Taking the plunge and deciding to build a pool on your property is a huge decision, and, yes, that decision will require a large investment. When hiring a builder, ask questions and seek to understand in great detail what exactly it is that you’re buying. The more you know about what it takes to properly design, engineer, and construct a swimming pool, the more likely you are to make a decision based on long-term value rather than upfront cost.
First and foremost, ask for referrals. Honest pool builders who know what they’re doing and who earn their fees by delivering value for the dollar will have a list of satisfied clients you can contact. Unfortunately in the pool industry, as elsewhere, companies with dubious reputations abound. Talking with a builder’s past customers and even visiting completed sites will weed out some of the more unscrupulous ones.
Once you’ve talked with a company’s referrals, you’ll undoubtedly have many questions. To start, though, ask about the structural issues of your pool project. We cherish those clients who seek to educate themselves about the best structure for their pool based on their particular geographical area. Below is a short list of questions a reasonably informed homeowner might ask a prospective builder and our honest answers.
Does the soil need to be tested?
We start with a soil report. It’s really just common sense: you have to know the soil conditions you’re building in otherwise it’s absolutely impossible to engineer the shell to last. When you’re building a concrete structure in the ground that’s meant to hold water, there’s no room for guesswork. Soil conditions can vary from property to property even in the same area. Insist on a soil report. If a builder says they’ve worked in the area for a long time and know the conditions without testing, it’s time to hire another builder.
Do you build with freestanding walls or do you use the ground as a form?
We build freestanding shells, which is a huge distinction that sets us apart from many builders. That means we over-excavate the site and form the pool as though it was going to exist above ground. This enables us to create a precise shell, typically using half-inch rebar, 10 inches on center in the floor, and six inches in the walls. We build perfectly vertical walls, which can be next to impossible when you’re using the ground as a form.
How thick are the freestanding shells?
Our shells are 10 inches thick and engineered to withstand geological forces as well as freeze and thaw conditions. We’re able to widen the shell beneath coping as much as three feet extending down below the freeze line so there’s no movement during the winter. That means the coping and tile line won’t crack or come loose. Our forms are built sturdy so there’s no movement during the shotcrete application.
How do you apply the shotcrete?
We make sure the shotcrete is applied properly, which means we avoid shadowing and we never use rebound. A lot of contractors use rebound in the steps and the spas, for example, which doesn’t even really qualify as concrete, it’s more like loose sand and will almost always lead to cracks and other structural defects.
But That’s Not All
Once your prospective builder answers the structure issues questions, there’s certainly a huge list of other questions to ask, including the following:
What type of surface will be used, traditional plaster or something else such as polished aggregate that is more durable?
How will the water be filtered and chemically treated?
Will the system be run on variable speed pumps?
How many skimmers and returns will be in the system?
What types of lights will be used, LEDs or traditional incandescent or halogen lights?
What type of control system will be used?
And the list goes on! In today’s world, it’s a hard and inconvenient fact that consumers need to be educated in order to protect themselves from unscrupulous pool contractors. However, a dose of practical knowledge and the right questions can help consumers get the most information about their project to see beyond the price.
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About the Author
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality.
He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy.
A devoted family man, Steve lives in East Hampton with his bride of 20 years and their three children.