Prerequisites for Cleanup:
- Fence and
Barrier work completed
- Any other miscellaneous ancillary work (that would produce a lot of
construction debris) so that cleanup can haul everything away in one fell
swoop just prior to final inspection.
Over the months, the pool has become somewhat of a big
trashcan. As you can see in the pictures below, not only has water and
trash collected at the bottom, but its also become a big science project,
teeming with all kinds of interesting plant and animal life forms. A week after the shotcrete shell was
shot, a huge storm moved into the valley and dumped a few extra inches into the
pool. As we headed into the late fall/early winter months, the rate of
evaporation began to slow way down and the water just hung around. The
result was the big mess you see below.
In addition to the junk in the interior of the pool, big piles
of trash also collected around the exterior of the pool as well. Its
important to note that everything that you see in these pictures are typical
when a pool gets built. Pool subcontractors
typically do not take their trash with them when they finish a job. As a
result, the cleanup phase is a standard part of building a pool and its a
necessary step in preparing the pool for the final interior plaster/pebble work
that still needs to be done. The decking phase was one of the
biggest culprits. In addition to the wooden stakes and pegboard/fiberboard
used for the forms, there was plastic and paper used when the concrete was
poured and more plastic and paper when the acrylic was applied. Most of
the trash around the edges of the pool is from that work.
In addition to real trash, there's also a lot of loose dirt that
has been moved around and piled up during the grading in preparation for the
prep work. A lot of these little piles have sprung up in various locations
around the pool. Below you see trash thrown on top of a pile of loose fill
dirt. I plan on keeping most of the loose fill dirt for landscaping
purposes after the pool is done.
In addition to the trash in the back, a lot of trash has been
collecting in the front of the yard from the rockwork sub and from the tearing
down of the old pilasters for the front gate. My neighbors and HOA have
been very patient with me, but its about time that I get this stuff hauled away.
Cleanup is a formal phase of the pool building process that a
lot of people don't seem to appreciate. Its a very crucial step in
getting the interior of the pool ready for final plaster work. It also
represents the final opportunity to "repair" and "restore"
the backyard after months of getting trashed and abused. This is important
for prepping the yard for landscaping and returning the backyard to a usable
state. As much miscellaneous / extra work should be accomplished prior to cleanup as
possible so that the yard doesn't get trashed again before
interior is done. Any sub that comes in after the cleanup phase needs to be
as meticulous as possible in cleaning up after
For the cleanup work, I contacted a couple of different cleanup
subs to get bids. Both offered identical services for about the same
price. In the end, I went with the company that had the largest operation
and has been around the longest. They run 8 crews simultaneously during the height of the
summer boom time and peak at about 30 pool cleanup jobs a day. For the
pool interior, they charged $125. This includes pools with up to 500 sq ft
areas. Larger pools are extra. For a spa, its an extra
$35. For a full interior/exterior with spa, the total was $300. The
complete job includes:
Interior (Pool and Spa)
Pumping out water and removing debris inside of the pool
Scraping the pool concrete surface clean of the built-up
gunk in preparation
for the interior work
Cutting all pool plumbing pipes to release pressure and
water (except for main drains and waterfalls)
Removing 3 tons of debris around the pool including shotcrete/concrete
Removal of any leftover forms (shotcrete or decking)
and/or miscellaneous rebar
Backfill trenches, remove berms, and fill in areas near
gates to meet barrier code
General grading around pool and deck area to level the
Wednesday, December 11, 2002 - 10:22am
The cleanup crew arrived just before 10:30am. The truck they brought was
huge. The crew super's name was
Tomas. Interestingly, like most other subs that I talked to, he has been
with the same company for a long time. Tomas has been with the company for
the 17 years the company has been in existence. When I first started the
pool project, I would have guessed that there would be high turnover in the
construction industry, but it has turned out just the opposite. In fact,
Tomas said that one of the guys in the crew has been with New Leaf for 12-13
years and other guy 2-3 years.
I noticed that on the side of their truck, it said, "Landscape and Design." When I asked Tomas about that, he told me
that its somewhat of a misnomer - that the company only does pool cleanup jobs. I guess that
the pool cleanup business has become so
lucrative for them that they don't need to waste their time doing anything
else. In fact, the owner of the company had told me earlier that his company
does over 3500 pools
a year working for over 35 pool different pool builders in the valley. He
crews, doing about 30 pools a day during the height of the season in the summer.
That's a lot of pools.
When they arrived at the house, they had just come from another job. I
looked in the back of the dump truck and it was about half full of trash already. Tomas
said that the previous job earlier that day produced the full 3 tons of debris. He said
that there was just enough room in the truck for my 3 tons of debris.
Tomas said that they typically charge $45 for every additional ton (about 6 full
wheelbarrows full) of junk they haul, but they would be hard pressed to find
more room in the truck for any additional junk.
They started to unload their equipment, which consisted of a
couple of wheelbarrows, a submersible sump pump, a bunch of hoses, and a
miscellaneous assortment of other tools (buckets, picks, shovels, ...).
They lowered a ramp from the back of the dump truck to the
ground and went around back with the wheelbarrows to
start hauling. They started picking up the miscellaneous trash near the
back of the pool.
In the meantime, one of the crew members started depressurizing
the plumbing pipes by cutting off the ends with a hacksaw. After months of
staying under pressure (I was checking it periodically as the subs came
through), they were finally getting cut. Its important to note that
the pressure of the pipes should be checked frequently during the course of the
pool building process, but especially before the decking concrete is
poured. After decking, its too late to repair any leaks without some
serious rework. Now that the decking was done, keeping the under pressure
was no longer needed. He started with the waterfall suction lines and
bleed valve near the skimmer, then worked his way around the pool cutting off
all the remaining pipes. The only pipes he didn't cut were the main drains
on the bottom of the pool and the waterfall feed pipes coming out at the top of
the waterfall. I understood the waterfall pipes (the rockwork guys said
they would be back to do the cutting themselves and to put the capstone on top
of it), but I didn't understand why they didn't want to cut the main
drains. When I asked, I was told that the interior guys have asked them in
the past to leave it for them to complete. I don't know why this would be.
When the pipes were cut, a huge torrent of water came gushing
out of the cut in the pipes as the pressure was released. After a few
minutes of watching the water being emptied from each pipe, the work was done
and the remains of each of the sealed end caps were discarded with the rest of
Another item that I had not realized was still around were the
forms leftover by the shotcrete people. There were areas around the
perimeter of the pool that still had forms stuck to the side of the bond
beam. Most of the remaining sections were half-way buried under dirt,
making it hard to spot, but they found it, and proceeded to dig it out and haul
it away with the rest of the junk.
Once the pipe cutting was done, the same crew member started to
clean out the auto-water leveler (AWL). After months of collecting rain,
dirt, and dead insects, the AWL was just as disgusting as the bottom of the
pool. He stuck a hose into the AWL hole and started to flush it until it
Meanwhile, the other crew members were busy either hauling away
more trash, or removing excess dirt heaped up in corners of the yard.
After finishing the AWL, the interior guy turned his attention
to the entry step of the pool, which had a 1/2" - 1" thick crust of
construction residual (concrete bits, sand, nails, steel, etc.) stuck to its
surface. The interior guy spent quite a bit of time in that area, scraping
away the junk with his scraping tool while blasting it with a high-pressure
After the entry step area was done, he moved on to the skimmer
and started by spraying out the basket and other inserts in the skimmer.
Like the AWL, he put the water hose directly into the top of the skimmer and
blasted out all the junk that was collected in there over the months until it
ran clear. The water that came streaming out of it started to collect at
the bottom of the pool.
While he was taking care of that, the other crew members were
beginning to grade around the pool, backfilling any trenches, but mainly
breaking up the berms and excess piles of dirt that the decking guys piled
around the pool. Before some of the berms could be leveled, a lot of
excess construction debris and larger rocks had to be removed.
Once the larger pieces of rocks and miscellaneous pieces of
concrete/shotcrete were removed, they began to rake smooth the final grade of
the dirt. They leveled it so that there was approximately 3" -
4" from the grade to the top of the deck surface. Later on, after
putting in the landscaping lights, drip system, and plants, I'm planning to fill
in the remaining area with decorative landscaping granite.
The cleanup job included hauling off 3 tons of debris, including
concrete from the shotcrete phase. And concrete there was - so much of it
that they had to bring in a sledge hammer to break up a big pile that had been
left near the equipment before they could fit it into their wheelbarrow.
It didn't look like a whole lot of fun wheeling the junk into
the back of the truck. In fact, in these pictures below, the crew guy
started up the ramp without sufficient speed heading up, and almost lost the
load as he hit a bump near the top of the ramp. The wheelbarrow almost
went over sideways trying to get over the top of the hump. Fortunately, he
was able right the thing in the nick of time and get the concrete into the back
of the truck.
Here are some shots cleaning up the area around the decking that
collected a lot of the extra concrete residual. After hauling away the big
pieces, the area was graded and leveled.
At this point, the interior guy had finished the skimmer and
started on the pool bottom. He started by scraping the crust from the
bottom of the pool near the spa dam wall and pushed it towards the center of the
pool. He had the hose blasting the debris forward while he continued to
scrape and push everything towards the bottom. The water at the bottom of
the pool was starting to grow larger, but the submersible sump pump they placed
at the bottom of the pool started to pump it out.
I had no idea it was there, but the cleanup crew had located a
storm drain just behind my house over the wall. I didn't realize the blue
hose going over my wall at first, but after I saw what they were doing, I jumped
on top of the waterfall out of curiosity to see where they were disposing the
water. When I peered over the wall, I noticed that the hose fed right into
the opening of a storm drain that was directly behind my property (about 20 feet
away from the wall). This gave me some ideas for backwashing later
on. I estimate that from my equipment to the storm drain, it would require
about 50-60 ft of hosing. It sure would make the yard look better if I
didn't have to empty the water into a pit. I think I may have wasted $100
on paying the excavators for digging me that backwash pit a few months ago ...
The interior guy started to make his way around the pool to the
other end, and continued to scrape the crust there, pushing it to the bottom of
the pool, and letting it collect to be removed later.
Here are some additional shots of him working on a bench from a
wider perspective. You can see how much crud he was able to scrape off the
surface using that simple scraping tool and a high-pressure water nozzle.
Here are some additional shots of cleaning the bench at the far
end of the pool.
As the sludge from the scraping continued to build up at the
bottom of the pool, there was no way that the sump pump was going to remove
it. They had to shovel this sludge into buckets and haul it away.
You can see the interior guy here filling up his orange bucket with the stuff.
Each time the bucket was filled, it was handed to another crew
member outside of the pool waiting with a wheelbarrow. It was totally
disgusting. If you're eating lunch while reading this page, I would
suggest that you don't look at the enlargement of the picture of the wheelbarrow
After most of the sludge was removed, the interior guy started
working on the waterfall, spraying it down and getting rid of the haze and dust
that had covered it since the waterfall work had been completed. I must
admit that the waterfall earth tone colors looked much more vibrant after he was
done cleaning it. I was actually considering getting the waterfall acid
washed when the interior people came through, but seeing the waterfall get so
clean after a simple high-pressure water blasting, I'm reconsidering it now.
Here's the interior guy applying the final touches to the
interior of the pool. I couldn't believe how clean they had made the
pool! It almost looked like a new shell! I could actually see the
grey concrete at the bottom - something I hadn't seen since the shotcrete work
To wrap it up, he cleaned out the holes where the main drain
pipes were coming up out of the bottom of the pool and drained out the remaining
water in the bottom. Very nice.
Meanwhile, the other crew members were wrapping up with the
external cleanup work. The final mess was the big pile of rock, masonry
brick, and other junk in the front yard. When they originally looked at
it, they said that the full pile in the front yard ALONE was about 3 tons.
Since there was a lot more trash in the back, I asked them to instead just take
out the big pieces of debris from this pile in the front and leave the loose
fill dirt. I could always find a home for it in the backyard somewhere.
After the interior guy finished the pool, he moved on to the spa
next. The bottom of it was completely covered with trash. He moved
the sump pump over to the spa and adjusted some of the hose going over the wall.
And like the pool, he started off by cutting the pipes in the
spa and releasing the water and pressure that had been there since the plumbing
Next, he started scraping the surface of the spa while blasting
it with water under high-pressure. He also sprayed down the waterfall
leading into the spa until the haze and dust was gone.
continued to scrape while pumping out the water into the storm drain. All
the sludge that was collected at the bottom of the pool was shoveled into the
orange bucket and hauled out. Pretty soon, the spa was sparkling clean,
just like pool.
Once the pool and spa interior were done, and the exterior work
completed, there were only a few more miscellaneous items to take care of.
I noticed a few weeks back that when the decking guys came through, they had
completed covered up the pool lights with masking tape. Over the weeks,
the heat from the sun caused the masking tape to turn brittle, and trying to
remove it now was a pain in the neck. I asked them if they could remove it
and they happily obliged. Finally, they sprayed down the entire length of
the pool deck with water to clear off all the dirt that had accumulated over the
weeks until it was nice and clean again.
The crew was gone by about 12:45pm - a little over 2 hours after
they arrived. Here are some final shots of the pool after the cleanup work
was completed. All the pipes except for the main drains and waterfall
pipes were cut and de-pressurized.
The bottom of the pool and spa were sparkling clean as you can
see in these next couple of shots. I had never seen the pool this clean
since the day they finished the shotcrete. Just as importantly, most of
the trash around the pool had been hauled off and the area surrounding the deck
and pool had been graded to a perfect level.
I'm now ready for the final (pre-plaster) inspection.
After the final inspection, I'll be ready to get the interior done.
However, I'm not planning to do the interior work until at least after the new
year, and maybe even as late as the end of January. I figure that the pool
is going to be unusable until June anyways, so I may as well save time and money
on pool maintenance until then. That being the case, I'm hoping that the
pool stays reasonably clean until then. That might be a bit challenging,
especially if we get some rain over the next month or so.
So on we go to the final inspection. I called the City of
Chandler Developmental Services to schedule my inspection for this Friday.
After punching in my information into their automated phone scheduling service
and getting a confirmation number, I called Forrest (Chief Inspector for City of
Chandler) to schedule the actual time. Forest said that due to the
increase in the number of inspections going on this week, they were hiring some
contract inspectors to get them over the hump. He said that most likely, I
would be getting a contract inspector. That's fine by me. I just want
to get my final green tag and get this pool over with.
Problems with the Cleanup Phase / Things I would
have done differently:
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