. Just kidding. Here are some tips to help get and keep your above ground pool in the right shape during installation:

Only Round Pools

  1. Assemble the bottom track where the pool is going to be placed.
  2. Measure across from each opposing connector plate and adjust in or out to get the desired diameter. Example: For a 24’ round pool, measure 24’ straight across each of the connectors. There are usually 16 connectors for that size so you are measuring across in eight different spots.
  3. Once you have the circle measured out evenly, secure the track somehow so it doesn’t move much during the installation of the wall.
  4. Level the track. Don’t move the track when leveling (pros level the track while it’s in place. If you are going to do it “YouTube style” then level your blocks somehow beforehand and good luck with that).
  5. Time to insert the pool’s wall. Secure the track so it won’t move much during the wall’s installation. How you ask? Use sticks or screwdrivers or something of the like. Make sure whatever you use doesn’t get in the way of installing the wall. You’ll know what that means soon enough.
  6. If the inserted ends of the wall line up, then you’re good. Bolt that bad boy together and move on.

6(a) If the wall is like a broke uncle and comes up short, shake the wall inward in several places around and pull it toward the gap at the wall ends. This will shorten the track. Line up the wall’s bolt holes from both ends and bolt the wall together.

6(b) If the wall winds up being too long, shake the wall outward and kick the wall out in several places. This will lengthen the track. As the track expands, the wall will move outward with it. Line up the moved wall’s holes and bolt together.

  1. If 6(a) or (b) occurred, the wall moved in or out, remeasure the track diameter from the inside in several spots and move the wall and track as needed to make it round again.
  2. Your pool is now round. Proceed with the building.

Oval-shaped pools are a lot trickier and since this blog post is already too long, I’ll have to explain about these some other time. Good luck.

If you have any questions on your above ground pool then we would be happy to help, feel free to give us a call at 1-877-372-6038 or email us at upload@inyopools.com If you liked this article then make sure to sign up for Blog and get our Free 128 Page Pool Care Guide.

31 thoughts on “Out of Shape Above Ground Pools

  1. Have a 24 foot oval shaped pool. The bottom track keeps sliding out in a couple spots while we were putting the wall up. Got that fixed. But when we bolted the wall together two pieces of the track came lose again. Is there anyway to fix this before I preceeding to the next step without taking the wall back out of the track where it has came lose.

    1. A reply from Dan, himself:

      “It usually doesn’t matter if the track is out from under the wall. If the wall is level and in the shape it is suppose to be, then you can proceed. The bottom track is just for guidance during the install and has little purpose once the wall is up and the pool is full.

      Thanks
      Dan”

  2. Trying to put up a 24′ round pool. Thought everything was going great til we tried to put on the top stabilizer bars and couldn’t fit all the bars on. The circumference of the pool in about 3 inches too small. Also tried to dry fit the top rails and they don’t fit in two spots. One spot is too long the other too short. We were very careful making sure the bottom was round measuring around the bottom of the pool in different spots many times after the wall was up. Then marked the location of the bottom plates on the patio blocks to keep it in round. One plate is off about a half inch the rest are good. Also some of the wall supports are not plum front to back. We can move them into plum, but they don’t stay. Wondering what went wrong and how to fix it? Thanks!

    1. I think what went wrong is you are trying to build an above ground pool with the mentality of a German watch maker. I am somewhat of a perfectionist so please believe me when I say “there nothing precision about an above ground swimming pool”. Pull this and push that to make the thing go together. We have to cut top rails and stabilizer bars all the time to make it work. Get it together and fill it up. Believe me, the water will dictate most things with the shape of your pool. And it will also tell you if you did something wrong.

  3. We have a 15’x 30′ “professionally” installed oval. It has been up and full for about 2 weeks. We have noticed that the side straight wall is sticking out about 2″. Is this something that will affect the life of the pool?

  4. We have put up a 24″ pool and the beaded liner just doesn’t seem to want to fit properly. When measured from “east to west”, the pool is 23’11”. When measured “north to south” it’s 24’1″. Should that minimal difference in measurement make a difference in how the liner fits? It seems to pull too tightly on the longer diameter. Our pool dealer said the bottom seam should sit below the cove (we used a foam cove) but it’s sitting about six inches above the bottom of the floor all the way around. My husband is a licensed machinist, so your comment above about building a pool like a German watch-maker is fitting. We have started filling the pool with hose water, and it’s about three inches deep right now. Will the water stretch the liner to make it fit better? This has been a crazy ordeal, and I’d love for it to be put to rest so we can just enjoy the pool.

    1. Some think liners come misshaped and I am one of them. The liner could be a little egg shaped. And your pool isn’t out of round enough to cause an issue so don’t worry. It should be fine. Don’t let that bottom round seam bug you. It doesn’t matter where it is sitting. as long as the liner is holding the water.

  5. Here is a scenario for you…. pool track down, measures perfectly 21 ft at all 8 cross points which is pool diameter. Wall goes in, top meets perfectly but going down wall is too long. All bottom rails are butted up to each other in joined plates so track cannot shrink anymore. And track is level within 1/2 with a transit…. any suggestions?

    1. Hi and yes. You have to do whatever it takes to be able to bolt the wall together. Believe it or not, wearing white smochs and all, above ground pool manufacturers don’t always get the math right.

  6. Here is my dilemma… we have a 21′ round above ground pool that my husband and I have been trying to put up. We put the liner in this weekend and it doesn’t fit. We measured the pool and realized that our pool is actually out of shape. It is 21′ 8″ long on one end (where the liner is only an inch over the walls on both ends) and 19′ 4″ on the short side, where it has about 12″ of overhang. The problem is, we used styrofoam as a pool base, and so we don’t have much room to move the pool without actually tearing the liner, and poolcove down and cutting up the insulation floor, and we wouldn’t know how much to cut, and where exactly. Any advice on this?

    1. My advice will always default to doing the job right which in your case means you have to re-shape the pool. Make it round this time. You’ll have to get the styrofoam out of the way so cut about a foot of it out around the perimeter so you have room for the wall to move. When you get the pool more round, Replace the styrofoam any way you can. Oh and you’ll probably need a new liner. That’s how it gets fixed right.

  7. I have my 33 x 18 oval pool up and what with the wind and the difficulty inserting the wall into the tracks, I was astonished the the wall ends came together perfectly. Now I notice that one end appears about an inch and a half lower. I read that it’s not okay to simply put pavers underneath the posts to raise that small section. Is that true?

    1. You can raise the wall with pavers under the uprights. But only so much because the rest of the bottom of the pool will still be at the original lower level. Raising the wall too high without raising the rest of the bottom may give you coving issues. Bad ones.

  8. I have a 15′ x 52′ pool. I’m trying to replace the liner. It’s flush against the wall except for about 3′. It’s bowing out like a balloon. It has about a foot of water in it now. Should I continue filling it & hope for the best? It’s balloning out were I will be cutting the skimmer & outflow holes.

    1. If the liner is ballooning out and away from the inside of the wall, then yes, just keep filling and you are probably ok. If the wall of the pool is ballooning out, then be afraid. Be very afraid and don’t let any children or small dogs get near it.

  9. just finshed putting 15×30 oval together. water is about a foot high. noticed a couple uprights lean in and a couple lean out. the whole pool is within a 1/4 inch of being level. will the leaning correct itself when filled more with water? i stopped the water because if i have to take apart and do over id rather do it now then waste 1000s of gallons

    1. I’m not sure but it’s probably ok. It could be catastrophic too but that’s not likely. Ovals are tough to build so you just more than likely are a little off on the shape of the pool and it’ll be fine. It would be impossible to tell without me being there to look at it. At this point, it’s best for you to just continue to fill and see what happens. Just don’t let any kids play around it until you know it will hold all that water. If it doesn’t move much more, than you are good. The only danger here is if the wall comes apart at where you bolted it(not likely) or if you didn’t connect the buttress straps together. Otherwise, it’ll be just another slightly off shaped oval. A lot of them are.

  10. So about those vertical supports… I’ve gotten my 18′ 52″ pool up (with the help of a small army) and started filling it up. Only to discover that the “eyeballed” plumbing of the vertical supports are all over the place and in some cases 2-3″ of being out of plumb within a 4′ level. I’ve tried taking the top rail loose in different places and pushing and pulling the top of the vertical supports to try and plumb the posts, but as I move one, then the others change. I’ve since dropped the water level to about 12″ of water and was thinking about putting a ratchet strap all around the top, loosening all of the top rails, and trying to ratchet the top into a circle and then tighten all of the top rails at the same time.. Thoughts?! Is there a better way?

  11. I have a 15 x 30 oval that was professionally installed 3 years ago. The side walls have always bowed out between the posts on both of the long sides of the pool. The installer said this would go away over time but it never has. Should I be concerned about this? I don’t care about how it looks, I just want to make sure it’s not something to worry about.

  12. We have a 27’ pool and the wall collapsed and came out of the track last winter. Now we can’t get it into the track well. What can we do?

  13. I have an 18’ round 54” deep pool it’s been up and full for about 2 weeks I just noticed on one side the wall has come out of the bottom track about 5’ of the wall is out of the track the wall isn’t buckled or anything and seems ok I’m finding mixed reviews on what to do or if it will be fine any suggestions?

    1. The wall can be out of the bottom track. The track will sag down in between the bottom connectors(where the uprights are) and slide off the bottom of the wall. This makes no difference so don’t be concerned at all. The track has little structural value. It’s all about the wall. And the wall can’t move too much. Not with thousands of gallons of water pushing against it.

  14. we just finally put the liner in our 24 ft above ground pool and started filling it but one of the sides the liner came out if the beading …… not ver much and cant pull back up:( what’s the best way to fix??

    1. If you can’t pull it up, then you’ll have to drain the pool some. When you’ve drained it enough to pull the liner back up and in the channel, you can insert some coins in the failed area of the channel. That should keep the liner in place when you refill.

  15. I just got my 12×24 oval pool professionally installed and as I was filling it up I noticed 3 of the posts are not straight, they are leaning sideways on the one end of the pool. Should I be worry about it? Or should I make the guys fix it before I continue filling it up? Thanks in advance for your answer.

    1. If they are leaning to the left or right, then I wouldn’t worry about it. You (or the installer) may be able to straighten them some by adjusting at the bottom. Ovals are tough to build and often don’t fit together well. Now, If you mean the uprights are leaning outward from the bottom up, then it’s still ok but that’s a little worse and most likely cannot be adjusted.

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