DIY – Putting Up 16’ Above Ground Pool – Home & Backyard

Ok, so I cannot even express my excitement over this project.

I have wanted a pool my entire adult life – and I’m finally getting it!

We got a FREE pop-up Intex above-ground pool that have the posts and blue lining. It isn’t fancy, but hey, it’s a pool during summer and I’m not going to be choosey!

Worthy of being totally excited for!

Mind you, this is just a temporary pool….as we’ll be doing a permanent pool in the future once we determine the best position in our backyard. The reason for the potential issues is that we have a power line that runs smack dab down the center as well as power lines that go fairly low to the house…. so we’re limited with the position.

The spot we’ve decided on is in the backyard behind a garage that will nicely be sun most of the summer day. We’ve looked up ordinances and found that we need to be 8′ from any standing building on the property. We’ve also had a large hanging branch on the tree removed to limit overhang shadowing as well as the leave debris.

Unfortunately, the spot we chose does have a slope so we will have to dig into the hilly part about 1ft 5 in deep on the west side to level out the ground.

I was wondering if anyone has re-used the dirt they have dug up in this type of situation? Since our backyard is really uneven despite the pictures, we plan on using a lot of the dirt and grass chunks we are digging up to fill those in around the rest of the backyard and hopefully will settle by next year.

What do most people do with the leftover dirt and grass that they dig up?

Our DIY plan for digging the above-ground pool:

  • plan to dig a hole 2′ wider than the pool
  • 10 stakes to determine the circumference and mark center
  • orange string to measure out and mark the diameter
  • bright orange yard marker spray paint around the pool area
  • shovels and hoe to cut into the earth around the circle marker
  • rent Mini Skid Steer from Home Depot to dig out deep earth and help move dirt around
  • 10 bags of playground sand
  • 20 foam exercise mats for ground padding
  • string level
  • 20 pavers to put under all pool posts

Here’s a picture of the pool from last year:

Looks refreshing, doesn’t it!

Ok, so here’s how the project went….

How to put up an above ground pool –

1. Find the spot and mark outline

We chose the spot behind our back garage. We checked our city ordinance and it said that any new structure (like a pool) had to be 6’ from a current standing structure (garage). We also checked the power line issue and it said that a pool must be 10’ away perpendicular to the ground- so straight down from the power lines and 10’ away from that point.

We measured out 6’ from the garage, then 16’ from that point to eye-balled a center point. We added 2 feet to give us a buffer around the pool for the pavers to make 18’.  From there we just walked in a circle measuring out 9’ ft from the center point (which is just the 18’ in half), and marked with orange paint to give a visual of where to start digging.

All good- we were OK to proceed.

2. Start removing the ground to make a level spot

Since our ground in this spot was actually at a slope (hard to tell in pictures), we put a steak on the high and low sides.

We then tied a string to each and used a string level to see how much ground we needed to remove on the high side to make a level area.

Wowsa- it was nearly 12” higher.

Let’s get the shovels and start digging!

To be honest, it was a solid attempt from us to use shovels….


We underestimated how deep the grassroots were and decided to save us time and exhaustion, we rented a mini steer thingy from Home Depot.

My husband really enjoyed it and had lots of fun once he figured out the Star Trek controls.

3.  Leveling the ground

My husband used some scrap wood to create a 9’ makeshift level with an actual level on top.

Isn’t he so smart!? Brilliant that man of mine is.

He was able to get it near-perfectly level.

4. Adding the foam padding

We read online from others who did this and they highly recommended putting either sand or these workout foam pads under the lining for adding padding and softness. The pads were suggested as the easiest and best result as they don’t move around as much as sand or drain away if it has a slow leak or rains leaving dips on the bottom of your pool.

Pretty simple here, but we did end up having to buy some more as we needed more than we had.


5. Put pool structure up

Just to mention here that we actually layed the pool out in another area first and rinsed it off and attempted to clean it a bit.

We also went under it at night with a flashlight to find any holes and rips to patch up.

We found 15!

Yes. 15 holes we need to patch. 😳

So then it was ready to put up. This a really a 3-4 person job, but we did it with just the 2 of us. The reason more people is useful is because once you start laying it out and putting up the sides, you are going to be moving it a bit and need to readjust- and it’s heavy, and hard to just “move”.


6. Straighten, Clean and Fill!

We did one last cleaning on the inside before we started filling using just warm water and soap.

Lesson learned:

Another must is that you need to straighten and flatten out the bottom as much as possible before adding water because while you think the water will even those creases out….. our attempt #1 proves otherwise. We were about 2 feet high and 4 hours in and needed to empty it out, patch some found holes we missed and straighten the bottom better.

Then the most exciting part was when we turned the water on and it started filling up!



My husband did an amazing job with leveling – it was nearly perfectly level. We only could see about a 1-2 inch difference at the most due to the top of the pool liner having little squares that we could see on one side it was just below the 2nd square and on the other side it was below the 3rd. Super close and no one would notice. especially moving around the water while in it.

We loved having a pool for the remainder of the summer!

We did struggle with keeping it clear, which we found out was because we surely didn’t get all the holes and there were ground bacteria getting up into the pool making it green most of the summer.

We didn’t care, we still kept adding in all the pool balancing “stuff” to keep it as clean as possible.

pool dirty to clean before and after

clean above ground pool steps to get clear


Cleaning an Above Ground Pool

We were able to get the pool from a very dirty, cloudy green color to a clear crystal blue color in only 7 days by using these tips and products:

  • use pool water strips to determine levels
  • took sample to local pool store
  • added in 1 gallon chlorine every 2 days (for our size which was a 16 ft pool)
  • sample EVERY DAY
  • add in 2 cups bleach each day
  • add in clear blue on day 4 & 6

You can check out the exact steps on how to get your pool water clear at my other summer post.

pool dirty to clean before and after


You can use these pool strips like the one below to check your levels.



**Update** We have bought a 24′ new pool from this amazing older couple who didn’t use theirs anymore, it was on Facebook marketplace and it was an amazing deal so we snagged it and put it in storage until next Spring.

Can’t wait to share that adventure and give you the new updated look!


~~ And as always friends, take care, be kind to yourself and others, and always keep learning to be better and do better.

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Original Post: August 4th, 2021

Updated: May 2024

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