Swimming pools are great for those 3 weekends of the summer that we actually use them. Before we know it the kids have moved out, and we are left to perform all the maintenance, and incur all the costs associated with this money pit, I mean pool. Filling in a swimming pool is very common, and this post will give you the advice you need to make it as simple as possible.
“Hey Grandpa, is it true that Dad really used to swim in there?”
The Big Decision, Do It Yourself, Or Hire A Contractor
If you have no desire or ability to operate an excavator and potentially a skid steer, skip this step and find a qualified contractor. If you think you are capable of renting a machine and doing it yourself, it can save you money.
Doing It Yourself - Renting An Excavator
Rent an excavator with rubber tracks. Rubber tracks are crucial because metal tracks will destroy your grass. Contact local machinery rental companies and compare prices. You won’t need a very large machine, preferably something with a decent sized bucket, 1/4-1/2yd bucket. Try to order a machine with a blade, this will greatly assist you when you begin grading. Excavators come in classes, usually by the ton. For a pool demolition you usually want between a 5 and 10 ton machine. If you have plenty of access, bigger is usually better. Prices will vary depending upon the size of machine, and distance from the rental company. A job like this usually won’t take more than a few days depending on your skill level and proficiency with the excavator.
Note: Make sure you have most of the fill material delivered before renting a machine. You will have to pay per day, so if for some reason the material is delayed you will be wasting money. I don’t suggest having as much or more than you anticipate there, as if you have too much you may have no way to get rid of it once the pool is filled in. With that said it is good to coordinate with a local supply company and possibly have them bring the loads as you fill the pool in, or if not possible just have some of it there for the start.
Before You Begin Filling
To start you need to determine the volume of your pool in cubic yards. This is simpler than it sounds. Measure the length, width, and depth of your pool in feet. Multiply each of these numbers, and divide them by 27 (amount of cubic feet in a yard), the number you come up with is the total yardage of your pool. For example if our pool is 30′ long, 20′ wide’ and 6′ deep, it has a total volume of 3,600 square feet (30x20x6). The total square footage divided by 27 is 133.33, this indicates that your pool will need 133.33 cubic yards of material to fill it in.
Ordering Your Fill
Swimming pools are fairly deep, and require large amounts of material to fill. That is why you want to purchase a low cost fill, topsoil will be needed, but only for the surface layer. Our fill is $12.00 per cubic yard. We have another material called tailings which cost only $5.00 per cubic yard. Tailings are small stones that are a byproduct of our topsoil screening process. Regular fill dirt is preferred, but tailings are also an option. A good rule of thumb is ordering 80% fill/tailings, and 20% topsoil for the surface. This allows you to fill the hole within inches of the surface before applying the topsoil. Have the material dumped as close to the pool opening as possible, the less you have to move the material the better. If conditions allow and the trucks are able to get to the pool area, they might be able to dump into it (obviously once it is broken up and the walls are removed).
Before You Fill The Pool In
The bottom of the pool should be broken up, or at least drilled to allow drainage. You can try using the bucket of the excavator to break the bottom apart, this works in most cases unless it is a gunite pool. If it is a gunite pool and you have an excavator you can rent a hydraulic breaker attachment (like a large jack hammer) for the machine. This is the easiest way to break the bottom of a gunite pool. If the pool is liner the bucket of the machine should be able to break up the thin layer of mortar under the liner, if there even is one. Sometimes the bottom of a liner pool is only sand. If your pool bottom is thick concrete and you don’t have a breaker attachment or jack hammer then you can use a heavy duty drill and put a series of holes, preferably 1/2″ or larger each, around the pool bottom. You can skip this step if drainage is sufficient in the area, as long as you plan on taking down the pool walls. Otherwise water will be contained inside the old pool, creating a potentially muddy area. Use the bucket of the excavator rip out the sides of the pool. The pool sides, liner, and components should not be buried. These need to be disposed of at a transfer site. If you are inexperienced with machinery be careful, serious injury can occur if you are in the machine and it falls into the hole. Keep a safe distance from the edge.
Filling In Your Old Swimming Pool
After the walls have been removed it’s time to bring in the fill. If you can get the trucks close to the hole you can used the excavator blade as a mini bulldozer and push the dirt into the hole. If you cannot get the trucks by the hole then you will need an additional machine such as a skid steer to move the dirt bucket by bucket into the hole. As you fill the hole and are able to walk the excavator into the hole you can use the tracks and blade to compact the dirt. You should work to push and pack the soil as much as possible to mitigate potential settling.
Again as you get near the top you should walk the machine across the area and use it’s weight to help compact the soil. Once you are within a foot of the top you need to prepare to use topsoil. The recommended amount of topsoil is 3-6″ to allow for grass growth. At this time if your machine has a blade use it to rough grade the area before spreading the topsoil. Hopefully you were pretty close on the material quantity and don’t run short, or have too much. Too much material can pose a problem if you don’t have the space for it. If so you can call the company that delivered it, and use the machine to load their truck. They will probably charge you for this, but unless you can find someone willing to take it for free it may be your most viable option.
All you need to do now is put down some grass seed, fertilizer, and shredded hay. If sod is preferred it can also be laid at this time. A prior post of ours addresses grass planting and may help you, “Planting Grass.” Even though the post title describes planting grass in the fall, the steps can be used any time of year.
Any Doubts, Hire A Contractor
Hiring a contractor is what most of us will do. If you aren’t experienced with machines, or don’t want to take on the task this is your best option. Just make sure you have a clearly defined price going into the job, and you definitely want a contract. This type of job is fairly routine and costs will vary depending on the size of the pool. It is always better to use a company that has referrals for recent pool removal customers. There are contractors and landscapers that will try to give a low price for this type of job with very little experience. It is always best to use a company that is well versed in this type of work. You also want to make sure whoever you hire has insurance in the event something goes wrong. A gas line could be ruptured, a wrong turn with the machine can hit your home or deck. At that point the lower price they may have given will come back to haunt you. Many companies like ours provide free estimates and are willing to go over the entire process with you in person. As we know pools often have decades of memories with them and it can be an emotional decision to remove them. We do our best to calm concerns homeowners may have over this potentially overwhelming project.