It’s fairly standard for above-ground pool install manuals to recommend sand for the install. But should you add sand if installing in the Orlando area? And if so, how much?
Although it’s commonly recommended to add sand to the base of an above-ground swimming pool, It’s usually not needed for the Orlando area. This is because Orlando’s earth is already sand-based, so adding sand can make the base too soft for having a smooth pool bottom.
ALL OF CENTRAL FLORIDA IS SAND-BASED
The earth is made up of different things depending on the location. Rocks start to form in the earth around the Gainesville area, which is quite a bit north of Orlando.
This is the very beginning of the stone hills of middle Georgia, so as you move north, there can be more and more rocks (and bigger) naturally forming in the earth.
Fortunately for us in Orlando, we don’t have any of those rocks. Our earth is naturally sand-based, so this is good when moving and leveling the ground for things like above-ground pools.
ADDING YARDS OF SAND TO AN ALREADY SAND-BASED EARTH WILL MAKE THE POOL BOTTOM TOO SOFT
In the now 37 years of me installing pools, I have had my share of arguments with people on whether sand should be added to their pool during installation. Being in my fifties now, I’m happy to say that I will not argue this issue any longer (and haven’t for years).
People generally think that they need sand because the owner’s installation manual tells them they need sand. I get that, but that manual is made for all areas of the country (and the world), not just Central Florida.
This is the equivalent of building a house here in Orlando, but installing expensive floor heating just because some builder material said to do it. Yeah, that would be a complete waste of money here. Get what I’m saying?
SOMETIMES YOU DO NEED TO ADD SAND TO AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL INSTALLATION IN ORLANDO
There are instances where I will absolutely recommend getting sand for an install. As an installer with a machine, I very, very rarely need added sand for an installation, but DIYers need it more often. This is when:
1 Hard earth
Builders and developers will like to raise areas where houses are built to prevent any future flooding issues. This is a good idea when in the sub-tropical region of Orlando. What’s not a good idea is what they will sometimes use as fill.
Hundreds of tons of fill is needed to raise a lot or an entire neighborhood, so it can come from anywhere and not be very good. Some fill has very hard and/or lumpy clay in it (usually from Georgia) which doesn’t smooth out very well.
Other earth used as fill can have harder aggregates that cannot be broken up into small enough pieces which results in a bumpy, uneven surface when trying to level out.
These types of fill will force you to add sand when installing a pool in your yard as you can’t work with it enough to level and smooth it for the pool’s bottom.
Adding a layer of sand here will enable you to level the earth and make it smooth.
2 Excessive roots
Sometimes you don’t have to be near big trees to have a lot of roots in the earth. This, I can’t figure out why. If you have a lot of roots though, it’s best to dig them up and cut them all out before installing the pool.
Again, as an installer with a machine, I use the machine to dig up most of the big roots so I can cut them out. And even with a machine, this can be a big job.
If installing yourself without a machine, digging up and cutting out all of the roots that still may be attached to the root system is difficult, but very necessary.
In most cases, you won’t know that you have an excessive root issue until you remove the sod from the pool site and start leveling out the earth.
Dig out and cut up what you can, but if there are still a lot of roots, then it may be a good idea to leave what is still there and add a thicker layer of clean sand over them. This is not ideal, but sometimes you have no choice.
3 Excessive rocks (Like an old drain field)
In almost every single pool that I’ve ever installed (6k plus), there were at least a couple of rocks. That is just the nature of the ground in Orlando and all of Central Florida.
What I mean here is if you have hundreds or thousands of rocks in the earth.
I will spend an insane amount of time raking and picking out rocks from a pool site before I determine that it’s clear enough for a nice pool bottom. If there are so many that it would take days to pick out, then I am forced to add a layer of sand over them and install the pool.
Usually for me, I can make some magic happen with a few tricks and still get the pool up with a nice bottom with no one ever feeling a rock. If there was an old drain field in the spot where the pool is going though, that is too many rocks even for me.
It’s ok to have some rocks left in the earth when installing the pool, but any situation where you think that swimmers will feel them will require you to add some sand so they won’t feel anything.
4 Construction trash
At some point in the early 1990s, Orange County (along with Seminole, Osceola, and other central Florida counties) started disallowing house builders to just bury their excess construction trash in the yard.
I have run into some buried construction trash in newer homes, but it is rare now. If your home was built a few decades ago or longer, you may run into some nasty things like nails, tile pieces, shingle pieces, metal, etc.
If excessive to the point that you can’t get it all out of the earth, then adding a layer of clean sand over everything is the key to a good pool bottom and installation.
5 Old trash burn site
Here in the South, many used to burn things in the yard instead of putting them out for trash pick-up. As a kid, I remember hanging out around an outside fire pit dug in the ground and my dad drinking beer and burning things.
If you run into an old burn site, you may not want to bother trying to dig out all the broken glass and sharp metal pieces. You may opt to leave that mess right where it is and cover it with some fresh clean sand to install the pool on.
Once again, as an installer with a machine, I can sometimes dig up all of the burned remnants from a time long ago, but sometimes it’s too much and too deep, so I will add sand.
6 Tree stump
Did you have some big trees in the yard and have them cut down some time ago? And did you have the leftover stump ground down below the grass level?
If you (or someone before you) got rid of some trees, then the old stump may be still there, hidden just below the sod, waiting to get in the way of you installing an above-ground pool.
Many people think ground-down tree stumps won’t get in the way of installing an ABOVE ground pool. Sorry to say, “they usually do”.
If there is an old (or new) stump in the way, it may be best to add sand to cover it so you can install the pool.
Having the stump ground further down is an option too, but usually not recommended as the grinder leaves a lot of sawdust, which is not good for making a nice pool bottom.
WHERE TO GET BULK SAND IN ORLANDO
It’s not as easy to get bulk sand as it use to be in Orlando. Most concrete-making plants have closed and the ones that are still here don’t like to sell their sand. At least that’s what it seems like when I try to buy it. Lol
As a do-it-yourselfer though, you can get bulk sand from most Home Depots or Lowes Home Improvements.
Home Depot and Lowes sell 1/3-yard bags of bulk sand. You will need a truck to pick it up though. Each bag weighs about 1000 pounds.
HOW MUCH SAND DO YOU NEED?
Well, this is the question. And it’s a tricky one to answer. It, of course, depends on the size of your pool. But it also depends on how thick of a layer you need. And I cannot tell you that in this article. There are just too many variables.
What I can say is that as a professional installer, I want to use as little as I can so the bottom doesn’t get too soft. If too soft, then the bottom can easily get footprints, which is ok, but not ideal.
A super broad-stroked answer, which is all that I can give you without any info, is between one and three yards of sand.
Keeping in mind that Home Depot only sells 1/3 yard sandbags, if you think you need more than one yard, then see about someone delivering the total amount to your house. They will dump it where they can, which can be a pain, but that’s better than making multiple trips to Lowes.
WHERE TO GET BULK SAND IN ORLANDO FOR AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL INSTALLATION
EVERGLADES EQUIPMENT GROUP
12049 S Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837
SUNRISE LANDSCAPE SUPPLY
East Orlando Office 6670 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32807
ROEDELL’S LANDSCAPING 1707 East Semoran Blvd. Apopka, Fl 32703 (407) 204-1572