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wnewman 09-19-2012 07:54 AM

Filling in our InGround Swimming Pool
Hello again. Hey, I got great responses on a question I posted a month ago so here we go again!

Here's the project...we've got a 15 year old, inground pool that's 8 foot deep at one end (diving pool). It's the style with a vinyl liner in it which basically means it isn't a fiberglass form and it isn't built out of 'gunnite' (some kind of cement). The liner is ripping in several places above the water line (due to the sun), although to date, it still holds water. Size of pool is 18' x 36' x 6' deep (averaging the shallow and deep depths). That's 140 cubic yards of fill.

Ok, so I've had a few estimates just to see what the cost would be. Here's some numbers:
  • $5,000 for a new liner installed - not really an option, because we don't use the pool anymore, the kids are all grown and moved and we want our yard back.
  • $3,500 for first estimate to fill in which includes:
    • break up all concrete into 1 foot chunks
    • remove 3' steel wall that runs around the top 3' of the wall liner all the way around
    • Vibrate/tamp the fill every 1 foot in height
    • Does not include any topsoil or landscaping (That's another $1,500).
    • Does not include any 'fill' that might be needed if there's not enough existing fill on the property.
  • $2,500 for second estimate to fill in which includes:
    • Break up concrete
    • Use Bulldozer to push in all concrete, fill, stones, etc.
    • Does not include extra fill.
    • Does not include landscaping or topsoil
    • Includes tamping every 18" of fill.
    • Estimates another $1,000 for fill if needed.
  • DIY Option - That's me!
    • Option 1 - Excavator - $900
      • Local tool rental place told me to use an excavator. They will provide excavator, 2' bucket with claws, 3' bucket with smooth bottom, and concrete buster attachment. For $900, they will drop it off Friday night and pick it up on Monday morning. They told me to bust up the concrete into small pieces, push it in the pool, then put the 2' claw bucket on and dig into the hill/slope that the pool sits on, then put the 3' bucket on and move the loosened up dirt into the pool hole.
    • Option 2 - Bulldozer - $800
      • Different tool rental place. They have both escavator and bulldozer. They said the bulldozer is the way to go. It can scrape a few inches of the slope/hill and simply push everything into the pool. To me, this sounds a whole lot easier.
That's the basics. As far as the property, we are on a 1 acre lot, nothing in the way of the operation, no trees close by. The basic layout is that the pool is on level ground with the back of our house and goes straight back from the patio in the long direction (36 feet). I'm going to take some measurements, but it's pretty far away from the patio. Basically, we've got the cement patio that's staying that's 12' deep from the house, then a 12' deep garden, then the first chain link fence gate for the pool entrance, then there's 12' of concrete before the steps to walk into the shallow end of the pool. So the 'house edge' of the pool is 35 to 40 feet from the house. The layout of the land is that the pool is level with the house, and on the right side and the back side, the land slopes down probably 3 to 4 feet for a good distance, then way in the back of the property is the drybed creek that is the low spot of the property. I've done some basic measurements with a level and string to see how much existing fill we have and it seems to be pretty good. I also found a local place that will deliver 20 yards of fill for $120.

So here's the plan. I'll sell the chain link fence. Then, I have to figure out if i can simply push the concrete into the pool or if I have to break it up first. If I have to break it up, I'm not sure if I need another piece of equipment besides the bulldozer. Once I push all the concrete into the pool, I'll get 3 loads of the fill from the local contractor. That's only $360 and will reduce the amount I need to take from our property from 140 down to 80. Then, I'll use the bulldozer to scrape away at the slope/hill a few inches at a time, pushing it into the pool until it's filled.

Whew! If you're still reading, I really appreciate it.

Here's my questions:
  • Which one sounds better? Mini-escavator with all those attachments or the bulldozer?
  • How much do I really have to bust up the concrete if it's going 8 feet down in the deep end of the pool?
  • Am I biting off more than I can chew to do this? Hell no! This is a DIY chatroom, right? By the way, my wife and I have done everything ourselves on our homes so I'm not afraid to try this.
  • Big question; What did I forget, what am I not considering?
I probably forgot something but this is good for now. I'll try and post a few pictures.


hammerlane 09-19-2012 08:09 AM

Sounds like a fun weekend project. Do you also have a concrete deck area around the perimeter of the pool?
Can you post a photo of the layout of the land?

allthumbsdiy 09-21-2012 06:56 AM

Have you considered a combination?

I rented this Yanmar CEL40 for a week to remove some bedrock and it worked fairly well.

I don't think it is very popular with DIYers so it cost around $950 for a week.

Backhoe was pretty powerful for its size and easy to control.

Dozer part was okay, mainly because it rode on wheels (slippery in mud).

If you have grass protect, I would look into something with rubber tracks (i.e. Bobcat). Anything with wheels or metal tracks will tear up that grass in no time.

Good luck!

PS. My town actually requires you to obtain a permit to remove inground pool (concrete must be broken into 1" chunks and they must be removed from the site and backfilled with dirt) so you may ask them before renting anything

user1007 09-21-2012 12:52 PM

Have you checked with the building department with jurisdiction over this kind of thing? As mentioned in the prior post you will probably need a permit and inspection and they may have specific demands or recommendations for how the concrete has to be busted up, etc. You may decide at least the basic of the demolition are not a DIY project.

allthumbsdiy 09-21-2012 02:50 PM

I used a jack hammer attachment on a Bobcat once which worked well but I don't think an excavator bucket will be able to break up the concrete into 1" chunks.

wnewman 09-22-2012 09:02 AM

Filling in In-Ground Pool
3 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the responses. A lot has happened this week.

After I received the second quote for doing the work, I decided to check around myself. I think I was extremely lucky, but while driving home 2 days ago, I saw a dump truck coming out of a long, new development dirt driveway. I flagged him down and simply asked if he ever needed a place to dump dirt. He said 'Are you kidding me? All the time!'. Sweet! The most important thing for them is that you live close enough for them to dump it quick - and you need to have good access for them. It turns out, I was about 10 minutes away from the dig site and it was right on the fringe of where he wanted to go. Anyway, I gave him my name and number. His boss called me a few hours later and said "I've got a few loads for you. Can you take it tomorrow morning (yesterday)". So yesterday, another driver brought (4) 20 cubic yard loads and dropped them on the lawn, in line with the pool. I decided to give him $100 because the loads are really great fill; mostly stone, shale, dirt, and some clay. No wood, foreign materials, not even any concrete chuncks. It's really good fill.

I've attached some pics. The overall shot from a bedroom window gives you an idea of where it is. Note behind the diving board and to the right side, the land drops off quite a bit. Those are the areas I'll be taking the extra dirt from. But now that I've got 80 yards of extra fill, I think it will work out just great.

Since getting the fill, the overall plan has changed a little. I'm getting a skid steer with concrete breaking attachment and a bucket for the first day. The skid steer has rubber tracks on it, not wheels. First, I'll break up all the concrete. Then, I'll use the bucket to put all the concrete into the pool at the very bottom of the deep end. Then, I'll skim off the surface around the pool area and drop in all the stones, loose dirt, and anything that will come up with the skid steer bucket. Then, I think it will be a whole lot easier to move the 80 yards of dirt with the skid steer bucket rather than the bull dozer. Finally, the rental place will pick up the skid steer the next day, and drop off a bull dozer - it's got metal tracks and some kind of grippers he mentioned on the tracks. This will be the final step to push all the ground from the hills around my pool to complete the fill in. It will also even out the ground all over in preparation for topsoil.

I'm considering the topsoil as another part of the project.

I know you're thinking that I'm really diggin up a lot of grass, but the yard has always been more of a field of weeds that's cut to look like grass! I've never had any topsoil brought in after the pool was installed, I just threw grass seed over everything.

I'll keep you all updated on the progress if you tell me you want to see more. Next step is October 4th. That's when the equipment arrives.

Here's a question for those who have this experience...I don't know how difficult it will really be to bust up the concrete. The attachment for the skid steer is $175. They also have what they call a '65 pound electric jack hammer'. It looks big and heavy, and i"m wondering if I could use that to manually walk around the pool and break up the concrete. I just don't know how to figure out which one to use. I'm thinking it's worth $100 bucks to sit on my ass and break up the concrete, but then again, I've got a few people helping me with the project. What do you think?

Also, I've never driven a skid steer or a bulldozer. I decided on the skid steer to move the piles of dirt with the bucket because I wasn't sure how 'easy or hard' it would be for the bull dozer to move the piles about 50 feet to the pool. Any thoughts there?

Seems like I've got 3 major things to do:
  1. Bust up concrete
  2. Pick up or push concrete/stones/loose ground into pool
  3. Move the 4 piles of new fill into pool
  4. Finish by scraping the surrounding hillside - the rental guy told me the skid steer will not be able to dig into the hill.
Go ahead and give me your suggestions. It's definitely not too late to change any of it.

By the way, I'm going to keep track of total costs compared to paying someone. So far, to rent the skid steer, concrete and bucket attachements, bull dozer, and delivery of all equipement is just under $1,000.


allthumbsdiy 09-22-2012 07:52 PM

Here are my thoughts as a DIYer who have used some light equipment:

1. Permit - you did not mention this in your follow up message. Not sure if you don't need one or not, but if you do and they catch you, you may need to excavate the whole thing and backfill it (or maybe they will fine you, I don't know). I think it's worth getting a confirmation from your building department. If you do need a permit and it requires you to remove concrete, you may need to rent a dumpster and a concrete recycler.

2. Bulldozer - if you plan on using this, I would call whoever handles underground utility markings to flag your water pipe. I don't think you want to run over those if you can help it.

3. Grading - I don't know how much you plan on re-grading but unless you are moving thousands of cubic yards of earth, I think a decent sized skid steer should be enough to scrape and move few inches of earth. If you are renting a Bobcat (I have rented both T190, T300 and T320), I would pay the extra $$ to rent T300/320. It has foot controls for the forward/backward movement which is more natural (vs. handles for T190) and more powerful engine made it so much easier to move dirt quickly

4. Jack Hammer - in my case, Bobcat's breaker attachment had a limited range of motion.

5. Cost - in my case, there was a delivery charge and a separate pickup charge (one for the attachment return since I did not own a pickup, and one for the Bobcat).

Depending on the delivery pickup time, and whether or not you need to break concrete into 1" chunks would determine if one day is enough for the breaker rental.


1. Have several 5 gal. cans with diesel on hand (I had 4). You probably know this but make sure the can is yellow or gas stations may not sell you diesel

2. Wear eye protection when you are connecting/disconnecting hydraulic hoses

3. Have a power washer handy. I didn't have one at the time and it took me forever to clean a really dirty Bobcat. Dirty equipment return meant an extra $150 in cleaning fees.

4. When re-grading, always use wood stakes to indicate the grading height as it was fairly difficult to just accurately from inside the cab.

Have fun with that skid steer!

oodssoo 09-22-2012 10:56 PM

I am in a similar situation as you. I, too, own a (11 year old liner 20k gal) pool.

One thing I thought I could suggest is, as you would be selling your fence, I thought you could also sell you pool equipment. I mean you could get the local pool companies to basically pay you to take away the pump, booster, and filter.

Uncertain how much that return would be, but it is something that I plan to do when I get to the bridge.

Please send me a private message so I can keep you for my future reference.

biggles 09-23-2012 07:10 AM

how thick is that concrete walk around?....for free dirt fill might want to check out Craigslist FOR SALE/FREE section.cesspool companies are always looking to dump dirt from new installs.they could back the trucks right up into the pool..might put a pix up there also somebody/or a company might come in with a concrete saw and cut it up for using some place...never know what people are looking for over there and labor would be free.somebody would definitly grab the fence,posts and all the hardware

wnewman 09-23-2012 07:35 AM

I'm replying with IPhone and trying to remember all the questions. :)

I called the building inspector and he said any kind of fill was ok except oil or chemicals. Wow.

Concrete looks to be 4" thick.

I already sold the chain link fence, solar cover and reel, and the filter. Gotta love Craigslist!

I posted pick of pool. For equipment use, the fence will be gone so access to concrete and pool is very easy.

No permits are required.

We live in a small rural town so maybe that's why there is no big deal for the town.

I plan on taking tons of pictures as we fill. If nothing else, it should be a good record to show a future buyer of our house.

As far as the equipment, I think I'll try to cut into the ground with the skid steer. If it works, maybe I won't need the bull dozer. The biggest problem I'm having right now is my indecision based on my lack of experience with any of this equipment.

I'm looking forward to getting started.

Thanks for all the comments. I'll post more pics as we move forward.

Oh, I just remembered another comment. There is no power lines, or other utilities in the yard so I'm good with that.

Daniel Holzman 09-23-2012 10:34 AM

You may want to consider how (or if) you are going to compact the fill. Compaction generally is done in 6 inch or so lifts, and is commonly done using either a vibratory roller (another piece of rental equipment) or a jumping jack (hand operated tamper), which also needs to be rented. If you do not compact the fill, you should anticipate that over the next 5 years or so the fill will self compact at least 10 percent, meaning that four feet of fill will settle almost half a foot, leaving you with a variable dip in your lawn. This may be OK with you, it is really an aesthetics issue, but if you plan to put a building or structure on the fill, you do need to compact, else the foundation will be unstable.

allthumbsdiy 09-23-2012 01:33 PM

Usually a person dropping it off can show you some basic stuff but if you have never operated a skid steer, you may want visit the rental place and ask them to give you a hands-on 15 min tutorial.

Just think of it as a giant Tonka truck :)

ps. make sure to wear good ear protection as the diesel engine and/or jack hammer will be loud.

wnewman 10-08-2012 09:17 AM

Pool is filled in!
Ok, the pool is filled in. Ended up renting the skid steer with bucket and concrete busting attachement. The concrete busting was easy, it took less than 3 hours.

I'll post more pics, but here's where I'm at. The pool's filled in, the ground is level. I've got to decide if I'm going to plant grass this year or wait till spring.

If I wait till spring, I've got mud in the yard, but we don't have kids running around in it so it doesn't really matter much. Waiting till spring may show up any areas that sink a little bit that can backfill before getting topsoil.

If I do it now, I need topsoil - not sure how much, (how thick do I need), and what equipement to rent to lay out the topsoil smooth before planting the seed.

Some tell me it's too late to plant for Buffalo NY weather. Others tell me it's the perfect time to plant.


user1007 10-08-2012 10:12 AM

I would wait for spring for a couple of reasons.

1. You better let all you dumped in the pool settle before trying to establish a surface grade for planting. It probably would not hurt to bring in your topsoil and organic amendments let it all settle with the rest though. You might have to add some more next spring though. You should get soil samples on the topsoil and I don't know what lab turnaround times are in your area.

2. It is October 8 according to my calendar. Quality hybrid turfgrass seeds germinate at different rates and under ideal conditions gone in your area already. You don't want ANNUAL ryegrass so ignore blends with it in it. Most hybrid shade and sun blends will include PERENNIAL rye grass, bluegrass and fescue. Frost will do the young shoots of either in. Perennial rye grass could still germinate in 10 days or so if the surface temp stays warm. Bluegrasses and fescues can take 14-21 days or longer. Again, under ideal conditions.

Come spring, you will also be able to buy nice fresh seed in bulk and make your own blend depending on your conditions. I love planting in the fall and am not saying had you been a few weeks earlier it might have worked out. Too late for the season now.

concretemasonry 10-08-2012 01:06 PM

Depending on the size of the chunks of concrete, you must expect long term settlement(years) when using "dirt". Sand will settle much quicker and give you a better idea on the amount of extra fill needed. You should always avoid "dirt", organics, silt and many clays if you expect a reasonable grade over a few months (with rain/snow) to get an idea of the amount needed to get reasonably level to invest in a lawn.

With the wrong fill, you could end up with a very long term maintenance problem to create a nice space with a level lawn.


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