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Decoding Rock Encounters during LA Pool Excavation: Explained

Decoding Rock Encounters during LA Pool Excavation: Explained

When you unexpectedly come across rock during the excavation of your inground pool, it perfectly embodies the essence of the saying, “being stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Imagine going to the dentist for a routine check-up, expecting a simple cleaning, only to discover that all four wisdom teeth are now fully grown, impacted, and must be broken down and removed through invasive surgery. Boom- you’re taken aback and left floundering like a fish out of water. 

Encountering hard rock during the pool excavation process can leave homeowners with a familiar sense of being caught off guard and ill-equipped to handle the unforeseen challenge that lies ahead.

To steer clear of this dreaded shock value, homeowners must choose a reliable and experienced pool contractor. A reputable contractor will inform clients of the possibility of encountering boulders during excavation and explain the contingency cost associated with rock removal. This transparency allows homeowners to plan and allocate resources accordingly, minimizing unexpected financial burdens.

At J Designs Pool and Spa, we understand the complexities of concrete pool construction, including the unexpected hurdles that can arise during excavation. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, we prioritize equipping our clients with the knowledge and resources to tackle these challenges head-on, even before we break ground.

This article decodes the term "hitting rock" during pool excavation and explores three types of course corrections homeowners can choose for dealing with hard rock. These adjustments include:

    1. Redesign Specs and Obtain Approvals

    2. Overcome Challenges with Additional Resources

    3. Cancel the Project

What does it mean to “hit rock” during the excavation process?

Hitting rock during the pool excavation process is a different challenge than encountering bedrock. This unforeseen contingency can arise during construction, requiring homeowners to be prepared for additional costs.

Dealing with such a situation results in a temporary halt to pool construction while a specialized crew equipped with the necessary tools breaks down the rocks. These rocks must be fragmented and removed through a process known as 'rock dig.' Additional equipment, like a rock hammer, is required for this task.

Pool_Excavation_Challenges_Rock_Hammer (1)

During the pool construction process, addressing any potential challenges posed by rocks on your property is vital. This includes identifying the type of rocks, such as smaller boulders, and assessing their impact on the project. It is recommended to disclose any known information about specific rock or soil conditions on your property at the beginning of the design process. This early disclosure equips your contractor with the necessary foresight to plan for the excavation stage of the construction process.

When encountering rocks, multiple days may be required for excavation, depending on the size of the boulders. Contractors often charge a flat daily rate for equipment used during this process. 

By disclosing relevant information early on, you enable your contractor to make informed decisions and allocate the appropriate resources to address any rock-related challenges effectively. This proactive approach ensures a smoother and more efficient construction process for your pool project.


If solid rock is encountered during excavation, homeowners can choose to redesign the pool's specifications and obtain necessary approvals.

This type of adjustment involves working with an engineer, resubmitting plans, and undergoing a potentially time-consuming process that may take up to six months.

For instance, the expenses can quickly add up when facing a construction site resembling a rocky terrain similar to Mount Rushmore. Excavating through solid rock requires intensive jackhammering, significantly impacting the budget. However, there's a more innovative way to tackle this challenge without breaking the bank. 

Consider adjusting the pool design, opting for a new shape or location to minimize excavation and labor-intensive processes. By redesigning the project, you can work with the city to gain approval for a shallower pool, raise the pool, or even opt for an above-ground option, reducing the need to remove excessive amounts of rock.

In some cases, relocating the pool slightly away from the rock-laden area might be a viable solution if your backyard offers enough space. These adjustments typically involve amending or adding an addendum to the existing plans rather than obtaining entirely new permits.

Overall, by being flexible and collaborating with the city, homeowners can adapt their pool design to bypass rocky areas, provided sufficient space is available. These adjustments offer a practical solution to address the challenges posed by extensive rocks within the construction site, allowing you to proceed with your pool installation.


In scenarios where larger boulders are encountered, homeowners can still proceed with the pool construction but should be prepared for increased costs and time. 


If a bobcat can maneuver around the boulder, it can be removed without jackhammering. However, manual jackhammering becomes necessary if the bobcat cannot move the boulder due to its weight or size.

Removing larger boulders may require renting additional equipment, hiring more manpower, or using hydraulic hammers. The cost and time associated with breaking the boulder into smaller, manageable pieces and extracting them should be considered.


Although this option may incur additional expenses, it generally does not require modifications to the project plans or permits.

While Southern California boasts diverse terrains, these larger boulders are commonly found in mountainous areas such as LA Crescenta, Eagle Rock, and The Pasadena Foothills.


In some cases, the presence of hard rock and the associated challenges and costs may lead homeowners to consider canceling the pool project altogether. 

During the contract signing process, we engage in a crucial conversation to address potential scenarios, including the option to halt and cancel the project. Just like any contract, there are some implications and specific terms outlined in these circumstances. 

For instance, recovering the excavated soil becomes a challenge, requiring additional expenses for backfilling or applying concrete. In addition, backfilling protocols are regulated by the city, not the contractor. Homeowners and contractors must defer to the city’s regulations on backfilling pools.


This option allows homeowners to avoid the complications and expenses related to excavating and removing the hard rock. We always recommend carefully assessing the financial and logistical implications before deciding to cancel the project.

Next Steps for Your Dream Pool: Overcoming Rock Encounters with Ease and Success

Now that you’ve read this article, you’re armed with an artillery of defense should you hit a rock during pool excavation. We believe that “rocky road” should only describe the best flavor of ice cream ever created, not your pool construction journey.

While some surprises can’t be avoided, your rock-solid pool contractor will exhaustively prepare you for unforeseen contingencies.

At J Designs Pool and Spa, we have expertise in navigating such situations, ensuring your pool construction remains on track and within your budget. With 15 years of experience planning for and building unique pools, we extend our foresight and educator's mindset to every client before, during, and after we’ve constructed your dream pool.  

Smooth sailing into your pool construction project is just one click away, contact us and schedule a consultation!

Are you excited about your unproblematic pool project but still need to dig deep into research? We salute you, studious sailor! Check out these related articles for more information:



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