Pool School: Get a Bigger Hammer.
This story is mostly about knowing when to bring in the heavy equipment. From the start, Andy Martin and Dan Allsup figured they’d need to use Dan’s backhoe to demolish Andy’s in-ground pool. In the end they added an important piece of equipment to the arsenal: a heavy-duty, tractor-mounted jackhammer.
The decision to restore the pool area to a backyard came partly because the owners were now empty-nesters. With their youngest finally off to college, what had been for many summers a very busy pool had become unused and in dis-repair. Bids for repairs ran into the thousands. The idea of having a backyard was looking more appealing all the time.
Tearing out a well-built, in-ground pool would prove to be no picnic, but the guys came armed with a willingness to rent enough hardware to do the job.
Disconnecting and digging up the piping between the pool house and pool was pretty straightforward. Digging up the concrete deck around the pool didn’t pose much of a challenge either. It was when they hit the wall that they, well, hit a wall.
No amount of pulling, pushing, scraping or digging was going to get this done. There was talk about a 90-pound jackhammer, which would have worked but would have been a lot of work. If you’ve ever used one on flat ground, you know they are a load to handle. If you’ve ever used one on vertical work, you can probably still feel it.
That’s when Dan suggested they bring in a piece of equipment with a hydraulic hammer attachment. It was a pretty tight area, but having the jackhammer on a backhoe boom was well worth the hassles of removing some fencing to get the machine into position.
Getting a bigger hammer is not the only thing the guys learned about busting up pools. The jackhammer bit needed to be nearly perpendicular to the very hard, old concrete walls. This presented a challenge for the machine-mounted jackhammer because of maneuverability. They solved this dilemma by filling one end of the pool as a support for the tractor, which produced the angles needed.
Here’s how they got the job done.
Demolition, Step by Step
Using the backhoe to dig out the backfill from around the outside of the pool proved to be a good strategy for getting the right angles for the jackhammer once the tractor was inside the pool. Operator Dan Allsup stockpiled the topsoil at one end of the yard to be used later.
Breaking up the concrete deck around the pool was fairly straightforward. Using a standard backhoe, they broke up the 4-inch thick concrete deck and dumped it into the center of the pool as part of the fill. The problem arose when they tried to break down the walls of the pool. They were burning diesel and making a lot of noise, but the walls stood virtually unscathed.
It was time to change tactics. The crew rented a piece of equipment with a useful implement: a hydraulic jackhammer attached to the end of a backhoe boom.
Using the big jackhammer was a smashing idea. The walls came tumbling down.
Although the jackhammer did a great job of breaking up the concrete, it was no match for the rebar reinforcements found throughout the swimming pool walls. For the rebar, they rented a gas-powered saw equipped with a cutoff wheel.
The basic task for the operator was to touch large pieces of concrete with the tip of the jackhammer and let the tool do the work.
Andy cut rebar at intervals to release larger sections of the pool walls.
Dan’s biggest challenge was that the pool continually presented different angles to the machine, because of the curves in the pool design. Attempts to break into the concrete from angles that were not nearly perpendicular resulted only in glancing blows.
Oops! Maneuvering equipment around can be tricky especially when space is tight and the ground is changing shape. Even a light tap with heavy equipment can cause serious damage.
Andy ordered a couple of truck loads of coarse sand from the local sand and gravel company to use as the main fill material in the pool.
Maneuvering a bucket full of sand was very tricky in the tight area between the garage and the neighbor’s house.
They used the sand, along with the busted concrete, as part of the fill in the swimming pool.
Working with the end closest to the sand pile, they were able to maneuver the equipment into the pool area as they backfilled to gain different vantage points and right angles to bust up more of the pool walls.
Knowing that the saw would wear out cutoff wheels while going through rebar, Andy picked up some extras before starting the job.
Once the guys started backfilling the center so they could get the machine into the pool, they were able to achieve enough different angles to make good progress at breaking up the walls.
Andy used the bucket on one of the machines to load sand into the dump bed of a Polaris Ranger.
The Ranger side-by-side was much more maneuverable than the tractor for shuttling sand from the front of the house back to the pool area.
The dump bed on the Ranger made quick work of dropping a load.
When nearing completion of the demolition, the guys had to be careful to leave enough open space in the pool to receive the last of the concrete.
After filling, leveling and adding loam and grass seed, a new lawn was born.
A casual observer would have no idea that in in-ground pool once occupied this lawn area.
Don’t Float Your Boat
Water tables vary by location and time of year. One potential problem with an empty pool is the possibility that it will “float” or be pushed up by the ground water when empty—not much risk if you are demolishing your pool, except you should be aware of potential voids under the floor of the pool. Breaking up the bottom should take care of this issue.
Avoid That Sinking Feeling
Hey guys, it’s generally not a good idea to include plant debris in your fill dirt. The new yard may eventually experience some low spots as buried plants decompose.