If you notice when you are inside your pool that the water level is uneven, chances are your pool has settled. This can also be caused by heavy rains, shifting ground or simply, that one of the support posts have slipped off its footing. Over time this can cause your pool to continue leaning and in certain cases — when there is approximately more than a 1-inch water level difference — total pool collapse. But never fear! This can be fixed. Although this is not an easy task, with a little planning and help, you can level an above-ground pool with water inside.
Before You Begin
Before starting work, it is important to understand why this happened, how your pool was constructed, and what the best method would be to lift the pool without causing damage. This is where you become a pool detective and have to hunt around a little to understand why the ground shifted/settled and the best way to lift the settled area back up.
Start by observing the ground around the pool, specifically at the nearest support posts where the pool seems to be low. You can determine this by looking at the water level in the pool and comparing the height difference from the top rail to the water level. Where the water level seems lower than the rest of the pool, that is the post that dropped. Now observe how your pool is constructed. This is important because when you start lifting the pool up, you must lift everything at once; otherwise you risk ripping the frame apart.
Generally, if you have a steel pool it will have a bottom track that the steel or aluminum body goes into. The liner of this type of above-ground pool connects to the top of the body. This means that when raising the pool (which is in effect raising the liner) you must raise all pieces evenly. Failure to do this will result in the pool coming out of the top and bottom track and straining the liner. You want to lift at the bottom of the post and support the bottom track at the same time to lift in sync. If you have an Intex type pool where the liner is integrated into the top rail, it is a matter of lifting where the support post meets the top rail and the liner should follow. Again, the goal of this operation is to lift the liner up using the sunken posts to the correct level.
Make a Plan for Lifting the Support Post
Lifting the support post requires multiple people. You should make your plan with these people in advance of beginning the process. An easy way to lift the sunken post is to get a flat or spade shovel and dig under the post and surrounding bottom track to a point where you can get the shovel under and pry the pool up. Make sure to have either a piece of wood or stone to slip under to use as a cantilever. When choosing a piece of wood to use under your shovel or tool of choice make sure that it will be big enough to give you the proper angle you need to sufficiently lift the post to the desired height. If you have a pipe that can slip over the shovel handle (such as a conduit pipe) that will help as well to gain more leverage. Lastly, make sure that the material selected for under the support post, whether it is blocks, stones, pavers, etc. is close to the post and that someone has been designated to put the block under the lifted post once it is raised high enough. Be sure that everyone is comfortable with whatever method is chosen and everyone understands their role. Once the process is started, there is usually no turning back.
This is one of the more high risk maneuvers to attempt with a pool. Before considering trying to lift any pool it is important to be aware of your surroundings and the existing condition of the pool in case of a catastrophic failure. Some pools are more complicated than others and every situation is different. This procedure will put stress on your liner and pool structure so it is also important to be aware of what it is doing at all times and its condition. If the pool has corrosion, that will add to the risk. Proceed at your own risk. It is strongly recommended to have at least one or two other people with you to help with the lift and as extra eyes and ears to be attentive to any issues that might require quick adjustment.
Equipment / Tools
- Flat shovel
- Spade shovel
- Pipe (to go around shovel handles for leverage)
- Various pieces of wood for support and cantilevers
- Blocks, stones, or pavers
- Backfill material
Put Supplies at Arm's Length
First you want to have all your materials at an arm’s length in case you need to act quickly once the pool is raised. Arrange all your tools and materials close to the post you will lift and have your helper standby keeping a close eye on the pool.
Drain the Pool to Below the Skimmer Mouth
Draining the pool to below the skimmer mouth is not a necessary step but it will increase your chances of success and lessen risk. Less water means that it will be that much easier to lift the pool back into place and create less stress on the liner and pool structure. Under no circumstances should you drain more than 25% of the pool because then you run the risk of collapse.
Dig Under the Post
This is where your post-lifting plan comes into play — all involved parties should be ready to play their part. Start digging under the post and the surrounding bottom track. You will want to start digging under the surrounding bottom track if your pool has one, being careful not to dig too far into the pool where the liner rests; there is a risk of puncturing the liner and this must be done carefully, like an archeologist uncovering an artifact. Next, start digging under the post being careful to not dig the entire way through. This is to avoid the post dropping more. Have a piece of wood near you in case the post starts to drop so you or a helper can quickly slip the shovel under the post and put the wood under the shovel to act as a cantilever. Once you have dug under all spots make sure to have your shovels and/or pry bars in position for the lift. Specifically give your shovel a good push under the post to get it as completely under the post as possible.
Lift the Pool and Insert the Paver
Double check that the material you have chosen to rest the post on is nearby. Once everyone is in position and the material is at hand, you will slowly add weight to the shovels, paying close attention to the structure of the pool. If the pool does not lift up, the shovel handle should be extended with a pipe — leverage is key in this scenario. When all parts are in the air, have the person designated to put the block or paver under the post put it in and start backfilling under the bottom track, making sure to pack the material down as much as possible. Then, gently lower all parts of the pool evenly until it is resting back on the ground.
Backfill the Hole
Now that the pool is level again, you may have some of the hole you dug under the post or under the bottom track left. Take your backfill material and put it under the post and bottom track and pack it down to support the pool structure.
When to Call a Professional
This is one of the more high risk procedures that can be done with an above-ground pool. If you notice excessive corrosion of the pool structure it is best to call a professional to assess what the best option to level your pool is. Also, if you are attempting to level the pool and you notice that it is not moving or behaving the way you anticipated it is best to call a professional before it gets worse. There is a serious risk of pool collapse and every precaution must be taken when trying to level a pool.