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Inground Pool Elevation: How High Should I Set My Pool?

Inground Pool Elevation: How High Should I Set My Pool?

Finding A Pool Contractor  |  Installation & Construction  |  Pool Design Guides  |  Retaining Walls, Fence, and Landscaping

We are frequently asked the question: What is the correct elevation or height to set an inground pool? 

First off, we need to understand why setting the pool at the right elevation is so important. 

Choosing the right elevation will ensure the pool does three things:

  1. Drains properly
  2. Looks pleasing to the eye
  3. Works with the grade of the yard as much as possible (and thus not spending “invisible money”)

So What Factors Determine the Pool Height?

Depending on the site, this can actually be a complicated question.  But generally speaking, here are the factors that most commonly affect how high you should set an inground pool:  


The Grade (or Slope) of the Yard

In a flat yard (flat meaning the pool area doesn’t slope more than 6 to 8 inches), it’s often best to set the top of the pool patio 3–4 inches higher than the highest point in the pool area. For example, let’s say you laid out a rectangle in the yard representing the pool and the patio, and that area sloped a total of 8”. You would set the top of the pool patio 3” higher than that highest point.


For yards with a more dramatic slope, you basically have three options. You can set the pool at the high point, the low point, or somewhere in the middle.  Depending on the amount of slope, a retaining wall system may be required, or you could possibly manage the grade by cutting and filling earth to make up the difference. Landscaping does wonders to beautify such areas. 


Existing Drainage Patterns

Proper drainage is critical to the long term success of any pool. Sometimes it’s necessary to place a pool directly in an existing water path. Ensure the pool is set high enough so no water runs onto the patio. It may be necessary to implement other drainage methods to insure water runs away from the pool and is directed to the right area. Sometimes, the use of French drains and/or drains in the yard are required to collect the water and divert it to the desired location.    

Read more: Deck/Patio Drainage For Inground Swimming Pools 101


Existing Patios or Steps

Sometimes inground pools are installed in conjunction with existing patios, steps, or other structures. In these cases, the existing structure will determine the elevation of the pool. For example, let’s say you have an existing concrete patio directly behind the house which you plan to install an inground pool 12’ away from. The 12’ between the pool and existing slab will be new patio.    

To establish the elevation of the pool, simply set the top of the pool coping about 1 ½” higher than the existing slab.  This will cause the new patio to slope 1½” toward the existing patio, causing a “V” where the two patios meet.  Simply install a deck drain (a 2” wide slotted drain) where the two patios meet to collect the water coming from both the pool and the existing patio. This will collect all of the run-off water and divert it away from the patio area. 


Well that’s about it. There are certainly some other factors that could impact a pool's elevation. But in most cases, if you set the pool at a height that both drains well and works with existing structures, you’re good to go.

Thoughts?  Questions? Comments? Please share them below. 

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Editor’s note (5/3/24):  
This article was written by Jason Hughes, (Founder, River Pools Virginia, Genesis Course Instructor). The opinions expressed are those of the author. Any pricing information is based on information that was readily available at the time of publication.

River Pools is a brand of inground fiberglass pools produced via the River Pools division of the manufacturing facility in Fortville, IN. While our expertise is in fiberglass pool manufacturing, we are part of an extensive network of experts relating to all things inground pools. Our own collective experience from over the years spans manufacturing, project design, installation, and pool service. We often tap into this knowledge base and share information freely with homeowners, just like you, who are considering having a swimming pool installed in your backyard.