From Expert to You: The Ultimate Guide to Swimming Pool Removal After 1,000 Success Stories

Prior to starting My Site Plan I spent 15 years in the Demolition and General Engineering field. During that time we removed over 1,000 swimming pools. Taking out a pool is mostly the same across cities, but permit rules can vary. We created a pool removal process which met or exceeded every building department standard.

Removing a swimming pool involves careful planning, following rules, and sometimes hiring experts to help with the process. Here, we've broken down the essential steps you should consider when undertaking this complex project. Both homeowners and contractors can use this list to make pool removal easy and stress-free, just like a relaxing swim.

Step 1: Obtain Permits and Regulations

Before starting any large construction or demolition job, make sure you have the necessary permits to move forward. There is nothing worse than getting a job site shut down because you didn't get the necessary permits.

Research Local Regulations

Different areas have different rules regarding the removal of swimming pools. Find out what your local building departments regulations are, as they can greatly influence your project's scope and cost.

Pool Removal Permit

Obtain Necessary Permits

Most building departments will issue an over the counter swimming pool removal permit. This will require you to get permission, fill out forms, and submit a site plan. The site plan for your permit will indicate where the pool is in relation to the house, property line, trees, and other structures.

If you need help getting a site plan for your pool removal permit we're here to help at My Site Plan.

The city sometimes asks a soils engineer to explain the process that will be used. Don't overlook getting permits. Not having them can result in big fines and legal trouble. It's important to follow this step.

Getting the permit for a swimming pool removal is an easy process in most cities and not one to skip.

Step 2: Drain the Pool

An essential step in the swimming pool removal process is draining the pool. However, it's not as simple as opening the drain and letting gravity do its work.

Proper Drainage Techniques

Improper draining can lead to structural damage or a muddy mess in your yard. It's important to work with experts who can help you safely and efficiently remove your swimming pool. The most common way to drain a pool is through the sewer clean-out. Most sanitation districts require a permit for this but it is typically inexpensive and simple to obtain.

Consider Environmental Impact

Carefully drain to prevent chemicals and debris from harming the environment. Minimize contamination for environmental protection. Environmental concerns could also factor into your local permitting process. If you are allowed to drain to the street, it's important not to add any chlorine to the water for at least 7 days prior to get the chlorine level below 0.1 mg/L

Step 3: Demolition Process

Once you drain your pool, you can begin the demolition process. This can be one of the most complex and dangerous phases, and it's important to get it right.

Selecting a Demolition Method

Depending on the type of pool you have—gunite, fiberglass, or vinyl—different methods will be most effective. With a gunite pool you will want to decide whether to remove the entire shell of the pool or to demo it in place. From jackhammering to full-scale excavation, each method requires a tailored approach and specific equipment.

Our Most Common Demolition Method

We removed mostly in-ground gunite pools. These pools required special equipment for a quick and efficient job. In most instances we were able to remove a

section of fence providing 6 feet of access. We used a small excavator with a breaker attachment and a skid steer to move materials with the limited access.


To remove part of a pool and keep the shell in the ground, start by breaking the bottom of the pool. This will help the water to drain correctly. To do this, you need to break a 4'X4' hole at the deepest part of the pool. Then, make 2.5" holes every foot along the bottom of the pool.

Once this is complete we call for our first inspection. Once the building inspector verified the holes we can proceed.

The next step would be to break down the bond beam (top 3' of the pool sides). Break the bond beam into small pieces of concrete that do not exceed 6" in diameter. Workers cut and remove the rebar from the site.

We then use the broken concrete over the holes to create a gravel drainage layer. We placed a layer of non-woven geo textile filter fabric on top of the gravel.

This fabric prevents soil from seeping through. However, it still allows water to pass through.  Next we call for the midway inspection prior to filling the pool with soil.

Building Inspection Pool removal

Full Removal of Pool Body

If you ever have plans to build over the area this is the option you will want to choose. The process involves breaking and removing all concrete and rebar from the site, similar to the above description. Once you remove all concrete, gunite, rebar, and piping from the hole, you will be ready for your first building inspection.

If you choose this method, we suggest adding the engineering option for about $1500. In the future when you sell your property and you have to disclose the pool, this is what the buyers will want to see.

Safety Precautions

Swimming pool demolition is a hazardous undertaking due to the heavy machinery and the potential for collapsing structures. Ensuring a secure work environment and utilizing the proper protective equipment is non-negotiable here.

Step 4: Backfill and Compaction

Fill the pool correctly to avoid a sinking mud hole in your yard. It's crucial to do it right.

Not sure how much soil you need? We built this swimming pool fill dirt calculator to help you find out!

Soil Requirements

When considering fill for your pool backfill there are several considerations. Different geographies have different soils and each soil type has it own characteristics.

Sandy soil is good for compaction and drainage. Clay soil is particular about moisture and doesn't drain well when saturated with water. Monitoring soil moisture while applying the layers is an important part of the compaction process.

Layering the Soil and Compaction

Spread each lift of soil in 6" layers and compact it. We use a padded foot drum roller for the best results. Other options would be a jumping jack compactor or a reversible plate compactor. These can both be effective solutions but not as effective as the padded drum roller.

When the backfill gets to the top 12" you will need to make a decision whether to compact the soil or leave it loose. If you are installing hardscape you will want to compact to the top. If you are installing plants or lawn you will want to leave it loose.

Engineering (if required)

Certain cities require a soils engineer to supervise the backfill process. They must test every 1-2 feet of fill to ensure proper compaction.

They do this to ensure they compact the soil correctly. We're typically looking for 90%-95% compaction. The engineer will send a tech with a Nuclear Density Gauge which is the best option for accuracy.

Soil Compaction Testing

The engineer will then take this information and use it to write their final report on the backfill. You will give this report to the building inspector at the final inspection and sign off. If you remove the pool shell and properly backfill the area, you can use it for building.

Step 5: Site Restoration

Once you fill the dirt to the top of the hole, you will need to consider how to grade the area. Ideally, you will have your landscaper or builder come on the heels of your pool demolition contractor and they will handle the new drainage.

After we finish a pool removal, we grade the soil to direct the water away from the home. We removed the drainage connected to the pool deck. This means that we can no longer direct water to the street as we did before. Your contractor will need to install new drainage after the demolition.

Clean-up and Final Inspection

Needless to say, exporting hundreds of tons of concrete out and hundreds of tons of soil in will leave quite the mess to clean up. Hopefully your contractor took care to protect the ground by using plywood and containing the dirt in a staging area.

The area must be completely cleaned before calling for the final inspection. This includes cleaning the street. Putting up fences again is also important.

Ensure that you properly cap the pool utilities. Have an engineering report ready if needed. Ensure there is a slope away from your house. If all of this is in place, you'll have a happy building inspector and he'll give his final approval.


Swimming pool demolition and removal is not an endeavor to take on lightly. Each step requires careful planning, consideration of safety and environmental impact, and a comprehensive understanding of local laws.

Getting help from a professional for some parts of the project is a good idea. Doing it alone can cause problems and put the property and people at risk. Follow these steps and get the right help to make sure your pool removal project is done correctly and professionally.

FAQ Answer

What are the signs it's time to demolish my swimming pool? Indicators include frequent repairs, high maintenance costs, underuse, or a desire to reclaim the space for other purposes.
How long does the pool demolition process typically take? The duration can vary, but on average, it takes about a week to complete, depending on the size of the pool and the complexity of the job.
Can I demolish a pool myself, or should I hire a professional? While it's possible to undertake some tasks yourself, professional contractors are recommended for safety, efficiency, and compliance with regulations.
What should I do with the space after my pool is removed? Options include landscaping, creating a garden, installing a patio or deck, or simply grassing over for more green space.
Are there any hidden costs in swimming pool demolition and removal? Potential hidden costs include unexpected repairs to utilities found during demolition, disposal fees, and additional landscaping. It's best to discuss these possibilities upfront with your contractor.
How do I choose the right contractor for my pool demolition? Look for experienced, licensed professionals with positive reviews and a solid track record. Don't hesitate to ask for references and detailed quotes.