Skip to Content

What to Put Under An Above-Ground Pool: Don’t Damage Your Liner

If you’re set on installing an above-ground pool yourself, you’re probably itching to have it assembled and full of water as soon as possible. What many owners don’t realize is how crucial prep work is to their above-ground pool’s longevity. An early step you won’t want to skip is laying a base layer of some kind where your above-ground pool will be, but what is the best material for this?

The most popular option for under an above ground pool is a pool pad on top of leveled soil or sand. Concrete is the best choice for a long standing level surface but can be expensive. Other options include foam tiles, a tarp, or carpet.

In this article, we will discuss the base layer options listed above in more detail so you can determine which is ideal for you and your pool. As you read, you’ll also learn why this base layer is vital to your above-ground pool’s longevity.

Why You Need a Base Layer Under Your Above-Ground Pool

When summertime is on the horizon, we understand the urge to forego a base layer and just get your above-ground pool up and ready.

While this might be ok for the first weeks, months, or even years of the pool’s installation, opting not to install a base layer can have severe long-term effects.

It is essential for all above-ground pools to have a base layer because they:

  • Protect the pool’s base liner from rocks, burrowing animals/insects, roots, other things that could cause tears and punctures.
  • Keep the pool flat and level to maintain its structural integrity.
  • Keep the pool in place to prevent shifting.
  • Prevents the base of the pool from being exposed to high levels of moisture found in the ground.

Arguably the worst consequence of installing your above-ground without a base layer is the pool collapsing from structural instability or excessive wear caused by lack of protection.

Even a slightly less drastic result, such as leakage, can be a financial hassle, especially if the leak requires you to replace the pool’s entire liner and/or causes flooding and water damage to surrounding structures.

Ultimately, it is always best to put something underneath your above-ground pool for the sake of its longevity and the safety of its users.

I highly recommend using this Gorilla Under Pool Padding Found Here from Amazon. It’s kept the ground from shifting and feels better than just dirt or sand while you’re in the pool using it.

Here’s an interesting method using foam board for the base:

Which Above-Ground Base Layer is Best?

Choosing a base layer for your above-ground pool can be tricky, as there is no option that is universally agreed to be best.

There are several factors that will affect which option is ideal for your, such as your pool’s size, the installation location’s terrain, and (probably most importantly) your budget.

To help you make the most informed decision possible, we’ve listed the most influential pros and cons of each base layer for above-ground pools in the sections below.

Pre-Cut Pool Pad

A pre-cut pool pad is the quickest and easiest option for laying a base layer underneath an above-ground pool.

It is designed to fit the exact shape of the pool and is made using high-quality, durable materials that can withstand harsh chemicals and weather conditions. The material is also breathable, ensuring it doesn’t trap moisture from the ground that could cause mold and other damage-inducing complications.

I highly recommend using this Gorilla Under Pool Padding Found Here from Amazon. It’s kept the ground from shifting and feels better than just dirt or sand while you’re in the pool using it.

The biggest drawback of this option is that these pads tend to be costly, ranging anywhere from $60 to over $200. Unsurprisingly, the larger your above-ground pool is in size, the bigger pad you’ll need and the more this protective layer will cost.

These pads are also most effective when paired with a concrete slab underneath, making them even more expensive. However, if longevity and protection are your superior priorities over budget, then this is undoubtedly the best option in that regard (especially when paired with the concrete slab underneath).

Concrete Slab

A concrete slab is the most durable and long-lasting option for an above-ground pool. It can provide extra support and protection from the ground for years, making it the best long-term form of protection on the list.

When installed correctly, a concrete slab will also guarantee that your above-ground pool stays perfectly flat, level, and in place. All of which are crucial for its longevity.

The cons of this option are that concrete slabs can be pricey to install. You’ll save money doing it yourself, but for the sake of your pool, you might want to invest the extra funds into having a professional install it.

The coarse concrete will also wear down your pool’s liner at the base over time, which is why it is usually paired with a pre-cut pool pad or another layer that can act as a buffer between the pool floor and concrete slab. Like this Gorilla Under Pool Padding from Amazon.


If you want the most reliable and budget-friendly base layer possible for your above-ground pool, you’ll probably want to use sand.

Sand is a flexible and inexpensive base layer option that can cushion the pool and provide a soft, comfortable surface. The weight of the above-ground pool will help compact the sand for a firm, level base that won’t wear away at the pool’s liner like concrete would.

One risk of using sand is that it isn’t water-resistant. If there is a lot of moisture, perhaps from melting snow, heavy rain, or a pool leak, the sand might shift. This could destabilize your pool and have catastrophic consequences.

Sand also isn’t pest or critter-proof, so it won’t prevent insects and animals from digging through the base layer and into your pool liner.

Interlocking Foam Tiles

Foam is another option that is easy to install and won’t wear down your pool’s liner. If you want a flat and secure foam base, you’ll either want to purchase a large, single piece of foam or multiple interlocking foam tiles.

In terms of cost, foam is between sand and concrete. You can find thin, cheap options at your local hardware store, but the better choice would be a thick foam, which tends to be a bit pricier.

Unlike the pre-cut pool pad, a foam base layer can be difficult to cut to size, so you might be left with a base that is slightly larger or smaller than your above-ground pool.

Another drawback is that foam isn’t made of breathable material. As a result, it is likely to trap moisture that could cause mold growth on the foam and wear down the pool’s base liner.


Arguably the most inexpensive base layer you can purchase for your above-ground pool is carpet, especially if it is scraps or purchased secondhand.

Finding enough carpet to cover your installation site might be difficult, but once in place, it will provide enough cushion to protect the liner.

However, this option is not nearly as durable and efficient as the others previously listed. We only recommend opting for a carpet base as a last resort and strictly for short-term use. It’s better than putting your above-ground pool directly on earth, but you’ll want to upgrade it as soon as possible.

Here’s a link to some Pool Accessories from Amazon and the highly recommended Sand Filter Pump to upgrade any above ground pool setup.

Final Thoughts

Installing a base layer underneath your above-ground pool might be an additional cost and time suck you weren’t anticipating, but for the sake of your pool’s longevity and the safety of its users, it’s a worthwhile investment.

If you have the extra funds, installing a concrete slab topped with a pre-cut pool pad is the absolute best option, but if you’re strapped for cash, installing a base layer of foam, sand, or even carpet is always better than nothing.

Sharing is caring!