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Thread: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

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    EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Hi All. We have about 70 cracks in our shotcrete floor (I kid you not), from around 1' to 2' long. (We're owner-builder.) We did everything right: Watered the shotcrete 4+ times a day for 7 days. It also rained all day for 2 of the 7 days and the humidity was high 6 out of the 7 days. Like I said, we did everything right. Our shotcrete subs did not. As you can see from the pictures below (I only posted a few) some of the cracks are hairline and some are not. Approximately 20 of the cracks are about 1/16" wide (you can fit a coin in them) and are anywhere from 3/4" to 2 1/4" in deep. Some of the cracks appeared when the subs were still here on the day they did the shotcrete. I would say within 2 days or so all the cracks were visible. (Btw, our soil is granite and very stable and the shotcrete was 3500 psi.)

    We told the owner of the shotcrete company (who was not on site the day of the shoot) about the cracks (how many there are and how deep/wide they are) and he said they were shrinkage cracks and no big deal. (We also sent him pictures, the same pictures as below, but he never commented on them.) We also contacted our pool engineer, Ron Lacher of Pool Engineering Inc. and, after looking at the pictures, he said there appeared to be 2 reasons for the cracks: Shrinkage due to using a more economical wet shotcrete mix that has a higher water content and spreading re-tempered waste (rebound) over the previously shot floor. He also went on to say that hopefully what's under the rebound isn't more rebound, but properly applied shotcrete. He suggested contacting some plasterers and then, based on what he said and what the plasterers said make a decision as to what to do and that it would not be unreasonable to ask the owner of the shotcrete company to remove the top layers of rebound and fix the cracks.

    So first we contacted 2 plasterers, both with many, many years of experience in the business and this is what they said: The first plasterer (23+ years plastering) came out on Wednesday and said it was the worst shotcrete job he'd ever seen and that he'd never seen so many cracks before in shotcrete. In addition to the cracks, he said our entire pool floor is really uneven. The shallow end is higher by 2" on the right side vs. the left. In fact the entire right side of the pool floor is higher than the left. There's humping in the middle of the pool and the shotcrete subs had troweled in the rebound so the majority of the pool floor is smooth. The plasterer said he wouldn't be able to apply the plaster because the surface is too smooth. He was at a loss to offer any solutions other than to get the shotcrete subs back to somehow fix the problems. He went ahead and gave us an estimate for plastering, but said that it would be hard for him to give us a warranty on the plaster because the cracking is so excessive. The second plasterer came out the next day and said it was extremely shoddy work and was just amazed that anyone could do such a bad job and that he'd never seen so many cracks before. He said he could "brown coat" the entire pool shell (1/4" thick) to make the shell more water tight and give the plaster something to adhere to since the pool floor was too smooth. However, he was also concerned about the depth of the cracks so he would need to send out his shotcrete expert and see what could be done about those. That was Thursday.

    Fast forward to today. The owner of the shotcrete company sent out a plasterer he recommends to his customers to look at our job. The first thing this plasterer said was that the job looked pretty bad. He said he wasn't sure what the subs did, but it looked as if they had created a "patch" over the majority of the pool floor. If you look at the pictures you'll see what he's talking about. The area of the floor that looks lighter (i.e. most of the pool floor) is the rebound (aka the "patch" he's talking about) and the small darker area that goes from the pool floor and up the side of the pool is the only area of the floor that was done correctly. This plasterer decided to "open up" the one crack in the floor that goes down 2 1/4" to see what it looked like underneath. Once it was opened up he filled it with water. He only filled it halfway with water and it took about 20 minutes before the water disappeared, which, to me, meant that the crack must go all the way through the shell. He then got out a hammer and tapped on either side of a lot of the cracks to test for hollowness and said the shell sounded solid. (I had already done this, as well as the other 2 plasterers, and it sounded solid.) His recommendation: No need to do anything. Just fill the cracks with plaster. He waffled on what to do about the pool bottom being 2 inches shorter on one side and the overall unevenness of the pool bottom. At first he said he couldn't use plaster to even it out because it would be too much plaster and it would crack and then he changed his mind and said he could do it.

    It's hard for me to believe that a layer of plaster could solve all the problems with the shotcrete. It looks so bad, is it even salvageable? How do I find out if the sub-floor is any good? At this point, I'm more concerned with finding a proper and long-lasting solution, if it's possible, so if anyone has any advice for me in that respect that would be great. Also, who should do the repairing, the plasterer or another shotcrete guy? Thanks so much for your help. I really appreciate the support from the people on this forum.

    (Btw, the shotcrete company came highly recommended and has been mentioned a number of times on TFP. Out of respect for the rules of this forum I have not mentioned the company name, but for anyone looking to do an OB in Southern California please PM me and I can let you know who it is. I don't want this to happen to anyone else.)


    The lighter area on the pool floor is rebound? You can also get a general idea of some of the overall cracking from this picture:





    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Wow its difficult to say anything after seeing that and reading your story. Geting the engineer to give you there view was a very good idea.

    How much would it cost to get Ron Larcher out to do a full inspection and report? It might be worth it to get the shotcrete sub to jack out the rebound and even out the pool. If it is just rebound smoothed over the top of a properly shot floor the cracks should not be a problem.

    I'd ask the engineer if upgrading the plaster would help that's another thing the contractor can do for you pay for the extra plaster.
    22k gallon IG pebblefina, Jandy 1.5 HP VS, Jandy CV Cartridge filter, Fafco solar panels, Polaris 360 supply side cleaner, waterfall

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Hi, gwegan. When my husband spoke with Ron on the phone and offered to pay him to come out to our house he didn't seem too interested, but maybe we can ask again. (I think he wanted us to contact plasterers first to see what they said.) Luckily we do have his recommendations in writing (email) based on what he saw in the pictures. I'm not sure if the owner of the shotcrete company is too interested in fixing things (especially since his plasterer is saying he would just plaster over it) so I was thinking of calling another shotcrete person out to see what they could do to fix it (if it can be fixed). If the top layer (rebound) is removed and the layer underneath is good then I wonder how they can shoot more shotcrete over it and have it bond? If it's all rebound how do you fix it then?? Remove everything (including the rebar that would be destroyed from the jack hammering) and start over?
    Quote Originally Posted by gwegan View Post
    Wow its difficult to say anything after seeing that and reading your story. Geting the engineer to give you there view was a very good idea.

    How much would it cost to get Ron Larcher out to do a full inspection and report? It might be worth it to get the shotcrete sub to jack out the rebound and even out the pool. If it is just rebound smoothed over the top of a properly shot floor the cracks should not be a problem.

    I'd ask the engineer if upgrading the plaster would help that's another thing the contractor can do for you pay for the extra plaster.
    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    You can see how the one side is sloped different than the other side.

    Keep us in the loop. I am guessing you have already paid him. I would have to ask him for a face to face so you can ask him if he REALLY wants the area to know about and see the work done on the news and social media.

    Kim
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    I would be tempted to chip into a couple of areas to get a better idea of what you are dealing with.
    18' x 36' saltwater inground vinyl pool

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    EVery sorry to hear about your situation.

    I'll just share two thoughts that I had after reading through things. First, it seems practically impossible that the entire floor is rebound. Given that rebound is what falls off or separates from the initially shot product. Rebound would only be a small percentage of what was actually applied on that day. Assuming the floor is of a proper depth, which would be easy to determine with a few holes being drilled (which are easily patched) you could determine this. Or you could have core samples taken and examined by a consultant. I'm not saying that in any one spot there might not be too much rebound, but it seems unlikely. That said, taking out the main floor portion and re shooting would be the safe solution but probably overkill. Completely my non-professional, enthusiast opinions.

    Second thought is in the non-level shallow end. This make no difference except for appearance. Unless the low side is 2" less thick than spec. or there is not sufficient shotcrete over the rebar. Our pool is 6" different from middle side to other middle side when it 'should' be level. However, it was dug that way and the floor thickness is proper. Nobody would ever know it but me and its six inches.

    I'd do two things while thinking about it. First study your rebar and during shot create pictures (hopefully you have both) to see if you can determine the answers to any of the thickness or application questions. Any such oictures could be invaluable. Second, I'd be tempted to fill the pool so the whole floor is covered with water. Then see what the water level does. Now shotcrete is not waterproof, but it also generally doesn't leak like a sieve, especially if you have moist ground outside. But if the water level doesn't move, that a big plus. It could have moved before because of the absorption from the slightly cracked and dry concrete. If you fill, wait some period of time before tracking water levels to allow for full absorption of water. I may be off base on all of this but just some thoughts to consider.
    I wish you well on a solution.
    18'x38' Rectangle (3'-8 1/2' deep w/ diving board) - 27K gal. w/ gray plaster
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Ron's hourly rate for that kind of work is high I suspect.

    So one question is how thick is the proper floor vs the rebound? If the proper floor is thick enough and the rebound just sits on top you can chip out the rebound and have a rough floor. That is theory not so easy in practice.

    You can place another layer over it - if you need to -- but you want to use a bonding agent and have someone with experience do it. If its all rebound -- and I doubt that -- then it should come out -- it doesn't meet the spec you paid for.

    Find out if the contractor has insurance that covers this -- many don't but ask -- its called completed operations insurance.
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    I too agree that it is not possible for there to be that much rebound. That is one of the main reasons why I prefer shotcrete; there is little rebound compared to gunite. Without a doubt the mix had way too much water in it and it was excessively troweled, which brings more water to the surface creating more shrinkage cracks.

    3500 PSI is very low for a shotcrete mix...I've never done less than 4500, and I prefer 5000-5500.

    I do not recommend plastering that pool. Plaster has no structural integrity and slight movement will cause cracks. The brown coat option will not help the issue, as it too will end up cracking.

    I'm surprised you can't get someone from Pool Eng to look at it. I know they've given consultations in the past.

    As for a solution, epoxy injection may be an option if you can find a specialist. Are any of those cracks at the transition from the wall to the floor? Do they run parallel with the wall or perpendicular? Are any of the cracks in a straight line or are they very random?

    Can you PM the contractor's info, the invoice and the tickets from each truck from the concrete company? Did you already pay in full?
    -Brian-
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Hi, Brian. I just pm'd you with the info. Thanks!!! Laura
    Quote Originally Posted by bdavis466 View Post
    I too agree that it is not possible for there to be that much rebound. That is one of the main reasons why I prefer shotcrete; there is little rebound compared to gunite. Without a doubt the mix had way too much water in it and it was excessively troweled, which brings more water to the surface creating more shrinkage cracks.

    3500 PSI is very low for a shotcrete mix...I've never done less than 4500, and I prefer 5000-5500.

    I do not recommend plastering that pool. Plaster has no structural integrity and slight movement will cause cracks. The brown coat option will not help the issue, as it too will end up cracking.

    I'm surprised you can't get someone from Pool Eng to look at it. I know they've given consultations in the past.

    As for a solution, epoxy injection may be an option if you can find a specialist. Are any of those cracks at the transition from the wall to the floor? Do they run parallel with the wall or perpendicular? Are any of the cracks in a straight line or are they very random?

    Can you PM the contractor's info, the invoice and the tickets from each truck from the concrete company? Did you already pay in full?
    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    First and foremost I'm sorry to here of your issue. Next, I wonder if the inspector would pass you if you have a pre-plaster inspection, maybe that's your leverage, it's not up to city code and you cannot move forward. I know my inspector was very particular about our tickets, making sure I got them from the shotcrete company and then when I presented them he reviewed them closely prior to signing off on my pre-plaster inspection.

    Deep end of my pool looked similar to yours with the water in it. When the owner of my shotcrete company came back for payment (offered to pay him same day of shoot after they were done and he said don't worry about it, I'm going to be coming back next week to look at it so pay me then, that was nice and talk about confidence in his work) he saw my deep end and all the water in it and said, "that's what I like to see." He inspected the work, didn't see any issues and I paid him. Hopefully your shotcrete guy opporates in a similar fashion because I imagine the only leverage you have is your inspector and payment. Good luck!
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Thanks everyone for all your responses/support. Bdavis466 got me looking at timelines further. I'm wondering if the last shotcrete truck that was sent was too "old" because I noticed that they were adding water to the truck the entire time they were shooting. The only batch ticket I have is for the final truck, truck #5 and it says that the shotcrete batch time was 10:44am. I know truck #5 didn't arrive until after 1pm. If you look at the pictures below they were taken at 12:30pm. The shotcrete that is in place in those pictures looks normal today, but anything shot after that time is where we have problems: The last step on the right side of the pool as you enter it (left side from the view in the picture) wasn't formed yet and now looks just like the bottom of the pool, which also wasn't formed yet in the picture. Coincidence? It doesn't seem like it. The shotcrete guy's plasterer who came to look at the shotcrete yesterday actually said, after looking it over, "There must have been a problem with the last truck." So it looks like the "bad" shotcrete goes all the way down to the dirt of the pool floor, which I guess explains why the cracks are 3/4" to 2 1/4"+??? I don't know. I'm not the expert. I'm just someone who expected a professional job from a licensed professional and didn't get it. So if the overly-wet shotcrete (i.e. weaker shotcrete?) goes all the way to the dirt does that mean it has to be removed all the way down to the dirt? I'm still not sure what the solution is.


    [/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    That picture and the truck paperwork from #5 should be all you need to get it taken care of. So sad............NOW the PB needs to step,

    If he will not come to you then go to him.

    Kim
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    I'm so sad for you. This is supposed to be a fun thing. I'm so sorry
    Free form pool 90'3" prim, 14180 gallons. TF100 Kit In pool table with travertine top, 3sheer descents, Depth 3.5-5-4, Jandy 2HP pump, Inline Chlorinator, Wetedge Satin Matrix Antigua.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Maybe the shotcrete being so wet explains the 1 1/2" deep footprint I sprained my ankle on when I stepped on it as I was watering the pool the day after it was shot. I was surprised to see such a deep depression.

    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    That wet the next day?! Mine was dry within hours
    Free form pool 90'3" prim, 14180 gallons. TF100 Kit In pool table with travertine top, 3sheer descents, Depth 3.5-5-4, Jandy 2HP pump, Inline Chlorinator, Wetedge Satin Matrix Antigua.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Thanks, Amanda. I expected problems (no job goes smoothly), but this is beyond my expectations and not in a good way.
    Quote Originally Posted by amandahein3 View Post
    I'm so sad for you. This is supposed to be a fun thing. I'm so sorry
    Lol. Sorry, I wasn't clear in my explanation. The water is from me when I was watering down the shotcrete. I wanted to post the picture of the boot print to find out from some of the shotcrete experts on TFP if it was further proof that the shotcrete was too wet when it was shot. It seems like a pretty deep imprint (1 1/2"). I would think the shotcrete guys would know where not to step during a shoot, but if the shotcrete was wetter than they were used to it would make sense they would accidentally step in it (thinking that it should already have set up, but since it was too wet, it hadn't yet.)

    I think I'm spending too much time trying to play detective. In then end I don't know what to do about shotcrete that was over-watered, but it seems to me that it would be a lot weaker than "normal" shotcrete. (I'm trying to stay calm, but I'm super-stressed...)

    Quote Originally Posted by amandahein3 View Post
    That wet the next day?! Mine was dry within hours
    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks, Kim. We'll see what he does for us...
    Quote Originally Posted by kimkats View Post
    That picture and the truck paperwork from #5 should be all you need to get it taken care of. So sad............NOW the PB needs to step,

    If he will not come to you then go to him.

    Kim
    My Build: OB 29k Gal 19'x38' rectangular pool 3 1/2' to 7', 8'x12' Baja Shelf, 8' round spa raised 18" w/12 jets, 2 skmrs, 6 retns, 3 Intelli. 5g color lts, 2 Globrites on steps, 3 ltd bubblers on Baja shelf, PS Ocean Blue plaster, quartz stone coping, Pentair MasterTemp HD Cupro Nickel 400,000btu, IntelliFlo VS 3hp, 2 Whisperflos 2hp, IC60 kit, Pentair Cart. Filter 520 sqft, IntelliTouch i9+3, ScreenLogic2, MobileTouch Wireless.

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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Footprints are pretty typical and don't really give an indication of a poor mix.

    As far as the inspector goes, I doubt they will care about the quality of the shell. They are more concerned with electrical, gates, fences, alarms, etc. I've never had an inspector even question it.

    I too am very sorry for your trouble. This is supposed to be an exciting time for you. I'll be sending you a PM shortly.
    -Brian-
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    Re: EXCESSIVE CRACKING (70+ cracks) in Shotcrete (trying to remain calm)

    Dmalma, do you have any updates since three weeks ago? I know you're a very busy person and this type of pool investigation and back and forth can take a long time. I'm just concerned about all you've been going through. I haven't posted sooner since it looks like much of this happened soon after my pool was plastered and filled - I was a little overwhelmed with everything then. That now seems pretty puny compared to what you've been dealing with. Somehow your build and this crack disaster fell off my radar.

    Many hugs and hoping things are getting resolved!
    Suz.
    Suz~Cypress area~ 2015 pool build. 23K gallons. IG swcg system. 35'x18'; 573sf; 104' perim; depth 4'-7'. Bubblers, sheer descents, 7' spa. Jandy: color LEDs; 2HP 2sp pump; 1HP 2sp pump; spa pump; 580 cartridge; 400K BTU; Dolphin M500; PS8; Inline chlorinator not used; Aqua Pure 1400. Blue Granite Sheen. Travertine deck. Lightstreams Peacock Blue TF-100, K-1766, SpeedStir

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