The Do-It-Yourself in Ground Swimming Pool

The Do-It-Yourself In Ground Swimming Pool

We all rely on our specialists to do things for us. But, they hold the key. They can charge whatever they want to charge and either we pay or we don’t get those things we want. A pool is no different.

You can go to a huge department store and find yourself anything from a baby pool to a nice size three footer that will hold about ten people at the most. That’s one way to avoid the high cost of an in-ground pool. It cools you off and does the job.

But, what if you really want an in ground pool? Now, you’re looking back to the specialists and hoping that you won’t have to sell a lung to pay for it. You have two kids and your other half staring at you with hope in their eyes while you look through your budget and see if it can happen.

That is until now. I have come up with an idea that is a total do-it-yourself brainstorm and you’ll find that it’s easier than you can imagine. Actually, it’s nothing special. It’s just that all the construction workers and pool salespeople throughout the world would have you believe that you need them to install your pool. But, think about it! What is a pool? It’s a hole in the ground with water in it.

Remember as you go through this completely do-it-yourself pool installation guide, there are things you need to check in your neck of the woods. Within a city, there are city ordinates that have to be followed. Construction permits might be necessary and noise requirements might have to be met. In my experience, these things take a quick phone call to the city clerk and you’ll get the direction you need. Depending on your city ordinates, you might need a licensed excavator for the actual digging of the pool area. Just keep those things in mind before you start going at it and breaking the law.

Another note before you begin planning is that you need to put on your imagination cap. This guide will only cover the basics. The basics can be used for any sized or shaped pool. But, you should sit down and think about your property. Then, decide on a good design for your pool. Do all the planning on paper before you even begin to mark things off on your property and start working towards getting any permits. For any part of this guide that you don’t understand or are hesitant about, don’t be afraid to ask questions of city administrators, construction workers or anyone else who might be helpful to you.

I’m assuming that if you are reading this, you are an intelligent person who wouldn’t do anything that would harm others or yourself. You also wouldn’t take any steps until you completely understand what you need to do. This pool installation method isn’t hard at all. But, there are steps that need to be followed with attention to detail or you can be giving yourself bigger problems than it’s worth.

A Hole in the Ground

I’m sure if you are ready to install a pool on your property, you have already picked the location and you know your size. Mark off the edges of your pool with some paint and sticks. Then, take one last look at your beautiful ground. If not done right, you’re going to make one huge mess right there where those gorgeous flowers are.

What you need to do now is decide how you are going to dig the hole. There are several solutions and the best one is not as costly as you might think

First, you can invite plenty of your hardworking friends over for a bar-b-cue and hand them shovels when they get there. I think this solution might take an entire summer worth of bar-b-cues. But at least by the following year, you’ll have yourself a nice size hole ready for further pool installation instructions. Now, if you don’t have a sense of humor or if you have a hard time picking someone else’s up when you read, then you’re really not going to have a fun time reading this do-it-yourself.

Anyway, choice number two includes a backhoe. You can rent yourself a backhoe from a number of places. American Rent-All Sales and Services is where I rent backhoes when I need them. But, in your area there is a “Rent-All” of some sort. Just don’t get it confused with a “rental” store where people rent couches, televisions and beds.

The thing is that you really have to know what you’re doing when you operate a backhoe. In fact, if you remember me saying earlier, you may need an expert to do this for you. But if you can do it, if it’s legal where you are and you think you can handle it, by all means save yourself that much more money. Anyway, you make your job much easier by pulling the dirt from the center of your pool location and start building a bank around the edge of your pool. This could cut digging your hole down to half the time and you don’t have to worry about dirt removal.

When you climb onto a backhoe and get a little worried, you have all right to be because you can really do some damage you don’t want to do. You might hit your own house and then you’ll have to call off building your pool for awhile because you’ll have to fix the hole in your wall. The best bet is to find a friend who knows what he’s doing. If he’s willing to give up a Saturday in May, than by all means tell him to come over and you’ll supply the refreshments. Most friends would be willing to do it for that.

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Check with your city clerk about city ordinates. You may need a professional to run the backhoe.

If you don’t have any friends, then you really need a pool. It’s going to help you get some. So, hire a landscaping crew if you need the hole done for you. That cost would have been built into the cost of installing a pool anyway. But, it shouldn’t come to more than a few hundred dollars because it’s only a half a day’s work for someone who knows how to operate a backhoe. Of course, that also depends on the size of your pool.

The following instructions are for the simplest pool design possible. But, you should be more creative than that. You only have one chance at it. So, make it a kidney shape or any shape you want. Let it have different depths to at least 10′ and start out with 2′ for the younger kids. Use these same steps for a smaller hot tub on the side if you want. Of course, that requires a little more work for the temperature change and I’ll write about that shortly after I disperse these do-it-yourself pool instructions to the world.


Now that you have your hole dug and you have extra dirt banked up around the edges, it’s time to do some preliminary design. Your hole should have been dug to specifications. It should have the gradual depth where you want it and the edges where they should be. So, preliminary design concerns the forming of the loose dirt built up around your edges. That dirt will come in handy for anything if you use your mind.

If you want a set of steps, grab your shovel and start kicking some dirt back into the pool. Then, form the dirt into steps. Start with a solid foundation from where the steps will end in the pool to the edge. Add another layer a foot or so in from the foundation. Take yourself back to when you were in the fifth grade playing with dirt and you’ll realize how much fun you are having. Add layers until you have completed your set of steps. Pat the dirt down until it is solid. Now you have a set of steps. Of course, you can buy a set of steps when the pool is finished.

Now, use your imagination for the rest. Look around the pool. Think of all the ideas you’ve picked up from magazines or home improvement shows. What can you add to your pool that you would really like to have? Would you like a seat in the 10′ depth? Would you like cup holders at the 2′ depth? Your imagination is the only thing holding you back at this point.

Fashion the dirt around all your features. Pat the dirt down so that it’s as hard as it possibly can get. Use your shovel. Use rammers and rollers if you want. Rammers will do a great job, but they’ll give you the shakes for weeks. It’s like taking a jackhammer through concrete. But, it really compresses the dirt perfect.

You are going to really need the dirt packed, but not completely yet. So, it’s up to you and your budget at this point. Either pack the dirt with a rammer now and then pack it again later or just hold off and only do it once. The difference comes down to whether you want to rent a rammer for one day or two. But the more you pack the dirt, the better it will be.

Also, remember the landscaping around the pool as well. You’ll want a flat surface around the edge of the pool where you will want to put lawn chairs and tables. So, make a walkway wide enough to accommodate.

Filter System

This is really all pool installation is about. When you get a pool installed with all the money involved, it really only comes down to the technology of your filtering system. Otherwise, you really are just putting a hole in the ground and filling it with water.

But, pool filtering systems aren’t like building a rocket ship. They come nowhere close to being as complex as a city’s flood control. It’s even easier than plumbing. All you have to do is make sure water is circulating and being forced through a filtering device. Now that you have the basic concept, let’s see what you need.

An in ground sand filter system can be bought for only a few hundred dollars. It works perfect for a pool that is basically 25′ X 20′ and has graduated depths of 2′ to 10′ for a volume that is basically 25,000 gallons of water. The sand filter system should be able to turn your water completely over in an 8 hour period. So, you won’t need the filtering system on all the time. Only on days when people want to swim will you need to switch the filter on and let it go for the entire 8 hour period. If the pool goes unoccupied for more than a few days, turn the filter on for an 8 hour period anyway.

You can hide the filters in several ways. Hiding them in a pit in the ground that you cover over with a plastic or clear door is the most popular method. You’ll have to reach down into the pit to change the filters, but it’s out of sight out of mind for the most part. Clear plastic coverings are perfect because they are easy to peer through if you think there are any problems.

So, dig yourself a nice 2′ X 2′ hole that drops about 3′ depending on the size of your filtering system. You can choose to supply electricity to the filter through an extension cord run from the house. Many people with out-of-ground pools use this method for their filtering systems if they have one. There are concerns that water and electric don’t mix. So, that would be your call. You can dig a ditch and run electric through conduit. The electric would be run through a safe pipe system that can be buried under ground. It depends on how elaborate you want your do-it-yourself pool to be.

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Remember once more that electrical work such as running wires through conduit should be done by a professional and permits for electrical work may apply.

You’ll also want to make a channel from the filter pit into your pool area so that you have a passage for your hoses. You filter has an output pump and intake valves. Your hoses will run from the output pump into the pool, then from the pool into your intake valves. But, the hoses can be channeled through to the pool from one passage.

After you have the pit and the channel in place, you can make it look nice with some concrete. But, it’s not necessary. As long as you build a frame that you can secure about 4″ down from the top of your pit, you’ll be able to fix your door to it and be done with it. That way you have a cover that protects your filter from leaves and other debris. If it’s strong enough of a cover, people can accidentally step on it from time to time with no fear of it breaking. Hopefully, your family and friends can learn soon to stay off the doors.

You are actually ready to run your hoses, so you are going to want to use the rammer and really pack your dirt before you do. You should plan on spending all day packing the dirt before applying your next layer. You want it to be so smooth that you think you are ready to put the water in the pool. But, you’re not really there yet. You’ll just start to see it happening for all your hard work.

Go ahead and run your hoses at this time. Place a hose from the output pump into the pool area and hoses from the pool to your intake valves depending on how many valves your filtering system has. If you have placed a filter system at each end of the pool, you will have enough circulation for the water to keep clean. Chlorine chemicals exist that you can simply throw into the water and monitor with a water quality test kit.


You most likely have a few rocks here and there in the dirt and that’s not good for the next few steps. So, you want to order yourself some sand. You only need a 2″ layer of sand that is packed pretty tight. Anywhere from 2″ to 5″ will actually be perfect. Before the sand is dumped into your pool, make sure you have your hoses properly placed.

This is no major thing. You basically run at least one intake valve to the bottom of the 10′ depth. You want it to be as centered as you can possibly make it. Then you spread the other intake valves strategically throughout the pool area. If you have one filter, then you could possibly have two intake valves to place. Do the math from there. But it is important that if you buy a filter that only has one intake valve and you only plan on using one filter, place the intake valve center at the bottom of your deepest point.

Now, place your output hose somewhere mid-height along the wall. Affix the hose into the dirt with a coat hanger just so that it will stay temporarily. If you have two filtering systems, place one output hose on one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool. They will naturally face in opposite directions. So, that will really help in circulating the water. Again, a second filter isn’t necessary for most average sized pools. You’ll only need a second filter system if you went all out and made an Olympic sized pool.

Tape off the ends of your hoses and pour the sand into the pool area. You don’t have to pack the sand as good as you did when you packed the dirt. Raking it will work just fine. Before you start raking, make sure you locate your hose endings and make sure that they are physically exposed through the sand. You can pull the hoses through the sand and dispose of the coat hangers at this time. You don’t need much hose exposed as long as you can easily see them.


Lining should be either 20 mil gauge or 25 mil gauge. You can find vinyl lining anywhere you find a pool supply outlet. They come in various heights and widths, so you are going to have to do the math to get it right. From the center of your pool, the vinyl should spread out, cover the sides and overlap the edges by at least a foot. If you have a 25′ X 20′ with a depth that graduates from 2′ to 10′, you might need to order two liners and bond them together with an adhesive that seals a water type seam.

But if you make it easy on yourself, you will have chosen an easy design that any particular vinyl lining could cover without cutting and sealing. For instance, an 18’X 33′ oval pool with a 4′ wall would take one container of 18’X33′ oval overlap pool liner. If you made it this simple for yourself, your next steps are so easy that you are almost finished installing your pool at this point.

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This is about the time you would want to change into your swim trunks and take off your shoes. Get ready to get wet! Place the vinyl lining in the center of the pool area. Take the lining out of the carton and spread it out in the pool area. The vinyl will come with instructions and you should follow those since they will be written in greater detail then they are here. But, basically you are going to spread the vinyl out and flatten all your wrinkles.

Spread the lining out and simply drape it over the edges of the pool. If you have to combine liners because the size of your pool is rather aggressive, you’ll want to seal all your seams and make sure that every inch of the pool area is covered. No holes. No air in the seams. Allow your cement or rubber seal to completely dry before continuing.

Cut a hole and pull your intake hose through the vinyl at the bottom of your pool. I prefer having some kind of screen affixed so that small fingers and toes can’t get sucked into the hose. So, fix the hose to the vinyl with your cement or rubber seal. Then cover the hose with the screen. You can get all these supplies for a few simple dollars at any pool supply outlet. When you are installing the hose and the screen, make sure every hole you create is bonded shut with your cement or rubber seal.

Start putting water in the pool. Jump in and get wet. I told you! You thought I meant it was almost time to go swimming. No, you’re getting wet finishing the job.

You’ll need to push the wrinkles out as the water fills the pool. You’ll also have to remember each hose as the water fills the pool. Stop the water as the water level reaches the hose. But, don’t cut the holes through the vinyl until the water level gets to the height of the hose position. Otherwise, you’ll get a mix match between the holes you create and where they actually need to be. Cut the holes in an “X” fashion the diameter of your hose. Pull the hose through and apply the cement or rubber seal just like you did for the intake hose. Allow the water to fill as you continue flattening all the wrinkles. When your pool is full, you are finished.


Of course, there are things you’ll want to do to complete the look of the pool. You have lining lying over the side that you want to hide. You have landscaping that you’ll want to complete so that your yard starts to look like a pool belongs there. These finishing touches are really up to you and they can get as elaborate as you want.

If you want to hide the lining underneath a concrete sidewalk, by all means and learn how to do that too. Or you can create a border that you can tuck the lining under. Whatever you have to do, you have to make it durable. You have to imagine children running and jumping even though you might have told them not to do that. Your pool can take the pressure. But, the lining around the edges has to be properly hidden under something durable.

If you don’t like the cement walkway, there is a liner track that you can purchase where you purchase most liners. But, liner tracks are an exact shape of a particular pool. So, in the designing stages, this is one thing to consider. The liner fits right into the liner track and you are finished. There is a little pull and tug involved. But, you are finished.

This breezes over the basic steps of pool installation. Now that you can see that it’s not all that difficult, use your imagination and design any pool you want. Then, figure out the best way to make it happen. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy. If there is any way I can find to do-it-myself, I will. I just have to believe that there are other people out there just like me who will appreciate having a pool in their yard by this summer at thousands less than what the professionals would charge.

Final Things to Consider

A safety fence for neighbors who have children – some city ordinances require a safety fence around a pool. But even if not, it’s nice to know that you care about your neighbors. You can have their kids over to swim. Just make it an understanding that you have to be there when they do. Otherwise, the gate is locked.

Cleaning equipment – there are plenty of different types of cleaning equipment from nets to self-propelling vacuum cleaners.

Pool covers – winter is never nice to the swimming pool.

To make it easy, I’ve listed all the supplies you’ll need on one website. Do It Yourself Pool Supplies! I list everything you are going to need and where to get it fast, easy and cost effective.