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.


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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.


click here to find your Replacement Above Ground Pool Parts


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


click here to find your Replacement Above Ground Pool Parts

87 thoughts on “Out of Shape Above Ground Pools

  1. We recently installed a 12×24 pool. Everything looked good…or so we thought…so we filled it and vegans enjoying our pool. A week after use, the ends on the long side started lifting. We cannot figure out why this happened. We are now draining our wonderful pool, but we have no idea how to find the problem so we can fix it! Help!!!

  2. Just finished a DIY install of a 24′ round used pool. Kind of wish I had found this before. Started the day out as a perfectionist. Became a ‘make-it-work’ guy when I realized the professional team that installed it for the first owner just drilled holes in the top plates to make it work together. It’s filling now. I might measure it if it continues to hold water to see how well we did. The liner was surprisingly easy, well, compared to installing the wall; amazing how the weight of the water covers a multitude of sins.

    But, this post made me feel so much better. I thought I was losing my mind at times.

  3. We just put a 27 ft. round pool up. Winds came up during installation and it started to collapse. We were able to get it up and water in it but it is out of round a bit. Some posts are leaning in and some out by an inch or so. Would it help to take the slotted adjustable top rails off and adjust? And will it cause any problems if we can’t do that.

  4. hi! Dan D!
    We just had a 24 ft. round pool installed. 13 out of the 16 posts are perfect level. three are out of plumb by 1 inch or more. the level of water is 6.5 inch’s on 2 sides and 5.5 inch’s on 2 sides.
    they didn’t use patio stones under the posts and I am on sand. should I be happy with this installation?

  5. So if my bottom rails, pushed in as far as the can go, still leaves a 3.5 inch gap in my wall, could I cut the bottom rail? I don’t know what else to do…..

  6. Hi! We are installing our 18ft round Doughboy above ground pool. We had everything level and measures and then we added the liner. Now there is sand leaking beneath the rails and the foot plates are off of the patio bricks, making the vertical rails lean in. I attached some pictures. Do you know how we could fix this?

  7. Just installed a 18×33 oval with buttresses but when we go to attach the stabilizers on top it appears the wall is to high how do we adjust the height of the wall so the stabilizers are level?

  8. I just a 21ft above ground professionally installed as part of the package I purchased from a rather large chain. Upon filling the pool. Letting it settle two days and back filling the sides. (12″ on the deep side 1″ on the shallow) the vertical supports are off kilter. A couple are angled in and a couple are angled out. It gives the pool a misshapen look. Will this settle out? Can it be corrected?

    1. hi we just installed a 21×54 pool everything is perfect but a few of the uprights had to be adjusted and now one section of pool jumped out of the trac at the bottom we only have 2 inches of water in when we noticed. how do we get the steel wall back into the bottom rail? I have pics

  9. Howdy! We just finished building our 15×30 pool. All the uprights were straight and level, the walls were all in tracks with the tracks attached correctly. The stabilzer bars are all in and spaced fairly well. The top rails went in with no issues. HOWEVER, when we filled it yesterday, I have 5 uprights in the curve out of plumb. Some are a little in, some are a little out. BUT, I have one that is tipped out almost 2 inches top to bottom. It happens to be where the walls come together. I have no idea what to do at this point. This pool has taken us three plus weeks to build between the ground leveling and prep, the dirt work, the weather and now this. I am ready to tear the thing down and replace the grass. Your help, ideas on repair, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

  10. We just put up the walls and installed the liner to a 15×30 oval. Everything looked good but when we went to put the top rails on, one corner railing is way to long! Do we have to take the whole pool down?

  11. Hello:

    I am building a 15 foot round. All patio blocks sunk into the ground are level to one another all wall track pieces are level with the exception of one. We have made several adjustments to no no avail on this one wall piece (1/10). I have checked and rechecked everything else is level. Any ideas what could be happening here or can I continue on without risk?

  12. I have a 28′ round pool and one side is sinking in the ground and the other side is leaning about 3 to 4″ is there a way to fix this or will it cave in time. The side leaning is also out of the Any help would be great.

  13. We bought a 9ft x 18ft Bestway oval above ground pool from Costco. We’re just filling it up and its about 60% filled up but the sides on the width of the pool are bowing/bending inwards….is this normal? I’ve read elsewhere on the internet that this can happen during fill up but am not sure if it will fix itself?

  14. We just got a 18X33 oval installed. The side walls look like waves. You can see each buttress outline from the inside of the pool. It’s like the buttress are pushing inside into the liner. Is this normal?

  15. i recently purchased an 8×12 oval above ground pool that i was hoping to set up on a concrete slab but heard that this size pool cannot be set up on a slab – is that true? are there extra stresses on the walls for this size? thanks for any info

  16. I have a 21 ft. round pool installed by us about 20 yrs ago. We had a couple of wrinkles in the side of the original liner. Now it was time to replace that line and I bought a new J-hook liner. When I installed it, I realized that when we put the pool in, we installed it out of round. Now I have a ton of wrinkles in the new liner that I can’t get out because I can’t move the liner far enough in one direction while the other direction causes more wrinkles. Is the only fix to tear down and start over or can I dig up around the outside of half the pool and push it into round?

  17. I have 27 foot above ground pool that we had close being 27 foot around but have getting walls up and tails so we can do liner like the instructions says. The liner isn’t going to fit so I check my measurements and it’s off it’s 26’10” and 27’6”. How can fix it without taking it completely apart

  18. Hi installed a above ground pool and have noticed the bottom tracks that run under the pool have lifted and are showing the pool is full of water but you can see both tracks going underneath across the pool

  19. I just put up a 12’ round above ground pool. The pool diameter was perfect in all directions. But, it didn’t measure 12’. It’s about 11’-8”. The liner seems like it’s way too big and wrinkly everywhere. The diameter is correct all around and the walls lined up perfectly at the joint. Are these pools sometimes smaller than the diameter as specified? I just don’t see a way of making up those 4 inches of the wall closed up perfectly.

  20. Hi we have a 15 foot round above ground pool that was installed last year and has staggered bolts where the bolts are the pool is buckling in the installer came back out and made sure everything was in its tracking level and said this is a manufacturer’s fault I spoke to the manufacturer they’re telling me it’s an install problem both are blaming each other and nobody is remedying this pool this year after winterizing it and opening it up we noticed the top or else look like a rollercoaster they’re all wavy now neither the manufacturer installer stepping up the resolve this problem any suggestions will be helpful thank you

  21. Hi, We just moved our 18 x 54 round above ground pool to our new yard, it’s been about a month since we filled it and have been swimming in it, now the problem, on one side right at the bottom of the upright the wall is bowing outwards, it wasn’t there before and it’s looks as if the the wall in the track is bending in right below the bow, is this dangerous is the pool wall going to collapsed? Please helped I’m worrying myself sick!!!

  22. I just installed a 12’x18′ oval and once filled I noticed the top rails of one side of the pool were solid, as they should be, and the other side were moving quite a bit. All the screws are tight yet I can still move the pool wall/top rail in and out. The pool is fairly level within 1″. Im concerned with the amount if movement as it seams it will only get worse the more the pool gets used. Any advice or comments would be appreciated and would put my mind at ease.

  23. We put up a 24 ft round pool (52″ deep) on a cement pad with padding underneath it. It is level and everything seemed fine as we are filling it until yesterday. I let our daughter swim in it even though it is only about 2/3 full. Now I notice on one side the bottom rail has lifted up off the cement about 3/4″, and we can see the liner underneath. My husband thinks it is because our daughter was splashing around before the pool was full.

    Do we need to lower the water and try to get that wall back down on the ground? If we keep filling it, is it just going to burst?

    Thanks so much. Your blog is incredibly helpful!

  24. i currently just put up a 24ft pool i hired people to put it up for me. they started putting water in it and got it about half way till i noticed that the pool reads 24ft 8 inches around on all post but 2 those read 23ft 8 inches. is this pool even safe to let my kids swim in?

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