Pool Filled with Dirt – Problems & HOW TO RESTORE IT! [DIY GUIDE]

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Yes, it is possible to restore a pool filled with dirt. And, for those interested in restoring a buried pool, a good liner company can manufacture a liner to fit practically any pool shape and design. I do however, have a few questions/suggestions/comments you may want to consider in planning for such a job.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Why was the pool closed in the first place? Was it too high to manage? Was it hardly used and the previous owner wanted to be free of the expense? Were there actual physical problems (leaks and surfacing needs) that they did not wish to deal with?

In most cases, the cost of “filling in” vs the cost of “resurfacing” are close to the same and filling in most cases is often cheaper.

Additionally, a properly done fill in pretty much has no further expense, where with a resurfacing, you have the annual maintenance cost continuing.

What are Some Filled in Pool Problems?

  • Equipment Lines

Were they cut off at or below ground level (most cases) and left in place? Or they were removed to the deck edge? Was the skimmer left in place? Filled in with concrete or dirt?

  • Light

Is there light in it? If not, are the existing electrical lines still in place or have they been removed.

  • Shell

Is the shell damaged, useless, or broken?

How to Clean a Pool Filled with Dirt

Personally, I would first locate the lines underground where the equipment used to sit.

Then, I would clean out the skimmer. Use a high-pressure water/air source or an air compressor to “blow/flush out” the line and pressure test it for soundness. A good pressure test is a nice indicator that the underground lines “could” be in good condition.

Pool Filled with Dirt

This Can be a Fun Project, Shall We Begin?

Dig down along the liner walls of the pool and find the return fittings. Most Gunite Pools will have two standard pool inlets (pool water return lines) –

  • 1 in the shallow end, near that end of the pool and
  • One in the deep end also near that end of the pool (Some pools do have more though – smaller pools may have only one).

Once you have located them, you can let it “help you” locate the rest of the line at the equipment which feeds it.

Feed water or air (under pressure) into the open line and see which line at the equipment it comes out. Now, plug that and try out a pressure test.

If the return fittings are individually plumbed it should hold pressure. If the returns are all linked and fed off a single line (more common) it will not, but the other fittings in the system may “sound off” for you – identifying their locations. As you find one, plug it and reattempt the pressure test. When you find the last fitting, the line will hold pressure – unless there is a leak. You should be able to guess from the reaction whether you have found all of the fittings or not.

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In many cases, there will also be an extra dedicated return line in the side wall of the pool, right in the middle of the wall. That line will need to be installed with a pool cleaner in mind. These cleaners typically use a booster pump at higher pressure so needed their own line.

Depending on the cleaner type you intend to use, you may or may not “need” this line. It can be either left plugged off later or repaired now. A pool professional at a local store will do a much better job at explain all available options for this line – they are too numerous to go into here.

Pool return lines are (normally) located 12 to 15 inches below the pool coping (though they “can” be anywhere in the pool – even the floor).

Once you are satisfied with the underground lines and plan to go ahead with the job, anticipate this:

  • Now that the dirt has been removed, you need to pressure wash the walls to remove the remaining crud and soil.

Chances are, you will want to place a “trash” or “dirty water” sump pump at the bottom of the deep end of the pool for this particular operation. So, pumping out the excess “muddy” water as you add it. You will discover that using a shop vacuum to remove what the pump could not get to.

  • Pressure Washing

The pressure washing lets you identify the drainage “weep/bore” holes in the surface of the pool as well. These wall needs to be cleaned of soil and other material so they can be filled with cement and then replugged.

  • BackFlush Pool Lines

From the “equipment end”, you can back flush all of the pool lines – the advantage of doing this is identification of which is which and quicker cleaning of any soil impact.

Once identified, the next thing to do is to mark them!

Once clean – re-pressure test all of the lines … Most pool lines are rated to 70 – 80 pounds of pressure. Each should be able to hold 40 – 45 lbs of pressure if properly sealed (without losing pressure) for ten or fifteen minutes.

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  • Inspection of the Main Drain

Now is the time to inspect the main drain fitting for any damage. You will see two openings – one in the side wall of it to which the pool plumbing is attached.

The other is in it’s floow which drain directly into the ground – often a drainage pipe that is attached beneath this fitting.

Is it filled with dirt, organic matter and debris? Then it would need to be cleaned at least to below the plastic… This opening is for the attachment of a “relief valve’.

A relief valve simply allows ground water “into” the pool during high water table conditions. This is a really protective feature.

The way I like to view a pool is like a big “bath tub” or “boat hull” sunken into the ground. Should the ground water pressure around the pool be greater than the weight of the pool itself, it can literally “float” itself out of the ground….in a liner pool pockets of water will raise up under the liner lifting it from the floor – in a solid pool – the whole thing can float up.

  • Inspection of the Pool Light (If Any)

Move closer and inspect the poo light niche (if any) for damage/lightness/deterioration around the edges.

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Did you notice any problem(s), there are a couple of things you can do – repair the problem and reinstall an original style light – extend the wiring condult and “fill in” the rest of the pot around it (newer lighting is available which basically “surface mounts” on the pool face and needs only a conduit to feed the wiring through).

Another option would be to fill in and cover over the light pot and “do without a pool light”. (There are lighting options available which can hang over the pool edge and down into the pool these days).

  • Inspection of the Skimmer

Inspect all inlet fitting and the area around the skimmer opening for water/damage seal. You might not see a leak but most times, it is evident.

Should you find any form of cracking or “gap” around the edges of the skimmer face (where the plastic joins the plaster/gunite), you can use a simple test.

Try to insert the pen knife tip (small pocket knife) into the suspected gap/crack. If it goes in more than 1/8 inch, then it looks like you have a leak. In this case, the leak can be easily fixed by chipping out a fair amount (about 3/4 to 1 inch from the plastic itself and sloping down towards the plastic to a depth of at least 1/2 inch all the way across the bottoms and up the two sides. You back-fill this carefully with a marsite plaster mix that is wet enough to work, but not wet enough to “sag” or “run” when you press it into the side walls. Press it in firmly and tightly all around, smoothing it carefully to the surrounding plaster and the plastic of the skimmer.

This next part “IS THE FINAL” one:

  • Resurface the Pool

No matter what carefulness you put in place, the surface coating on the pool will suffer or have received some damage – not to mention staining from having chemicals in the soil and buried with the earth.

As for the kind of coating you should apply, that is up to you. The options are many. In any cases, any recoating method will need to be preceeded by a deep degreasing and an acid cleaning.

Otherwise the new coating may not “bond” properly to the old surface. As for recommendations, I generally NEVER recommend painting a gunite pool. No matter how well cleaned and prepared, I have never seen paint last more than ¾ years without peeling or causing popping of the plaster under it  (it usually begins happening only two years after the painting of the surface.

If you see traces that suggests the pool has been painted in the past. You may need to consider sand blasting for any other resurfacing method to bond properly. If you replaster the pool, you could use a Pebble Tech finish.

However, experience has taught me to use Marcite Plaster. MArcite Plaster withstands pool chemicals over the “long haul” without degrading. It is basically plaster made or incorporated with marble dust. Other plasters I have seen anmd tried tend to erode/chemical away more quickly.

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A well-done replastered pool will have finish that normally lasts 20-30 years.

  • Retiling

You should retile around the upper edge of the pool. If you get lucky and not need this as original tiling jobs can be extremely sound and long lasting.

Replacement tiling, on the other hand, in most cases, does not seem to hold as well – maybe it is the difference in craftmanship between 30/40 years ago and today.

If the tile appears sound and has no loosenes with the pool cleaning process I have described – I would not mess with it. Sound like good stuff to me. If there is looseness or damaged tile, plan on a tiling job in conjunction with the refinishing – it will last longer than one done “after” the resurfacing.

I do not normally recommend “completely tiling” a swimming pool – but should you wish to try, it should be a non-glossy tile. Glossy/smooth surface tiles can be too slippery for a swimmers footing.

  • Putting in a Liner

As earlier stated, a good liner company can make a liner to fit inside of a gunite pool – but every new angle and odd cut adds substantially to a liner’s cost.

Additionally, the pool inlet, light mounting niche and drain fittings will need to be changed or adapted to a type that accepts a pool liner – a fitting with a faceplate.

You still need to install the same type of racking/moulding used when installing liners around step seats or coves around the facing of the skimmer opening for a proper water seal.

If there are inlet (tile or plastic) steps mounted as/in part of the pool wall – they will need to be chiseled out and then filled to “flush: with the surrounding walls.

Trying to measure and cut a liner to “fit” these steps is more likely to cause issues than just purchasing a standard pool ladder (not to mention how much each of those steps individually adds to the liner cost).

However, Tracking will have to be installed around the upper edge of the pool walls so that a liner can be installed.

The tiling around the pool walls will need to be removed and the area filled and smoothed at the surrounding wall surface (to protect the liner and it’s installation). Any roughness in the pool surface will still need to be smoothed down and any “chips in the surface” filled (if the surface is not “smooth”, every imperfection will show through the lining once installed – and any roughness is a potential failure point for the liner itself – through abrassion and possible cutting).

I think I have covered the high points … though you will find other expenses as well.

How Much Does It Cost To Restore A Filled In Pool?

it would cost about $15,000 to restore a filled in pool as opposed to a new pool will cost in excess of $25000.


Restoring a buried pool is easy. With this guide at your hands, you can go ahead with buying a house with a filled in pool.

It doesn’t matter whatever reason your previous owner filled in pool for, follow our steps to fill your inground pool with water.

Author: Howard S. Baldwin

My name is Howard S. Baldwin. I am a work-at-home dad to three lovely girls, Jane + Hannah + Beauty. I have been blogging for the last 3 years. I worked for other Home and Lifetsyle blogs, did hundreds of product reviews and buyers’ guides. Prior to that, I was a staff accountant at a big accounting firm. Needless to say, researching and numbers are my passion. My goal is to be an informative source for any topic that relates to DIY life and homemaking.

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