How to Build a Deck Next to an Above Ground Pool

How to Build a Deck Next to an Above Ground Pool

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

above ground pool deck coping nighttime
Oh no, not in the 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 above ground pool deckinggolden 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.above ground pool deck coping

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.

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 If you liked this article then make sure to sign up for Blog and get our Free 128 Page Pool Care Guide.

28 thoughts on “How to Build a Deck Next to an Above Ground Pool

  1. We just had to cut our deck boards as the previous owners built the deck right over the above ground pool edge. They also had edge pieces around to cover the deck wood edge, then attached wood to those going down toward the pool to completely cover the pool top itself. We are not planning on placing those edge pieces back on, but would like to find some kind of foam dock edging we could put on to cover those rough edges. Any suggestions?

  2. How do you stop kids from not standing on the pool ledge and jumping in? My goal was the deck over the rail. At prevent this?

    1. Delorey, my concern too! I think we’re still going to put the deck over the top, keeping in mind, per Dan’s expertise, that we need to allow room for the frost heave. We’re going to utilize a board pattern that will horizontally follow the pool’s top rails for about 3 boards out so we’ll only have to remove these 3 rows when it’s time to change the liner. If it makes sawdust, at least it won’t be a large portion of the deck.

    1. Where is the pool pump in the picture of the beautiful deck surrounded pool if the pump shouldn’t be covered?

  3. My parents have an above ground pool with a deck built over the rails. We replaced the liner three times no problem because it has a J hook liner. The J hook allows you to remove and install the liner without touching the caps. As far as the boards warping or looking uneven, we solved that issue by adding an aluminum C shaped channel around the perimeter to keep the boards straight and provide a clean finish. However, now, about 20 yrs later, the pool wall rotted out and we need to remove the pool and place a new one in. This will be a challenge with the deck. I imagine we’ll have to make some saw dust.

  4. We are having this debate right now, whether to overhang the boards, cut flush, or go under the rail, as we work on a deck for my the new pool right now. This was very helpful. PLUS – your name happens to be what I shorten mine too when going incognito 😉 so had to give a special shout out – Thanks!

  5. We are in the process of building our deck bigger and a step up toward the pool. Our pump and filter are located near the rear of the pool which is oval an once we continue building the step up with the deck it will go over them. There is no way for us to move them =. We where thinking of making a part of the floor where its located to pull up. Any other suggestions?

  6. You might have left out a couple of things. Good info though. You didn’t mention how much space to leave between the deck and the pool. Some people build floating decks (using deck blocks for their posts) for various reasons – don’t want to dig, there’s only 6″ before you hit rock. Someone said 1/2″ to allow for ice expansion in the pool. Do those people also have to worry about frost heave if they use deck blocks?

  7. Hey I live in Bohol Philippines ( from America) am thinking of buying InTex 24’ by 12’ 52” deep. Labor here is cheap (but not killer, you have to watch every step of the way. The Big Question is have you ever done anything with Bambo man? It’s plentiful & strong ( thinking decorative ideas) wood is really cheap here ? Ideas?

    1. You can do this if you have an IN GROUND pool pump. If your ABOVE GROUND pump is on top of the deck, gravity cannot pull water into the pump.

    2. You can do that but keep in mind that if you have an above ground pool pump, it won’t draw the water up higher than the level of the pool. They are gravity fed pumps only. An inground pump will work though but they cost more.

  8. Thank you! I was so hooked on having the deck built on top of the rails, but all your reasons why not to do it has changed my mind. Thanks, Mikey G.

  9. My deck is 15 years old. Built with liner change in mind. Boards run under deck rail. In climates with freeze and thaw your pool and deck will both move slightly from year to year. Leave a little space between the boards and rail to allow for this. About an inch should do.

  10. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! We are putting a deck around our pool and the information given in this article probably saved us a bunch of money and headaches. Thank you again!

  11. I found a great idea on another site. I’m building my deck about 6 inches away from the pool, then using a composite fascia board on hinges to bridge the gap. No future liner change problems! Will be pretty flush nice look when done. Also I live in northeast, decks around here shouldn’t be built under rail due to uncertain frost heave possibilities.

      1. It was on trouble free pool site. I’m not sure how to share a photo on here. I found it googling pool decks. Just tried googling again, in photos it is a grey composite deck with a deck box sitting on it. I searched for “pool deck fascia board” site will give you more, better up close photos. Hope this helps!

  12. Wow! Thank you for the information. Now I have more tools to realize my project. You don’t see that kind of decks in my country (Mexico), I am very impressed. Thank you!

  13. Great site. How far do we build it under the top rails. Do people not step on the rails? If you have steps is the rail easy to step over? Thanks for your help.

    1. From Dan: Typically you build the deck level just under the top rails but you have to see how the top connectors come off first so you can get to them during a liner replacement. All models are different in that regard. People should not step on top rails. Yes most are easy to step over.

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