Digging out for an above-ground pool

marklevinson1April 30, 2007

Hi folks,

We were recently offered a 21 ft. round above-ground pool. We have finally decided on the best location for pool in our yard. It will be located in front of the shed in the picture. Unfortunately it does have a slope so we will have to dig into the hilly part about 1.5 feet deep to level out the ground. As you can see there are a couple of spots that have no grass that I thought it would be a good idea to transplant some of the grass I am removing to those spots. Well after spending some time turning over all the soil in the round area and then starting to dig up a small amount of sod I realized just how daunting this task is.

Now I am wondering whether I want to preserve all this sod. Maybe it is too much work. Maybe I should just do grass seed in those areas and just dig everything up with a rented Bobcat or something.

Anyone with any ideas on the best way to do this? Anyone used a sod cutter? Even though I don't have a lot to spend on rental equipment the thought of doing all this by hand makes me shudder. Also, what do folks do with all the leftover earth if they have no room for it on their property? Thanks for your advice.


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I would get the bobcat. I used to do above ground pools and homeowners would say, oh our yard is flat. and it would be off 2 ft lol. I can see by your building how far out of level you are.
Two things very important in AG pool construction. Round and level. Think of a glass of water, if you tilt it, what happens? Eventually it spills.
Over dig your high side 6 to 12 inches for working room, you will refill this area later with mulch or gravel, but not until the pool is full! You might knock the wall out of the track. I wouldn't put dirt back in there for two reasons, around here we have nut grass, it will grow right through your liner. Even on the other side of the pool I would leave a foot or so of grass free area. Decorate with some gravel or build a deck on that side. Apply a good nutgrass killer before construction and occationally around the pool after it's up, if you don't have nut grass in your area, disregard...lol Oh and reason no. 2 the track and wall were not ment to be burried. They may rust away after a while.
Some other tips, we used a trasit and sight stick not a level. You can rent one. Measure the height of each upright with the transit. There is a base plate under each upright, some people use patio stones under them. This works fine but we mixed some sackrete and made our own. While you are leveling your uprights, you can lift the base and upright and add a little crete. If your too high you can tamp the upright down, gently, until it's at the correct height. The transit also helps during excavation. Matter of fact, if your dig is good, you won't be having to ajust height by much, 1/4 in or so.
Well this is getting long, so last tip is, when your putting the wall in the track, bring everyone you can find. Many hands make light work. As well as keep the wall from falling down, and wrinkling, and messing up the uprights you just leveled....lol
When I get back from work, I can add some liner hanging tips, if your not already done with the pool.....lol
You can do it, we can help.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 8:07AM
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No additional post you must be finished!
Just in case your not, the liner tips I promised. Someone else may be putting up an AG pool and use them.
First you will need a NEW liner. I have seen ppl move pools and try and use the old one. It didn't work. They get brittle in no time, and lining up the skimmer and return holes would be really hard.
If you can afford to get some S-clip and hang a beaded liner. They are much easier and changing them later on is easier too.
Put the liner in the pool, don't drag it accross the wall. At this point your wall is in and bolted up, and your uprights are secured to the bottom plates only. A small piece of duct tape can be used to hold them to the wall, so they don't flop around. They shouldn't but if it's windy or you have to stop for the night it's a good idea.
Ok, unfold the liner and start pulling it over the wall. About two feet at first, this part you kinda have to eyeball. This where a beaded liner is nice, you just start putting the liner in the bead. Back to overlap liner. Again as many family friends and neighbors is good here. You will hold the part of the liner drapped over the wall, with coping strips. They are about 2 ft long and available at your local AG pool dealer. Get new ones, the old ones are prob cracked a brittle.
Once the liner is over the wall all the way around, try and get it as even as possible. If you chose a liner with a print bottom, the print should be at the base of the pool wall.
A note here about the bottom. It has been a while since I installed a AG. Order brick sand, or mortar sand from a local dealer. If they can get it inside the pool area that is GREAT! If not, it has to be hand moved via wheel barrow, unless you still have that bobcat around. Bottom should be about 2" deep,and we always built up a cove around the bottom track. Cove is sand at a 45 deg angle. Damp sand with garden hose, it trowels easier.
If you have a shop vac, you can put a hose through the skimmer, where the lid goes, behind the liner. Duct tape around the hose to seal it off and turn on the shop vac. This pulls air from behind the liner. It takes a while, but if you get good suction you can get your wrinkles out of the liner before you start water.
Once you start water you must stay with the pool until water is about 4" up the wall. Let slack out by pulling up on the coping strip where the stress is. The liner will slip down until the stress is relieved, put the coping strip back on. Go around the pool relieving stress on each coping strip untill the liner stays in place and no longer pulls on the wall. The water will be up on the wall by now.
If there are any wrinkles you can work them out with a mop or broom. If you have to get inside the pool, make sure your barefoot.
You can start topping off the pool when the water is up the wall. Don't cut in your skimmer and return until water is halfway up or better. Some people don't cut them in until water is up to the skimmer. We had other pools to get to so we did. You may wish to wait.
Hope this helps, I have read the instructions that come with these pools and had a good laugh. If you can get past the broken english, many are made overseas, they give the impression one man, can put these up in one day, by himself. I'd like to see that.
There are probably web pages now that show pictures, that would help. But I had fun writing this and seeing how much I remembered.
Good luck again, and post some pics when your done.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 7:54AM
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Hey Colt,

Wow! Great tips. Thanks. I decided to bite the bullet and have rented a B100 Bobcat for this Saturday. I am just not sure what to do with all the leftover sod/topsoil. I don't really have anyplace on my property to dump it. I was going to dump it on my driveway and hope someone might be interested in it and take it.....I hope....;>)

Anyway, so you say a beaded liner is a lot easier to deal with than an overlapped one? Would there be an issues with the height of the sand and the beaded liner?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 11:53AM
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Any neighbors need the dirt? Line em up before saturday and you can skip having the dirt on your driveway.
Depending on wall height, most pools are 48" or 52" walls, a 2" bottom is recommended. The actual liner is 46" or 50" to allow for the bottom.
I'm sure I have skipped something, but I tried to hit the major issues. The ones alot of people don't think of. Several of the pools I have done, were the result of someone starting the project, and realizing there is a reason installs start at about 700.00.
Once you have a trained four man crew, and everyone knows exactly what their supposed to do and when, you can put up two rounds in one day. I expect this project to take a couple of days.
Oh yea, hardware! Last pool I put up was a rebuild for a girl I knew who's dad had taken down a pool and put in the garage. She rented the house from him and wanted the pool back up, for the kids. Most of the parts were there, but alot of the hardware was missing. Fortunatly a friend I built pools with had bucket full of every screw nut and bolt you could think of. We had to sort through them, but got enough to put the pool up. If your there for the takedown you can bag the screws in order. If not and they know the pool mfg, I would call or contact them via the internet, and request a bill of materials for that pool. Then go buy the hardware locally.
A dishonest person might even call them and tell them the hardware pack was missing. They probably would send it to them no charge....lol

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 6:48AM
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Hey I'm back!

What a fiasco this has been. And I'm still in the digging phase! I did rent the backhoe for the day and figured the next day I would only have to dig an inch or so by hand to get it to level. I was sadly mistaken. Had to eventually hire a fellow with a backhoe to finish the job and grade the high side of the property. He did a great job as you can see in the pic below. Thing is (*sigh*) there is still a difference of 2-3 inches on the left side of the excavation. I had read many times that you should always install on undisturbed soil but I have dirt on my property that packs very well. Would I be asking for trouble if I built up the low side by 2-3 inches and hand tamped really well?

Also, being that the soil packs so well it also doesn't drain well. I was thinking about digging a trench (after the pool is installed) about a foot deep by a foot wide about a foot away from the pool wall and filling with coarse rock to help keep water away from the pool wall. What do you think?



    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 5:22PM
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bumping myself back up thanks.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 11:00AM
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Thats a great idea anything that will keep water from getting under the pool is a good thing. Don't forget to get that sand dropped in the middle or you will be sorry later. I like 1" capblock under my uprights and make sure the seam of the wall ends up in the center of the upright. I also like to add Fire ant killer to my sand to prevent them fro putting holes in my liner.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 6:28PM
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Thanks muddy water.

Any thoughts on building up the low side 3 inches vs. digging down?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 12:27PM
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