Pool Construction Process
So you’re ready to sign contracts and still don’t know what to expect throughout the process of having your swimming pool built. This article is here to help you understand a little bit more about the process of pool construction that you may not know to expect. From beginning to end, it is more complicated than simply digging a hole and adding water. From permits to engineering, to structural steel, gunite/shotcrete, inspections, and so much more, it is easy to sometimes feel like you have bitten off more than you can chew. As long as you are prepared, and do as much research as possible before beginning, you will feel a little more at ease.
So let us begin…
The price of your pool can weigh quite heavily on the amount of access you have to get a tractor in and out. The general rule of thumb is the smaller the tractor that must be used, the more expensive the pool will be. Barring any unforeseeable objects underground, or circumstances such as excavations on the side of a hill, etc., you are typically going to get a better price the larger the access that can be provided. It is a common practice for contractors to include statements in your contract that do not include the repair of any underground objects hit, unstable/rocky soil, or cave-ins due to any combination of the two during excavation. Other things to be prepared for with pool construction are: Additional grading (if it is not included in your contract), grading inspection (depending on city), over-excavation, soils reports (I recommend getting one before beginning), and zone fees (the amount it costs to haul the dirt away, if it is not included in your contract).
This process is generally a very quick phase on the overall project timeline. From a couple hours to 2 days, depending on the complexity of the engineering, the steel installation should not have any surprises. The only thing to look out for is to make sure that ALL the engineering for your specific pool design is included in the contract. The easiest way to know this is to look in your backyard. If your pool is on flat ground, in a generally wide open area, and is a relatively basic design with no infinity edges, complex water features, or other structures attached to it, it is more than likely a standard set of engineering. If you are doing pool construction on a hillside, have grottos, waterfalls, infinity edges, or other types of structures tied into the pool design you will need a separate set of engineering for each item (generally speaking). Make sure those items are included.
Plumbing, Gas and Electrical
Pool plumbing is a very important phase of the construction process. With MANY codes and requirements set forth by the state and each individual city/county office, it is imperative that you have a contractor that knows this trade VERY well. Each different city is going to have different requirements regarding everything from GFCI codes, bonding codes, and many others. The one thing to be cautious of in this phase is that all of the gas, electric, and plumbing runs are included based on your individual project. If there is no way that you can get your gas line to the equipment location except to go under the house or out to a “coffin” that is by the street, make sure that the contract states that those specific types of runs and hookups are included.
At this point, the hole has been dug, steel placed, and plumbing installed. For this inspection, the building department will send an inspector out to look at the steel and compare it to the provided engineering and look at the plumbing systems t0 make sure it is under pressure and has no leaks.
Gunite, or shotcrete, is the term used for concrete that is “shot” pneumatically. The difference between the two is the method in which each is mixed. Gunite is typically a dry mix that is mixed on site and water added at the nozzle of the hose. Shotcrete is a premixed concrete that is typically shot at a higher psi. Although 2500 psi is typically all that is necessary, for a gunite/shotcrete pool depending on the location, soil, or complexity of your pool, the higher psi may be required.
Tile, Coping, and Concrete
The next step in pool construction is to install the tile, coping, and concrete decking around the pool. There are a few ways to go about this and not one specific order in which they must be completed. It is, however, becoming increasingly popular for pool contractors to not offer tile, coping and/or concrete. Be sure that these items are included as they could be quite costly to have someone else do simply because it is such a small scope of work. If they are included make sure you know what type of material, groupings/levels, and allotments are included. A contractor will typically include the lower level material in a contract. This is not always in an attempt pull a fast one on clients, but a way to set a limit on what is spent on material, as costs can vary so exponentially. Other than the previously mentioned potential inclusions and exclusions regarding tile and coping material, there is one major step that is very easily overlooked by even the most experienced contractors. The bonding of the pool to the surrounding decking or landscaping. Some cities will allow you to get away without installing any type of bonding to the outside materials. However, this fairly new code is being enforced by more and more city inspectors every day. Chances are your local building department will require some type of bonding but it is usually at the discretion of the individual inspector as to the type and amount.
Fence and Gate/Pre-plaster Inspection
This inspection is scheduled in order for the city/county to verify that the enclosures and walls on the property meet the proper state and local codes. The state code requires all fences and gates to be 5′ tall, self-closing, self-latching, and outward swinging. However, the state allows for some adaptation to be made at the county and city levels if so desired.
Plaster and Start-up
There are many types of materials that can be used to finish the interior of a pool. From basic white plaster to premium colored quartz, pebble and glass bead, and even tile, the options for pool construction are endless. In some cases, so is the price. Each material has it’s own pros and cons. From blotching of colors to roughness on the feet, you should speak to your swimming pool contractor about their personal recommendations, always keeping in mind they are in sales and obviously would love to sell you the most expensive product. After getting their suggestions, be sure to get other opinions from friends, family members and anyone else that has a pool with the different variations of interior finishes. Tip: The most expensive does NOT always mean the best or longest lasting material. It could just mean it takes more labor to install it or is the trend in the industry at that current moment. After the interior is installed the contractor should send someone out to the commission or start up the equipment to begin the filtration process.
The final inspection is one last opportunity for the local inspector to come out and find something wrong with your project. In most cases, this inspection is largely a formality and is only done to ensure that everything that was previously up to code on prior inspections, is still up to code upon completion of construction.