What to Place Under Above-Ground Pools (Intex & Others)

Because of their affordability and ease of installation, above ground pools are very popular. To get the most from your investment, it’s best to protect the pool from damage and follow important regulations. Ground buffers are great for protecting your pool liner from the elements, plus they make the pool floor more comfortable for swimmers. 

There are commercial ground covers available to install under above ground pools. Other than that, there are DIY options that include sand, foam padding, and carpet ground covers. Concrete pads can be installed for a more permanent solution.

To help you decide which option is best for you and your family, here are the different ground covers you can choose along with the advantages they offer. Whether it’s durability or comfort you’re looking for, there’s a ground buffer that’s perfect for your pool

The Best Ground Covers To Install Under Above Ground Pools

Choosing a ground buffer to put under your pool doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but it’s best to consider what you really need before investing in one. To make the selection process a bit easier, here are the options and what they offer.  

Concrete Pads

If you’re willing to invest in the most durable foundation for your above ground pool, a concrete pad is the way to go. Of all the options, concrete pads last the longest, so you’ll have a good return on your investment. You can even extend the pad to create a barbeque or lounging area.

Like we mentioned, concrete pads are long-lasting, but installation is very labor intensive and requires a lot of materials.

Concrete Pads

Leveling the ground is essential, plus you’ll need to hire a concrete truck to bring in the amount of cement required. Everything considered, you can expect to spend between $700 and $1,200 to install a concrete pad yourself.

If a project of this size seems daunting, it might be a good idea to hire a professional. This would take the hassle out of buying and transporting the materials, plus you don’t have to worry about the outcome. These professionals have plenty of experience, plus their work generally comes with guarantees.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do this yourself, though. If you’re up to the challenge, there are plenty of DIY guides to get you through the project. With research and planning, plenty of pool owners have performed this installation themselves. 

Before you decide whether a concrete pad is the best option for you, here are some pros and cons to consider. 

Can be perfectly levelRough on pool liner
Very stableRequires a secondary liner
Very durableMost expensive option


For a more affordable and DIY-friendly option than concrete, a sand foundation might be best for you. Unlike concrete, sand is gentle on the pool liner and makes for a great cushion.

Like we mentioned before, it’s much easier to install a sand foundation for your pool than it is for concrete. You don’t need nearly as many materials, and it’s easy to get the amount of sand you’ll need. Depending on the size of your pool, the cost of supplies ranges between $150 to $250.


As with any other foundation, you’ll want to make sure the ground is level first. This is the most labor-intensive part, and you can always recruit a couple of helpers to speed up the process. 

A frame to contain the sand can be built with 2 x 4’s and brackets, then you’re ready to spread out your sand foundation. Make sure it’s spread out evenly, and tamp it down to get rid of air pockets.

 As an extra precaution, you can line the ground with a breathable tarp to keep burrowing animals from disturbing the sand. You’ll want water to be able to drain, so make sure this liner isn’t waterproof.

While they are easy to install and are gentle on pool liners, sand foundations also have their disadvantages. Here are a few things to consider before committing to a sand foundation.

Easy to installCan shift with heavy rain
Good cushioningMessier than other options
Gentle on pool linerMore expensive than commercial options

Commercial Pads 


If you live in an area that frequently gets heavy rainfall, you might consider a more durable foundation than sand. Commercial pads are made of very tough material, and are designed to hold up in bad weather conditions. Not only are these durable, their permeability prevents moisture from being trapped under the pool.

Commercial pads are very easy to install, and are available in precut sizes to fit your pool. Depending on the size of your pool, you can expect to spend between $50 and $130. The thickness and material of the pad also factors into cost.   

To install a commercial pad, you’ll have to clear and level the ground first, just like with any other foundation. It’s best to choose a pad with an extra foot of space around the pool, so you can anchor it to the ground.

Once your ground is clear you can lay out the pad and install the pool. To anchor the edges of the pad, you can cover it with fine gravel or wood chips.

For extra cushioning, some have layered two pads under the pool. It will make for a more comfortable pool floor, but this extra step is entirely up to you.

Here are some pros and cons to consider before deciding whether a commercial pad is best for you.

Available in all pool sizesCan be expensive
Durable materialWorks best with a concrete pad
Breathable materialThin material

Carpet Padding 

If you aren’t thrilled with the expense that comes along with the other options, consider recycling some old carpet. The beauty of this option is in its availability-you probably already have it. It’s also permeable to allow water to drain, plus it isn’t as rough on your pool as other foundations.

Even if you don’t have carpet lying around, it’s very easy to find and cheap. You can find it for as low as $0.60 per square foot! At this cost, you could add a second layer for more protection and cushioning.

Installation is very easy-simply cut the carpet to fit, and lay it out on your cleared and leveled ground. Like we mentioned with the commercial pads, you can size it to have an extra foot of coverage for added stability.

Carpet Padding 

While carpet padding is economical and easy to install, there are some downsides to bear in mind. Here are some points to consider before you settle on carpet padding for your pool.

Very inexpensiveNot very stable
Good protection for pool linerNeeds to be cut to fit
BreathableNot much cushion

Foam Board 

If you have small children or others in your family that won’t enjoy a hard pool floor, a foam foundation might be your best option. They are also gentle on your pool, so you won’t have to worry about liner damage. 

This is also a great option if you live in an area where the ground stays cold. A cold ground will absorb the heat from your pool water, making it uncomfortable to swim.

If this sounds great, and fits your needs, another great aspect is the ease of installation. You will need to do a little work to make it fit, but it can easily be a one person job. Depending on the foam you choose, you can expect to spend between $100 to $250 for supplies.

Just like with any other foundation, you’ll have to start with cleared and leveled ground. Then you can arrange the foam board so that they’ll fit under your pool and tape them together. Sturdy packing tape works great for this.

Once you have the foam boards secured together, just cut the edges to fit the shape of the pool. Depending on the thickness of the foam, a box cutter works perfectly to shape your foam foundation. Now you’re ready to install your pool!

Before you decide whether a foam board foundation is best for you, here are the advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Foam Board 
Easy to installRequires fitting
Insulates poolCan be expensive
Good protection for pool linerNot breathable

Intex Ground Cloth 

The Intex ground cloth is perfect if you aren’t concerned with having a lot of cushion, but are looking for an affordable ground buffer to protect your pool liner. These ground cloths are made by one of the biggest producers of above-ground pools, so you can be confident in their engineering.

Intex ground cloths are widely available, and available in whatever size fits your pool. Installation is as simple as it gets-simply lay it over your leveled ground and you’re done.

Intex Ground Cloth 

The best aspect of the Intex ground cloth is the price point. Depending on the size of the pool, you can expect to pay between $30 and $40. Its affordability makes this ground cloth a great pairing option for a concrete pad or foam foundation.

While this is one of the most affordable options, there are other points to consider. One of the main complaints of these ground cloths is the longevity compared to other ground buffers.

AffordableVery little cushion
Available in different sizesNot as durable as other options
Easy to install

Should You Hire a Professional To Install Something Under Your Pool? 

Now that you’ve gone over the options and considered their pros and cons, it’s time to plan the installation. If you don’t need to do any ground leveling, this could be a great DIY project. Most of these ground covers can easily be installed in an afternoon.

If your ground needs leveling, or the thought of installing a concrete pad is intimidating, it’s best to hire a professional. They have the required equipment and experience in different landscapes, plus they usually guarantee their work.

The cost of hiring a professional depends on the amount of work to be done, and it ranges between $800 and $3,000. You can expect to pay more if you need ground leveling or concrete, but like we mentioned before, professional work usually comes with guarantees.