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Many people opt for buying an above ground pool over an inground because they are more affordable and easier to set up. However, frequently they do not correctly level the land before placing the pool on top of it. What happens if an above ground pool is not level, though?

If an above ground pool is not level, the water’s weight can cause damage to the walls and liner. As a result, your pool will collapse, potentially causing property damage or personal injury.

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Properly leveling your pool can be tricky, so can fixing your unlevel pool. Luckily for you, we have the answer to all your pool questions, from how to ensure your pool is level to how to go about fixing the problem. Keep reading to learn more.

How Does Unlevel Water Damage A Pool?

An average 15-ft round pool with a 52-inch wall holds a little over 5,000 gallons of water. That is a little over 41,700 pounds of water weight. When this water level is off by more than three inches, you will start to see problems due to the weight of the water with:

Damage to the linerPool wall damageUneven water level

These problems can lead to the overall collapse of even the best-built pools.

Uneven Leveling Causes Damage to Your Liner

When your pool is on uneven ground, the liner is likely to have wrinkles in it. These wrinkles can be caused by ground that is:

Full of rocksLumpySlantedToo soft

As a result, the wrinkles will cause various things to become caught on the pool liner, weakening the liner until it rips.

For example, pool vacuums commonly rip liners with wrinkles in them as they pass over them time and time again.

Liners that have ripped can be patched with a vinyl liner patch, but the patch will not be successful in the long run. This is especially true if other wrinkles still exist in your pool, resulting in the need for more patches.

Ripped liners, even after they have been patched, will likely continually leak water over time. That is why it is best just to replace a liner that has been ripped or make sure it is wrinkle-free to prevent the ripping from occurring in the first place.

Uneven Water Weight Can Damage Pool Walls

The uneven pressure from the weight of the water will cause the walls to:

BuckleCollapseTwist

Inflatable pools are more susceptible to these issues, but even the strongest pools can experience them as well.

Pools that collapse can cause injury to people inside or around the pool, as well as potential property damage. This is why it is so important to make sure your pool is level and look for signs of buckling and twisting before the entire thing collapses.

To put into perspective how much the water weighs in your pool, here is a table of typical round above ground pool dimensions and their water weights. Average gallons of water came from Backyard City Pools.

Diameter in Ft (48″ height)Gallons of WaterWeight of Water in Pounds*
122,97524,812
154,64638,748
187,64663,768

*A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.


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Problems That Arise from Uneven Water Levels

It may be stating the obvious, but an uneven pool has an uneven water level. Besides not being pleasing to the eye, an uneven water level can cause multiple other problems.

For starters, the water may not be too noticeably off level at first, but then the water’s weight will cause it to settle more. As a result, the water will become more uneven with time, making it more noticeable.

Water that is uneven will cause shallow and deep ends. Children that would normally be safe in the size of the pool you chose may find that the deep end of the pool is over their heads and no longer safe.

Also, pool skimmers that end up in the pool’s shallow end may not be covered halfway as required. This will lead to them not operating properly, and your pool’s water quality will deteriorate because of it.

Can I Fix A Pool That Has Collapsed?

Once your pool walls collapse, they cannot be fixed. You will need to replace the walls completely.

Walls that have buckled or twisted should be replaced as well. You may find some places that suggest you can solve your buckle problem using a wood block and hammer or placing a flat piece of steel on the inside to support it. However, these fixes are not permanent and may not even work.

Walls that have been compromised will eventually collapse over time and need to be replaced before that happens.

How Level Does A Pool Need to Be?

Even professional pool installers rarely get a circular pool within ⅛ of an inch level and only ¼ of an inch for oval pools. Meaning it is almost impossible to have a perfectly level pool, but how level should it be?

A pool should be within an inch of being level. At 1 inch, however, the level of the water may be noticeably off. Therefore, it should be between ¼ and ½ inch level in order to be pleasing to the eye.

The pool level can be up to 2 ½ inches off without being structurally damaging, although it will be obvious that the water level is off.

Anything that is off by 3-inches or more is dangerous and needs to be fixed right away. This is because, at 3-inches, the imbalance of the thousands of pounds of water in your pool will put too much pressure on one side over the other, causing severe damage.

Can I Level the Pool Without Draining the Water?

You can level a pool without draining the water. However, it is extremely difficult. Therefore, it is recommended that you drain the pool at least halfway before attempting to relevel it.

If you wish to level your pool without draining the water all the way, you will need:

Garden hoseHammerShovelSoilWheelbarrow

The first step is to use your garden hose to drain about half of the water out of the pool. You do not have to, as you can still complete the rest of the steps without draining any water, but it will be much harder to do if you don’t drain some water.

Next, you will need to use your shovel to pry the walls on the uneven side so that you can take out the leveling blocks. Use your hammer to knock blocks out and insert new ones where needed until the pool is level.

After you have the pool level, use your wheelbarrow and shovel to transport soil to the pool’s foundation. Fill in any empty spaces around the blocks by packing the soil to ensure your pool stays level and does not slip from the blocks.

Now just fill the pool back up using your garden hose to replace the water you decided to drain, and you are ready to go.

Should I Drain the Water?

As we just discussed, you should drain the water at least halfway to make it easier for you to pry the walls up. Most of the time, it is not necessary to completely drain all the water out of your pool unless it is severely unlevel.

Severely unlevel pools need to be drained and completely taken down to relevel them.

Draining at least half of the water and repositioning your leveling blocks will protect your pool from wall and water level problems. However, if you have issues with your liner, you may want to consider completely draining the pool.

Pool liners with wrinkles or divots in them can rip or tear. You can try smoothing them out with your hands and feet in a half-drained pool. You can also consider using a clean plunger to plunge either side of the wrinkle until it is removed.

That said, most of the time, you need to drain your pool to at least 1 to 4 inches of water and then take your time to smooth out the liner. Make sure to pull it tight to either side of the pool. If you notice rocks or severe divots in the liner, you should consider taking your pool down and properly leveling the ground before putting it back up.

How Do I Properly Level A Pool?

If you want to avoid having to relevel your pool once it’s full, you should ensure you properly level the ground before you even put the pool up. This process can take a lot of time, but it is more than worth it in the long run.

Find Your Location

Try to choose an area that is already relatively level to save yourself time and effort. If you want to install a pool on really uneven ground, consider hiring a professional. If you want to do it yourself, consider using larger equipment, like a tractor, to dig out the area where your new pool will sit. 

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Remove Rocks from The Area

Measure the area your pool will use. Remove the grass from the location by using a sod cutter or rototiller. If you do not have access to either, many home-improvement stores rent them, or a shovel will do the trick too.

Then use a rake to remove any sharp or hard objects such as rocks or different debris within the area.Make sure to get the area as smooth as possible because you don’t want anything piercing your pool liner.

Use A Leveling Device

To ensure that the ground is level, you can either use a long, straight board or a line level.

To use the board, place it on the ground, and then put a level on top of it to see how level the board actually is.

To use a string level, tie the string to a wooden stake and hammer it into the ground at the edge of where the pool should be. Then take the string across to the other side, pound another stake into the ground, and tie the string loosely to it, making sure there is no slack.

Place the line level on the string at the center of the area and adjust the height of the string on the stake until it is level.

Level the Ground

Now that you know what areas need leveling dig and add soil to the necessary areas to ensure the land is as level as possible. It is best to dig out the soil to the lowest levels.

Be sure to tightly pack in any added soil if you need to add it.

Move the boards and strings as necessary to ensure the entire pool area is flat.

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Consider Using Mason Sand

You can build a pool on soil that has had all the rocks removed, and you have ensured it is packed down correctly. However, many people opt to add a layer of 2-inches or more of mason sand on top of the soil before putting the pool up.

Mason sand ensures that you did not miss any rocks or debris that could penetrate your liner. It is very fine sand that compacts well.

Once you have put down the sand, level it out with a rake or shovel and add a little water to it so that it begins to pack down. Then leave it overnight to harden.

The next day, be sure to pack down the sand thoroughly. You can do this by using a lawn roller or plate compactor. Once you have it packed down, take out your leveling device, and ensure it is still level. If not, move the sand around and repack until it is.

Don’t Forget About A Base Protector

Even if you put sand down, you should still use a base protector to:

Prevent anything from puncturing the linerPrevent heat loss from water

The ground will be cold. Preventing your pool from being in direct contact with the ground will keep it better insulated.

You can purchase specialized pool pads to use as base protectors, or you can just put a tarp or some felt down. However, a pool pad will work better at protecting and insulating your pool.

Common Leveling Mistakes to Avoid

If you are looking to level and install a pool yourself, it is important to correctly follow all the steps. Skipping important steps can result in damage to your pool in the long run, even if it is not noticeable right away. Below are a few mistakes to avoid.

Not Removing the Sod

A major mistake that people make is not removing the grass before putting the pool up. They just pour sand on top, which causes divots in the ground when the grass dies, and everything compacts down.

Taking Dirt from High Areas to Low Ones

Another common mistake is moving dirt from high areas to lower ones. It is better to dig out the areas so that they are level with the low ones. This is because added dirt will eventually settle and may settle unevenly.

However, properly taking the time to pack down added dirt can avoid this problem, but it is best practice to instead simply dig out the dirt.

Placing Sand on Unlevel Ground

The sand is meant to be a protective layer for your pool, not a leveling layer. It should be placed on ground that has already been leveled; otherwise, you will see many leveling problems down the road as the sand settles.

Also, there will not be an even amount of sand protecting the pool floor from the rocks and debris below. Some spots could have less than an inch, while others have more than two.

Not Ensuring the Sand Is Compact

After you lay the sand down, you must make sure you compact it. If you do not, the sand will sink with the pool’s weight and the added weight of your feet inside of the pool. This will cause wrinkles in your liner and a potentially uneven water level.

Placing the Track on The Sand

The pool track should be outside of the sand to ensure the sand doesn’t wash out. Tracks on top of the sand will move with the settling sand and possibly sink, making the walls uneven.

Therefore, sand should always be on the inside of the pool track.

Leveling Your Above Ground Pool Is Important

Water weighs much more than we think it does. That weight can cause severe problems to even the toughest pools if they are not leveled correctly.

When assembling your above ground pool, it is important to take your time during the leveling step. Skipping steps to save time will leave you with more work in the future.

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If your pool is uneven by 3 inches or more, it is important to immediately begin releveling the pool to prevent any damage from occurring. If damage has already occurred to your walls or liner, you more than likely need to replace them.