We have installed over 5,000 above ground pools over the years and we usually hear a few clients ask if they could do it themselves. The short answer to that is yes.
But, you do need the right equipement and the right instructions.
The manufacturers of the above grounds like Aqualeader and Zodiac do a great job at manufacturing them. But it would be a stretch to say that every model comes with instructions on how to assemble (not quite like Ikea furnature).
Our goal here is to give you a 10-step overview on how to install an above ground pool yourself.
Now before you get started on reading the steps, know that this is one of the ways to instal. Every builder adds their own style.
Step 1: Find Space for your Pool and Start Clearing
Your first step is decide where you want to install your swimming pool. We highly advise you do this first exercise before chosing your pool size. Insert a steel rod where you want the center of your pool to be. By taking the pool size and dividing by two, you can use use a measuring tape from the center rod and make a circle. Take a rope or an extension cable and lay it down to visually see where the pool will end up.
Make sure there are no obstructions in that area. Also determine where your pool equipement will be. It is recommended that your equipement stays within 4 feet of the wall (do confirm the distance requirements based on your local regulation and by-laws). This puts less pressure on your pump. We have many clients that request to have the equipement set much further away. Just remember that aboveground pool pumps are gravity fed. This means it must be lower than the hole where the skimming water output is.
Once you know and you have marked where the pool and the equipement will be, it's time to get your hands dirty.
If you are on grass, then use a sod cutter (one can be rented for the day for under $100). Remove the sod in all the areas your identified where the pool will go. Start with cutting 1 extra foot around the pool. Do the whole circle around to start, and then make lines across the center, and remove everything inside.
Pro Tip: If you cut the sod in long streeks, you can roll them up and use them later around the pool area to create a smooth elevation around the areas you had to dig.
Once the sod is removed, with the help of a transit level, you start start making sure that major areas are level within 1 inch.
There are 2 schools of thought. One says your should build up the lower areas with extra dirt. Others say you should dig down. If you find yourself on a very unlevel surface, then I would turn to professionals since you could run into some drainage or wash-out issues. But if your backyard is reletively flat, then we have found it best practice to dig down the areas. The logic is because we want the pool to be stable. You will want your pool base to sit on the area that has had at least one year to settle in, as opposed to loose dirt that was compacted.
So if you do like us, start digging and bring the dirt to a corner or the house.
Step 2: Build Stone Dust Base
Once you have a clean surface that is mostly level, you can start to bring in stone dust.
Lay down at least 2 inches of the stone around where the pool wall will sit. Be sure to read the specification of your pool make and model, since every manufacturer has slight differences.
Pro Tip: If you wanted to build up your pool, you can increase the thinkness of the stone dust in the lower areas. But don't go over 8 inches.
The Circle should be at least 1 foot wide, with the exact circomference of the pool being in the center.
Your first round of leveling should be within 1/4 inch (yes, we still use the imperial system). We have this tool we use on the crew at Campbell Pools which allows us to set it down on the base and with the transit, we look at the measurements on the tool. You can do the same with a ruler, but it will be pretty low.
Using a rake, make sure your level everything around the base, ensuring that the area where the wall will sit is the most accurate.
When you are within 1/4 inch all around, bring in the compacter. Do use a garden hose to lightly spray the stone dust to prevent dust and to improve the effects of compacting.
But it doesn't stop there, that was round one.
Now that everything is compacted, you need to measure again. Go around the pool and this time, bring everything within 1/8 inch (or 3.175mm for metric). and you measure absolutely every area where the wall will sit. This will ensure your pool will be level and stable.
Note: Many successful installations do not use this level of preciseness. In our case, we have a very high standard for installations.
Once you have added or removed the stone to make everything so precise, use the compactor one more time. Once your done, leave the compactor inside the pool, you will need it later.
Step 3: Lay Down Bottom Track and Pin to Pool Specifications
It's now time to start building the pool structure. You will have pieces called the bottom track where the wall will sit inside, and connectors that join the track and posts sit. Following the specifications of the pool make and model, bring the groove inside those connectors to EXACTLY the half measurement of the pool size. (e.g. if your 24' pool is actually 24'1", you need to measure 12'1/2" to be the measurement where the groove for the wall to fit EXACTLY)
This is critical to make sure when you unroll the wall, you don't find yourself having to re-roll it. You will find out how heavy that wall can be soon enough.
Once the location of that connector is set, use a long nail or a pin to lock it in place. You do this for every single one. Measure twice if necessairy.
Pro Tip: We have steel rods we set with ankors to the wall. We put these rods in the middle of the bottom tracks, on the outside. These ankors will lock into the pool wall during the build to pervent it from falling (or more presisely, kinking the wall). A kinked wall, is a useless wall.
Step 4: Bring in Sand for Base
Our bases are built of sand. You will need to wheelborrow in the sand inside the pool. If you are going to a quarry, the best we have seen is screened sand, slight mix of clay. This allows the sand to compact firm. Do not use the popular mortar sand, which is often used for bricklaying.
Note: You can start bringing in the sand before the previous step. Just make sure that you lay down a piece of plywood or cardboard to protect your border. When you are done bringing in sand, make sure to re-level and inspect the area to walked over the stone dust to ensure it's leveled.
We usually bring in 4 inches of sand inside for the base. You will find yourself roughly spreading it inside the swimming pool. But do not bring it against the stone dusk circle yet. You will need to have the wall installed before you do that. So simply add extra sand near the edges inside so that you will be able to level it later.
During pool installations with our crew, we usually have a few steps happening at the same time.
Step 5: Install Strucuture Part 1
Now comes time to unroll the wall. Before doing so, be sure to identify the connector you will want to use as the area where you will bolt the wall together. Your skimmer and return will end up near that area (usually at the end of the roll).
Get some friends for this to help. Many of them. You will need to unroll the wall from the inside without damaging the base.
Pro Tip: We have a steel rod that we place next to the starting point of the wall and we tie the wall to that rod so that it stays in place. We also have a buggy with a smooth surface under it that rotates. It makes the process so much better.
Slowly move the wall and unroll as you walk around the pool. Once person will need to lay it firmly inside the groove. Once you have completed the circle around the pool, you will be able to bolt the wall together. You should now start to see how your pool so going to look like in your backyard!
Once the wall is secured, you can start installing the posts on top of all the connectors. Don't forget to remove the pins you set earlier. If you have a beaded liner, you will also be able to install the bead track. Adding this track will create much more stability to your wall. Make sure that those tracks are installed firmly and there is no gap between each you lay down. Note that very often, you will need to cut the final piece to make it fit. Make sure you measure twice, cut once.
Step 6: Complete the Base
Remember we told you to add extra sand and to keep the compactor inside? Now it's time to setup the base of the pool. You can start by pushing the sand against the wall so that it covers all the stone dust. Add extra sand here to create a transition between the vertical wall and the ground (see picture below). Level all the sand and make sure there is plenty everywhere. Some people like to do a spooning of the pool, making the center deeper then the sides. Note that this can be done, but you need to ensure that you don't over do it. Your liner can only strech so much. Don't go over 4 inches of spooning.
Onces you have done a good job at raking the surface inside into a smooth shape, you can use that compactor to firm up the surface.
Note: Make sure that you did a great job raking the surface. Once that sand is compacted, that will be the base of your pool. You will feel irregularities.
Start from the wall with the compactor and make cicles all the way inside. Then make more circles all the way back to the wall. You will need your friends again here to lift the compactor over the wall.
At this point, you will need to smooth out the surface inside using a cement trowel. Take off your shoes to prevent damaging your surface. Your surface should look perfect by the time you are done.
Step 7: Roll out and Install Liner
Time to unroll the liner inside the pool. The trick here is to lay it at the center of the pool and unroll from there.
Pro Tip: If it's a sunny hot day, which is the best day to install, open the liner box and open it slightly so that your liner gets hot. This will make it stretchy and it will be easier to install.
This is best done with 2 people inside the pool. Bring it over to the walls and clip it inside the bead track. Your friends outside should help with clipping it all around.
Onces it's clipped everywhere, using your feet, try to spread the bottom to flatten and get closer to the wall.
You should start bringing in water now. Pour in about 2 feet of water and stretch the liner to remove any creases as it is filling. If you don't remove it now, it will stay forever.
Pro Tip: Get a water truck delivery. The Garden hose will take lots of time to get to that first 2 feet, which is essential to completing the installation.
Step 8: Install Strucuture Part 2
It's now time to finish the structure. Start by leveling all the posts that you installed earlier. The pieces of the top cap and posts are different for every pool, so make sure to consult with the "instructions" provided in the box.
Yours posts should somehow be lightly secured to the wall. It's now time to install the top rails. One you have installed at least 3 top rails, your friends inside the pool should be able to jump out from that area, assisted by the friends outside.
Finish installing all the top rails and add the top caps as well. Your pool should be looking really nice at this point. You are done with the major structure now.
Step 9: Install Plumbing Equipement
At the area you specifed at the start for your equipement, remove the sod and add the excess stone dust. Level it. We use patio stones, two of them, side by side, to install the equipment. Level the patio stones.
We won't go into details on the plumning since all equipement is different. What is important here is the skimmer and the return.
For the return, take the piece that goes inside and align it to go inside the Return hole. Looking from the inside, you should be able to press the piece through, giving your a clear area you can make a X cut through the liner. Install the return firmly.
For the skimmer, bring the inside faceplate to align with the holes from the wall. Using the screws, start piercing through to attach to the body of the skimmer. Once all screws are secured, you can cut the inside of the skimmer liner and open it.
Warning: Do not drop any screws. Ever. This will pierce your brand new liner. And if you are using a drill, make sure you don't slip and "poke" the liner. For obvious reasons.
The rest is attaching the pipes to the equiment. If you are not sure about the order of equiment, simply call any of our stores, we will help you.
Step 10: Fill with Water and Find your Bravest Friend
You cannow go ahead and fill the pool. You will need to give it a chlorine shock as it most likely be very green. Make sure the pump is running so that it circulates the water.
But first, you need to find your bravest friend. That could be you or even maybe your kids. But that person can claim the title of being the bravest by jumping into the pool as the first ever! If you took your water from a quarry, that water will be freezing cold. So claim that title and let that be the first of many swims.
Note: Don't worry, you will see the temperature climb fast in the summer. You can always add a heater.
And that's how to install an above ground pool yourself
Congratulation! You have completed your swimming pool installation. This is no easy task, but we give you our respect for doing so. If you did use our tips to install your own pool, we would like to know! send us a email with pictures at email@example.com . Maybe we will even have work for you ;) .
If you are still looking to buy a pool to install yourself, do get a quote from us. You just need to add in the notes that you want a to install yourself. You can request a quote by clicking below.
We hope this post has helped you. If you need clarifications or help during your install, you can always call our stores for advice.
We would like to recognise Pierre Menard for providing the pictures in this post. Him and his crew have been installing pools with Campbell Pools for over 20 years. I have learned everything from him as my mentor to write this post.