Above Ground Pool Installation: Problems and Solutions
Updated: Feb 4
To properly explain the Tundra Loc Above Ground Pool Installation System we need to dive into its origins, how and why it was developed over the past 23 years.
THE EARLY DAYS:
I started my journey into the Pool Industry in the summer of 1997 by working for a local Above Ground Pool builder while I attended the Police Science Program at NWTC. I was hooked from the very first day of work. During that first summer, I became addicted to building pools. I learned as much as I could and did whatever I could to be an asset to my employer. The next summer I came back to work for that same company and I learned much more. I saw firsthand how to build a pool properly and with integrity and how other installers were cutting corners to keep costs down with little regard to the finished product. It was an eye-opening experience to me. I had analyzed the systems and practices that were being used at the time and found a list of problems that needed to be solved and no one was even attempting to address these problems. So, my goal was to develop a set of "best practices" that would make the process better, make it efficient and make the system stand the test of time. I moved on from that company and worked for a few others over the next few years and took pieces of other systems and worked them together with what I had envisioned for the best process and came up with the Tundra Loc Above Ground Pool Installation System. Flash forward to January 2003 and I started Pool Pros and finally was able to begin implementing my new installation program and it has flourished in this climate.
Early on I discovered there were a handful of critical concerns that plagued the Above Ground Pools for the last few decades. The most notable was complacency on the part of pool installers. After installing and servicing pools for several seasons and seeing the best and the worst of what was currently offered I designed my own set of best practices for installing above ground pools. The Tundra Loc Installation System. Below is a list of the most critical problems and the solutions created with the Tundra Loc Installation System.
1: POOL STORES DID NOT BUILD THE POOLS THEY SOLD: It always seemed strange to me but of the 7 pool stores in town not a single one built the above-ground pools that they sold. Most pool stores had a list of a few guys who would build a handful of pools as side jobs. If we are being honest this is what Pool Pros did starting out. We built above ground pools for all of the pool stores in town. Vanden Heuvel Pools, Allied Pools, Pool and Spa Warehouse, Pool Solutions, Mermaid Pools, Pool Solutions, Pool & Spa Warehouse, and more. The problem with the pool store not building the pools themselves is that when something goes wrong with the above ground pool the homeowner is in a 3 way battle with the Pool Store, the Above Ground Pool Builder and the Manufacturer. Almost always the client lost.
We saw this battle first hand on many occasions which is why Pool Pros decided to cut ties with the local Pool Stores and sell our own above ground pools directly to our clients. Since we sold and built our own pools it allowed for a streamlined system for our clients where if something did go wrong with the pool it was Pool Pros obligation to work it out. No more 3 way battles. If a warranty issue came up we took it to our manufacturer and had the problem resolved.
2: ABOVE GROUND POOL BUILDERS USING SAND UNDER THE ENTIRE POOL
Like the photo above, low cost above ground pool installers were and stilll are cheating thier clients by using too much sand under the pool. What I mean is that there should be no sand under the bottom track of the pool. The bottom track should be sitting on virgin soil excavated to within 1/8" level. When the bottom track is sitting on virgin soil there is little chance that the bottom track and the above ground pool will move or settle. If the pool bottom track is placed on sand it will lead to problems. When sand gets wet it liquifies. When liquified sand is under immense pressure from the weight of pool water it moves. When it moves whatever was on top of it sinks. You may be asking why an above gorund pool installer would do this and the answer is simple. Its cheap, quick and easy. This allows unskilled pool installers to get in and out of your yard in record time. It also makes selling the service of installing pools easier as most people focus on the cost rather than the process or quality.
TUNDRA LOC INSTALLATION: At Pool Pros we install all of our above ground pools on virgin ground excavated and levelled to within 1/8 of an inch. this ensures the pool will not settle or shift like when they are built on top of sand. When laying out the pool we use a laser or transit to find the lowest point on the permiter of the pool and then dig down to that lowest point so that the pool is on completley virgin solid ground. This process takes much more time and skill to dial the bottom track in to the right elevation but it leads to a solid foundation for your pool that is designed to stand the test of time.
3: PATIO BLOCKS
Patio blocks under the pool uprights are a big no no. Believe it or not though most manufacturers recomend this step. It does have its uses but on the majority of pools installed on top of patio blocks it will cause damage and that damge can be costly. The photo above shows the begining of damage to an above ground pool due to the patio blocks under the upright moving. In Wisconsin with our severe winters the frost that sets into the ground wants to push anything in the ground up and out. The same can be said for patio blocks. Once the frost sets in the patio blocks are under immense pressure to come out of the ground with an immense weight of pool water on top of it. The weakest point in this equation is the pool wall and uprights and are the first to become damaged from this. This is not a new phenomina. Farmers are plagued with the same problem every srping when they need to pick rocks prior to plowing/tiling their fields. Above are just a few photos of the many pools we have inspected over the years that have been installed with patio blocks. As you can see the damage is catastrophic and would not be covered by the installers warranty nor the manufacturers warranty. Patio block installation may not be a bad idea in regions that dont recieve frost where they don't run the risk of being heaved out of the ground but patio blocks are definetly a hard no for above gorund pool installations in Wisconsin.
TUNDRA LOC INSTALLATION: To avoid this problem all together we have never used patio blocks as part of our installation process. We put our bottom track directly on virgin soil and do not use patio blocks.
4: BURIED ABOVE GROUND POOLS
We see this alot and in our opinion it should not happen. Traditional Above Ground Pools are not engineered to be installed even partially in the ground. The main reason is that an above ground pool is merely a thin piece of metal and vinyl. It canot support the weight of soil ebing backfilled agianst it. It also voids the manufacturer warranty. The first time the pool is drained to serivce or replace the liner, the pool will collapse. Its not a matter of if, its a matter of when. When this happens your pool is shot and you are out all that cost to install it and now you have to remove it and start over or fill in the hole. Either way its a lose-lose situation. We often see inexperinced pool installers attempt this or homeowoners that want an in ground pool but just dont have the budget for one. If you have someone trying to install an above ground pool in the ground for you run and run fast. No reputable pool installer would recomend this.
The pool industry has finally come up with solutions to this predicament. There are many manufacturers that now have pools that are engineered to be installed above ground, in-ground or partially in-ground. These are nothing like a traditional above ground pool and are actually more of an in-ground pool that is designed to be above or partially. Fox Pools and Radian are 2 of the most popular options. The other option is to over dig the pool and install a retaining wall to prevent the soil from touching the pool wall similar to the above ground pool in the picture to the right. You will also need to install drainage outside the pool the remove any water to keep it from pooling up outside the pool in between the pool and the retaining wall. These methods cost more initially but will save you huge headache in the long run.
5: RUSTED OUT SKIMMER & RETURNS
When a pool is built properly and lasts longer than 5-8 years it may start to get leaks at the skimmer and return connection like the photos above. This can happen for many reasons but the problem isn't the leak. Its the fact that the pool owners let the leak go without addressing it. If addressed quickly it will not be a problem, however, if a leak is allowed to go unchecked in a standard above-ground pool, the pool wall will eventually rot out and the leak will get worse or the pool wall can split. If your pool is close to your home with your skimmer and returns facing your home this could be a nightmare. When the wall splits and all that water comes rushing out it will be going straight at your home. Not an ideal situation.
Our solution is to only offer above ground pools with Stainless Steel Skimmer Panels. Stainless Steel won't rust and if that panel is damaged it can be replaced at a fraction of the cost to replace an entire pool wall. That can save you thousands. Our Evolution Above Ground Pool features a Stainless Steel Skimmer Panel. The downside is that they are generally slightly more expensive. However, the additional upfront cost is a small price to pay for peace of mind knowing your pool won't look like those in the photos above.
6: UNINSULATED POOLS
This has always blown my mind how pool owners could spend north of $4K on a pool heater, gas, and electrical service yet forget to insulate their pool. For years I have searched for a reliable way to insulate pools to help keep clients' operating costs down and to reduce their carbon footprint.
TUNDRA SHIELD POOL INSULATION
Pool Pros has developed a proprietary pool insulation that is installed on the pool wall behind the pool wall that reflects heat back into the pool. This has the ability to reduce heat loss by up to 80%. We recommend every pool owner insulate their pool with Tundra Shield Pool insulation even if you dont have a pool heater. It will help keep the heat in your pool regardless if you have an external heat source or not.
7: SOFT OR LUMPY POOL BOTTOMS
This is a big problem with low cost above ground pool installers. To reduce the amount of time it takes to build your pool most low-cost builders cut corners and this is a big corner. The problem exists because sand is soft and to create a firm pool bottom takes expensive tools that low-cost pool installers don't want to buy and skill with a trowel that most don't have. So what they do is rake the sand, hose it down then install the liner. The first time you step into the pool you will feel how soft it is and will likely leave footprints in the sand base.
Tundra Loc Pool Installation System: At Pool Pros we take great pride in our finished pool bottoms. To achieve the best pool bottom we rake the mason sand base to a uniform depth throughout the entire pool. We then get the sand damp with a garden hose. Once thoroughly dampened we use a plate compactor to condense the sand into a solid firm base. After compacting the mason sand we then hand trowel it using a mag float and a finish trowel to leave a smooth and firm pool base.
8:LOW QUALITY FILTRATION EQUIPMENT
Since the first above ground pool was built, they have suffered from having inefficient and low-quality pumps, undersized filters, and heaters. Plastic hoses, defective hose clamps, small filters, and energy inefficient pool pumps have plagued above ground pools for decades.
That was until Pool Pros developed something better. Pool Pros Tundra Loc Installation System and our Evolution Advanced Luxury Pool Package. This grouping offers the industry-leading installation best practices with industry-leading performance pool equipment typically only seen on in-ground pools.
Our pool package includes rigid schedule 40 PVC, a concrete pad, a 250k BTU heater, a variable speed pool pump, BioShield sanitizer, pool light, and a huge 320 sq ft cartridge filter system that is twice the size of the average above ground pool filter. It also features the Pentair 910 Robotic Pool Cleaner and a whole lot more. We have taken all of the energy-efficient cutting edge equipment that we use on our in-ground pools and brought that performance to our above ground pools. No one offers an above ground pool package like this.
Pool Pros is not a company to rest on its laurels. We are always searching for ways to improve the quality of our pools and the quality of the experience for our pool owners. We have developed a set of best practices that exceed industry standards and a pool package that outperforms anything out there. If you are ready to get the ball rolling on your above ground pool project call Pool Pros @920-771-0107 today.