off level above ground pools

“Off Level” Above Ground Pools

With the invention of YouTube, I have seen a lot of above ground pool installations done by do-it-yourselfers. I have also seen a lot of installation attempts as people call me halfway through for help. Some of these self-installations are done well, but most are not. I have occasionally been amazed at the ability of some to do a nice job on the not so easy job of building an above ground pool. Though, most really struggled with the project and barely got it together, lost friends and destroyed marriages.

So What Then Makes for a Poor Above Ground Pool Installation?

There are a number of ways an above ground can come out badly installed. The most common one is having wrinkles in the liner. Another is when the pool is misshapen or the uprights are not vertical. There is also equipment that leak and/or the skimmer and return fitting that is not tightly installed.unsafe above ground pool

Another fairly common shortcoming do-it-yourselfers make is the groundwork. Pool bottoms can be “off level”, lumpy, “foot printy” (official term), rocky, and rough. Some bypass the very physically demanding, but necessary, step of removing the sod. They just lay down some sand on top of the grass for leveling and then build the pool. Big mistake!

All of the above mistakes in building an above ground pool are annoying and shouldn’t be accepted, if you are paying for an installation. However, to me the biggest indicator of a poorly built pool is when it is “off level”. Getting an above ground at least fairly level can be difficult, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s why:

Water Has to Be Level – It Has to Be!

Take a half-full (or half-empty depending on your life outlook) glass of water and tilt it. Notice that the glass becomes “off level”, but the water does not. Now take the glass and shake and swirl the water. Try to disrupt the water in any creative way you want and then tilt the glass again. That’s right. The water stays level regardless. This is because it is liquid and has a weight so the water will always distribute evenly against the pull of the earth or gravity. Did I overexplain? Sorry.

Now think of an above ground swimming pool as a giant glass of water. Tilt the pool and the water stays level. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s not to some. Many things that are built can be “off level” and some wouldn’t notice but something that holds water can’t get away with being too “off level”. This is why it’s kind of important to build a pool so that it is level.

How Level Does an Above Ground Pool Have to Be?

As a quality installer, I go through a lot to make my pools as level as I can. Above ground pools are not Swiss watches. There is nothing precise about them so it can be a challenge to get them close to perfectly level. Despite my high level of knowledge, fancy equipment, and strong desire to get the thing level, I’m happy to get my pools to within an eighth of an inch level. With oval shapes, I’m happy with a quarter of an inch off as they suck to install.

Most instruction manuals for above grounds are poor. If they do manage to tell you, they usually say to level the pool to within an inch. A pool being off by a full inch is OK and won’t cause any structural issues, but you may notice it is “off level” at its waterline. Remembering that water will always be level (see over-explanation above), your eye may pick up the difference between the perfectly level waterline against the “off level” liner that has a tile print.

Above Grounds That Are Too “Off Level”

Pools that are “off level” by more than an inch start to look tilted. If it’s two inches off, you can start to notice from the outside of the pool. It can be tough to tell sometimes if the yard is “off level”, but at two inches, the mind picks up the difference and you’ll know something is not right. Two inches off usually won’t cause any structural issues so you can (and a lot do) just live with your “off level” pool for years. If it’s off more than that though, there can be a problem.

Above grounds that are three inches off or more often don’t last. Not only does the thing look bad and sometimes it can be dangerous, the uneven wall creates extra outward pressure on one side. This extra pressure will eventually push the pool out of shape more and more and in extreme cases will cause the water to spill over and collapse the pool. Done.

Just to be clear, if your above ground pool is off by three inches or more, it needs to be taken down, leveled and reinstalled.

Can You Fix an “Off Level” Pool?

can you fix an off level above groiund pool

Usually severely “off level” pools have to be taken completely down, leveled properly, and then reinstalled. When this is done, you’ll have to spring for a new liner as they don’t like to be reused. Some of you will reuse the liner because you are cheap and stubborn, but it’s not the right way to do the fix. And that’s what probably got you to have to rebuild your pool in the first place. Just sayin’!

If the pool is off just a little more than it should be, you can level the wall without taking down the pool, but it’s not easy. Most seasoned pool installers don’t even know how to do this so keep that in mind.

Drain the pool (but not so that it is completely empty). Pull out the leveling blocks from under the uprights on the low side of the “off level” pool. Using a shovel, pry up the wall from each bottom connector to the desired level and reinstall the blocks. Repeat around the low side of the pool. Add and pack earth under where you have jacked up the wall. Refill the pool and hope you packed the earth well. Do not try to lower the high side of the pool. It’s too technical. Good luck!

125 thoughts on ““Off Level” Above Ground Pools

  1. Beware!!! We had a contractor come in and tell us he knew how to install a hard-sided Resin pool and they had no clue…. Once it was up and filled with water we saw it was 4 in unlevel to one side, we also noticed screws missing and top rail some of it missing… Underneath the liner you can feel ruts and divots and low and high spots and feel the rails all underneath the liner and around the inside of the liner around the bottom can feel a ridge running its horrible…. its should feel smooth under the liner and not feel anything right… I told them they must drain, take the pool completely out and re-level and replace with new liner is that about right…

  2. We just finished installing an above ground pool. I think I got the uprights even and level, but now the water is in and you can see that it is not level. I think the sand base might be what is not level. The “low side” has just a slight bulge in one section of the wall. Can I back-fill to stabilize the wall or do I have to tear down and start over?

    1. Hi I saw your concern about the not level above ground pool I paid somebody to love on my ground and it wasn’t my fault I know the pool is tilting what did you do about your problem did you have to empty it out

  3. Hello. I just set up a 16×48 summer wave pool. It is on dirt, no sand. It does not have a bottom rack. Its held up by legs. Almost full and it is measuring 21/4 off level on 1 side. Just noticed 2 of the legs are crooked. What do you suggest I do?

  4. Hi,
    I have a bestway 15′ circular pool with no bottom track. Mostly i am about 1 to 1.5 inches out of level, but one spot is about 2 inches. Looking for advice, is it time to drain and fix, or should it be fine for a season as long as i monitor it.



    1. We just got the exact same pool! And it is off the exact same as yours was. Did you drain and fix it or did you end up leaving? If so was it okay?

  5. Good Evening!
    I purchased an above ground easy set 8′ x 30; however, my patio is concrete and sloped downward due to me living in where it rains in the summer alot so they sloped the cement so the rain water falls downward. How can I get the ground to level…. SOMEONE PLEASE HELP! this is diving me insane!
    Thank you!

    1. have a 15’x48″ intex easy set, same issue. pavers that slope towards the house, not evenly. i laid down gravel, rubber mats on top of that. Filled it a couple of inches of water and I find that the gravel barely made a difference.

  6. any suggestions for leveling a patio? its 5 inches off level, and i want to take the pool down yearly. Im thinking a sloped frame type platform, but didnt know if there was an easier solution here, sandbags or something? i dont know

  7. any suggestions for leveling a patio? its 5 inches off level, and i want to take the pool down yearly. Im thinking a sloped frame type platform, but didnt know if there was an easier solution here, sandbags or something? i dont know

  8. Am in the process of installing an 18′ round AGP, metal wall, no buttresses, just the wall itself. It has bottom and top rails. I have about 20″ water in it, and I noticed the wall is leaning in at one spot, and leaning out in another, almost directly across from one another. The lean is close to 4″. The water level, however, is within 1.5″ all over. The ground is very close to level, bur I’m not sure about the roundness of the wall. Will this “lean” get worse (opinions welcomed) and how would I even start to fix this?

  9. Hello, I recently bought a 15ft above ground pool however, where I am planning to install it it is in an incline of above 7-9 inches. Is there anyway I can level the ground without digging up the grass that is laid there?

  10. We installed a 24 foot round hard sided pool, the walls are level around the top. But the water is 6 inches deeper in one section. We raised the uprights in that area but it didn’t affect the water at all. Any suggestions?

  11. Hi I have a 3inch concrete base that drops about 1 3/4 inch over 18 feet. The base was poured over sand on sod about 10 years ago. Would this be suitable for a 18ft metal side above ground pool?

  12. I here a professional put up my pool and it wobbles really bad all the way around the top when the kids jump in I have noticed screws are missing and not even the same there’s also no washers or bolts and he didn’t do the ground wire does it need to be taken down to do that and he said it wasn’t his problem it was electricians but the electrician had already done the electric before in the pool

  13. Hello! I have a 12ftx30in pool bestway pool! It is 2 inches pretty close to three inches unlevel. But the pool is not completely filled up its only filled up to 20 on the high side and 18 on the low side! Is this ok! i just filled it up!

  14. I got way ahead of myself on our Coleman 22’ x 52” swim Vista 2 above ground pool. While waiting for it to be delivered I had 8 yards of top soil trucked in to level the low side of our sloped yard. Which now I know is a big no-no after the fact.
    I had already successfully done this by widening our driveway and thought I would do the same for the pool without second guessing myself or researching.
    What I did for the pool area was used railroad ties stacked and laid in the shape of an octagon on the low end to hold the fill dirt. Instead of the railroad ties being level I removed the grass and tamped the ground on an inward tilt. So that the railroad ties tilted inward also so that the force of the top soil fill would work to keep the load back into the fill spot. I then used rebar through holes drilled in RR ties and hammered them into the ground. Then I used pressure treated 4×4 posts cemented into the ground on backside of RR ties and bolted them in at same inward angle. After that I bolted on the inside of RR ties dead-men (T’s) using same 4×4 posts.
    These would use the weight of the soil and pool to also keep the RR ties from moving.
    After that we rented a compactor and used that for every 3-4 inches of top soil we dumped in.
    Then we leveled at the top and added about 1&1/2 inches of sand and hand tamped that.
    The pool is installed and full as of yesterday. It looks to be off about 1&1/2 inches. All the supports are still pretty level. We did put 8×12 pavers that were about 1&1/2 inches thick under them on top of soil and level with pool bottom. So far so good with adding top soil for low side here. Hopefully it stands the test of time.

    1. This is what I have been considering doing. I am curious how it’s holding up a year later!

  15. Just installed a 21′ round pool. I suspected the level was a bit off, but within margin of error. Dude came to fill it today, and at about 20% full the walls started to collapse inward in several spots. We aborted the full and I had to bail it out by hand. I left a few inches in though. For sure, most of the pool is level, or close, but one section (say a third of it) drops by 2″. I think I can get some patio stones under the supports to even the level.

    If I can do that effectively and maybe run support hooks around the top of the upper perimeter of the pool, can I try to fill again?

  16. We just put up a 27 foot round steel pool. The closet to level we could get was 2”. I read within 2” was acceptable. We had a new liner installed and now as the pool is filled I notice the water is line is very off. I measure as all the way around the pool. It starts to gradually get unlovely up to the highest point of “ unlevelness” at 3”. I’m very uncomfortable with this and unsure of what to do. We just spent $900.00 on a liner and the installation. Is there ANY way to drain and save the brand new liner??

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