Getting rid of our swimming pool.
September 25, 2014 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Have you gotten rid of you in-ground pool? What method did you use?

(asking for a friend in Northern California)
I am in the process of redesigning the landscape in my backyard which will include removal of an existing patio and in-ground cement swimming pool. In my conversations with the first few contractors I have gathered that the common wisdom is to break up the patio and pool, throw everything in the hole, add soil, and compact.
Yesterday I spoke with a landscape designer who told me that this method is less than optimal in terms of future settling and will limit the type of construction (patios or pergolas) that we will be able to do on top of the former pool.
Have you gotten rid of you in-ground pool? What method did you use? Have you experienced unexpected ground settling?
posted by Mr.Me to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's really a factor of cost and future plans. If you want the 100% best way to do it with costs not being a huge factor, then you completely tear down the pool, haul it away, and add clean fill. However, this is also going to be extremely expensive and may require a few years of settling before any structures could be built. I don't know the soil structure in Northern California - but I would check with someone before building anything on the site.

If you simply want to get rid of the pool, then the contractors method would work although you run the risk of sinkholes, debris rising to the surface, and if not done properly, soil issues. However, this is also the cheapest option although cheapest may not be cheap.

When I helped my friend remove his, we completely removed it with major help from professionals and he still had some ground settling issues but the contractors came back and gave free fill for it. It's been done for 3 years and you can't tell there was ever a pool there. However, he never gave me an exact price - the only thing he said was it cost over $15K to remove it. The other option would have been less then $5K. Knowing that, I think the $15K was well spent and also a life lesson to never get an inground pool.
posted by lpcxa0 at 8:20 AM on September 25, 2014

That is pretty standard. That's what happened to my childhood yard after the new owners took over the house. It will certainly take at least five years (probably more) for new earth to settle the way the rest of the yard has settled over decades and decades. I would think you would have to add soil on top of the area every year too, to keep it level because it will be sinking (aka settling) for some years. You say "unexpected settling" but I think it's entirely to be expected. No way around it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:24 AM on September 25, 2014

My neighbor simply left the pool in place and filled it with dirt. I have no knowledge of any issues.
posted by 724A at 8:43 AM on September 25, 2014

Hm. We're in the Bay Area and did a full engineered removal last fall. (Our city requires it.) It cost $13,000 or so, but I think our contractor wasn't that great, and if I could do it again I'd probably go with these folks; I got a bid from them but went with a cheaper option.

One thing to consider is that we had it done just as it started raining, and the required soil compaction in combination with the rain meant that the soil got rather too compacted, which we had to deal with before putting in our landscaping.

A year later you'd never know there was a pool there. It weathered last winter's rain (such as it was) just fine.
posted by purpleclover at 8:47 AM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

724A, if your neighbour did not at least break up the concrete there will be a problem with rain water not being able to drain properly and the pool area will stay kind of soggy all the time. If that's not been an issue, then they either did break up the concrete or they have been unusually lucky so far.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:52 AM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A house across the street from me was abandoned by the owners almost five years ago. It had a really nice in-ground pool. When a contractor finally bought it to rehab and sell, what they did was to break it up completely and bury it in-place, covered by a layer of new dirt. Very little, if anything, got hauled off.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:15 AM on September 25, 2014

Pools that aren't properly demolished can be future safety issues (will the ground be stable enough to support a building long after you're gone? will it drain well enough to prevent potential landslides or other hazards?). Some pools also have electric hookups that need to be deactivated correctly.

Check with your city/town/county government, there may be specific requirements for method and you may need a demolition permit--that might answer your question one way or the other.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:38 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

We did this about eight years ago. The contractor used an excavator-mounted jackhammer (not quite that big) to punch drainage holes in the bottom of the pool and then remove the top meter or so of the shell. All that went into the pool, followed by dirt and compaction. The ground has not settled or destabilized in any way.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:28 PM on September 25, 2014

I am an engineer, but I am not your engineer, etc etc.

The settlement problem is likely a compaction issue. Compaction needs to be done in 1-2 foot lifts to be effective. If they're filling the entire hole first, then compacting, they may get the top two feet, but everything underneath will be mostly uncompacted and will slowly settle over time.

Soil type also plays a role. Granular soils are easier to compact and are generally more stable than silts, clays and soils with lots of organic matter. Fill should have some moisture for optimum compaction. If it's dry as dust, it won't compact as well as if it's slightly damp.

As a few other people upthread have recommended, punch some holes in the shell and use the top few feet of concrete as fill, as long as they break it up a bit. Large pieces could create voids that might cause settlement later.

There's no reason you couldn't build on it later, but it's critical that the fill is appropriate and that compaction is performed properly.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 9:12 AM on September 26, 2014

I had a pool removed earlier this year. Many said to just punch some holes in the bottom and cave in the rest but that didn't sit well with me. This seemed to be a problematic way of doing it. There was also the issue of selling the house at some point down the road and having to disclose that there is a dead pool buried in the back yard. So when I had it removed I opted for complete removal. It took a couple of days and 9 full dump trucks of fill dirt to fill the hole but it is now gone. The fill dirt was compacted as it was put in and after a very rainy season here in Florida there has been no settlement at all. Cost will vary by location but it cost me under $6k to have it done.
posted by CJB at 7:18 PM on September 28, 2014

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