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Building an in-ground pool can be a rewarding experience, and less daunting than you first imagine.  Swimming pools today are manufactured from a variety of materials, and (some) are engineered to be almost easy to install. We will not cover building a concrete pool because a homeowner generally will not be able to install a concrete pool as it requires knowledge and tools beyond the scope of most homeowners. Our project is a vinyl liner pool with cement bottom and structural

plastic walls. The walls of today's pools are made of various materials that are assembled  like a giant erector set. The pool manufacturers make the sides from aluminum, galvanized steel, plastic, and fiberglass. All of these materials are acceptable.

Step 1:
  Determine the answer to a variety of questions before you start. (Click here for a discussion of these points and others)

  • Pool location.
  • How much fall the land has within the pool area.
  • How deep you want your diving end to be.
  • How high out of the ground the finished pool deck be.
  • Local building code and permit requirements.

Step 2:  Mark off the outline of the pool with stakes and string so that you can do fine tuning of final pool placement. Call for underground utilities to be marked (free service) so that you will not dig or trench through a buried cable or line. Secure your building permit. Determine supplier of pool and purchase pool kit, liner, Portland cement, vermiculite and all necessary supplies such as sliding board, pool vacuum etc. (These will be covered later)

Step 3: On the big day...start digging in the deep end.  The pattern of the dig follows the diagram below. (which is a top, side and end view of the pool) 

Step 4:  The pool kit you purchase will provide the measurements for the final size of the pool bottom and sides.  You will aim to over dig the sides of the pool approximately 24" bigger than your outline marked on the ground when you started. This provides working room for the panels, room for the panel braces shown in the picture to the right, and is where the concrete footer is poured that holds the bottom of the panel and panel braces.  


Note:  Our project in the photographs is a 6' deep Grecian style pool which has clipped corners. This changes the deep end bottom shape from that shown in our rectangular pool drawings above.

You will dig down 42" for the pool walls and shallow end depth. The deep end is further excavated as shown in the picture on left. There is a 2' wide shelf outside the deep end as shown in both the picture and the drawing above it. The pool walls sit on the edge of this shelf and are held in place by 24" rebar stakes driven through the bottom.

After excavation is complete it is time to clean up the rough excavation and start assembling and placing the panels.  Clean up the rough edges and make the 42" shelf and shallow end level and straight using a transit/builders level, and tape measure. Make sure the shelf and shallow end bottom are level and flat, as this is what the panels will sit on. If this shelf and pool bottom are 1" out of level, then your final pool will be 1" out when you are finished. 

Step 5: Install panels.  Use 2' long, 1/2" thick rebar as stakes through bottom of panels into ground to hold panels in place.  Use spikes and string to make outline of pool for guide in assembling panels.

Step9: While preparing the bottom in step 8, also dig out for the bottom drain in the center of the deep end diving well as shown in various pictures. Make the drain box 2" above the excavation level of the soil.

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Step 6: After your satisfied the pool panels are level (you can shim up low spots with pieces of brick or block) then run string along the top of straight runs and adjust wall braces to make the top straight.

Step 7:  Cut and install coping.  This also helps keep long runs of wall straight.  See our advice on coping in our discussion mentioned earlier.

Step 8: Prepare bottom for cement mix.  Run strings along all bottom angle lines in the dirt as shown in photo above. Place the strings on large nails or spikes in the soil, following the final measurements you want your pool bottom to be. (these are the liner measurements provided by the pool kit supplier.)  Now make sure there is 2" space below these strings.  This is for the 2" of cement mixture you will be adding to make the bottom.