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I’m decommissioning my in-ground pool and wanted to cover it with a safety cover like Loop Loc. I called Loop Loc to help select the right type of cover — solid or mesh — but was told that their covers require the pool to be filled because otherwise it can collapse.

The question is if there is another safety cover that can be used for an empty pool? Decking it over would be expensive and am looking for less expensive approach.

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    Also consider what your home insurance company is going to think about your solution. Pools are a big deal when it comes to insurance and having an open pit in the back yard is grounds for cancelling a policy. – JPhi1618 Nov 4 '19 at 19:05
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    I suspect the solution depends very much on your future plans for the pool. If you never intend to use it again and/or it's non-functional as a pool anyway, you'd be best off dismantling it or filling it with dirt rather than putting a cover on. If you're planning a cover long-term, then building a deck over it isn't such a bad option despite the cost, long term it'd be better. – Rowan Nov 5 '19 at 12:18
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    Per @Rowan's comment, what are your future plans for the pool? It's hard to make a suggestion if we don't know your vision. – MonkeyZeus Nov 5 '19 at 15:00
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    there is no cheap solution to getting rid of a pool. covering with a deck won't help, it will fill with sour water :/ – Fattie Nov 5 '19 at 17:24
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    Here's a good read swimmingpoolsteve.com/pages/storage.html – MonkeyZeus Nov 5 '19 at 18:49
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Be very careful about how you deal with this. Decommissioning a pool is not a simple job, and removing an in-ground pool usually requires an engineer to sign off on the plan and you end up with a very big headache if you try to pull off a DIY hack job.

You should also not leave the pool empty. Frost in the winter, and the water table otherwise, produce buoyancy forces that can cause the pool to lift out of the ground and make an even bigger mess for you to deal with. A pool is meant to be underwater and its surfaces, finish, and structure will continue to deteriorate if it is not maintained and operated. The costs to fix it will just get bigger. If you're going to cover it, you need to either keep water in it and maintain it or you need to permanently decommission the pool and fill it or remove it.

A complete removal is the most expensive option, but if you do a complete removal properly, with an engineered plan, you gain two things :

  1. If you ever list the house for sale you would not need to disclose that a pool used to be there. The land where the pool used to be will have been properly cleared of old concrete and backfilled with suitable materials for support and drainage such that a future structure can be safely built on top of where the pool once stood. It will be like the pool never existed.
  2. If you yourself want to build a structure in the space reclaimed by the pool, you can do so legally and with confidence that the ground under your new structure will not let you (and, by extension, itself) down.

The alternative is to simply fill the pool. This requires at least breaking up or drilling the bottom of the pool to allow drainage and filling it with backfill material. Even in this case you will likely require a permit from your city to do this work. A pool filled in such a manner must be disclosed when selling the house and it will negatively affect the value of the house. If you bury a pool improperly and hide that information when selling you open yourself up to rather unpleasant liability (even for yourself if you don't sell and the rotting, badly buried pool causes erosion that, say, threatens the foundation of your home - your insurers will not forgive your errors). In any case, there will be local regulations that you must follow when filling the pool so be certain that you understand your responsibilities before starting.

The best option here is to consult professionals.

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  • Appreciate the feedback. This is more involved than expected and I am following this advice to consult a pool professional about the right approach to avoid running into the big problems described. – SottoVoce Nov 6 '19 at 17:49
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    I've reached out to a pool professional in my area. What I heard back is that in their experience, pools left empty are always planned for demolition. It is likely that a pool that has remained empty would need to be resurfaced. In terms of major structural risks mentioned, this professional said that drilling holes in the bottom to allow water to escape should alleviate risk of pool being pushed out of the ground but he didn't say what the likelihood is that that would happen. – SottoVoce Nov 6 '19 at 18:04
  • @user108776 And keep in mind that 'resurfacing' a pool costs many thousands of dollars, even for just a plain white plaster finish - spending a hundred dollars on chemicals per year, and a bit of time to maintain the pool, means if you plan to use it in a couple of years you can just keep using it rather than facing a $10k repair bill to get the pool back into operation. Indeed, just leaving a pool lay fallow will cost you much more money than keeping it open because you will have to either remove it or fix it otherwise and both are very expensive to do. – J... Nov 6 '19 at 18:12
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If you are really decommissioning it, a truckload of stone (or multiple truckloads of stone) will do nicely and comparatively inexpensively. Ain't nobody going to fall into it or drown in it.

If you have doubts about ever using it again (or some future homeowner doing so) then leaving water and freeze damage prevention (if a freezing climate) pillows in it with a cover over is a lot more easily reversible.

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    Sand may be easier to undo for future owners (but probably cost a lot more than gravel). Of course, that is also depending on the type of pool (concrete, fiberglass, vinyl liner). If I were doing that to my fiberglass pool, I think I'd use a heavy tarp/plastic to protect the finish, fill with sand...just in case. I don't think there would be any hope of saving a vinyl liner pool. – peinal Nov 5 '19 at 2:00
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    @peinal: perhaps a layer of heavy tarp, then some sand as "cushioning", then big rocks to fill most of the volume? Might prevent some damage to the surface while getting the rocks in and out. – Peter Cordes Nov 5 '19 at 10:47
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    A solution to filling it that might be related to your ground pillow is using geofoam. Large polystyrene blocks that are often used as fill for earthworks. They'll support a lot of weight, used as piling on bridges, but could be remove with ease only have to deal with some cover soil. – RomaH Nov 5 '19 at 18:43
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    Whatever OP does - they need to be sure that they have taken out a permit for the work and that it complies with all relevant building codes, laws, and bylaws. Decomissioning a pool is a big, expensive job and you are not allowed to just fill it in or do whatever you want with it. If you do it wrong, it's very much more expensive to re-do it correctly. You can't just fill it up with backfill. This is a recipe for problems. – J... Nov 5 '19 at 19:59
  • At an arbitrary $20 per ton, or 23.46 cu ft (it's anywhere from $5~$30), and needing ~51 tons for a 4' deep(?) 12x25 pool, it'll cost about $1,000 in sand. +1 – Mazura Nov 6 '19 at 1:21
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Probably the easiest method to deal with a swimming pool that is taken out of service and not deconstructed is to fill it up with dirt after opening large holes in the bottom for drainage. Leaving a large pool shell in the ground with nothing inside of it is not recommended as it could pop up in case of very wet ground or in freezing conditions.

A cover over an empty pool shell will not solve the problems mentioned above.

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May not suit your needs, but if you could find a trampoline just smaller than the pool, it can be fitted and secured to the concrete.

That way bouncers (trampoliners?) could get on without having to go up a ladder.

Downside the pool below will still catch rainwater, so a sump pump could be required. Or a compromise with the other suggestions. Also depending on what's around the pool you may wish for extra crashpads or a style vertical-side walls.

This solution does serve the request for a "cover" and it could carry the weight of an average adult safely.

from http://www.confidencelandscaping.com/gallery/pools-water-features/in-ground-trampoline/ no connection - just a matching result from google images.

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    Trampolines are known to tear so proposing that it's safe to walk/jump above a 4 foot drop onto concrete is a bit unsettling to say the least... – MonkeyZeus Nov 5 '19 at 14:57
  • @MonkeyZeus how's that different to a trampoline in use normally ? – Criggie Nov 5 '19 at 18:28
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    A trampoline is generally only 2 feet off the ground and dirt is softer than concrete so if you fall through then at least you can crawl to safety or someone will see you eventually as opposed to breaking your leg in a concrete void. – MonkeyZeus Nov 5 '19 at 18:33
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    @MonkeyZeus: You might be able to mitigate that issue by doing what one of the other answers suggests and putting some styrofoam blocks on the bottom to shorten the fall and cushion the impact. That said, I don't think that the only problem with this proposal. For example, rodents can almost certainly get into the pool one way or another. Can they get out again? If yes, you've just created a sheltered habitat for them; if not, it's a giant mousetrap. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 5 '19 at 19:26
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    @MonkeyZeus Fair point - that's also a general risk of any form of cover that OP is thinking of. If its not supposed to be weight-bearing then it still has to hold its own weigh, plus that of snow or similar load, and also to resist an upward load from wind. So any cover really has to be able to hold at least an adult's weight, or to be of a design that prevents people from getting onto it. – Criggie Nov 5 '19 at 23:29
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If there's a chance the pool will be re-used, fill it with stacks of blow-up swimming pools, boats, structures, and any and all other large inflatables you can find via craigslist, then a safety cover will have sufficient support. Search "inflatables" on Google images for lots of examples.

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    Most of those things slowly lose air, resulting in an unsightly and potentially dangerous situation. – isherwood Nov 5 '19 at 15:55
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