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Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

What are you going to do with that pool?

Fall is often when you look more closely at your swimming pool and realize you need to make some changes. Perhaps the decking is cracking and peeling or the interior of the pool needs resurfacing. Maybe you want to redo the deck or add a waterfall or fireplace.

But some of you aren’t even using your pool anymore very often. The kids have moved out of the house, and you now own one of the thousands of home pools in Arizona where no one even dips a toe in the water anymore. Maybe you want to get rid of it or change it dramatically. Is that even possible?

Renovate the pool? Pool builders say that many pool owners want to make cosmetic changes like building waterfalls or fireplaces along the edges of pools or adding tile trim inside the pool rim. When it’s time to redo the pool deck, builders say,many people choose pavers; another common choice is tumbled travertine tiles. Whatever the decking, it will heat up in summer, but lighter colored materials are slightly cooler. It’s probably best to redo the deck in a paving material to match your patio or else you probably will have to do the patio as well.

Change the structure of the pool? You can actually renovate the pool in other structural ways to make it more attractive to you for a daily swim. How about adding what builders call a Baja sun shelf? This is an enlarged entry step at the shallow end where sunbathers can relax on lounge chairs nearly covered with water.

Many times homeowners even remove their diving boards and make their pools shallower at the diving end. This renovation can appeal to those with children or grandchildren or someone who wants to swim laps but always wants to be able to touch the bottom. Many times it can be safer to get rid of the diving area because many older pools with diving boards aren’t really deep enough to meet current building standards.

According to pool companies, for a depth change like this, the pool’s floor is chipped out and drains are relocated or stubbed up. Then an aggregate base of crushed rock is put in and compacted. A steel grid connects the remaining parts of the old shell with the new area and then shotcrete is sprayed into the grid.Finally, the pool is resurfaced. You can also make a pool smaller, believe it or not. It’s not cheap to do, but you can move the walls in on a big pool to create more deck space. Many times this requires removing all the walls to change the configuration.

Some fixes like these can actually cut some water and heating expenses for the pool a little bit – but certainly not enough to pay you back for the changes during your years in the house.

What about removing the pool? To end utility and maintenance costs forever, of course, you can remove the pool completely. That may sound like an extreme measure and it can be pricy. The cost will depend on the size of your pool, but also depends on access. Can an earth mover be moved easily into your yard? One demolition company told me it can cost from $2,700 to $13,000 for the entire removal. Afterward, landscaping and fencing might have to be moved or replaced to improve the yards’ appearance.

Removing an in-ground pool is not easy and sometimes it is never completely “gone”. Here’s what happens. Often a pool company will subcontract the demolition. Be Sure that the contractor has checked with your city to get any permits required. Cities vary in their regulations about how the removal must be done.The utilities must be turned off – typically water and power.

The water has to be drained out of the pool, of course. Then the demolition contractor digs a five by five foot hole in the bottom of the pool that gets filled with an aggregate base of crushed rock. This will provide drainage from rainfall or other water after the pool is filled in.

Generally,cities require that the top two feet of the pool walls plus the decking be removed. Often the demolition contractor will dump this debris into the hole rather than hauling it away, if the owner agrees to it. Finally, top soil is brought in to cover the site, and the area is graded so that a homeowner can re-landscape.

Some pool demolition companies will only do the job if the entire pool is removed. The concern is that a homeowner who later sells the home might not disclose to a buyer that a partial pool is still in the backyard.

There may be legal problems if a new owner tries to build something in the backyard like another pool or a cabana, for example, and then discovers a carcass of a dead pool underground.

So unless your pool is in terrible shape, you might consider renovating instead;after all an attractive swimming pool can add value to the price of your home when you sell.

Coverup the pool? A Phoenix firm, Deckover Pool Retirement, has another solution for those who want more outdoor living space that doesn’t involve a pool. The firm can build a deck using composite lumber on top of your pool. The deck goes on top of a structure of wooden beams built inside the existing pool. The pool is drained, of course, and utilities are turned off. The whole process usually takes about a week.Consider the shape this "deck " will have.

In order to prevent drainage or mold problems in the pool, a pump is installed to remove possible rainwater; ventilation areas are provided so the shell of the pool can breathe. The pool is basically intact under the flooring so that at a future time the deck can be removed and the pool can be used again, although it may need some renovation.

Best regards and feel free to contact me to evaluate your situation.

Thaumas P. Ehr

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