Okay, so it seems this took me forever to put together after months on this site and a collection of handwritten notes and screen shots. Anyway, I finally have this typed up. A collection of all the useful knowledge I've soaked up on TFP.
I kept wishing someone had typed something similar like they did Pool School so I did it for us. It's not perfect or even perfectly organized so if anybody has clarifications, additions, changes, or corrections, please pitch in! I hope it helps others.
Pool Questions & Suggestions from TFP
Platipus's Patented Pleadings for all Professional Pool Purveyors and Projects (with a few additions and revisions as necessary for use by TM. )
1. Years in business?
2. Who are the owner(s) if not you?
3. Number of employees?
4. What services do you provide directly and what will be sub'd out?
5. Who will be in charge of the job?
6. How often will they be on-site? Is there a backup?
7. Will they be on-site to meet every sub the very first time they show up?
8. Will they do an on-site review at completion of work with every sub before they leave?
9. Are you in the process of selling the business or transitioning any key responsibilities to someone else?
10. Jobs per year last 3 years?
11. Can you provide a copy of your current and valid Contracting License?
12. Do you carry general liability insurance? How much? Will you provide proof of coverage prior to any contract signing?
13. Do you carry workers compensation insurance and can you provide proof?
14. How are your subs insured? Can you provide proof?
15. Will you provide a written Lien Releases for yourself and all sub's prior to final payment?
16. Will you include a subcontractor/vendor Proof of Payment clause in the contract?
17. Can you provide a sample contract with your bid submittal?
18. What is your payment schedule?
19. Do you pull all required Building Permits?
20. Will you be present for all inspections?
21. Are you a member of any professional pool builder organizations?
22. What is your BBB Rating? Any recent complaints? Have they been resolved?
23. How is your Credit and/or Dunn & Bradstreet rating?
24. Any lawsuits in the last 5 years?
25. Can you provide references? Can we see their pools in person?
26. Have you done a job with a swim jet similar to what we are looking for?
27. How much work in my area have you done? Anything in my subdivision?
28. Are you familiar with our specific sub-division HOA rules?
29. Who will be representing us to the HOA? Is there any direct involvement that will be needed from us?
30. How many times have you been through our HOA approval process in the last 3 years?
31. How many other concurrent jobs do you typically run?
32. How do you handle change orders? Will you commit in the contract to following an in-writing change order process?
33. Who will be doing the final plans/drawings?
34. How and when do we meet with them?
35. How many plan/drawing revisions do we get?
36. Can you provide a 3D render?
37. Will you itemize your bid?
38. Will you list the exact model number for all equipment in the contract?
39. Can we get a complete plumbing diagram?
40. Will you work with a contract deadline with a penalty for missing it?
41. Will you let us review your sub-contractor selection?
42. If we have a different vendor or sub we want to use for a specific item like gunite or surface finish, how is that handled?
43. Do you provide a port-a-john during construction?
44. Will you protect the house, windows and patio from all concrete/plaster overspray with plastic sheeting or tarps?
45. How often will you clean-up debris?
46. Will you guarantee that the front yard is always free of trash and debris at the end of the day?
47. Will you do a thorough clean-up at the end of the job, including a magnetic sweep?
48. If wider access is needed through the fence/gate, will you provide temporary fencing?
49. Will you repair any changes the fence to its original condition?
50. Who is responsible for damaged lawn from construction traffic?
51. Will you repair any broken irrigation outside of the dig zone (path leading to jobsite)?
52. Will you repair or replace any broken or damaged existing incidentals such as windows or gutters?
53. Will you repair or replace any broken or damaged new incidentals such as tile, lighting or plumbing & electrical fixtures?
54. Will you repair any broken concrete on sidewalks or driveways that result from construction traffic?
55. Will you handle all utility marking?
56. Who is responsible for the repair costs of any cut or broken service lines(Cable/Phone/Gas/Power)?
57. What hours will subs be on-site? Any weekends?
58. Will you agree to have all sub's completed, cleaned up and off-site by 6pm each Weekday, 5pm on Saturdays and not scheduled for Sundays?
59. Will access to the interior or the house and/or garage be needed? When? To whom?
60. What kind of payment schedule will you be requesting?
61. Will you work with a 5% final payment that is payable upon completion of the punch list?
62. Are there any situations where you will be asking for earlier payment than what is agreed upon up front?
63. What guaranties and warranties do you provide and for how long?
64. What soil concerns are for our area and is there anything you do to address it?
65. Are there any conditions or issues that could be found as part of the dig that could change the price or impact the project?
66. Do you handle Landscaping as well and/or do you have a Landscaper that you like to work with?
67. Will you restore our yard back to pre-construction condition (grass, sprinklers in a working condition, fence)?
68. Who pays for damage to yard, fence, street, driveway from excavator, etc.?
69. Will you include at mother nature clause such as rain damage at no cost as part of the contract?
70. What Hardscape/Site Improvements are included as part of the core bid? (ie Grading, Drainage, Pathways, Raised Planting Areas, etc )
71. Is there any part of the job that you are un-sure of or have reservations about?
72. Is there anything jumping out at you that we could change or do differently as a money saver?
73. What comes with Pool School or your contract? Anything else that may not be obvious to us right now? (Test kit, brush, pole, net, manual vacuum )
74. What is your chemical start-up process?
75. Have you heard of the forum Trouble Free Pools? Are familiar with their methods?
76. Would you be okay with us starting up the pool using TFP methods?
77. Are you willing to do an addendum that provides that you would represent and warrant that you will pay all subcontractors on a timely basis and that in the event a subcontractor files a lien, you will indemnify us as the homeowner?
78. Would you also provide a provision that provides us with a certificate of insurance naming us as additional insureds in a specified amount in the event of property damage or injury?
79. Run us through your process/steps:
TMs List of Gained Knowledge from TFP
There is no way Id be able to remember who said what, or give credit where credit is due, so I give everybody on TFP all the credit in the world and thank you for sharing your knowledge. (Any extra credit for this part goes to kimkats!)
Builders & Contracts
Make sure to get at least 3 bids from different builders. You can play them against each other for the best pool/price.
Meet all project managers and feel comfortable before signing contract.
Look at a minimum of 3 pools built by your builder minimum.
Make sure all promises or guarantees are in writing and part of the contract.
Layout the pool using spray paint or a bright rope so you can see exactly how it fits in your space.
Have the final plans printed and hung up where they can be seen by everybody. Point out the details and make sure that each sub and contractor can see it and has the final plan in hand.
Make sure its in writing that they dont get the final payment until all equipment and such is up & running correctly AND you know how to work them.
Review the site plan.
Have builder stake and paint in your yard to confirm final design.
Design & Bid
Measure potential depths against your body. Sit on the ground and measure depths of seating, and sun shelves.
Is depth calculated from bottom to waterline or top to bottom?
Tanning ledge depth - from bottom to water line, or top to bottom?
Tanning ledge Ideal size for 2 loungers is at least 10 x 10.
How are you calculating total gallons? Is it an estimated average or actually calculated using splices of our design?
Can we get samples of the pool finishes wed like to consider?
Do you use fixed costs for each stage? (Example: dig challenges)
Get part/model/serial numbers from each piece of equipment as it arrives to your house and take a picture of relevant information youd want to be able to locate.
Register all equipment and products online.
Do you get a warranty bonus for using a single vendor for all equipment?
If Pentair, get VSP model #011018 (Approximately $900.00). 150 watts for 1100 RPM.
Should have an oversized filter, oversized SWG, and but pump should never be oversized.
Skip IntelliChem and just get IntelliPH. Search ORP on TFP for more.
o Get a larger cell so you can run it at a lower % power setting for the same pump run time and chlorine production. Cell life is a fixed 10,000 hours of production time, so if you can run the cell less, it will last longer. (I should look at an IC60)
Unions on all equipment
Heater Make sure you have a bypass if getting a heater so acid and such doesnt get into it.
Consider Pentair Screen Logic Interface and Wireless Connection Kit 522104. Allows operation of the Easy Touch 8 from inside the house.
At least 2 pool lights, 1 in spa, facing away from the house (LEDs recommended).
Make sure lights also dont face into the house, primary seating areas, or swimming lanes.
Shelves need a pool light so the whole pool can look lit up.
Small LEDs on ledge (maybe in bubblers). For a 20k gallon pool, 3-4 lights in the pool recommended.
Small LEDs on steps?
What material are skimmer covers made out of ?
Can we get samples of our choices? Where do we go to look at these?
Do you share materials between builds? (Exp: Will workers take stuff (i.e. stone) from my site to fill shortages at another?)
Colored drain covers in the pool so they blend with the plaster finish better.
Be there on the day of the dig to answer questions and concerns. YOU want to decide what to do if there is a question rather than leave it to others.
During dig, have foreman with the level, double check depths, that bond beam forms are level, and that the skimmers are the right height.
Measure after the dig. Add about 6 inches for gunite and plaster. Is it long enough, wide enough, deep enough, are all of your benches there, entry, etc
Electrical requirements (sub-panel?)
Surge protector on pool subpanel The Intelliflo pump specifically is sensitive to power surges.
Verify ground wire is attached to the rebar.
Copper bond wires stubbed up from rebar cage should be clearly marked and pulled out as far as possible from the shell so they dont get lost in the gunite.
Equipment Panel U-Channel frame or custom option?
Wire Easy Touch for max level amps (100-125?), not minimum 30 amps. You may want to use it for other things later.
Surge protector for the pool, will it tie into your existing whole house protector? Whole house can be mounted in breaker box for around $150 installed (by electrician).
Extra GFCI outlets for robot, landscaping, one in Easy Touch Panel. NEC requires GFCI protected outlet between 6 and 20 from inside wall of pool.
Additional 120v outlets?
Grey PVC for GFCI at both ends of the pool? Run 1 Ύ orange pipe for speakers?
T Split from the main to the heater to the fire pit should be in an accessible location so concrete or decking wont have to be pulled up if there is ever a leak.
Unless someone is getting an in-floor cleaning system, how necessary are main drains when we dont have an in-floor cleaning system? Would an extra skimmer and extra returns with no mains be better? (Reference APSP Case Study)
Minimum 2 PVC plumbing size. 2.5 3 is better.
Everything should be labeled.
Skimmers on opposite ends of pool and on opposite long walls.
Minimum 2 skimmers with 6-8 returns.
Add at least 1-2 returns on ledges or tight spaces like tables to prevent debris from accumulating.
Returns in a completed pipe loop not a dead end run. 2 minimum PVC, 2 ½ 3 is better.
Drains VGB Channel drain (long rectangular drain) or more typical dual round drains? Main drain system should have anti-entrapment protection and a hydro static relief valve.
Main drain and/or each skimmer should all be plumbed separately to the pad will you put this in writing? Should also be able to control how much water goes back through the skimmers on return for a venturi effect (can also help with energy bill).
All skimmers and drains should have pipes running all the way back to the pad with valves on each so they can be turned off separately in different circumstances. (On the return side, pipes should be divided up as much as possible.)
All plumbing should be run separately to the pad.
Every pipe in the pool should have a valve. No valve means no way of isolating if ever an issue.
Dedicated vacuum port for manual vacuum that is NOT tied to the skimmer. When tied to the skimmer youll get lousy suction. Shouldnt cost anything or will be super cheap to add during build).
Plumb a skimmer to the pad so that a valve controlled by EasyTouch can be added to fill the pool without having to run a hose across the deck. Also, water at the pad?
Overflow or drain should have to the ability to drain the pool. A standard faucet right in the pressure side of the pumps plumbing shouldnt cost any additional money.
Overflow should have a shut off valve (kids splashing, wind storms, etc)
Pump should be installed with couplings. SWG and filters usually come with them but pumps dont.
Consider bubblers on main pump. Water features need a high volume water flow, but low pressure. Dont use a WhipserFlo for features its too big. Are two pumps necessary or can the VSP handle it with features on a separate loop?
Use Neverlube style valves
Solid PVC all around. No flex hose.
Lots of PVC unions and ask for spares of the exact same ones used.
Backfilling plumbing lines with sand to a 2 cover is always a good idea but often overlooked.
Hard plumb the back flow drain into some PVC pipe into the ground out to the curb?
Extra hose bibs for fresh water access?
Run a direct fill line with RPZ valve attached. Make sure pool water wont back flow into the water supply.
Plumb for later addition of Stenner Pumps for MA and winter chlorine. Leave room on equipment pad. Should at least be plumbed with straight 24 run of PVC to add it later.
Be there on the day of steel. As questions as they work and if something doesnt look right, say something.
All rebar should be spaced 3 from the dirt (minimum) and get at least 3 of cover (minimum).
All rebar ties should be bent down and out of the way. Not ties should protrude above rebar.
Measure again. Add about 3 inches for plaster. Make sure all of the details can be seen and if it is not there, ask why.
Equipment pad should be made out of gunite and large. Minimum size at least 9x3.
Leave exposed pipe between every joint and valve for easy repairs in the future. 18 rule Should be enough stub below any valve or fitting to cut out and replace the fitting if needed.
Dont pack tight. Consider 18 between any valve and piece of equipment. 18 should apply to concrete and any other valve on a manifold (allow 9-12 here for practicality.)
Should include a flood light.
If on an exterior wall that is a bedroom, space it off the house a reasonable amount of feet. Consider fencing between it and the house for an added sound barrier. Have equipment with functionality that allows for a timer so equipment isnt running during sleeping hours.
Can we put our kids or animals prints in the concrete? How would that work?
Make sure existing hose bib isnt covered up with plumbing and equipment.
Print picture of completed set-up and label everything. Keep in a folder or notebook with all of your pool info.
Equipment Pad Layout (Questions to ask)
Look at each component and ask, When it fails, how much else do I have to cut out and replace with it?
Look at each component and ask, If I have to replace this (pump, filter, heater, etc), is there room for a different model to fit? For example, is the plumbing spaced so that there is no room between the wall and the plumbing for a longer pump or bigger filter to fit?
Is there room to install future upgrades (SWG, heater/heat pump, automation, etc) and is the electrical amperage service big enough for those things as well?
Be there for gunite.
Make sure that all features are as they are intended to be (ex. Step instead of beach entry.)
Make sure that the foreman and nozzle guy know you want driest possible mix.
If shotcrete, no H20 should be added to the cement by driver or crew. If mix needs water to flow through the pump, reject the load.
Rebound should not be in the pool and we want to see a spoil pile of the rebound not used that they will haul off site.
Place a small level on the skimmers during shoot to double check that they are level while guys are still on site.
Check to make sure there arent any voids under the light niches, plumbing stubs, and water features.
No water applied anywhere to gunite for 4-6 hours after set-up.
Water gunite often after set-up. Keep wet.
Ask for forms to be removed at the end of the day or very next day.
Be there for plaster.
Ask to see the color of the plaster and any extras you added BEFORE they off load the truck. It happens where they have the wrong one and you dont want to get a lower grade plaster.
Can ask calcium guy for it if you need calcium chloride. He may let you buy it from him cheap.
Rough electrical before deck bond wiring bonding grid under slab, and all conduits.
Trenches should be backfilled before the decking.
When the yard is graded, get out two ground stakes (wood or rebar), some nylon line, a line level gauge, and a tape measure. Make sure the deck is sloping gently away from the pool. 1/8 to 1/4 drop per foot is considered a gentle enough slope that still feels level with no more than 1/2 per foot or youll feel the slope. (You dont want rain washing your deck and filling your pool with dirt, silt, and debris.) How will water flow around the pool area for good drainage?
If too much water is in the mix or if trowel is done before all the bleed water has risen, deck surface will blister.
Kool Cote averages about $1.85 sq ft new decking and $2.85 sprayed over existing.
Leave us with an extra 2 gallons of spray deck paint for touch ups. How long until it cures?
Consider spray deck overlays or stencils for a better look and less cost.
Consider sealing stones to protect from wear but also from staining
Landscape or Gardening
Consider Drift roses, Variegated Pink Lemon Tree, Busa Masjoo Banana Trees for a Tropical look.
Sago Palms are poisonous to dogs and cats.
Add backyard rain gutters and set-up drain system or rain water collection barrel.
Add ambient lighting LED light strips can be mounted to the underside of fence rails using 3M double-sided outdoor tape or you can screw them down using the brackets that come with the lights. Power could be tied into other lights to be controlled with wireless remote.
Sod pallets in Houston area average around $250/pallet.
Fencing or Pool Gates
Ground your metal fencing using a sarcricicial zinc anode to the bond wire and then bury the anode. It will slow corrosion by a lot.
Features General stuff
o Have all water features on a separate loop designed to work with a waterfall pump for maximum efficiency and low noise.
o Can consider a second, less powerful VSP for water features but only with proper plumbing so multiple speeds can be utilized to their potential.
o How many spa jets? Consider extra.
o Lower spa jets for calves?
o Can we get Twirlybyrd or something like it that we can change the face plates?
o Jets on a pool bench?
o Jets in a spa able to function as a venturi for lesser bubbles without the blower on.
o Make sure gas line is included in the cost.
o Integrated into pool with its own spillway into the pool? Butt against it with no spillway? Separate?
o Back, no back, angled for comfort?
Solar panels and controller?
o Make sure storage of hose doesnt let it curl too much or it will create a memory of bends. Consider getting a hose that comes in pieces for easier storage (and kid sword fights).
MA (Muriatic Acid) should be stored separate from chlorine in a secure, vented location.
Other Questions & Things to Consider
Add lots of umbrella sleeves to be used with umbrellas, volleyball, and basketball set-ups. Have them included on the site plan.
Screen Logic 2 package?
Mobility issues: Consider 5.5-6 high risers for steps. At least 9 instead of usual 12.
Self-closing and locking back gate. What kind of lock for back gate?
Add a lock to the entry area to your back yard. Any lock. Something that says no trespassing so that if the lock is broken and somebody gets hurt in your pool, you are not liable.
Consider an umbrella policy or expanded insurance.
Recommendations from others (Glads/No Regrets)
Two Flo-Viz meters (2nd on heater outlet)
Robot over other cleaners
VS pump (Get 3 suction lines and 2.5 returns for VSPs at 2.5hp or higher)
LED Lights (at least two)
Largest shallow end (its where all the adults and kids seem to be hanging out.)
Huge sun shelf (not too shallow) with umbrella sleeves
Large deck for lots of potential seating during parties.
How to set-up with a projector option for an outdoor screen?
Evaluate closely if you will regret depth diving, no diving, cannon balls, throwing the kids, etc.
Glass tile add-on would be approximately $500 for pool and spa.
Pressure Wash your fence for a completed new look after everything is done.
Houston Specific Vendors
Modern Method Gunite (MMG)
MMG (Pebble Tec)
IST Innovative (Patterned Spray Deck)
Things to Know:
Set-up marking appointment for utilities. May want to do it twice. Call811.com
Consider providing refreshments and water to your workers to promote good will.
Always find out which people can swim, and which cant. (Adults AND kids). Make everyone aware of who can and cannot swim.
Always make sure someone specific is watching the pool. When everyone assumes that everyone else is watching, there is often no one watching. When the designated person needs a break, they should make sure someone else assumes the primary responsibility.
Make sure that the kids know to keep an eye on each other, and what to do if they think there is a problem. Teach them to recognize potential problems before they happen, such as a non-swimmer getting in the pool without their parent.
Let me know what I missed. I'll keep adding to it!
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