Even biblical parables from 2,000 years ago warned us about building a house on an uneven foundation: the result is a great fall. Well, replace “house” with “pool” and the wisdom of that passage remains true. Yet even to this day, many pool owners make this very mistake.
If you have an unlevel pool in your backyard, the problem is likely due to installing it on soft ground that shifts or settles. Dirt is notoriously unreliable as a foundation; when it gets wet, it turns into loose mud and will not be able to support even your body weight without shifting, let alone an entire pool.
When your pool does not have a sturdy foundation of paver blocks or other such stable material to hold it up, then it will sink into the ground at an angle, causing the water to shift to one side of the pool, stressing the pool frame and walls of that side. This will cause it to get worn down much earlier than expected.
Most fixes recommend you drain your pool completely so that you can disassemble the pool, temporarily relocate it, and level the ground. The issue is that draining the pool can take a long time and wastes a lot of water, since you will also need to refill it. So is there any way to fix the terrain without draining the pool?
In this article, I want to talk about how to fix an unlevel pool without draining the pool. If you have a lifting jack, you can potentially lift the sunken down area without draining the pool at all. Otherwise, you may have to partially drain the pool as a safety precaution as you work to level off the uneven ground below.
Why do pools become unlevel?
The vast majority of the time, pools become unlevel because of a weak foundation. You may need to prepare the ground before installing the pool.
For example, some people place a layer of sand on top of their grass. The problem with sand is that it shifts over time. Dirt has the same problem – when wet, it turns into mud and slides around.
You need to place your pool on top of paver blocks. The paver blocks can be placed on top of the dirt, providing a much sturdier surface for the pool to stand on. If your pool isn’t installed on paver blocks, then your pool is susceptible to becoming unlevel if it isn’t already.
Why don’t people want to drain their pools to re-level?
Most guides tell you to drain your pool, and most people begrudgingly listen to those guides. But what if there was another way, as there are some downsides to draining your pool.
First, it’s time-consuming. It takes a long time to drain the pool. It takes a long time to fill the pool back up again once you’re done re-leveling.
Second, it feels like such a waste. You are literally wasting thousands of gallons of water. Depending on where you live, there may be a drought going on, so it just feels like such a wasteful thing to do. Also water costs money, so you’re wasting a lot of money.
Third, the pool walls may get damaged without water. It’s actually not good to leave a pool empty for too long. The walls can dry out and become brittle and susceptible to UV damage. It may even collapse after a while if it becomes too brittle.
That said, depending on how much terrain you need to re-level, you may need to at least partially drain the water from your pool, if not the whole thing if you need to completely re-level your backyard.
How to level the pool without draining it
It is possible, but difficult to level the pool without first draining it. Thus, consider draining at least half of your pool before you try to re-level it. The steps below will cover how to level your pool without draining the water all the way.
Before we begin, make sure you have the following tools:
- Garden hose
- Line level
- Optional: Lifting jack
First use the garden hose to pump out half of the pool water. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but it makes the subsequent steps much easier.
Next, use the shovel/lifting jack to pry the walls on the uneven side so that you can remove the leveling blocks. Use the hammer to knock out old ones and replace them with new blocks until the pool is level.
Check out the video below to get an idea of how to lift your pool up.
After the pool has been leveled, fill your wheelbarrow with soil for easier transportation, and shovel soil around the pool’s foundation. Fill in any empty spaces around the blocks and pack the soil down to keep the blocks in place so it is less likely to shift around.
Now fill the pool back up with the garden hose to replace the water that you drained, and you’re good to go. This process still requires you to drain half your pool, but that’s still a substantial savings.
If you are unsure about how to level your pool, then consider saving yourself the time and just hire a professional to take care of this for you. You may end up causing more damage and making the situation worse, so this may actually be the more cost-efficient option.
Why partially drain the pool?
Again, you don’t have to drain your pool at all, but there are risks to not draining your pool at least halfway as you try to re-level it.
For example, partially draining the pool makes it easier to reposition the leveling blocks, and this will ultimately protect your pool from wall and water level problems. It also makes it easier for you to pry the walls up.
However, if you already have issues with your liner, then you should consider draining the entire pool and replacing the liner. Pool liners that have divots or wrinkles in them may already be on borrowed time. It is just a matter of time until they rip or tear.
You can try to fix wrinkles by using a clean plunger to plunge either side until the wrinkle disappears. Most of the time, you need to drain all the water so that you can pull the liner tight to either side of the pool. If there are rocks underneath, or severe divots in the liner, you may need to disassemble your entire pool so that you can level the ground beneath before installing it again.