When it comes to above ground swimming pools, the range of care, concern, and attention is vast. Some will just put up a cheap Intex soft-sided pool right on the grass and not care about it being exactly level or what it looks like. They just want some water for their kids or to cool off after mowing the lawn.
Others will spend tens of thousands to make sure their above ground pool is long-lasting and looking great. They will add a deck, landscaping, and lighting to make the entire pool area an oasis.
Most who get an above ground pool will at least want to put something around the outside of it for one reason or another and that’s a really good idea.
The most popular material above ground pool owners use to put around the outside of their pools is decorative stones like marble chips, river rock, crushed stone, or lava rock. Mulches are popular too, like wood chips, bark, rubber, and crushed seashells.
WHY SHOULD YOU PUT SOMETHING AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR ABOVE GROUND POOL
During the 37 years of me building and working on above ground pools, I have noticed that the pools with a maintained outside perimeter last longer than those without.
Prevents grass from growing up against the pool wall
This is the biggest reason to have a border around the pool. Grass and other foliage growing up against the pool wall can be bad for two reasons.
The first is that when you use a weed eater/wacker to trim the grass, it may wack some of the wall’s protective coating off. This will allow the wall to start rusting. Not good.
The second reason is that grass and other growing things against the pool wall can allow for moisture to hang out. And when it comes to metal, you don’t want any moisture hanging around for too long. Things can get wet and as long as they are allowed to dry, then no damage will begin.
Disallows for any erosion
This only applies to a pool that has been installed on an off level yard.
If it rains a lot, water can gather on top of the ground. If the ground is flat, the water will not move. It’ll just flood where it is. If the yard has any elevation though, then the rainwater can move from the high ground to the low ground. If the water moves fast enough, it will carry some earth with it. That is what erosion is.
When an above ground pool is installed on an off level yard, then if it rains long and hard enough, the rainwater will travel from high to low making a stream along the outside of the pool. If there is only earth there, the rainwater can take some of the earth away from the pool which can cause some erosion under the pool wall. This is rare but not at all good and should be avoided.
Having mulch or rock will prevent erosion as the rainwater cannot take the earth away. Rock works better for this than mulch as it is heavier, so if the pool is installed on a big grade and you get a lot of quick rain, then use rock.
Makes the pool look better
Having a border of something other than grass between the pool and the rest of the yard gives the pool a nice finished and clean look.
A nice border also allows for other landscaping and lighting to tie into the pool area better.
Stops dogs from digging under the pool
If you have an outside dog, then you already know. When it’s hot, they will dig into the cool earth and lay there.
This can be bad for an above ground pool. For one thing, the earth next to the pool wall is most likely a cool area. And dogs will dig under the pool to get to this coolness.
I have had to repair liners bulging out from under a pool wall due to dogs digging holes. It’s not fun or pretty, so you want to prevent this, a mulch or rock border will stop dogs from doing this. They will pick another spot to dig. Read more about dogs and above ground pools here.
IT’S EASIEST TO CLEAR THE AREA AROUND THE POOL DURING THE INSTALLATION
When I install a pool, it will remove the sod and level an area one foot bigger than the size of the pool all the way around. As an example, if installing a 24’ round (the most common size), I will clear and level a 26’ round area.
The pool itself takes up a little more than is described size. The size of the pool is based on the area or water it has, so you can add a few inches more all the way around for the frame of the pool. Adding an extra foot all the way around the pool size will then give you about eight inches of clearance to make a border with.
This is a good width for a border, but some will want a wider one. If so, then level a bigger area when installing the pool. This will be much easier than trying it dig out the grass around the pool after it’s installed.
NOTE: While working along the outside bottom of the pool, you notice that a portion of the pool’s bottom track is off of the wall, read this.
COMMON MATERIALS POOL OWNERS USE TO MAKE A BORDER AROUND THE POOL
Some will just put some mulch or rock out from the pool wall all the way around. And that is nice. Others will go the extra mile and make an outside border to hold the mulch/rock in. And that looks better plus will prevent lighter materials from washing away due to excessive splashing from an overflowing pool. Here’s a list of common materials for making a border:
1 Plastic landscape edging – least expensive and easiest
2 Cement border edging
3 Wood landscape timbers
4 Pavers or bricks
5 Composite edging – Fairly new option
6 Rubber edging – Long lasting but pricey
COMMON MATERIALS USED TO GO AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE POOL PERIMETER
Keep in mind that you will get weeds growing through your material. I personally don’t like weed block. But have to say that it will prevent most weeds from growing in this area. You’ll probably have to hit it with some poison like roundup occasionally whether you lay down weed block or not.
1 Cypress mulch
2 Pine bark mulch
3 Rubber mulch – Long-lasting
4 Pine needles – Works well and is free for those with nearby pine trees
5 River rock – Can be hard to keep clean looking
6 Lava rock
7 Marble chips – Can be hard to keep clean looking
8 Pea gravel
9 Crushed granite
NOTE: Rock or mulch borders will NOT prevent moles from tunneling under your pool
PREVENTING EROSION VERSUS CREATING BETTER DRAINAGE
Most places on the planet aren’t exactly flat. No one knows that better than an above ground pool installer like myself. Above ground pools (if installed properly) must be level and the natural ground very rarely is.
This means that most pools will be at least a little in the ground on one side. When pool owners see this, some of them think they need to fill the earth in around their pool will rock so rainwater can drain into the earth better.
Let’s say then that a pool was built level on ground that had a one-foot grade. With this, the pool might be a foot in the ground on the high side of the yard and then completely out of the ground on the low side.
With the above example, some will think that they need to fill in the outside of the pool area (high side) in with one foot of rocks to the top of the earth. The thinking here is to allow this area where the pool is buried to drain rainwater easier and away from the pool wall. This is not necessary.
Water gathering from one source (the sky) or another (the ground) next to the outside of the pool will drain in the same fashion whether there is dirt there or gravel, so you don’t have to fill in the high side of the pool with rocks.
Rocks are needed though to prevent erosion. And to prevent erosion, you typically only need a few inches of rock at the earth’s surface. It only takes a layer of rock thick and heavy enough to not allow the water to carry the earth underneath away. And as long as a full-blown river doesn’t form next to the pool wall, a couple of inches layer of rock will do the trick.