Arguably the most common problem that most above-ground pools have is that they are often installed off-level. It doesn’t seem like an issue at fiirst, and in fact, it may even be hard to detect the problem.
However, for a pool with a vinyl liner such as some Intex pools, an off-level pool will need to be re-leveled or else it will eventually collapse. For a metal-walled pool, this is not an issue and you don’t really have to correct anything.
To briefly sum up the problem, an unlevel above-ground pool puts undue pressure on some of the pool legs and may cause them to bend or even break, or for the walls to collapse. When a leg is damaged, the pool is at risk of collapsing. Replacing the leg would not solve the problem long-term as the pool is still not level.
In this article, I will discuss why it is so important to properly level your above-ground pool, how to tell if your pool is not level, and how to fix it if it’s not level.
Why above-ground pools need to be level
Most things in the yard can be off-level with no problems. If your shed, dog house, fence, or statues are slightly off-level, it only matters aesthetically but structurally these objects are still sound. You don’t have to worry about them collapsing any time soon.
A swimming pool, on the other hand, works a bit differently. Swimming pools hold water, and water is continuously being pulled downwards by gravity. Thus, if your above-ground pool is not level, even a tiny bit of a slope will cause water to be pulled down to the lower section of the pool.
With slightly more water on one side, the legs under that area will have to hold up more weight as well as the walls of that section. If you haven’t placed the legs on solid paver blocks, then the extra weight can cause the leg to sink deeper into the dirt and cause the pool to be even more off-level.
And even if the legs are on paver blocks, just the fact they are holding up extra weight can potentially cause them to bend or even snap. The walls or liners themselves may not be able to withstand the extra pressure. The point is, whichever side the water is concentrated on is likely to collapse due to the wall breaking or the uprights breaking well before its natural lifespan.
How much leeway can you have for an off-level pool?
Not everyone is a landscaping pro, and it can be hard to get your pool to be perfectly level. Thankfully, you don’t have to be literally perfect.
Most above-ground pools can be off by one inch and still be okay. In fact, the instruction manual on your Intex pool would probably say as much.
Any more off-level than that, and it will start to be noticeable to the eye. If a pool is two inches off-level, then that is where you might have some concerns. At this point, it will be clear to all that your pool is off-level, but structurally it might still be okay.
Three inches off-level is bad, no two ways about it. At this point, it is painfully obvious that the pool is off-level and its walls will probably collapse at some point.
Why off-level metal walled pools are not as big an issue
Regarding the potential problem of the pool walls and pool legs collapsing, this issue mostly affects soft sided above-ground pools such as those sold by Intex.
Pools with much more rigid frames, such as metal walled pools are not as much at risk because they are much more durable. They could withstand the extra pressure of having more water on one side for years and you would not notice any issues.
With that said, it’s still not a good look nor is it recommended for your pool to be three or more inches off-level, even if you have a metal pool. There is still a risk of the walls or legs coming down due to the pressure imbalance. At the very least, you are decreasing the longevity of your metal pool by wearing down the materials due to your improper setup.
How to determine if your above-ground pool is on unlevel terrain
Line up the top rails with your eye
This is a quick and dirty way to tell if your pool is off-level. It’s not the most accurate method, but it requires no tools.
First, stand a fair distance away from your pool. Next, bend down until your eyes line up with the top rails of the pool. Check to see if the top rails closest to you line up with the top rails further from you at the back of the pool.
If your pool is level, then the rails closest to you should be perfectly aligned with the rails further from you. Otherwise, one side is higher or lower than the other, and your pool is uneven.
Compare the waterline to the liner pattern
Another tool-free method to determine unevenness is to look at where the waterline is relative to the liner pattern.
For instance, if your liner has a square pattern, and you notice that the waterline on one side reaches a certain row of squares, then if you were to follow that row of squares all around the pool you should expect the waterline to be touching each square of that row.
If you notice that the waterline goes up or down from the original row of squares, then you know that that is only possible if your pool is sloped (since the waterline is always level), therefore your pool is uneven.
Use a line level
- 3-Inch Length
- High-Impact ABS Construction
- Durable open hooks to slid on the line
Now we are going to use some tools to help us get a more accurate assessment. A line level is probably the cheapest tool you can buy to do this, so if you don’t already own one, it’s not going to break the bank.
All you need to do is place the line level on your pool rail and see if the bubble is centered within the lines. If it isn’t, then you know that your pool is uneven.
Measure from the top rails to the waterline
For this method, we need a measuring tape. Simply measure the distance from the top rails down to the surface of the waterline.
If the distance is uniform all the way around your pool, then it is level. If you notice that one side is much longer than the other, then your pool is not level.
Specifically, the side that has a greater distance is the higher side, and the side with the shorter distance is the side that the pool is sloped towards. This should give you an idea of how your yard is sloped so you can go about fixing it.
How to fix an unlevel above-ground pool
If it is off-level by less than two inches, you may not need to fix it. I have seen slightly off-level pools stand strong for years with no issues. No need to fix what isn’t broken.
However, if your above-ground pool is not installed on paver blocks, then you had better do so otherwise your pool will go further off-level as the legs sink into the dirt.
However if your above-ground pool is two or more inches off-level, then you cannot ignore it. For this, you should do the following.
- Drain the pool. You may not need to fully drain the pool if the fix is minor (e.g. adding paver blocks to each pool leg). However, if you need to re-level the entire site, then you need to drain the pool so that you can do the next step.
- Disassemble the frame. For significantly uneven pools where major work needs to be done, you can’t do it with the frame still in place.
- Re-level the entire site. Either hire professionals to help you level the terrain, or rent a Bobcat-type machine and do it yourself. You also need a laser level to help you find all the high and low spots.
- Re-install the pool. This time, you’re going to be installing it on paver blocks and using a builder’s level to ensure that your pool is level. Don’t fill the pool until you’re sure your pool is level.
If you have an off-level soft sided pool and being less than two inches off is bothering you, but you don’t want to go through the hassle of draining your pool and disassembling, there may be an easier option.
You can jack up the frame of the pool on the low side until your pool is level, then add patio stones to fill the gaps. This way, though you may not have leveled the site, your pool can still end up being level anyways.
Last update on 2023-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API