Above ground swimming pools require a cove.
"Great," you say—but what's a cove?
Once your pool walls are up and assembled, a cove is material placed against the inside walls of your pool's perimeter that allows your liner to gently cascade down the pool wall, onto the angled cove, and then onto the sand base (Instead of a 90 degree harsh angle from pool wall directly to the floor). Letting your liner have this gentle transition keeps the liner itself from stretching/stressing as people walk around inside the pool.
Really though, the main reason above ground pools require a cove is that the cove keeps the weight of the water from pushing the liner out from under the pool wall. Besides being unsightly, your liner would most likely rip/tear in the process and as a result, begin to empty the pools water into your yard rather quickly.
Common Pool Cove Materials
The most common materials used for a swimming pool cove are:
- foam forms
- sifted earth
We do not recommend using sand as it does not stay put very well or for very long. Also, once the sand moves around a bit, it could expose your liner to the bottom rail of your pool which could cause major damage to not just your liner but your pool as well.
Sifted earth is a better option over sand as long as it is packed firmly, but as it can still lose its structural shape over time, we recommend foam forms.
Benefits of Foam Forms
There are many reasons you would want to opt to use a foam form for your swimming pool cove versus other materials such as sand or sifted Earth.
Unlike the latter materials, a foam form holds its shape over time and provides you with a consist grade/slope around the entire perimeter of your pool. The material is lightweight, making it quick and easy to install; peel it, stick it, done!
That's right! Foam forms have adhesive backing allowing you to quickly secure them to the base of your pool walls. This will shorten your install time and having you swimming quicker than hauling sifted earth and packing it into place all while trying to get an equal slope/grade around your pool.
Since the foam material keeps its shape instead of settling over time, there's no additional strain or pulling on your liner which can help increase your liner's life and keep away stretch marks!
Finally, as a foam pool cove will not be washed out, it also won't hold moisture against the metal components of your pool. This feature reduces corrosion and may add years of life to your swimming pool. The form is made from high-density foam, meaning it won't hold moisture, change shape, or indent, making cleaning your swimming pool easier as well.
Order of Operation
*The following guidelines assume that you have already leveled your pool site and assembled your walls upon firm ground per your swimming pool instructions/manual.
A common question we get on above ground swimming pool installations is how to set up the base correctly. This is literally the foundation for your pool, so it makes sense wanting to ensure it's correct and for it to be correct, there's an order of operation to follow.
- Undisturbed Earth
- Sand Base
- Pool Pad (if using one)
Once your pool walls are fully assembled (even your top rails/connectors), it's time to work on the base. As mentioned your pool walls should be sitting on firm undisturbed earth. This is the first layer of your pool floor.
From here you'll either peel and stick your foam form cove (super quick and easy) or you'll build your earth cove around the inside perimeter of your pool (Second layer). If you use an earth cove, use screened damp earth to form an even and consistent cove around the inside base of your pool's walls. Shape and compact the earth firmly to help it keep it's shape once the water pressure begins to push on it (much less feet once the pool is swim-ready).
After the cove is set, recheck your pool dimensions to make sure nothing shifted out of place while pushing up against the walls. Make any necessary adjustments and then check the pool floor to make sure it is still level.
If you happen across any depressions, fill those in with sifted earth and tamp firm.
The third layer of your pool floor is the sand base. You'll want to use a fine sand to fill in a 2" thick base wall-to-wall across the bottom of your pool. This will have sand coming up onto your cove as well in order to make the sand base completely level around the pool.
POOL/LINER PAD (OPTIONAL)
While the fourth layer of your pool's base is optional, a pool pad/liner pad should be strongly considered for several reasons.
First and foremost, a pool pad protects the liner against cuts, punctures, and abrasions that would result from exposure to rocks, roots and even glass under the pool's floor. This can add years to your liner and pool as it will help alleviate and punctures or leaks in the liner.
If time is your concern, a pool pad can dramatically reduce installation time spent from smoothing the sand base since the sand will not be the final layer before your liner is installed.
Most folks perk up at the next benefit as the final look of the pool is often a priority. You know how you leave a trail of footprints in the sand when walking along a beach? Without a pool pad, you could very well start to notice the imprints of the tootsies walking along the bottom of your pool since the only thing under the liner is well... sand. The pool pad helps eliminate both footprints and wrinkles that can come from sand shifting around underneath the liner (it also creates a comfortable floor padding to cushion feet).
Lastly, the addition of a pool pad helps to reduce convective heat loss, meaning your pool water will stay warmer.
That's it! Your pool cove and sand base are in place and now it's time to use your installation manual to install your liner, the final layer of your pool's floor/base.
(If you need some guidance on using a unibead liner check out our article on that here.)