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Thread: Pool Construction - Best Practices

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    setsailsoon's Avatar
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    Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Moderator Note - This was separated out from this thread: Failed electrical inspection - Page 2
    Chris brings up a great topic of discussion, but please remember - many things will be individual opinion, please respect your fellow members opinion even when it may differ from yours.


    Folks,

    Now this is an interesting thread to me. I've spent a 40 year career as a project manager in the petrochemicals, specialty chemicals, and onshore/offshore oil and gas sectors. This included several projects over $1 Billion. But one of the most difficult things in finishing a job can be the local inspections for the parts they have jurisdiction over-things like office buildings, electrical, plumbing etc. Marc, it's great that your contract and/or contractor are of sufficient quality that the builder will take care of this on his nickel. Congrats and thanks for contributing this information! But I wonder how many pool projects are done by owners that don't have sufficient access to project best practices? This can doom a pool build to a miserable experience for the owner and the pool builder.

    The section on How to Select a Pool Builder should be mandatory reading for a home owner getting ready to start this project. But it should be enhanced significantly with at least the following additional sections:


    • Project Execution Plan template for the owner - a clear, concise description of what needs to be done step by step from the idea of building a pool to taking the swim.
    • Scope of Work definition
    • Contracting Strategy - what's the best way to get the best builders very interested in your pool and get the best price from them?
    • Form of contract - Lump sum, reimbursable or hybrid- each way can be very successful or a disaster depending mostly on the owner.
    • Contracting and Terms and Conditions - make sure you have one and you know what it means
    • Insurance- Did you know one of the best ways to find a great contractor is to ask them about their Workman's Comp insurance rates?
    • Specifications
    • Inspection
    • Bidder per-qualification, evaluation, selection, and award
    • Design, Procurement and Construction/Start-up - most important is what is the owner's role and what is the contractor's role during each step


    The items above have to be done well for a great project result no matter if it's a small pool project or a Billion $ petrochemical complex.

    I know a lot about this stuff for major projects but there's a lot I don't know specific to pool projects. I've been thinking about starting a thread that may generate enough information from pool builders and owners on this site that a Pool Building Best Practices guide could be prepared.

    Anybody interested?

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Great thread idea Chris! Perhaps some day the information posted here can become part of Pool School and give many the confidence to be their own PBs.

    I will be following it to learn from the project management experts here on TFP.


    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Thanks Matt!

    I can't wait to learn all about this very special kind of project as well!

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Folks,

    I'd like to get the ball rolling with a simple suggestion. Let's talk at the high level first about the first step (stage). Then get into the next level to talk about the sub-steps. In my world there are 5-6 high level steps (we call them stages) to a project that are progressed in a gated process. So you don't start the next stage until the prior stages have been completed and completed very well. There is overwhelming statistical evidence that this approach yields the best results. So I'd like to focus on the first step first. We'll get a little of the basics down for each step then delve the details of best practices that contractors and owners can contribute. Of course if anybody has an urgent question or problem, chime in with it and I'm pretty sure you'll get help. Only other thing I would ask is let's keep to the topic of Best Practices in Project Management of Pool Projects. There are all kinds of great forum areas on TFP for equipment details, finishes, and every other aspect of pool. So let's try to maintain the excellent organization that this site has and not overlap with topics that have years and years of posts in other areas.

    Stage 1 - Conceptual Business Case

    In big process plant projects this is where we assess the business viability. It's all about the business objectives and deciding a business concept is good enough to move forward with the idea for a new plant or major expansion. In the pool world this would translate to getting the Project Sponsor(s) (usually the wife and husband) to answer the questions:


    1. Do we really want to do this?
    2. Why are we considering this? Adults, Kids, both, entertainment, fitness, others?
    3. What do we need to know make this decision?
    4. If we don't agree how do we get to agreement before a big financial commitment is made. Sometimes (usually?) this involves proceeding to the next step to get some better definition.
    5. What are the objectives? Affordable cost, size and shape drivers, is appearance more important than functionality? This is easily overlooked yet extremely important as it will make it easy to make all the decisions that come later in the process. Top performance of any project is always associated with superb objectives very clearly written down and agreed to by the project Sponsor(s).
    6. What contracting strategy should be employed? Do we want to sub the work out ourselves and manage them all ourselves? Hire a builder lumps sum turnkey? Reimbursable against a target budget? Or a hybrid? A final decision doesn't need to be made but the topic should be discussed and at least narrowed down before the next step.


    So I'll asked this question: What are best practices around this first step that you've employed successfully or learned the hard way?

    Once we've reached critical mass on this stage 1 discussion we'll start to focus on the remainder. So people with have an understanding of where this is going the other stages with a brief description are at the bottom of this post.

    I hope this becomes a helpful thread and contributes to everybody's success with pool projects.

    Chris



    Stage 2 - Preliminary Definition.

    This is one of the hardest parts to do. Also the quality of work performed in this step is more statistically significant in predicting project success than any other step. This is where all the alternatives are evaluated and the scope is decided. Also specifications are at least preliminarily defined. What is the supply water quality? What other quality requirements do you want the builder to meet? What are the soil conditions? Special building permit/HOA requirements/access issues? At the end of this stage you have also have a good quality estimate based on quotes for equipment, materials, contractors. The estimate upper range should be +30% or better.

    Stage 3 - Advanced Definition

    This is where the options selected in Stage 2 are developed with additional design and detail that a high quality estimate and schedule is prepared. This will include firm quotes from equipment, materials, contractors so that a final funding commitment is made. A funding plan is determined and any additional requirements of the funding source are defined. At this point you should know the cost by +10% or better. A single contract with a builder or all the contracts for a self-build/hybrid approach are in place as the last step in this stage.

    Stage 4 - Detailed Design and Procurement.

    This is where the detailed and specific design for your pool on your site are produced. Also material/equipment are ordered with commitments for delivery dates, and contractors commit to mobilization schedules.

    Stage 5 - Commissioning and Startup

    This includes everything it takes to go from completed construction to your first swim.

    Stage 6 - Lessons Learned

    The best of the best do this extremely well. It's where all the mistakes and how to do better next time are documentd. I should be a searchable database that's referred to before each new project. I'm hopeful this will become a reference for everybody that starts a new pool project. And just maybe, there are some good learning's to begin with from you owners and builders that recently finished projects.
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Quote Originally Posted by setsailsoon View Post
    Stage 1 - Conceptual Business Case

    In big process plant projects this is where we assess the business viability. It's all about the business objectives and deciding a business concept is good enough to move forward with the idea for a new plant or major expansion. In the pool world this would translate to getting the Project Sponsor(s) (usually the wife and husband) to answer the questions:


    1. Do we really want to do this?
    2. Why are we considering this? Adults, Kids, both, entertainment, fitness, others?
    3. What do we need to know make this decision?
    4. If we don't agree how do we get to agreement before a big financial commitment is made. Sometimes (usually?) this involves proceeding to the next step to get some better definition.
    5. What are the objectives? Affordable cost, size and shape drivers, is appearance more important than functionality? This is easily overlooked yet extremely important as it will make it easy to make all the decisions that come later in the process. Top performance of any project is always associated with superb objectives very clearly written down and agreed to by the project Sponsor(s).
    6. What contracting strategy should be employed? Do we want to sub the work out ourselves and manage them all ourselves? Hire a builder lumps sum turnkey? Reimbursable against a target budget? Or a hybrid? A final decision doesn't need to be made but the topic should be discussed and at least narrowed down before the next step.


    So I'll asked this question: What are best practices around this first step that you've employed successfully or learned the hard way?

    Once we've reached critical mass on this stage 1 discussion we'll start to focus on the remainder. So people with have an understanding of where this is going the other stages with a brief description are at the bottom of this post.

    I hope this becomes a helpful thread and contributes to everybody's success with pool projects.

    Chris

    Great way to start, thanks for acting as the "thought leader" for this thread.

    I would say one thing with regard to this Stage 1 - as far as any "official guidance" TFP might offer in this area of budgets/financing/money decisions should be clearly left open to the prospective "project sponsors", i.e. the homeowners. In other words, TFP should remain silent on the question of "how" you get the money to pay for your pool. I only offer this as an opinion because we have had more than a few threads over my short time here that have asked "How does everyone PAY for a pool?" or "Is Lender XYZ a good way to get pool construction financing?". Those types of threads always devolve into a pseudo-shouting match between people who don't like debt-financed pool builds and others that see no harm in pulling out a bank loan for a pool. Eventually the thread gets closed by a Mod.

    SO, as far as the money issue goes, I think the primary task of any homeowner is to figure out how much money they are willing & able to spend on a pool project and how that might relate to their particular situation, i.e. if you live in a home/neighborhood that has $100,000 real estate values then the pool you build is going to be a lot different than if you live in a neighborhood with million-dollar McMansions.

    Matt
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Matt,

    Thanks so much for the contribution. Great points and great guidance for everybody. My main interest from a Project Management perspective is to have the owners identify the source of funding since different sources can have implications to construction and potentially design. Areas such as requirements for inspections, funding draws (unplanned draws usually have extra fees), design certifications etc. These must be clearly understood before the contracts are signed. Clearly this is more for the owner that self-builds or self manages and uses a construction loan. As far as the amount the owner wants to spend and how they choose to get that money? None of our business and outside the topic for this thread! What we want to focus on is the best way to get the most bang for their buck through project management excellence... no matter how many bucks are involved and where they come from.

    I hope this helps clarify.

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Watching this thread with great interest. I will contribute when beneficial.
    In ground, 14,000 gallon, white plaster, unheated, stone waterfall, DE Filter, Rainbow 320 Cl, Polaris 3900, FloVis flow meter, F100 test kit, Circupool RJ30+ SWG, Circupool VJ1/Speck Badu EcoM3V variable speed pump.

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Folks,

    Stage 1 is kind of dry, definitely not as exciting as the rest of the project. But here's the thing there's this concept called the influence curve. It simply means the decisions you make early have way more influence than later ones. Deferred decisions on objectives have a huge negative affect later. It's not that they can't be done later it's just the cost and schedule delay are much worse the later they are made.

    Let's assume you've thought about all the alternatives and your Pool Objective Statement for your pool looks like this:

    Mixed use for kids and adults, in deciding characteristics/features preference go:

    1. Kid safe features
    2. Can't exceed budget of X
    3. Long enough to swim laps since kids are on the swim team
    4. Compliment adult entertainment area (maybe a fire pit or outdoor kitchen or something)
    5. Quality of equipment (must be good name brand but priorities above take precedence over premium brands)


    The last thing to discuss before we get out of this boring Stage 1 is just a little bit about contracting. Seems like most use a Pool Builder in a "General Contractor Role". Does anybody (builder or owner) have experience with a different way? If so what was it and where is it applicable?

    Thanks in advance.

    Chris
    Last edited by setsailsoon; 02-07-2016 at 09:55 AM. Reason: fixed deleted words
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    I think what stumps people on stage 1 in questions 5 and 6 is how to figure out the differences between using a PB versus going O/B. I think it would be helpful to have a list of pros & cons (generalized) so that people can think about the choice rationally (try to leave out the extreme horror stories).

    Also, I would say stage 1 is a time when people should either be researching PB websites or visiting showrooms to get design ideas. It may even be a time (if tech savvy enough) to download the trial version of Pool Studio and mess around with design ideas.

    This really is the "sandbox" stage so it's hard to codify what "needs" to be done in anything but the most general terms.

    Matt


    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Matt,

    Great suggestions. There's a great resource already on this site ( "How to Pick a Pool Builder".) I'm capturing suggestions already from other posts for a Stage 1 checklist. Prospective owners will be able to go down the list to self-check to see if they've done good job of Stage 1 and are ready to start Stage 2. You've added a couple of check list items. Thanks!

    You people here that have built pools and not just inherited one like me, how did you decide Pool Builder (PB) or Owner Built (OB)? What would you do differently now that you're done or in progress?

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Chris,

    An excellent start to a thread on a very important topic. Your breakdown and analysis of the project stages are spot-on!

    Eric

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Chris,

    For me, I chose PB because I didn't feel like we had the time or energy to do it any other way. My hubby has some construction background and has experience contracting subs and dealing with contracts (he's an architect). However, I never considered OB because from the beginning it's been my pool. I will say if we had decided to do this when we were much younger, OB probably would have been a real possibility.

    I'm not sure if this is the info you are looking for. But this is why I chose PB.
    Marla
    No longer living vicariously through other people's pool builds. Pool build is complete on my IG SWCG pool, approx 10,000 gallons. All Jandy equipment - VS 1.5 hp pump, 580 cartridge filter, AquaPure 1400 salt cell, AquaLink PDA system. Dolphin m500. PebbleSheen Blue Surf with shells and beads added. TF-100 w/ SpeedStir. A Houston Pool Build Inside the Loop

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    I would also ask the following question of the owner-build people -

    How much time do you think/know/feel you spent on the pool project?

    It would be great if there was some granularity about the number of hours spent in each stage of the project but even just a high level percentage of one's time would be good too.

    Many people might really want to do an O/B pool project but may not have the time to dedicate to it in order to do it right.


    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    That would vary greatly from person to person. Some don't go any further than material selections and sub scheduling. Others are involved in every single glued joint and wire pulled.

    It seems the owner/builder route is chosen for cost savings more than any other reason but few actually think about how much work is entailed and how to handle the inevitable issues that will certainly arise.
    -Brian-
    33K Pool/Spa, Pentair Equipment
    POOL BUILD
    Davis Custom Construction - Home Page

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    Pool Construction - Best Practices

    We worked for home builders and had project management experience. I would have preferred to do O/B and have the time but since we are financing we don't have a choice. The lender requires an approved PB or General Contractor on any kind of equity financing. I think the method of payment for the pool effects the decision as well.


    Started 5/31/16. 38'x23', 618 sqft., <14,000 gallons, 8' spa.Travertine coping. Raised beam w/3 sheers. Large sunshelf w/3 bubblers. SWG IC40, Pentair VSP, 520 cartridge, color LED lights, Easy-touch, screen logic, Maytronics S300i robot, and Wet Edge Prism Matrix finish (Deep Sea Blue with Indigo plaster). Build Thread: Another in Texas - Cypress Texas | MUD District | HOA Approval | Great Escapes Pools

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Quote Originally Posted by Marlahoutex View Post
    Chris,

    For me, I chose PB because I didn't feel like we had the time or energy to do it any other way. My hubby has some construction background and has experience contracting subs and dealing with contracts (he's an architect). However, I never considered OB because from the beginning it's been my pool. I will say if we had decided to do this when we were much younger, OB probably would have been a real possibility.

    I'm not sure if this is the info you are looking for. But this is why I chose PB.
    Marla,

    Exactly what I'm looking for. There's no one-fit's-all methodology so everybody that made a choice that can offer insight as to how they did it, why they did it are contributing valuable info.

    Thanks!

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Folks,

    So the last couple of posts bring up a question I've had. When people refer to OB what do they mean? Owner hires and manages the subs or actually does all the work by hiring equipment and labor. Also for the managed sub option what are the typical subs? In my previous life this might include:


    • civil that does the site prep and digging
    • underground piping
    • concrete forming, re-enforcing etc.
    • Gunnite (separate from forming?)
    • Plaster and finishing
    • Mechanical (pumps and equipment)
    • Electrical


    My guess is that some of these are combined in the pool project world. Is that correct?

    Other questions I have:

    • Who does the design/stamps the drawings? Are there pool engineering contractors that work for anybody? Or do most civil design companies also design pools? Who gets the soil strengths data, soil borings?
    • Do you normally have an independent inspector are inspection holds built into the schedule?


    Sorry for all the questions but I really meant it when I said I know how to build a mega project but there are unique aspects of pool building that I just don't know about. It would also make sense to me that anybody considering OB should want these questions answered as well.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    For us, we went with a PB because of warranty on the overall job.

    (After getting to know him and chatting off and on about his retirement plans, we're not sure we would do this again! haha)
    12k IG salt; glass beads in plaster; K-2006C, K-1766, CCL, and Aussie 4in1 (HTH); Pentair Eco800 1.2HP VS; Zodiac SWC 1.3 lb/day (25 g/hr); 25" filter recycled glass; OKU solar panels; 1/2 HP solar pump; Rebel (Warrior) pool cleaner; FlowViz; prior pool AG 10k | Read Before Posting to get the best possible advice | ... and this helped me a lot!: TFPC for Beginners

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    Pool Construction - Best Practices

    OB = "Owner Build" which 99.9% of the time means the homeowner hires subcontractors (designer, excavation, plumbing, electrical, decking, etc) and manages the overall project. Pool equipment is usually purchased by the homeowner directly and supplied to the subs (plumbing/electrical) for installation and finishing. Permitting is also handled by the homeowner.


    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Pool Construction - Best Practices

    Matt,

    Does the engineering contractor hire the contractor that does the soil borings? Do they normally do soil borings and generate a soil strengths report?

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump, Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter, 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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