Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Step By Step DIY Pool Removal

Before you begin, use this article to figure out your swimming pool volume, and read this article to get an idea of what is going on and how big of an area around your pool that will need to be dug.

I will be showing how to remove a concrete and a liner pool in these instructions. The only difference between the two is a few of the steps will be different for each, but the overall idea is exactly the same for any type of swimming pool.

The photos posted here are from the removal of a liner pool. Keep in mind that I did my pool a little differently as I had no instructions or experience in doing this. These instructions are put together in such a way as to make it easier for the reader to understand the process. This is not an exact procedure, as every pool and every backyard will have slightly different needs. Although not exact, generally, the overall set of instructions should work for any pool removal.


1. Drain your pool and remove your filter equipment and/or piping if necessary. You can drain your pool using your current pool pump by attaching a hose to the input of the pump and one at the output. Put the input into your pool and the output wherever you want the water to go. I used the water to irrigate my yard.

In most cases you can remove the old piping as you dig around the pool. So don't worry too much about that yet. You can just remove the pipes that are in the way when digging. Leave the remainder buried unless they will be in the way of future landscaping.

2. For concrete pools, cut out or knock out a couple large holes in the bottom of the pool. This will be for drainage and should be at least 3 feet wide. Fill the holes with rough fill sand, gravel, or drain rock. For liner pools, simply remove your liner.

(Optional) Add some stability to the area by setting rebar in a crossing and in a three dimensional pattern. Push the rebar in about 2 to 3 feet and tie the cross sections together with wire. Just use a simple pattern, or one that will suit the area. For concrete pools you will need to drill holes then put the rebar through the holes.

3. Build your pond frame where you want your pond to be. Refer to this link for instructions on building a pond frame. Remember to keep the top of the pond about two feet below the current ground level(top of your pool). Make sure you support the new frame by setting posts in concrete like you would set fence posts, or by attaching posts to the concrete base of a concrete pool. This will give your pond walls strength when mounted to the posts. If you have a liner pool, you might want to wait until you remove the pool frame so you can reuse the wood for your pond frame.

Here you can kind of see the frame under the padding.
I only needed a partial frame, as I used the old pool bottom for the rest.
This photo was taken well into the process.
Unfortunately I have no photos of the actual frame construction.

4. If you have a concrete deck around your pool, break it up and toss it into the the pool. Put the concrete in the deepest areas of the pool. You want the concrete at least 2 feet from the top of your pond.

5. How you do the next step will be determined by your situation. In any of the situations, just throw the concrete or dirt into the pool.

For concrete pools:
  • If you can easily break out the top two feet of concrete around your entire pool, then do so.
  • If you can not easily break out the top two feet of concrete then dig a two foot deep by two feet wide trench around the pool. Then you should be able to break the top two feet of concrete out.
For liner pools:
  • If you are not going to be using a current side of your pool as a side for your pond(or you are not going to have a pond) then remove the entire wooden frame around your pool.
  • If you want to use part of the current frame as part of the pond frame, then only cut off the top two feet of that particular side. You may need to dig a 2 foot by 2 foot trench behind the frame to make that easier. Remove the rest of the frame without removing any structural support to the part you are leaving in. If that cannot be done you will have to add some new support with a 4x4 post and concrete(just like a fence post).

    6. Dig out the surrounding area around your pool by removing the top two feet of soil surrounding your pool. Use the dirt to fill the pool. Make sure you pack the dirt down well as you fill the pool. This can be done easier by filling it part way then soaking the dirt with water. Keep repeating until you have completely filled your pool to the level you wanted(two feet below the old soil level)

    The string line shows the old soil level.

    7. Pack the area with a soil compactor or something equally effective. Make sure all the gaps are filled and there are no places where a collapse can occur. If there is such an area, you will find out during the first heavy rain storm you get. Unless the area was huge, it won't be a problem to just fill in with more soil or gravel at that time. I had two areas that created small holes in the top soil. One took about a half wheelbarrow to fill, the other just needed a few shovels full of dirt. The larger of the two was created because of the area between the temporary retaining wall(which I did not remove, I just buried it) and the new pond frame didn't get completely filled in.

    What you see here was a temporary wall(left side) I used to keep the concrete
    and dirt from filling the area until I knew I had enough dirt.
    After I saw I had enough I began to bury the wall.
    I built my frame late into the process.

    Your pool is gone. Enjoy your new yard.

    Landscaping my new backyard without a pool.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    DIY - Do It Yourself

    Description of DIY from Wikipedia:
    Do it yourself (or DIY) is a term used to describe building, modifying, or repairing of something without the aid of experts or professionals. The phrase "do it yourself" came into common usage in the 1950s in reference to home improvement challenges that people might choose to complete independently.

    I have one problem with the the description. It states "without the aid of experts or professionals". I find this to be incorrect. There are many ways to receive "aid" and still consider a project as DIY. While DIY projects get finished by your doing, they frequently require some type of influence or some form of aid. Whether it be from an internet article or from knowledge gained from someone who has already done the same thing, it is still a DIY project. There are just different levels of DIY, which I explain below. I would just define it a little different than they did.

    Anyway, if you frequently DIY then you already know the many benefits, here are three:
    • COST - This is one of the most, if not the most, attractive benefits. Some DIY projects require little or even no money. They are most certainly less expensive than hiring someone. You can shop around for materials to find better prices. You can reuse materials or use something you already have that is just laying around. But the biggest savings usually come in the form of labor. You will pay nothing for your own labor, except with the time you spend. If you lead a very busy life with little extra time, or you find your extra time more valuable than paying someone to do it for you, then you are most likely not a DIY kind of person. But the next benefit might override that position.
    • GAINING KNOWLEDGE - The knowledge that you can gain by DIY is invaluable. Not only will you be better suited to repair or add to a DIY project later on, you will broaden your mental tool set for the rest of your life. To me this is more important than the cost benefit. If you like to know how things work or just like to do things you have never done before, then DIY is a satisfying way to go. Which brings up the next benefit...
    • SATISFACTION - The satisfaction you get by DIY is almost always better than having a professional do it. When you DIY, you have ultimate control with everything to get a result that you want. When complete, and if everything was done properly, it should be exactly the way you want it. If you hire a contractor, for instance, how can you truly know the job was done properly, unless you hover over them continuously(which, btw, most contractors do not like)? It might seem to have been done properly, but then sometime down the road, you may find that it was not. Usually this happens after the warranty expires. For instance, my mother had landscaping done by a contractor. Everything was great for about two years, except the trees hadn't really grown much, which didn't seem like a big deal at the time. They still looked healthy, so she didn't really pay them much attention. The third year rolled around and the trees started turning brown and the lawn, which was perfectly flat when put in, was now very "lumpy". There were mounds and valleys throughout the entire lawn. So I started looking into the soil for a problem, and I immediately found some. They did not remove the decorative rock that was originally there, they just spread it and then covered it with dirt. Where a lot of rock was, ended up being where the lawn was mounded. The valleys had no rock underneath. The soil was like brick. The tree roots had not grown out of the original small hole they had dug. I pulled the trees out by hand, roots and all. The moral of the story here is, you will always have peace of mind and satisfaction when you DIY, if you have the ability to do so.
    There are drawbacks to DIY. In order to get all of the benefits you, absolutely, must have the time, the will, and the ability to do whatever it is you want done. If you don't have all three, you will be in over your head before you begin. Having the ability does not mean you have to know what you are doing. It means having the physical and mental ability to get the job done, start to finish.

    There are different levels of a DIY project. I'll give a simple example.

    Let us say you want a cake with frosting. You have a few options. You can...
    1. Buy one that is ready to serve and 100% complete.
    2. Buy a plain cake, then add ready made frosting.
    3. Buy a plain cake, then add frosting that you made from scratch.
    4. Buy cake mix, and ready made frosting.
    5. Make the cake from scratch, use ready made frosting.
    6. Buy cake mix, then make the frosting from scratch.
    7. Make both the cake and frosting from scratch.
    You can see the different levels of just a cake with frosting. If you want to decorate the cake and/or add other things to the cake, you will exponentially get more and more levels. You can consider that making the cake was DIY for every level except the first, which is where you simply bought the entire cake ready to eat. A lot of people would claim that only the last(#7) is a true DIY cake with frosting, and I would disagree.

    So with a project as large as this, you can consider it DIY as long as you don't just hire a contractor to do the entire thing. You could still get someone to help you fill in your pool with dirt, or to help create your pond. You can buy pre-made grow beds or have someone build custom grow beds for you. As long as you are in control of every aspect of the project, you can get aid. Just like you don't have to make the frosting to make your own cake with frosting.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Planning(or lack of)

    There was no lack of planning in any respect to this project. I spent many fall and winter months planning and getting things ready for Spring. Now that I am about finished, I can say, "There are very few aspects of this project that haven't changed from the original plan."

    There are a few reasons for this. The reasons are 1 - I found better ways to do things and 2 - I like to let things unfold to see what I have, instead of forcing pre-existing plans that might end up being more difficult, less functional, or less attractive than something else. Basically, I will let the landscape speak for itself, and if something is better suited to my current needs, I go with it.

    For instance, while I was breaking out the concrete surrounding my pool, my final task was to remove the area of concrete that used to be a hot tub. I had filled the unused hot tub years ago with dirt and covered it in a thick layer of concrete that matched the surrounding concrete. So after breaking out the concrete and exposing about 8 inches of the top of the tub I was left with a daunting task of having to dig the entire tub out and remove it. This would have taken a day, maybe two, to accomplish. Instead, I slapped on a few Redwood fence boards to the top and outside of it. Instant Redwood planter...

    So, as you can see, this worked out great. It was much easier than forcing the removal of the tub and going according to my plans.

    This example is common throughout the entire process. Everything was changed. I might as well have thrown out my original drawings, because they were irrelevant after the first week. Everything from plumbing to landscape, pond shapes to where the grow beds were to be located was changed to accommodate the "Real World" application of this project. If I were to ever do this again, the planning(at least the construction and landscape part of it) would be an afterthought.

    While I wouldn't recommend not planning at all to anyone, it does workout better for the do-it-yourself-er. Get an idea of how you want things and then start working toward that goal. Along the way you will find many things will simply work out better a different way.

    That said, you will have to plan a few things such as...
    • How big your pond will be. This will effect many things such as how many grow beds will you need, pump and liner size.
    • Do you want a waterfall and/or stream. This will effect pump size, the location and structure of your pond
    • Which type of grow bed media, landscape plants, type and amount of boulders/rock, pathway materials, concrete or wooden edging, etc...
    These are important to know ahead of time as they will effect how you go about the entire project. And you don't have to know everything exactly, just get an idea of what you would like and go from there.

    This Type of a Natural Pond System is Unique


    When you get right down to it, this system is an aquaponic system. The only thing that makes it any different than most backyard aquaponic systems is the scale and the fact that it is using a swimming pool, or what used to be a swimming pool. Everything else is what a normal aquaponic system would be. Of coarse, the scale of this system gives it some unique problems as well as some unique opportunities.

    In case you don't know, aquaponics combines aquaculture(fish-farming) and hydroponics(growing plants without soil) into a single system. Each system provides some of the needs of the other and eliminates problems that occur to each system individually. For a visual of a basic aquaponic system check this out.

    One of the largest problems I have, because of the scale, is that to enclose the system in a greenhouse or similar enclosure is a huge task. You won't find a greenhouse of that size at your local home shop or hardware store. Ultimately, what that means is that in order to grow vegetables during winter months you will have to be creative. Enclosing the grow beds with individual greenhouses or similar coverings is what I am going to do. With such coverings, the pond will not be covered therefore the water will be subject to the cold temperatures and that will effect the fish and the vegetables.I could put the pond under a large greenhouse, but to me, that would just take away the whole idea of a beautiful pond in my backyard. By covering it up the pond will not be visibly accessible. Not really a good option for me.

    Since I didn't have enough fish this winter to grow vegetables, I didn't bother making any covers for the beds. I will have them by next winter. I will construct individual greenhouse type coverings that are pretty simple to make using PVC pipe and construction plastic. I am also thinking about some type of solar heating to access some of the mid day warmth in order to keep the water temperatures above the 50F degrees it normally is during the winter.

    One of the best things about this type of system is that you are free to use your imagination to create an aesthetically pleasing landscape. You can't do much with a tank and cut barrels a normal backyard system uses. Even on a very small budget, as I had, the backyard is very nice.


    Problems and aesthetics aside, the main purpose of this system is to provide a cost effective alternative to a swimming pool by creating an earth friendly aquaponic system that will pay for itself in the long run. You will be able to provide plenty of organic food for you and your family with just a little effort.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Repairing a Grow Bed Constant Flow Drain

    While I was cleaning some debri from one of my grow beds I accidentally knocked into the constant flow drain pipe. When I did, it raised the pipe up just enough to let a few rocks get under it. The rocks prohibited the flow of water enough to cause the system to not function properly. The water would never fully drain which caused the auto-siphon to "trickle" burps of water at the end of the cycle, preventing the water to fully drain, thus never filling back up. The rocks had to be removed.

    So I removed all the rock surrounding the immediate area of the drain to repair it. Removed the rocks that were, by that time, all the way down into the drain itself. I added another base to the pipe protection, drilled more holes fro better flow, and put it all back together again.

    Here is what it looked like:

    This is the CF drain after removing all the rock and pipe

    This was the original drain cover which was too small

    This is the drain cover and pipe after adding a new base to the cover and drilling more holes

    Everything is back together and before I put the rock back over the drain, I make sure everything is functioning properly.