I posted on here a couple times a few years ago, but our plans were put on hold. We've now decided to pick things up again and move forward with an in-ground pool in our small, flat backyard (75ft wide x 35ft deep, see attached pics). Questions abound, but with the help of this fine forum and community, I hope we can end up with a nice pool with a minimum of headache. And document it here. That said here's a rundown on what where we're at, what we're looking for and a few questions.
We're at the earliest of stages and haven't contacted any builders yet. Right now we're just trying to get an idea of what designs we like and what features are most important to us. We're leaning towards a free form lagoon style with a spa and a simple water feature, plus colored LEDs. We really like the idea of an SWG, but I guess that'll depend if we can find a reputable builder willing to go that way without limiting the warranty or refusing it outright. Not sure about depth, but diving really isn't important to us, so we're thinking 4-6-4 or something along those lines, perhaps a little less on the deep end. The pool size will need to be modest, both to reduce costs and to allow for some usable yard space, mainly for the dog to play, although I would like to put a washer pit in as well. Of course, that's to say nothing of whatever easements we might have to deal with. As for landscaping, we'd like to keep it simple and relatively maintenance free.
Some caveats and questions:
Giant Tree - There's a giant Pecan tree smack in the middle of the yard, with a canopy and root system that pretty much spans the yard. The city somewhat recently enacted a law that says certain trees of a certain diameter at the trunk pretty much cannot be cut down unless they're dead, dying or pose a hazard. I understand where the city is coming from in that they don't want the greenery to get razed by all the new fancy developments, but I also don't feel it should extend to individual homeowners wanting to cut a single tree down from their own backyard. Unfortunately my pecan tree doesn't qualify for a variance, and I don't want to get into an ethics discussion here, but I will have the tree removed to put in our pool.
Flood Zone - We're also located along a small creek and our property falls into a 100yr floodplain. I'm not sure what impact that will have as far as permitting, other than our application may require additional review. If anyone here has experience with that please let me know. Hopefully it's not a deal-breaker.
General Drainage - Our yard has poor drainage. We'll get almost 70% standing water coverage after a big rain. I'm hoping that the pool install and landscaping work can address this issue at the same time. Has anyone had a similar situation? Or is it better to get drainage problems fixed before the pool installation?
Foundation Issues - This is probably related to drainage and or soil type, but we have a large crack on our patio running from the back door towards the front of the patio. We have issues inside the house as well. It makes me worry about the pool structure. Our area's soil type, according to a local county soil map, is "Moderately deep and shallow, calcareous, clayey and loamy soils overlying chalk". Not sure what this translates to other than there's no limestone bedrock to deal with and the soil might have issues with the clay expansion? I assume all of this will be considered and addressed by the builder during the quote process?
Pool Builders - Do you folks have any builder recommendations for the Austin, TX area? I've looked through Yelp and on these forums and so far plan to contact Athena Pools (heard great things), Cascade Custom Pools, Anthony & Sylvan and possibly Cody. I'd like to hear some recommendations from folks here though, and if you don't mind sharing, pics and prices. Please feel free to PM me if you don't want to post publicly.
Gunite or Fiberglass? - I know gunite is the truly customizable option, but I have seen some fiberglass pool designs that I like. I know this is a subject that's been beaten to death, but given what I've described above so far, is there one or the other that would be a better option for us? I guess my main concern goes back to the soil type and worrying about the pool cracking. How does cost compare?
SWG - I'd like to hear from Texas folks that have an SWG setup. Did you go with sealed flagstones? If so, has it worked out? How much effort and expense to maintain? What about those with concrete? How'd that come out? I'd love to see pics of both. I'm trying to picture an SWG pool with all concrete around it, but just can't seem to come up with anything.
Budget - Right now we'd like to keep things under $70k. $50 would be ideal! Is this pie in the sky or can it reasonably be done?
So, I think that's about it to start this off. I look forward to any advice and tips offered!