TAP Article: DIY Above Ground Pool

Pools are expensive. All that digging and cement pouring and construction in your backyard…It seems a bit much. Above ground pool kits and installation seem just as steep. But technology and know-how has changed over the years. More and more, people are wanting to know how they can build quality items with their own tools and power, saving themselves money and still coming out ahead with whatever they make.

A DIY above ground pool, done right, can last for years, making the effort well worth it in the end as well as saving you the steep costs of digging and more. Not only that, above ground pools are the perfect solution for a home or area where digging is not permitted.

Here’s how you can add your own cooling above ground pool!

Step 1: Plan
The first thing you want to do is to figure out what size, what shape you want. The next important questions to cover are:

  • Budget.
  • Where will it be located?
  • What shape?
  • What will it be made from?
There are a few programs and pool design software that will help you plan and begin the design for your above ground pool if you don’t want to pencil sketch it out. There’s software on the market you can purchase and use to see different designs, aspects, and get an idea of where to start.

What materials will you consider for your pool? Wooden frame and liner? Of course, you could do any of these, but did you know you could install and create a completely transparent pool? Or even install a beautiful, clear panel that allows you to enjoy the beauty of the water and a view of your backyard.

[[image1,left/right]]For some examples of how amazing a clear DIY Above ground pool can be, check out what Michael Ripley, from Ripley Creations, made with TAP 1-inch thick 4x8 acrylic

While you may not want to build the same size or shape, just one-inch thickness of acrylic can hold 957 gallons of water. A smaller pool using custom-sized or cut acrylic or polycarbonate UV2 would last a very, very long time and be a unique addition to any yard. Not to mention how visible the water would be!

You can add a beautiful modern touch mixing wooden paneling and a single side of thick, durable Polycarbonate window for an infinity pool look, or simply a modern touch on the usual above ground pool style.

When you have the plan down, dimensions ready, materials chosen—it’s time for the second most important part.

Step 2: Spotting.
Picking the proper spot for an above ground pool is very important. Consider these important factors:
  • Sunlight. Pick a place that gets or is open to the sun during the day, well away from trees if possible. Not only does the sun warm up water, it’ll reduce the amount of leaves in your pool.
  • Wind. Building a pool in a too windy area will make the water evaporate faster. You’ll have to add more pool water to maintain a proper level. Strong winds also can make you feel uncomfortably cold.
  • Avoid low lying areas. Low lying areas could result in your pool being flooded with rainwater, mud and debris during periods of heavy rain. Also, if you know of any areas of your yard that tends to flood or having rising ground water—this could flood your pool, too.
  • Avoid electrical, telephone and cable wires or lines both above the pool and below. Don’t build over buried sewer lines, septic systems or electrical cables.
  • If possible, choose a spot where your above ground pool is easily watchable so that you can keep an eye on it and swimmers even while indoors.
Step 3: Choose your filtration if you will have any.
A pool’s filtration is one of the most essential items to maintain the cleanliness and safe, clean water for swimming in. Above ground pools need as good of a system as below ground, as you’ll want your water crystal clear and safe for you and anyone who swims in it.

There are three main types of filtration, or pump systems for pools: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth. All three filters work fine if they are installed correctly and well maintained. Consider your budget and how much effort you can dedicate to maintain a pool filtration system.
  1. Sand filtration are the oldest and most common. Using a special filtering sand to trap dirt and debris. The sand particles as they filter begin to load up, or become clogged, as they trap smaller and smaller particles of dirt until they are not as efficient. When that happens, you must backwash a sand filter, which involves reversing the water flow through the filter and flushing dirty water into a waste line.
  2. Cartridge filters have been around for several years as well and are a popular choice. Large or medium sized cylindrical cartridges are used to screen out dirt. Unlike sand filters, cartridges require no backwashing. Most of the time when a filter is no longer being useful, it is to be thrown away. Disposable filters aren’t exactly the best for the environment, but they are convenient. Consider finding a re-usable, cleanable cartridge filter for a more environmentally friendly and fast option.
  3. Diatomaceous earth is a porous powder that has microscopic openings like tiny sponges. Particles are trapped as water passed through. These filters can strain out dirt, dust, algae and even some forms of bacteria. DE filters are also cleaned by backwashing; however, they use much less water than sand filters. Fresh DE is added after the older DE has been cleaned.
If you choose to forego purchasing a filtration system entirely, you will probably want to build your DIY pool with these things in mind:
  • Where and how to drain the water when it needs to be changed. Very small pools aren’t as much as a waste of water to drain and refill when dirty. But where to drain the water should be considered.
  • Purchase or DIY a pool cover. Pool covers keep leaves, wind blown dirt and insects out of the pool keeping it cleaner.
  • Contemplate purchasing some sort of portable, small pool vacuum. There are a few batteries powered models out there that can be used for kiddie pools and upward. If you are building a very small pool, a pool vacuum helps remove any dirt or debris from the bottom that may cause bacteria or algae blooms.
  • Purchase accessories that absorb oil. Our skin has oil and we can’t really stop that. Eventually a small, to smaller sized pool without a filtration system may begin to get an oily film on the top. A couple of felt tennis balls can help collect this, or a specially designed sponge that absorbs sunscreen and skin oils. The great thing about most of these sponges is that they can be cleaned and re-used, are very cheap, and prevent scum or even a line of it showing up in your pool.
  • Chemicals formulated specifically for small pools. Sometimes chemicals are the best defense against algae, slime, scum and bacteria. Very small pools, especially those that see a lot of use, are very susceptible to this. Chlorine, while not the first choice for some, is often far better than some of the frightening things that can lurk in untreated water. Chlorine, algaecide, actual 6% active (but diluted) bleach and a water testing kit to ensure your chemicals are at the right level should be used together.
Step 4: Gallons and Water.
You’ve decided on a filtration system—or not to use a filtration system--that fits your taste and budget. If you are going to buy a filtration system, now you need to figure out how that system gets power. If you aren’t going to use a filtration system, you’ll need to know how to keep it clean depending on how many gallons of water it is holding. There are a great selection of charts and calculation forms that will help you determine how much bleach, chlorine, or algaecide you will need to use to keep your DIY above ground pool clean as well as keeping chemicals in a non-harmful level.

Step 5: Where do the wires go?
Two things to consider before this if you will be using a filter and pump:
  • Will this be a pool that can be stored?
  • Will this be a permanent above ground pool?
  • Will you build a deck around it now or eventually or not?
The electrical requirements for storable and permanent above ground are different. Your pool pump and filtration system will require electricity. The best way to do this is to observe and follow the electrical requirements for above ground residential pools. If you are not comfortable handling the idea of wiring, especially if this DIY above ground is going to permanent and/or have a deck, you may want to forgo this part of the DIY and leave it to a licensed and experienced electrician.

Step 6: Level it.
Now that you’ve got a plan, you’ve chosen to filter or not to filter, whether you need electricity or not, and found the perfect spot to place the pool it’s time to take care of the ground. Placing an above ground pool need to be placed on even, level ground. Pools built on uneven ground become unstable which could lead to the risk of injuries to swimmers and bystanders alike. Double check any building codes to make sure you are complying with local ordinances. There’s nothing more disheartening in spending all that time planning and building only to find out you must take it down. Also, some municipalities require pools have to be a certain distance from property lines and existing buildings, including your home.
  1. Hammer a stake where you want the center of your pool to be.
  2. With the radius of your DIY pool in mind, tie a string around the stake the radius of your pool plus 6 inches longer. Mark, or spray on the ground as you pull the string taught to outline the perimeter of the area you want to work with.
  3. Remove all grass, sod, vegetation with shovels, picks or powered sod cutter. Use a wheelbarrow to remove debris from the workspace.
  4. Lay or use a wood plank that stretches from the middle stake to the outer perimeter.
  5. Choose the lowest point to level all ground with and begin there.
  6. Affix a six-foot carpenter’s level to the top of the plank and begin to move it, slowly and diligently, throughout the are to test the levelness of the ground. Like a clock going from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock.
  7. Mark high places or handle any place too high by digging and constantly checking if the area is now level. Remove debris.
  8. Always dig away the highest parts, never fill low. The weight of the pool could compress spots you’ve added dirt too and cause problems in the future.
  9. Don’t rush and be patient. This is a crucial step and you deserve to have your best DIY above ground pool, done right. Double check that all your areas are now even and level.
  10. If the entire perimeter is even, rake the area to remove any remaining rocks, branches or other debris. Especially important for vinyl lined pools as any sharp object can puncture it.
  11. Tamp your soil. Now the soil needs to be firm and compacted. You can do this by either running a hose or sprinkle an hour before rolling or tamping down or rent a lawn roller from a local hardware store. These lawn rollers can often be filled up to control the weight. Roll it to compact the dirt.
  12. Spread layer of sand over the entire area and tamp it down again.
  13. Treat the area with fungicide and herbicide. Since the area around your pool will constantly be getting wet, applying a fungicide before building the pool along with a herbicide ensures no plants grow that may damage a pool liner.
If you aren’t building a patio, then you can skip placing patio supports. If building a deck, you will need to install the proper base and supports at this step.

Now you are ready to build your own pool! The design possibilities are endless and using acrylic and polycarbonate U2 are nearly endless with your creativity. Use it with wood, paint it, have it custom cut and shaped with us, and literally cool off in your own backyard pool you made by hand! Enjoy the summer sun without all the sweating and create memories, and a pool, to last a lifetime.