Sinking an Above Ground Pool in the Ground

Sinking an Above Ground Pool in the Ground

In-ground swimming pools have become super expensive. Here in Central Florida where concrete type in-grounds are the most popular, their price has gone through the roof. These pools usually start with a price tag of $30 000, but then go way up from there. It’s not at all uncommon to pay more than $50 000 for an average size concrete in-ground and that’s not even a very big or fancy one.

Because of this crazy cost of in-grounds, homeowners are finding a less expensive option by getting an above ground pool and sinking it in the ground. I have seen above grounds in the ground for many years and it’s nothing new, but it has certainly become much more popular in the last 10 years or so. It seems like at least one person asks me about this every day. So, if you are considering sinking an above ground swimming pool in the ground, you’ve found the right blog post.

Sinking an Above Ground Pool 101

Here’s a list of the basics of placing an above ground pool in the ground. Follow these basics and things will probably go well and you’ll be happy. If you don’t follow them, you might still come out happy. Who knows?

I. Only go down about halfway

These pools aren’t called “above grounds” just ’cause it’s catchy. Above ground swimming pools are not designed for inward pressure. So, when you put them in the ground, they can cave in from the weight of the earth, but only when they are empty. By sinking the pool down only halfway (2-2.5 ft), the pool has a much less likelihood of caving in when the time comes to drain the pool while installing a replacement liner.

If your ground is super firm, it won’t matter much how far down you go. In Central Florida it’s mostly sand-based so that’s an issue, but if you have rocky, rooty, or earth with a lot of clay, you may be fine to go down further. Some will go with the extra cost of building a retaining wall all the way around the pool. If you do that then you’re also good, but that adds to the cost of the job and aren’t you wanting a much cheaper alternative to an in-ground?

Also, most who sink their pool will have a wood deck built around it. Wood decks require some height off the ground so its structure can be built and that’s another good reason to go only halfway down.

II. The hole has to be bigger than the size of the pool

Above ground pools are assembled on site. They can’t be “pre-built” somewhere cool and then helicoptered in and set down into a hole perfectly. The thing has to be built in the hole so more room is needed. As a guideline, if the pool is going two or more feet down, make the hole 1.5’ bigger than the size of the pool all the way around. EXAMPLE: A 24’ round pool should have a hole that is at least 27’ in diameter.

Make sure the bottom of the hole is the desired size and not the top. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s not. A lot of times, holes get dug with a starting top dimension of 27’ round and by the time the hole is two feet down, its dimension has tilted in and it ends up being a 26’ hole at the bottom. Additionally, if your earth is really sandy and loose, it may be a good idea to make the hole even bigger. There’s little more frustrating than building one of these pools in a hole and it caves in on you halfway through with loose earth.


click here to find your Replacement Above Ground Pool Parts


III.Leave piles of earth right next to the hole

After the pool is built and full of water, you’ll want to backfill some dirt around the pool. Remember the hole was bigger than the pool? Leaving some earth close to the hole will make backfilling much easier. Warning: Backfilling before the pool is full of water will result in the wall caving in! Don’t start backfilling too early. Let the pool fill with water so the water’s outward pressure will keep the pool wall in place. I know this sounds like a “duh” statement, but believe me it’s happened more often than I want to admit.

IV. Above ground pool pumps have to stay below the waterline

There are a few differences between in-ground pool pumps and above ground pumps. The biggest one is that an above ground pool pump cannot draw water up. This means that the above ground pump has to be at a level lower than the pool’s water level in order to work properly. If you are placing your above ground in the earth, make sure your pump stays below the pool. You can have your equipment well above the pool, but you’ll have to buy the more expensive in-ground pump to do so. Just another reason to go only halfway down (add this to the first guideline).

V. Check for local safety guidelines

For some towns or counties, an above ground swimming pool is considered safe because they are so high off the ground. With a safety ladder, above ground pools can be pretty safe for any small children wandering along the countryside unsupervised. Though, when you sink the pool that changes. If you don’t have a fence around your yard or if wandering two-year-olds are a problem in your area, then consider this safety issue.

Honorable Mention

So many people ask me if an above ground pool will last as long when it is buried in the ground. Some feel that sinking one in the earth will make it rust out faster or something. It makes logical sense to think that is what will happen, but there is one thing that is more accurate than logical sense and that’s long-term observation. In my 30 years of working on these pools, I have seen no evidence that placing them in the ground takes any life out of them. Of course there are instances where that can be true, but I’m talking as a general rule. Now some disagree with me on this and that’s OK. It’s healthy to be wrong sometimes. Most of them haven’t observed above grounds apart from their own or maybe an uncle’s or neighbor’s or something.

Go ahead and install an above ground in the ground. You may enjoy it more as it won’t be located so high up in your yard.


click here to find your Replacement Above Ground Pool Parts

188 thoughts on “Sinking an Above Ground Pool in the Ground

  1. Dan, Thank you for your comments. One item I was hoping you would cover is the installation of a floor drain or drains. If desired, does the drain have to be placed in a concrete or vermiculite base? What do you recommend?


    1. Hello Steven,
      Here is the answer from Dan:

      “Hi Steve. Look for my blog post on main drains. Main drains do not need to have a base. I do use a 6″x6″ block under the ones I install though.”

  2. We’ve had our sunken pool for a couple months now, I noticed within the last week the bottom is getting very uneven. As if the sand is shifting or sinking more, moreso on the sides at the bottom where the walls start. Has anyone had these issues that you know of? Also where the braces/poles, the metal pcs on the side is, between them, the wall is as it’s bowed inward. Our pool was full for at least a week before the backfill started. We did the backfill ourselves because of the weather. We were working around all the spring rain we got here in Texas this year. Do you know what would cause this? It’s as if the poles are too close together. Thanks for any help or advice. Lora Rand

    1. From Dan:

      The earth is dynamic for sure but it doesn’t move that much in such a small time frame. More than likely, you are either noticing the unevenness of your pool bottom for the first time OR you did not pack earth under your pressure plates well enough and the voids you left are filling in. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      As far as you pool sides go, this probably tells me that your bottom hasn’t moved because it is almost impossible for the sides to move inward after the pool is filled with water. My guess is that you are noticing that the straight sides of your oval are not straight but scalloped. This is probably just the design of your oval. Even if you have really messed up the buttress assembly, the wall/buttresses wouldn’t be able to move as they are buried on the outside and full of water on the inside. I see this as a perception thing unless you built your pool on a fault line:)

  3. What if only one side of the pool is in ground as in my case because of where I had to put the pool. Can that cuase issues with wall caving or deteriorating quicker.

    1. I’m putting my pool into bank. So around 1/3 of it will be ground level. Any comments on that thanks.

      1. We sink our pool now the sand is making the liner to have humps at the bottom what can we do the liner is not smooth

        Thank you
        Nyoka Bryant

  4. Here’s my question I’m buying home that has an above-ground 24-foot pool but I want to sync it halfway down what do I need to do do I have to call a company to pump out the water or what and how is it done or can it be done

    1. It probably can be done but I’m not sure as I don’t know anything about your yard or where you are. You’ll definitely want to start with talking to some local above ground pool installers if you have some in your area. If you are going to re-use the same pool that is there, keep in mind that you’ll be needing a new liner for it. And you probably won’t need someone to pump the water out. Since you’ll be using a new liner for the re-install, you can poke some holes in the bottom of the pool and let the water slowing drain into the earth.

      1. doughboy pool installation says to fully sink pool and backfill with slurry type cement not soil.I want to be able to empty the pool at beginning of every season .Is this possible will liner do i stop pool walls caving in.another thought i had was to go 2 ft down.Then have walls a foot back maybe a bit more.Then bulid it up and pave up to the this possible would rather not have decking as do not want the decking if possible

        1. You should not empty the pool because without water, the liner may shrink to the point that it is no good. If you do what Doughboy says and do it right, your pool won’t cave in. I still only recommend going down a maximum of 2.5 feet.

  5. Is there a specific type of pool that’s better suited for sinking, such as steel vs resin or aluminum?

        1. The home I bought had that situation. The above ground pool was only 1′ out of the ground. This winter we had 3 days of terrible rains and the area around the pool acted like a bucket, filling up with water, causing the winterized pool to cave in, in several spots.
          Might I also add, it had the original liner, because the installer used pea gravel to backfill. If the water was removed, the weight of the gravel would’ve caved it in the same way.
          FYI, insurance DOES NOT cover a collapse on such an installation…

  6. Thanks for the great tips. Just wanted to mention, I think tip IV should say “Above ground pool pumps have to stay BELOW the waterline”. I think it’s just a typo.

  7. We live in central Florida and would like to install a galvanized above ground pool partially in ground. Our neighbors have a above ground fully installed above ground they have a problem with areas in the bottom where there are dips from the ground settling. Would we end up with that same issue due to the type of ground here? TYIA

    1. The ground doesn’t really settle that much here so chances are your neighbor’s pool has dips for other reasons. Regardless, you would get the same issue maybe even more so with the pool on top of the earth as there is a greater chance higher up for moles or ants.

  8. Can I concave the center to make it deeper when I do my install ,if so how much of a dip can I go down

  9. I know every scenario is different but I’m wondering what type of price ballpark would it be to do this? If an inground pool is $30-$50k or more, how much cheaper is this? We already have an above ground pool from the previous owners of our house, it’s currently about 2/3 sunk inground as it was installed into a hill. We want to dig it up and relocate it to our side yard and still then sink it again. Any idea on ballpark price range for this type of job?

    1. Depends on the size and shape of the pool. Since I have no idea what size, the ballpark range is $700 to $4000. Also, you’ll need a new liner. Next time, tell me the shape and size of the pool. I’ll then be able to give you some useful info.

    1. Local and online dealers have a tendency of renaming pools. There are a few different Auroras out there made by different manufacturers, with different component materials. What is your pool made out of?

    2. Don’t know. Who makes this “Aurora” pool? To me, this is just a retailer’s name for what could be anything. Check with the store that came up with the name. Or maybe look to the sky. North.

  10. Our pool is about half way in the ground and we don’t know what to fill the gap around the sides with. We were worried about backfilling it with dirt due to the pressure it would put on the pool. What do you recommend? Sand? Pea gravel?

    1. The dirt will be fine as far as pressure goes as the pool is filled with water and is creating quite a bit of outward pressure. I wouldn’t put sand or gravel though as you want something that will stay in place when it comes time to drain the pool to re-line it.

  11. I have the same question as Len Kirkland, Can I concave the center to make it deeper when they do my install ,if so how much of a dip can they go down? Also how much cheaper will it be to do an above the ground deeper pool then an Inground pool (rough estimate)?

  12. I live in South Florida and I installed an above ground pool in my house. I wanted to sink the pool in ground with a retainer wall if possible and wanted to know the cost of doing this. I also wanted a good reputable company that can do it for me. Thanks for your help.

    1. If you are in South Florida, I can’t help you as you are too far from me. Please read my article on how to find an above ground pool installer and cross you fingers AND you toes.

  13. I have a company installed a 15′ x 30′ oval above ground pool for me and dropped it halfway into the ground. Unfortunately, they’ve done a lacking job. When it first was filled up with water, it was totally even on every side, however now (a few days later) it’s 1.75″ deeper on one end the other. The bigger problem is that deeper end is NOT on the skimmer side, meaning the pool has to be filled very close to full capacity for the water level to reach halfway to the skimmer on the shallower side. My question is, is there a way to re-level my pool, even if it’s halfway in the ground? I know that the water has to be drained and I’m not really worrying about the pool caving it cause it has a really strong steel wall. It may be a bigger issue to dig the dirt out around it again, so there is room for the work. I’m in Orlando, Central Florida, by the way. Thank you!

    1. Since I am in Orlando, I’m curious as to who built it. This would be a major fix. With It being newly in the ground, the earth around to outside of the pool will probably have to be dug out BEFORE you drain the pool.

  14. One thing not mentioned in sinking your pool is drain tile covered in P- gravel. I just in the past week dug a hole and put a pool in at my house . I am now in the process of back filling it with drain tile and P gravel (already filled it with water). And then I’m going to put clean dirt the rest of the way up (pulling out substantial rocks as I go). Is there any need to spray it or put any kind of tar on the walls the same as you put on a basement foundation wall?

    1. Drain tile and gravel wasn’t mentioned because it is not needed. I mean, it’s cool that you did it to your pool and all but…it’s not needed. If the pool is in the ground, then where is the drain tile going to lead the water. And what water are we talking about? Ground water? It’s already in the ground. You could coat the outside of the pool if you want but I don’t think it’s worth the time expense. I would though sprinkle in some cement with your backfill earth. You’ll need that earth to stay in place when it comes time to change the liner and you have to drain the pool.

    2. FYI never put tar or foundation paint on coated steel. It will eat through the protective layer on the steel which will provide far more longevity then tar or foundation paint.. This is a pool not a foundation.

    1. You don’t have to backfill but the earth will eventually naturally fill in the gap. So what earth will move to make that happen? Make sure your deck isn’t supported by the earth that will move into the backfill gap. I hope this makes sense. I didn’t know any other way to explain it.

      1. That’s a great thought because I am doing the same thing. I also appreciate the advice of sprinkling in cement with your back fill dirt. Makes great sense.

  15. nice article! we partially buried our above ground pool in 1995 and it is still there. we did wrap the pool wall in plastic first, then backfilled by hand once the pool was filled with water. i recently dug out a section of the wall and was surprised to find virtually no rust. just a few surface rust areas. i think the only problem was the quality of the plastic i used. i should have used an old pool liner or similar to protect the wall.

  16. Have a 35 yr old Ester Williams 4.5 deep 14’x28′ 8 sided in-ground pool. We know it is nearing the end of its life. We have by passed the main drain, skimmer line and one return line. We replumbed everything including the solar mats through the filter and we swam over 100 days in crystal clear water. We live in Buffalo, NY and the cost of a new pool with replacing the old one is 35 to 50 grand. That is out of the question. Getting rid of it all together is between 10 and 17 grand. My wife and I still like the idea of a pool but have limited funds so the idea of sinking a pool in the shell sounds intriguing. What would you recommend size wise and should any local pool contractor know how to do this?

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “sinking a pool in the shell”. If I can play Swami here and guess that what you mean is to place maybe a 12×24 oval above ground pool within your existing ancient pool, then I say yes it can be done. It won’t be easy and you’ll have to deck to the smaller pool but it would be considerably cheaper than your alternatives.

  17. I’m so happy I found your blog! We’ve decided to buy a 36′ x 18′ pool which we will half sink and build deck around. Do you recommend steel? Can you refer a contractor?

  18. I read that you can have up to about 1′ of sink in the pool to make it deeper in the center. Is this possible with an oval 15×30 considering the center posts have to hold the pressure?

  19. There is no mention of putting the pools on a concrete base and back filling with concrete near the posts. We know this adds to the cost but thought this would make it stronger and last longer. What are your thoughts on this and how would you adapt he installation

  20. Hi Dan,
    I’m in central Florida. The soil here is sandy . I want to install a 12x24x52in pool. Planning on digging out a 3 foot hole, so that 2 ft of the pool is above ground and building a deck around it. Can you recommend a pool?


  21. I’ve got an 11 year old daughter who is beating me to death to get a pool. I don’t want a traditional above ground pool and I doubt my HOA would let me have one even if I did. I also don’t want to drop 30 grand on an in-ground pool.

    Here’s my idea, and somebody here please tell me if it’s nuts.

    I’m considering renting a bobcat/backhoe thing and digging out a 13×25 hole (or whatever the total width with brackets is for a 12×24 above-ground pool), 4 or 5 feet deep. I’m then going to level the base, smooth out the sides, and create a shell on the four walls with cinder blocks which I’ll mortar together. I’m probably also going to do something with the “floor” of the hole. Blocks or Quickrete. Then I plan to drop a 12×24 Intex above ground pool into the hole.

    I’m sure there will be some extra digging for a pump or something and I’ll have to measure out the exact dimensions WITH the brackets and the depth so the top top of the pool is level a few inches above the ground, but after I deck around it I think I’ll basically have an inground pool for a something on the order of a $3,000 total investment. No loan. Hooray.

    Is this crazy? If not, should I dig a big hole for the pump as well or is there a pump I can buy that won’t have to be “buried”?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!

      1. Dan, I regret I cant hire you as I live in NY… But, we are about to remove our 18′ round and get a 15’x30′ oval. I have been looking all over online and I cannot get a definitive answer for this. You said steel is best to sink, ok, but there are some people telling me I need a specific pool to sink. So , I guess my question is IS there a specific pool wall type or company I should buy from to sink it? Or can I get ANY steel wall pool and sink it? And, what was the best substrate to it on..sand correct? In NY here the ground is pretty solid, for foundation work its 4′ frost line.

        1. You can sink any above ground pool into the ground but may have issues when you have to drain them for re-lining. They do make extruded aluminum sectioned walled above grounds that are specifically made for going in the ground. They cost considerably more though but will last much longer and give you less potential issues when draining. And yes, sand should work well for your earth.

          1. Hey Dan,

            We got an AquaSport 52, 24 ft. Round. We have dug our hole and our soil is Sandy loam all the way down.

            What do you recommend for foundation? Can we simply use blocks for the sills?

    1. hi Bob did you end up doing a daughter wants a pool as well did it work out doing this,

  22. We’re going to completely sink an Intex 12’x24’×52″ pool in the ground, and our biggest concern is what to do with the filter and pump. We know it has to be below the water level, so can you suggest a good way to do that? We plan to deck around the pool, and figured we could build a box of sorts to house the filter and pump with an access panel built into the deck, but after finding this page, we would really like to know your thoughts/ suggestions on this issue. Thank you for your time and any info you can provide.

      1. Hi Matthew, regarding the Intex pool from Walmart, is it the because of the brand Intex specifically? I had noticed another message earlier and they had mentioned an Intex and Dan’s reply didn’t say anything about them having an issue with the brand. If it is the Brand can you recommend a brand? Also I’m from North Georgia and the soil here is rocky and clay any advice on the backfill?

        1. Intex pools are mainly soft-sided or thinner gauge steel component pools, neither of which will hold up being sunk into the ground. Most manufacturers have a pool model that can be safely sunk. A pool we used to carry by Asahi, called the Bermuda was a sinkable pool.

      1. I had this same question. My pool is 18′ x 48″ and is basically a vinyl wall/liner with a metal pole frame. I’d love to sink it atleast half way then build a deck around it. I live in southeast Louisiana. Is it possible with this type of pool?

  23. Hello. I came across this blog looking for information about my pool. I just bought a house with an inground pool that is half out, and half in ground. 2 feet above, and 2 feet below. It has a brand new liner installed. What concerns me is that outside of the pool is rusting and the paint is peeling along the ground around the base. I’m trying to figure out what I can do to help preserve it, because I assume the part that is under the dirt is also in the same condition. Do you have any advice? Not only am I worried about it rusting out, but it looks awful. I really would like to do something before I start having my pool parties in the summer. Thank you.

    1. You can use foundation paint around the outside of the pool but that should be done before the pool is filled back in with dirt durning the install.

  24. In looking at these options, I have also seen diy in ground kits that while more expensive, are nowhere near the cost of traditional, contractor built pools. I’m not looking for diving depth, but am concerned that butying an above ground pool will limit me to 48 inches and I want at least 60” depth.

  25. I have a 24 foot round pool that we are wanting to half sink. Do you know a ball park of what we are looking at price wise. I live in central florida.

      1. I live in Michigan and have a 24′ round pool I would like to move from my parents and 1/2 bury in my yard. Do I just call normal pool installers for this? thanks

        1. First off I don’t know any pool installers that are normal. Seriously though, yes. Start there and see what the installer says. He may do the dig himself or have you get an excavator to dig the hole first.

  26. I have an oval with the straps across the bottom. I was hoping those would not be necessary if I sink the pool deep enough. Cutting those straps would allow me to have it deeper in the center. Will that work?

  27. I have a 16×24 doughboy I’d like to bury halfway down (26 inches). Can I backfill with the dirt I excavated? I’m in a Chicago suburb. Thanks

      1. We used them (Full Metal Shovel) in 2012. We had them put our 18×33 sunk half way in the ground. They are EXCELLENT! Very professional, courteous, and on time. Big plus for us! We are military and they offered us that discount. It still cost us $1800.00 for the dig and installation, but the installer even moved the dirt to the back of our property for our shooting range. My question now is: We need to replace our liner. Do we need to dig out the back fill again prior to changing the liner? It is buried 2 ft. exactly for warranty purposes. Btw, we just bought a replacement cartridge for your company. Very happy with the cost to replace it. The best price I found after searching for 3 days. Sure hope it makes it to Lake Wales quickly. Thanks again Dan!

        1. The last I heard, Full Metal Shovel is still in business. I recommend you asking them. They should know better than me. If you can’t get ahold of them though, at two feet down, you shouldn’t have to dig out any dirt around the pool. Unless it starts caving in. Thanks for your service and please don’t shoot the messenger.

  28. I just dug out our pool 2 ft deep for 33 ft pool it rained before I could get it done. Is it ok if there is a little water in the hole or do I need to pump it out. I already put the sand in the center and put upright blocks in the water is in center because it 4 inches deeper there

    1. An above ground pool has to have dry ground in order to install a nice smooth wrinkle-free bottom. You can try to install one in a giant puddle though. In a short time, you won’t have to ask me if it’s possible. You’ll find out for yourself.

  29. Great article! I live in south fl, would you recommend at least a concrete base at the bottom to prevent any kind of dip on either side of the pool with time?

    1. I have never seen an above ground pool settle in Florida. Some think theirs settled but the pool was either off level from day one or a washout caused it. The earth just doesn’t move here enough to be concerned with it. Concrete is cool but very expensive so don’t use it just for that reason.

  30. I live in Alabama, considering buying an above ground that can be put in ground, should I go with the more costly one that is made for this or any pool will do? Also I want to install a salt chlorinater?

    1. It depends on which pool you are talking about when you say “one that can be put in the ground”. And “I want to install a salt chlorinater?” I don’t know. Do you?

  31. I am looking at burying a lounge pool. We looked at stock tanks, but we can’t get one big enough. We would like it to be approximately a 12-16 foot circle and between 24-30 inches deep. Someone asked earlier if you could bury an Intex pool from Walmart. They are all made of different substances. Can you give me a suggestion on a specific one? Some say steel, but they look whicker. I have plenty of manual labor assist. If you were me, what pool would you use, and what are some things you would do to insure a long life? BTW I live in Kansas. Thanks.

    1. My advice is to only buy a metal walled pool. Unless you want to replace it every year and have a continuously difficult time keeping the water healthy. When you say you want a long life, how long are you talking about? Some people proudly tell me how they got their Intex pool to last three years. Good for them I guess. My dad once got four hundred miles out of a donut spare tire which he thought was cool. Personally, I think getting at least thirty thousand miles out of a real tire is cool.

      I’m a fan of getting a pool that’ll last at least ten years(whether you want it that long or not). This is similar to getting a pet. Do you get a hamster or a dog?

      1. I loved your analogy. Your blog has GREAT info. I am getting ready to enjoy a fulfilling profession and nice salary in my new role as nurse practitioner. I will always be thrifty at heart and can’t bring myself to spend all of that money on an in-ground pool. Your blog provides the perfect solution. This will allow me to also invest in a large, pretty deck and landscaping without feeling like I spent too much money overall. Thank you, Dan. (Cincinnati, Ohio)

  32. Hi Dan, thanks for all your info… It’s very helpful! Question: I’m scheduled to install my pool in NC about 30″ deep. I had the hole professionally dug using a transit and my earth is 90% clay, BUT the water table was really high so it kept filling with water from the earth. I had the landscaper dig out a 2 foot wide trench on the low side and I took a stick and dragged some little trenches towards that wide trench, then put a sump pump in there to drain it out. The water is almost gone, but there is still a tiny tiny bit draining into the big trench throughout the day. Also, the floor of the hole is still partially muddy, partially hard. What can I do to solidify this bottom so my installers can come put in their leveling sand, the pad and setup the pool without having to worry about leveling issues? Please advise…

    1. It sounds like you have two options. A) Wait for a drier season(if you have one) or, B) fill the hole until the earth is dry enough to build the pool. You may be able to add six inches to the hole and the pool get built. It may then only be 24″ in the ground but that’s better than nothing. A third option may be to install a wellpoint(look it up) but that may not work if the water continues to seep from the sides of the hole.

  33. Would it be okay to bury a metal above ground pool on only one side? So one side is partially buried and the other is not buried at all. Would that hurt anything?

      1. I want to put a pool into my hillside. I live in Pa and the ground is mostly clay. Would it be ok to put the back half of the pool about 3 feet buried? Will the water pressure keep the wall of dirt from collapsing the pool?

  34. Hello Dan, I live in central Indiana and we are going to install a 27′ round above ground steel frame pool. We plan on recessing the elevation 24″. Do I need to do anything special to accomadate for freezing/thawing? Our typical freeze line is 48″. I am planning on backfilling with the dirt the hole provides.

    Thanks, Scott

    1. Hi. This is out of my realm of expertise as Florida doesn’t have any ground “heaving”. My advice is to ask a local concrete contractor about frost heaving. If your area doesn’t have that, then you are good to sink.

  35. I’m sinking my 27 ft above ground. I know I will need a self priming pump, but I’ve heard you should get a certain type of filter. It does not make logical sense to me, shouldn’t my Pentair SD40 work just fine?

  36. Hello Dan, I live in southern California and I want to partially bury a 16 x 32 intex pool, would
    coating the exterior have any advantages for longevity?
    Thank you

    1. I don’t think coating the outside will matter much but you never know. Chinese soft sided pools usually rust from the chlorinated water or the wall material starts to fail causing leaks. Coating the outside of the pool probably won’t reduce either occurrence.

  37. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for all of the advice. I have an Intex Ultra Frame 22’x52″. This pool is basically a bag with support polls, lol. 1-Do you think it can be dropped in ground?
    2-If so is there a depth limit?
    3-The dirt here in the Piedmont area of NC (Raleigh, Durham) is good and not sandy, in fact some clay, is that okay to back fill with?
    4- Do you recommend placing tarp around the sides before back filling?
    5- What are you thoughts on using screenings (finely ground rock with the consistency of fine sand but a fraction of the cost) for bottom of pool say 2′ thick and back filling?
    TYIA Bro

    1. Yes, you can drop it in the ground at probably any depth but keep in mind that an Intex pool won’t last very long so replacing it will be tough when it’s in the ground. A tarp won’t matter for backfilling. That aggregate should be ok for the bottom.

  38. I have a question please. We live in MO and my friend has an above ground that has been sunk in ground for many years. They are now planning to fill it in. They have taken the liner out and someone told them they have to cut out the wall because it has fiberglass before they can fill it. Is this true? Can’t understand why that would be a necessary step. Feels like they just want to get money as they said it would cost $4,000! Any thoughts?

  39. We currently have an 18×33 pool that has a dug out “deep end” along with a full surrounding deck. We knew we needed a new liner this year, but the metal pool walls are completely rusted, so new pool. 🙁 The whole deck will have to be removed for a new pool install. I have been contemplating options as far as above ground vs in ground. I have priced the kits. The steel in ground pool kits are about double the cost of the above ground pool kits, but still not a terrible price. An in ground kit would also eliminate the need for a deck, as we will probably need one within the next year and will be another huge cost. My dad and husband are in construction and own a bobcat to use for excavation. My question is what exactly would/could be used to do a diy in ground pool? I saw someones comment about cinder blocks, but didn’t get an answer if it would work. I have heard that treated lumber and foamboard can be used to build the walls and sand/concrete mix for the floor then add liner. Any suggestions as far as what materials could be used to do a diy in ground pool without a pool kit?? We live in MS. Thanks!

  40. We just bought a Coleman 18ft. round pool from Wal-Mart, my husband wants to put it 2ft in ground, is that possible? Thanks in advance


  41. After reading this, I went it to a local supplier to inquire about different pools and pricing and was told that the aluminum above ground pools can not be put into the ground because of the pressure. we were looking to sink it 2 feet on one side and a foot on the other to follow our grading.
    But that wasnt what I understood from this. She told me I would need to purchase a steel pool that was basically an in ground pool to do this. Which is 3x the cost.
    So is this them trying to up sell me or am I missing something? we live in canada and the dirt is fairly compact but of couse we deap with the freeze/thaw of winters

  42. Is it possible to change the pool liner if the pool has been put into the ground? My husband says he’s worried when we drain it; it may cave in.

  43. I am buying a 32×16 x52 ULTA Frame above ground pool from Wal-Mart. Can this be sinkin
    Into the ground about 2 feet ?
    Do you suggest putting sand under the pool,.or is the dirt all you need ?

  44. Hello I have purchased a pool from the Facebook market place and to level the pool one side has to be buried in the ground close to 2 ft. I have a liner from you all on the way. My question is.. I know the metal feet have surface rust on them and I will be costing them with some undercoating paint. My question is…

    Is there anything you guys reccomend on spraying on the side that goes into the ground. As just an extra rust protectant? Like undercoating rust protection or covering with plastic? Or expanding foam?. I know it’s not needed. Just trying to add that extra protection

  45. What kind of pools do you recommend to be able to do this with to be able to sink them in the ground?

  46. Our above ground pool is halfway in the ground. We want to build a concrete deck around half of the pool. We aren’t sure what to do about the sides because we will need to one day change the liner. If we build almost to the pool what can we put in the gap between sides of Pool and deck. We live in south MS and wood decks don’t last very long.

    1. This is tricky and a bad idea if your earth is loose around the pool. Here in Florida, the earth can be sandy and can cause a cave-in of the pool when it is empty. That’s bad enough but if there is a concrete deck close to the pool, the earth can’t be dug out around the outside because there’s not enough room to do so.

      And if the earth is really loose, the earth will keep caving in thus creating a big void under the deck. That void, although temporary, could cause the deck to drop or crack. Not good.

      If your earth is quite firm, then no problem. If loose, the only guarantee is to build a retaining wall on the concrete deck side first. That will eliminate the risk of a cave in when it comes time to change the liner.

  47. I’m looking to put an above ground pool in the ground partially, as you describe Dan. Is this feasible in Colorado where we have hard freezes? Can I leave the water in over winter or not?

    1. Most people don’t have issues with “ground heaving” in places like Colorado but I don’t know about your area. My suggestion is to find out if ground heaving occurs in your area. If it does, then there might be a way to still do what you want but you’ll have to talk to a local concrete guy who is familiar with heaving. He/she may know what to do to prevent it.

  48. When burring an above ground pool, is it necessary to place patio blocks under the posts of the wall?

    1. Patio blocks are not necessary for an above ground pool installation. I use them to get the bottom track perfectly level(which you can’t do if you don’t use blocks) AND as reference points when rolling the wall in place. The wall can move the track around during installation so the blocks let me know where the track should be.

  49. I have an in ground pool that has been empty for 8 years. It is going to cost at least 15,000. To repair. I have had someone suggest putting an above ground inside it and putting a deck around it. I live in maine. Suggestions? Then the hardest part is getting a pool company here. There are two in town and they are so busy they are already talking next spring. It is still july!!

    1. It’s hard to say whether you can do this or not. The biggest factor is finding an above ground that will fit. This won’t be cheap to do but cheaper than 15k, I guess.

  50. What about in the winter? Do you drain the pool? Any special processes?
    I have a bestway pool from Costco that I would like to sink but these pools are said to be stored indoors for winter.

      1. I have a soft sided oval pool. I can only place the pool in the ground about 2 feet because of the pump attachment holes. I’m afraid the freezing water may damage the pool liner. I live in KY and the ground freezes. Do you believe a soft sided pool would be damaged if I do this? I assume I would not be required to drain the pool by your last statement but maybe safer to drain it to ground level? What would you do?

        1. I honestly don’t know about sinking a soft-sided pool in an area that freezes. I live in Orlando. I will say though that cheap soft-sided pools don’t hold up very well so my guess is it will take some life out of the pool. And those pools don’t live very long as it is.

  51. Hello ,
    I would like to install a semi inground pool myself in pt st lucie fl. I am extremely handy and would like to do the bulk of it myself. I would also like to make sure it is properly permitted by the city. After install I’d also like to build a deck around it . I’ve heard if the deck is less then 30 inches high you don’t need to have the deck permitted ? How much of the install could I do by myself and if so what portions would I have to hire a contractor for to get proper permits

    1. For many people, installing an above ground pool is like installing a garage door. You can do it, but do you really want to? If you’re installing a round pool, are handy, and have friends, then give it a go. Ovals are a different animal. Only attempt installing one of those if you don’t mind getting a divorce.

      Are far as permits go, each municipality has their own rules and those rules change all the time. You’ll have to contact your building department and pray they don’t make it impossible. You will need an electrician for that permit.

  52. We bought a house with an inground fiberglass pool that was 16 x 30. It had a crack in it and as no one would bother themselves with fixing it we had to fill it in. We used dump truck loads of gravel and soil. We topped it off with sod. It has been almost 4 years now and the ground is solid and firm and has had not sinking. We did leave the concrete around the pool alone and left at least 3 feet of the fiberglass sides intact. We would like to install a 10 x 24 semi inground pool. Since we would only need to dig 2-2.5 wouldn’t it be possible to install the pool in this spot? Then of course build a deck around it like you are supposed to? We can’t get anyone to really give us a straight answer on this.

    1. I can’t see why you couldn’t do that as long as you have more than enough space to build it where the pool was AND you don’t run into the buried fiberglass shell at any point. I wouldn’t try to install it on or over any part of the existing pool deck though. Just where the water used to be.

  53. Do you recommned resin, steel or coated aluminum for a counter sunk pool 3 feet into the ground? Is resin strong enough? Thanks so much

    1. I typically don’t recommend going three feet in the ground. I think a steel wall is best or the much more expensive extruded aluminum paneled wall pools. There are no above grounds with resin walls, so that’s not an option.

  54. Hi I was thinking doing a natural swimming pool
    So I want have to have all the chemical,and extra cost
    I have been given a 24×24 pool which just needs a new liner
    And in my research I will have to dig out 2to4 feet around the swimming area and it needs to be about a foot deep.
    So my question is do u think if I completely sink the pool and properly dig out around it do u think this could work?

  55. We live in The Chicagoland suburbs and buying a 24’ above ground pool from great escape. They sell Wilbar pools. He recommended Athena model which is all resin. Resin coated steel walls nd stainless service panel as well since we’re going salt. We spoke to the sub contractor installer and they are willing to recess it a bit. My question is do I want to change to a all steel pool if I recess it ?

  56. Hi i live in Yorkshire UK and want to sink a intex 24 foot round 48″ deep above ground pool in ground it is latex with a steel pole frame around, am i better to build a post frame around the inside of the hole with wood lats then a pond liner around the lats to protect the latex from wood lats (and moles n voles), i was going to deck around the top of pool as the deck needs to be about 4-6″ above ground level to meet with the rest of landscape

  57. You Sir, are amazing. Your expertise and incredible patience are commendable. We are not worthy.
    Sincerest Regards,
    Wendy & Franco in Brunswick County, NC
    Just two crazy people who are getting ready to DIG A HOLE & PUT A POOL IN IT!!!!!

    1. I am just down the highway a bit from you in Little River! I want to do the same thing…..what are you putting in, who are you using and where did you get your pool?

  58. I live in Maine will putting an above ground pool in the ground work here since it gets cold and snows all winter? Thank you for any help you can give me.

  59. Hi
    Great article and information on your site. I’m looking to install my doughboy pool half way in the ground. I am in the UK so it’s considerably colder here most of the year. I have an air heat source pump that heats the water but it looses a lot of heat through the walls. If I install half way into the ground what can I use to insulate the walls and where would I put the insulation between the steel and the liner? Or outside the steel altogether? Many thanks for your help.

    1. I’m not really sure what you can use but for anything to have a good enough “R” value, you’ll need something thicker. So, outside of the wall is probably your only alternative. Foam insulation may work for this although I can’t say how you would do it.

  60. Hello I just purchased a 16×32 bestway pool. I live in NE Florida and my yard is 100% sand. I plan to dig out 6in or so to remove organic material and level. Then add clay t level off and compact. Finally put down 1in extruded 4×8 foam sheets to protect bottom liner and keep bottom Smooth. Also will set solid cement blocks under rails to support frame and keep off the dirt. Then will place Gravel all around frame to prevent moisture.

    Do you think this will be a good method? Any thing i could do better? I really want the pool to last 4yrs or so.

  61. With an 18′ x 40′ above ground oval, what $$$ ballpark would I be looking at, to sink it the recommended depth into the ground? Thank you.

    1. Do you mean just the cost of digging the hole? If so, it depends on where you live. Here in Central Florida, we are mostly sand based so the dig it would cost in the neighborhood of $1200-$1500. I once sold a pool to a customer out west that had to jack-hammer a hole one foot down because they lived on rock. That would run you slightly more.

  62. Your oh is fabulous. Thank you. We just moved from KS to Tx & left behind a 16×32 with a depth of 52-54” above ground pool. If I remember correctly the pump hole was about 12”from the top. I would like to install a similar one here but our HOA does not allow above ground pools. In reading your blog I get the idea that I can only install 1/2 of pool below the ground. However, if the pump attachment is only 12-18” why would I not be able to install most of the depth below ground, leaving for example & extra 6” below the pump attachment and water skimmer & return. My pool in KS did not have anything at the base or at the bottom of the pool. We also did have enough liner to easily make It deeper in the center. The pool was in use for over 10 years before we left with absolutely no problems – except my complaining husband. LOL. Thanks for your help. Victoria

    1. I only like to bury an above ground half-way down max because of the potential issues when you have to drain the pool to change the liner. If going more than the level of the pump, you can always but a pump that draws water up(like an inground pool pump).

  63. We have an above ground pool that is vinyl. I think I need a pool with a liner to drop it in the ground. Only way to put in a new liner for the one i have is to take it apart. I was hoping it would work but don’t think so. Might be investing in a new pool to be able to put in the ground!

  64. Quick question. I bought a semi above ground pool and excavated about 1ft below ground level (next to pavers in Backyard). It’s a 12×18 oval pool 52″ high. How important is leveling the entire area of dirt (have clay like ground) before I lay down the sand base? I know as I assemble the frame I need to make sure it’s level all the way around, but once I lay the sand inside the perimeter and compact that down, that must be smooth and level.

    1. What’s is most important is that you get the bottom track of the pool level and the correct shape. I do that using blocks under each bottom connector. Once you have that, you can level around the track and inside of it any way you want.

  65. I live in Texas. We have gumbo dirt that shifts an inch or two a year, maybe more if it rains a lot. If I dig, level, and pack the bottom with a packer, how much sand would you put under the pool and how much ground shift is ok? Would you pack the sand as well? What about the rectangle pools I see online? Can they be sunk as well? How do you fight the hole filling with water outside of the pool? Thanks for all the advice in the blog and thanks in advance for any advice to my questions.

  66. Hello, I’m going to be putting my above ground pool 18inches in ground…I didn’t buy the ppb4000, since they said putting it down in ground would keep from getting moles into it…but do you think I should?? It was going to be 800 more so I opted not to

  67. Hi,
    We live in south east Louisiana and just had an 18×33 ft pool installed. It is above the ground not sunk. My questions are what kinds of shrubs or plants can I put around the pool? My choice would be boxwoods and gardenias since they have shallow roots. We’ve heard about roots possibly going under the liner and creating problems. Also, we’ve put rubber mulch around the perimeter. Is this a safe material to use?

  68. Hi Dan. In the process of installing my 30′ round pool. My question today is about the backfill. I am setting it in the ground in my sloping yard. Upper part is right around 3′ and then it will slope down to 1′, so I will have backfill against the pool on the upper part 3′ deep sloping down the sides to 1′ of backfill. My soil here has a ton of clay in it. I have read some places that say not to use clay for backfill, but I see you say that clay can be backfilled deeper since its more stable. Do you think I’m ok with my situation, or do you have any different suggestions for backfill? Thanks, Dustin.

  69. I am in Idaho and although there are no true professional installers I did hire a contractor and now I am constantly worrying the pool is going to collapse. We went in ground leaving 6 inches out and did the slurry ring. The contractor wanted to do it over a foot wide on each side because we have very, very rocky and sandy “soil”. The slurry pushed the walls out so almost every one of them has a bubble from the middle to the bottom, not on the top but obviously the rails aren’t’ totally even now. When they noticed it about 3 day after pouring they jack hammered out the slurry in a quarter section and tried to push it back out but it didn’t budge so they backfilled it. There doesn’t appear to be any movement in the wall shape since the slurry dried and they poured a concrete patio around it. The pool is 21 round, steel with interlocking steel bars. Have you ever seen the pool walls bubble inward because of too much slurry? Do you believe the steel can take the weight or is it fair to say I should emotionally prepare for a big boom?

  70. How long do you keep the sandy soil up the sides of a 24 foot above ground pool sunk 2 feet? Does the sandy soil always have to stay there?

  71. We live in Illinois and are sinking our 27′ a little over half way, hopefully. Will the dirt here be sufficient for backfill?

  72. Hi,

    First off, you guys rock! Second, is a question I havent seen in the thread yet. I want to burry an 8×16 rectangular intex pool halfway down. I plan on building the hole 1.5′ wider on all sides for the metal post and base. For the hole I plan on building retaining walls on all 4 sides instead of backfilling. This should make it easy for replacing when needed I’m assuming. Also, I understand that I will need to dig out a hole for the pump too. Do you see any issues with this idea? Just asking because I’ve only seen a few people don it this way.


  73. If I dig a hole that is bigger and then use bricks and cement to make the shape, can I then just put my above ground pool in that so that it looks like it’s completely in the ground and build a deck around? The pump will also be in the cemented hole.

  74. We have an above ground pool that was set into the ground. This pool was here when we moved in, and it was not taken care of at all. We are in the process of taking out the pool and have run into a problem. The side posts will not budge. The end posts came out no problem. We even tried a Farm Jack on the side posts, and they wouldn’t move at all. Do you have an idea of what could be causing them to not move? We were thinking cement, but even if it was cement, the Farm Jack should have gotten the job done. That’s how we got some fence posts out that were set with cement. It’s really bizarre. We have about 10 posts that we cannot move. Any ideas?

  75. I just ordered a Wilbar hybrid 21’x43’ oval pool. The dealer calls it a Mediterranean style – it was not the very top of the line, but very close. What is the deepest depth that we could bury that pool safely without having to worry about caving if we ever need to drain it? We’re in North Central Florida. Thanks!

  76. We are in the process of burying a 24′ round into a 30″ deep hole. I was reading where you recommend adding concrete to the dirt before backfilling. Can you elaborate on how much (I assume) dry concrete you’d recommend and how best to integrate it back into the dirt before filling? I’m in Jacksonville,FL

  77. I am considering buying a steel sided pool And sinking it about half way. I am leaning towards building a retaining wall around it. It will be half enclosed by a deck (we may make a narrow deck around the other half just for visual/looks. I live in Iowa. I am assuming I need to drain this pool for winters, but I’m seeing mentions of that hurting the liner? Or needing to replace the liner if you drain? How does this work for cold climates?

  78. Can you sink an above ground pool the 2-2.5 feet up here in Canada because of the frost in the winter?

  79. Good afternoon, we just bought a 15 foot above ground pool and we’re hoping to sink it 2 feet as it’s 52 inches deep. So if we dig the hole 18 feet in diameter and then backfill it after we have it filled with water. You feel this is safe and is allowable? We spoke to someone here in Canada and they said it wasn’t safe so just wanted to make sure. Thank you!

  80. Wow great information! We live in MN – do you have a recommended installer in MN or eastern WI?

  81. Hi! I have an intex pool sunk in my backyard & we need to replace the liner 😬 Any advice? I’m having a hard time finding information online. Is this something we could possibly do ourselves? Thank you!

  82. I had an above ground oval pool 18*33 Installed 24″ in ground and have a deep end of 7′ with an expandable liner from doughboy. We also put in a hard bottom using the sand and portland mix. That leaves my pool with 27″ above ground and I was going to fill it and back fill ( I have red clay). The installer told me not to and build a retaining wall cause would cause it to deteriorate and possible cause it to push up out of the ground. But I researched the pool before i bought it and it’s and all resin saltwater pool that says it can be buried up to halfway inground and still be covered by warranty. I’m also installing 2 French drain trenches to keep water off side walls. So I don’t see what the problem would be to backfill it with the red clay dirt. Am I missing something?

  83. I had a buttress free oval above ground pool 15×26 and that was installed 18 inches in the ground. A month later I noticed the 2 braces on one side lifting slightly inside the pool. It hasn’t gotten worse and the rest of the pool looks excellent. No bowing of the walls, or anything and the water level looks and measures even. Is this going to create an issue? The installers said it was normal and not to be worried about it. Thanks for your input.

  84. We have an above ground pool sunk 3/4. Clay soil. It now has a leak and we need to change the liner. Any tips on how/when yo do this. Frost line is about 42 inches with winter. Should we wait until ground is solid? Dig out 1/2 all the way around? Any thoughts are appreciated!!

  85. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I’m a pool and spa professional with 25 years experience installing above grounds and ingrounds in PA. You CANNOT bury and AG pool. FIrstly, it voids the warranty. Secondly, the steel walls are not designed for direct contact with backfill (Read the installation manual). They will rot so fast your head will spin.
    And lastly, any installer worth anything will either walk away on a liner change, or have you sign a waiver that they are not responsible for the walls caving in if you drain it. There are some manufactures like Strong Pools that are designed for this application, but as far as costs go, they are almost as much as a vinyl lined inground pool. The simple facts are if you do not have at least 25-30k in your budget, you cant afford an inground pool. That’s not to say that abovegrounds arent a good option, but they need to be installed correctly to insure a long life from the product.

    Hope this helps anyone reading this.


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