If you’re ready to reclaim the space your unwanted pool is taking up, there are several ways to do the job safely. Filling in the pool is possible, but can lead to problems later. Removing all parts of the pool costs more, but it’s a more reliable long-term solution and gives you more flexibility in how you can use the land.
Before you decide, find out if any local regulations cover what can be done with an unused pool. Your city might require you to obtain a report from a licensed geotechnical or civil engineer as well as a demolition permit. Bringing in an engineer reduces the risk of issues later. It’s an especially good idea if your pool is near your foundation or sewer lines.
If your locality doesn’t require you to involve an engineer and you’re comfortable using compact construction equipment, such as a skid steer, you can do the work yourself.
Partial Pool Removal
This method involves breaking down part of the pool and burying most of the pool material. It’s the most affordable and fastest approach, but also the one most likely to cause long-term issues, especially if the site isn’t correctly prepared for groundwater drainage.
What you can do with the reclaimed space is often limited by law. In some areas, the site is deemed non-buildable, meaning you can’t legally build any dwelling such as an addition or detached guest cottage there. Storage sheds and playhouses, as well as landscaping are still fair game.
In other jurisdictions, you’re allowed to build after getting a soil compaction test either from your local authorities or an authorized company. In still others, you’ll need a soil compaction test just to do landscaping or plant trees on the site. Because you’re required to disclose the presence of a buried pool to any future buyers, it could affect your property value.
If you’re doing the job yourself, take time to plan. You might find guides on how to get rid of your inground pool in one day, but these approaches usually rely on shortcuts that don’t address drainage and only look good for a little while. They’ll soon leave you with a mess of swampy, sinking ground.
Once the job is planned, it can be done in two or three days. The first step is breaking up the deck and knocking holes in the pool’s walls and floor. The top layer of the pool should be completely demolished 18 to 36 inches down. The remaining walls and floor must be broken to let surface water from rain and lawn watering, as well as natural underground water, drain properly. Get this step wrong, and the trapped moisture will eventually push the remaining parts of the pool up to the surface.
The debris is then dumped onto the bottom of the pool and crushed down to fill in the empty space. This way, you’ll need less gravel and soil filler and won’t have to haul the debris away. The remaining space is filled with gravel one 1-foot layer at a time, with each layer tamped down before another is added. This holds the pool debris down and, because gravel settles less than soil, it provides a stable foundation for the topsoil. It’s also cheaper than filling the space with soil alone. If necessary, your contractor might recommend adding a drainage pipe to further reduce the risk of sinking.
The gravel is covered with a geotextile filter cloth that keeps the soil from moving down into the gravel. This reduces the risk of the soil settling into a pool-shaped indentation. To finish it off, a layer of topsoil at least 3 feet deep is added over the cloth and tamped down to stabilize it.
Complete Pool Removal
This method requires breaking up the deck, pool sides and floor, and removing all the material, including the concrete or gunite, as well as the fiberglass, beams, rebar, and other material. The debris is hauled away, and the hole is filled with gravel and soil in the same way as a partial pool removal.
Because there’s no debris left under the soil, there’s little risk of sinking and drainage issues. In most jurisdictions, you’ll be able to build over the area and landscape it as if the pool had never been there. You’ll still need to tell future buyers about the removed pool, but it shouldn’t affect your property value much, if any.
The downside is that it’s a more complex and expensive process. It’s more likely you’ll need to hire an engineer to inspect the site before the work starts and even supervise the removal and fill process. Once the job is done, you’ll need to have a soil compaction test performed by a qualified professional to ensure the ground is stable and can be officially declared “buildable.”
If you want to use the space, but you aren’t ready to remove the pool’s walls and floor yet, there are other ways to re-purpose your pool. Consider converting it into a pond, a greenhouse, or even an underground workshop. Retiring it by covering it with a deck lets you use the space now with the option of re-opening your pool in the future.
A partial pool removable is an affordable way to get rid of an inground pool, but it must be done correctly to avoid problems with sinking soil in the future. If you want to reclaim the land for any landscaping or construction use and without worrying about soil issues, investing in a complete pool removal is a better option.