How to set up above ground pool on unlevel ground

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A swimming pool can be a source of tremendous pleasure but can be an immense safety hazard if not set up right.

Below we look at how to set up above ground pool on unlevel ground the right way just in case there’s no good enough flat spot in your property to lay the pool.

And don’t think that this is going to be hard- it’s an installation you can complete by yourself and make hefty savings considering the kind of money pros quote for these types of jobs.

Let’s get down to business…

How to set up above ground pool on unlevel ground

Preliminaries steps

Before moving ahead to erect the pool, there are a number of tasks that you must complete.

These initial steps are vital to the success of the entire so it’s important to take your time.

Here is a rundown of the crucial groundwork:

1. Choose the site

The first thing is to identify the exact site you want the pool to sit.

The location can make or break everything else so you must try to pick out an area that won’t give you a throbbing headache down the road.

To simplify everything, follow these guidelines when selecting the site:

  • Dodge steep slopes- they are much more difficult to flatten.
  • Keep off obstacles- steer clear of underground wires, pipes, roots, overhead power cables, trees and such for obvious reasons.
  • Look for shade- you should generally be wary of having it directly under overgrown trees because they may rain leaves into the pool messing things. A smaller one could be fine for shading (and don’t forget you want some sunshine too).
  • Check the local regulations- you don’t want to be caught up on the wrong side of the local building codes.

In a nutshell, do yourself a favor and select the flattest but practical area.


  • Leave about 1 to 2 feet all around the pool for easier access and maintenance (there will be room to walk around it).
  • Also bear in mind that the area should be big enough to accommodate your pool if you’ve already purchased it.
  • Finally, provide for structures such as sheds, playground sets, gardens, and other essentials that you want to add to the backyard in the coming days when choosing a site.

2. Gather the tools for the job

Once you’ve settled on where the swimming pool will go, look for the tools that will make your life easier on the job.

Admittedly, there are dozens of substitute equipment you can use so you may find people using different hand and mechanized accessories to prep the site.

All in all, you’d need:

  • Sod and weed removal tools- for weed and grass, consider a sod cutter, rake, rototiller, etc.
  • Ground digging tools- a shovel may suffice but a pick or bobcat may be necessary for tougher grounds
  • Leveling tools– a level (or something similar) is helpful in measuring relative heights levels. You use it in conjunction with a long board.
  • Ground rolling tools– a heavy lawn roller (or any ideal alternative) will help you attain a smooth, perfectly leveled surface

Note: Most of these tools are likely to be available from the local equipment rental service.

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How to set up above ground pool on unlevel ground – procedure

With the site and the tools ready, it’s time to tackle the actual leveling work in readiness for the swimming pool placement.


Ground clearance

You can never have the pool stand on grass, nasty weeds, stones, and such substances because of the risk they pose to the liner.

The first thing to do is, therefore, to get rid of these unwanted ground occupants.

Here you’ll need to use the combination of the sod cutter, shovel, and rake to adequately clear the plot.

The recommended process:

  • Remove the grass and weeds. The sod cutter works pretty well in most cases since it’s designed to cut the roots instead of stems. 
  • Rake all remaining menaces –rocks, roots, metal pieces, twigs, etc.- off the site. 

With the sod out of the way as well as other hazards, move on to the most delicate stages- leveling the surface.

Measure the existing level all over the site

Spend a little extra time assessing the true situation on the ground.

You want to specifically pin down all the higher spots and sloping points.

While you can do this by sight, your leveling device will save you precious time while greatly enhancing the accuracy.

The recommended process:

Narrow down on all the raised or low points (your eyes can direct you here).

Place the long board (recall it?) on the first location and use the level to check how far its level is from the desired.

Dig up all the elevated points

Use the shovel to dig up every other higher spot while measuring the level as described above after every few minutes.

Stop digging if you notice that you have achieved the proper level.

Fill up all the sloped spots

For the lowly points, you act opposite – fetch the dirt you dug from the hilly areas and use it to cover the slopes.

Those who have huge, badly sloped spots may consider purchasing sand and dump it over these points until they’re leveled.

The rake will be handy in spreading the sand (or any other base material) evenly.

Your pool site is now level but we suggest that you go back and measure every area you have worked on again to be sure that you’ve successfully established proper level all over the place.

Add filtered sand

To finalize leveling the pool site, add adequate sand all across (and rake it) and use the lawn roller to pack it down (you want a rock-hard resting base for your pool).

Be sure not to lose the level during compaction (keep measuring and re-leveling with the shovel where required).


The best practice is to add a layer of sand between 2 – 6 inches high on pool sites.

Wet the ground with a garden hose (and let it soak for some hours) prior to deploying the lawn roller if you want to compact the ground more solidly.

Set up the above ground pool

Check the level one final time and proceed to install the swimming pool over the sand.

Of course, you’ll with a swimming pool protector as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Final words

That is how to set up above ground pool on unlevel ground like a pro.

The good thing is that it’s not going to break your bank or your back as you may have feared.

More importantly, your family will thank you for the surprise summer gift.

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