Fill Pool or Remodel? - Gardner Outdoor and Pool Remodeling

Fill Pool or Remodel?

fill or remodel pool

A Pool Owner’s Dilemma

Have you purchased a home that has a pool needing some major TLC? Or, you’re not sure remodeling a pool is the right financial decision? Well, you’re in good company. Let’s explore the the process of pool removal as well as the pros and cons of filling in a pool versus remodeling.

Filling In a Pool Is Expensive

Some homeowners think that filling in a pool is the cheapest solution. In fact, it’s surprisingly expensive. Why? The process involves more than tossing in a few yards of dirt. In reality, pool demolition involves these steps:

  1. City health permits may be required before you start the pool demolition process. Some cities even require onsite inspections so you’ll need to factor in the permit costs and time to jump through any bureaucratic hoops.
  2. Punch holes into the bottom of the pool through the gunite shell necessary for drainage.
  3. Removal of coping (the material that surrounds the pool). In some cases, coping demolition is a slow, manual process as the mastic (the waterproof seal or adhesive used as a joint sealer between concrete or coping sections) can be stubborn.
  4. Demo the pool wall (also called the bond beam) to at least 12”. Depending upon your pool’s construction and position in the backyard, you may need to demolish a larger surface area.
  5. Add gravel for drainage. Filling in a pool requires three types of material. Gravel is the first layer for the bottom, allowing for drainage.
  6. Adding a road base that’s about 12” from the top of the pool. A road base is a dense material that supports the pool area, preventing collapse like a sinkhole. This must be carefully compacted as the pool fills.
  7. Filling the pool with topsoil to create a flat surface. To fill the remaining 12” of the pool, you need to add more material like topsoil. To restore the pool area to a usable space, topsoil must be spread so you can plant grass or other landscaping or hardscaping.
  8. Remove pool equipment. Besides the pool pump, heater and other equipment, this step also involves capping lines (pipes used to pump water in and out of the pool). All the electronic equipment and connecting piping are then hauled away.
  9. Re-landscape your backyard. The newly filled in area now needs to be remodeled to blend into your backyard’s design which may include plants and hardscaping.

For an average sized pool (20,000 to 25,000 gallons), the cost of filling in a pool is between $10,000 – $12,000. For larger pools, expect to pay more because of the required increase in labor and materials.

Remodeling a Pool Can Be Half the Cost

Many clients are surprised that remodeling a pool is about half the cost of filling it. For a simple white plaster remodel, the cost is about $5,000. Of course, that depends upon the size of the pool and any other add-ons like color, tile replacement, coping materials, water features, etc.

“When a client discovers how expensive it really is to fill in a pool, they often opt for the lesser expensive approach; remodel.” Scott McKenna, Gardner Outdoor and Pool Remodeling

As with any element of your home, you need to budget for occasional remodeling. Your pool is not an exception. Plaster pools need to be replastered every 8 to 10 years. You can extend your pool’s surface life by choosing products like Quartz (lasts about 15 years) or a pebble finish (lasts about 25 years); longer-lasting products cost more but each extend the estimated life of your pool. Deciding to remodel a pool or demolish it really depends on how long you’ll stay in your home as well as aesthetics.

Other financial considerations that go beyond the remodeling phase include:

  • Filling the pool with fresh water every 5 years or so. Certain chemicals,called chloramines, build up in a pool that cannot be removed by filters. The only way to rid the pool of these unwanted chemicals is to empty it and refill it with fresh water. Depending upon your pool’s capacity, estimate $250 in water charges.
  • Running the pool pump takes energy. For example, a 20,000 to 25,000 gallon pool with a single speed pump running 6 hours a day can cost about $350 a month or $4,200 a year in energy usage*.
  • Maintaining the chemicals and keeping it clean. In Southern California the average pool service costs about $100 a month. If you decide to maintain it yourself, factor in the cost of chemicals as well as your time in keeping the pool’s surface clean with a combination of automatic pool sweep, regular scrubbing of tile work to remove build up, and sweeping the coping and deck areas.

Adding to Your Home’s Value

In Southern California — with our sunny and moderate weather — having a backyard pool can add to its desirability especially if you sell. Consider that adding a pool costs around $35,000 or more, an expense many buyers want to avoid. Talk to a real estate professional to understand the impact of filling in a swimming pool versus remodeling it. The “wow” factor of a beautifully remodeled pool and backyard shouldn’t be underestimated.

Comparing Filling in a Pool versus Remodeling

We’ve looked at the cost of filling in a pool (actual construction costs and potential lost home value) and remodeling. Those are the short-term costs. If you decide to keep and remodel your pool, be sure calculate the ongoing investment of keeping your pool beautiful and in good working order. Of course, it’s difficult to quantify the years of enjoyment of a backyard pool. That can be priceless.

Either way you decide, Gardner Outdoor and Pool Remodeling can help you every step of the way.


*Savings based on variable speed pump compared to a single-speed pump running 12 hours per day at an average of $0.16 per kWh in a 20,000-gallon pool. Actual savings may vary based on local utility rates, pool size, pump run time, pump horsepower, pump rpm, plumbing size and length, pump model, service factor and other hydraulic factors.