I bought our house, complete with a gunite pool, five years ago and I have always had problems with the pool which I knew were caused by leaks somewhere in the system. In the last year, though, when the weather was warm (which was a lot of the time) the autofill ran constantly and our water bills started becoming crazy high. I knew I was just masking the problem but I didn't quite realize how bad it was. This winter I turned off the autofill and the pool level dropped almost to the bottom of the pool within weeks. I had the pool drained and cleaned and it is now obvious that the shell is, to the shock of no one, literally covered in cracks. Every two feet, there's another long crack in the plaster. Many of these have water seeping back out of them which is clearly bad; many do not and may only be cracks in the plaster and not the concrete.
I am having the lines pressure tested to run all the traps, but for now, let's assume that the problem is the cracked shell.
As is apparent from a dozen other posts in this forum, north texas clay is murder on swimming pools - particularly in times of extreme heat and drought, both of which have been common over the last five years and show no sign of going away. So what to do now with a heavily cracked pool in notoriously unstable soil? According to the guys who built the pool, I have limited options:
1. I get someone to fix the cracks with epoxy or polymer or something and use carbon fiber staples to hold the shell together. This will obviously not keep the ground from moving and the gunite will crack again, maybe the next day, maybe not for five years. He thinks doing this, plus the replastering, will cost around $10,000. If I have to spend $10,000 every ten years to fight off North Texas geology I can live with that, but there's no reason why the pool wouldn't just develop new and varied cracks immediately after repairing the current ones.
2. I do the above, plus I put the pool on piers. He thinks piers cost $20,000. Would this stop the movement? My house is on piers and there are cracks in every wall we have. So I don't think this is a silver bullet either and it's an expensive non-solution. Has anyone put piers under an existing pool before? That sounds like a crazy undertaking to me.
3. I've read about people installing drip irrigation systems on this forum to keep the surrounding soil moist so it doesn't constrict and move around. Is this a real option? Irrigation systems cost a lot less than $20,000. Do they work?
4. Finally, he thinks I can pull the whole thing out of the ground and fill it in with dirt for $12,000. If this pool's just going to keep cracking, then maybe I should just give up on it entirely. This is a pretty seductive solution, as compared with a never-ending (and losing) battle against geodynamics.
I am pretty bummed out about my choices and don't really see an obvious way forward. For $10,000 I can either put in a temporary solution that may need redoing next summer or I can eliminate the problem entirely, but I lose the pool and bring down my property value (and I have to figure out how to landscape a backyard that obviously used to have a pool in it. Plus it would be depressing to look out on where a pool used to be the rest of my life).
I appeal to the members of the forum for some help, advice and North Texas geological commiseration. Based on the forum, it seems like the answer may be "hire a soil engineer." Anyone know any good soil engineers in Dallas?