The Pool Removal Process

The Pool Removal Process

The first thing you want to do is check with your local building department requirements to see if you need a permit for pool demolition. As a result of pool demolition becoming more common, a growing number of cities and counties have adopted their own regulations for this process. And, of course, there are fees for this.
There is no standard price for permit fees, although in Northern California I have seen fees as low $33 and as high as $2000. Some fees may incorporate encroachment and recycling deposits which will be returned to you after the project is completed. Make sure you know exactly how much these fees are, so you can get them back! If your contractor has Itemized his quote showing the permit fee, ask them if any of the fee incorperates deposits that will be returned?
The length of time it takes to get a permit varies depending on where you live. I do Know that some places on the east coast can take a month or more. Generally it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days. In some locations it can be done over the counter.
In addition, you may need to furnish a plot plan. This is a to scale map showing the locations of property lines, existing buildings and the existing swimming pool you plan to demolish.
If the city or county does have swimming pool removal regulations, it generally will outline the steps needed to complete the process along with the timing and number of inspections required.
If you are hiring a contractor, make sure their pricing includes all permits and fees associated with doing your project.
Prior to starting, Some jurisdictions may require you or your contractor to provide written recommendations from a soils engineer. Generally this will spell out the types of materials for backfilling the swimming pool as well as the procedures for compacting it. The soil engineer may also need to observe backfilling of the pool when it’s being done.
Cities or counties typically won’t provide engineering services. However, they may be able to provide you with a list of engineering firms. You can also find these companies on the Internet or local yellow page listings under Engineers – Geotechnical.
The cost for engineering services will vary from company to company. I suggest calling a number of different companies, for a quote. If they don’t sound terribly interested in helping you, move on. Chances are their attitude will translate into a high price. You shouldn’t pay more than $600 for this service. I have seen it as low as $300.
Keep in mind, demolition and backfilling of a swimming pool can be done wrong. Even if you’re not required to hire an engineer, its still money well spent. Not only are you hiring a professional oversight, but you also get documentation that shows that the work was done correctly. This may prove invaluable down the road. Being able to prove this work was done right may be essential to selling your home or building something else on the site.
If you’re hiring a contractor, I would still recommend a soils engineer. A contractor may tell you they can do the job right, but how would you know? Are you willing to take their word? Even if the contractor’s work is perfect, you still don’t have any documentation to prove it. Ask your contractor if he can refer a soils engineer. If they can’t, or they try to talk you out of hiring one, find another contractor.
Swimming pool draining

While it seems like a straightforward and simple process, there are a number of important aspects to draining a swimming pool.
The first thing you’ll find out is that there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus about what to do with drained pool water. That may be different where you live.
Swimming pool water can contain chlorine, copper, sediments and other contaminates that can pollute our waterways. Consequently, Some local clean water programs do have procedures for draining swimming pools. One particular one I am familiar with requires that the chlorine in the water be neutralized, as much copper as possible be removed, and then water be discharged on to a planted area or into the storm drain. Some cities and counties strictly prohibit pumping into the storm drain and only allow pumping into a sanitary sewer, at which time you would need approval from your wastewater treatment authority.
When water is drained from your pool, certain precaution must be taken to prevent the pool from floating. Because water can build up under your pool, it’s possible for the pressure of the water under the pool shell to exceed the pressure of the weight of the pool. When this happens, the pool shell floats. I have seen pool shells lifted as high as four feet.
Now, if this happens and the plan all along was to completely remove the swimming pool, this might not be such a tragedy. If, on the other hand, you were planning to demolish only the top portion and then fill the pool in, well, now you do have a complete removal.
To minimize the chances of pool float, certain precautions must be taken. First, pump pool water down to where the shallow floor just begins to become exposed. A hole must then be drilled through the shell floor. As the water continues to recede, consequent holes should be drilled to relieve any pressure. I usually bore four holes – one in the shallow end, one in the deep end and two dividing the distance between them.

The first thing I recommend doing prior to any pool demolition is to call Underground Service Alert (811). This is a free service provided by the utility companies. They will come out and mark where their particular service cables, pipes or wires are buried.
You must call 48 hours in advance of any work. This gives the different utility companies time to come out, locate and mark the lines. Depending on where you live and the age of your residence, you may have buried or overhead service lines. The reason these service lines are located, is to avoid any contact or damage to these lines. A lot of headache and expense can be avoided with just a simple phone call.
Knowing the location of utility lines can keep the job safer and can help you avoid unnecessary costs. For instance, in one particular job I was involved with, the main power lines were marked showing they were running under the swimming pool decking. Generally you might expect these lines to be buried a minimum of 12″ up to 36″, but because of our previous experiences, and the fact that the lines had been located, we broke that portion of concrete by hand. Low and behold, the power cables were lying just under the decking, exposed. If we hadn’t known the lines were there and had been doing the demo with a machine, we could have easily hit the lines and broke them, or worse, we could have started a fire or someone could have been electrocuted.
It should never be assumed that Utility lines come from the street to the front of your home. I’ve seen many instances where these lines come from the back or the side of the property and were installed right next to a swimming pool or underneath the decking
Heaters disconnect

If your swimming pool was equipped with a gas heater, it will need to be disconnected. To do this, the gas must be shut off. Now, if a shut off was installed at the heater, the gas can be shut off there. However, if the gas line is being removed, or the gas line runs under a pool deck that is going to be removed, shut the gas off at the meter.
If you’re Lucky, the swimming pool gas line was installed at the meter with a shut off valve of its own. But, if yours is like most, the gas line comes right off the house side of the meter without a shut off. In this case, the gas has to be shut off at the main shutoff valve. The pool heater gas line can then be disconnected from the main line. Then main line can then be plugged with a pipe plug. Make sure some type of approved pipe thread sealer is put on the pipe plug before it’s installed. After it’s installed, it should be inspected with soapy water to detect any leaks.
Some gas meters are equipped with an earthquake trip valve. When the gas is shut off this valve will automatically close due to the pressure drop. This can only be reset by your service your provider. Make sure you notify them prior to shutting your gas off
Keep in mind, when the main gas line to your home is shut off, the pilot lights in any gas appliances go off as well. These pilot lights will need to be relit as soon as the gas is turned back on. Your contractor should do this as part of their service. If they don’t, call your service provider. I know in Northern California, PG&E does this at no charge. Whoever is doing it make sure they have plenty of notice before you need it done. You don’t want to go through a cold night without heat.
Electrical disconnect

If your not familiar with electrical wiring Hire a contractor. if your hiring a pool demolition contractror they should be familiar with disconnecting procedures.
Local jurisdictions generally have requirements for electrical disconnects associated with a swimming pool demolition. It might read like this, “Electrical system shall be caped or terminated in an approved manner”. So what does that mean?
Generally they want the electrical conduits disconnected from the electrical panel or sub panel and capped, you can’t simply flip the breaker off.
The first challenge in this is finding where the power is coming from. If it’s the main service panel, that’s easy. On the other hand if it’s a sub panel, you may have to do a little searching. I have found sub panels under houses in closets, attics, even kitchen cabinets.
Once the power source is located, and before any wires are disconnected, shut off the power at the main panel. Then before removing the wires from the panel check with a voltmeter to be certain the power is off. Disconnect the wires, cap them with wire nuts then wrap them with electrical tape to make them water proof.

By far, the most dangerous aspect of the swimming pool fill in or removal process is demolition. It requires special tools and skills. Hydraulic breakers or pneumatic hammers are used to break swimming pool walls floors and decking. These tools create tremendous impact force. As a result, small and large pieces of concrete can rocket away from the work area. These concrete projectiles can cause serious injury, or even death!
Another dangerous aspect of swimming pool demolition is rebar. There can be as much as five thousand lineal feet of rebar in an average size concrete swimming pool. This makes the pool shell extremely strong and difficult to break. Contractors that have little or no experience doing this type of work often become impatient or take needless risks.
Safety should be the first priority of any contractor engaged in this type of work. When interviewing contractors, ask them what they do to prevent injury or property damage. If you don’t get a good answer, you’re talking to the wrong contractor.

Compaction is an important part of swimming pool removal process, and most often, the part that gets done wrong. A contractor may understand that compaction is needed when backfilling a swimming pool, but what they might not know is how to achieve the maximum compaction for the type of backfill material they are using. They may tell you that they will compact the soil, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything. What you want is verifiable compaction
Verifiable compaction is when the backfill material (usually dirt) is tested for density during and after placement. This test indicates what compaction is being achieved compared to the best compaction possible for the type of material being used.
There are other factors that go into compaction such as, what would good compaction be? In most cases achieving 90% of the soils maximum possible density would be considered good compaction. If you are planning on installing landscaping after your pool has been filled in, the last thing you want is settlement. More importantly, if you are planning on building a structure over any part of the site it is absolutely essential that you get verifiable compaction.
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