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Thread: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

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    GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    My husband and I are embarking on this crazy process of considering the Owner/Builder route for a large scale pool installation, outdoor kitchen/cabana, hardscaping and landscaping project at our residence. We engaged a landscape architect about 4 weeks ago, however, we elected to part ways with him today for a variety of reasons that are not worth going into here. Fortunately, we have a very capable and qualified interior design professional working on CAD drawings for our interior renovation project we have going on simultaneously with the exterior/pool project. This designer is great and has helped us get a rough design sketch to "out of our heads" and onto paper --- scan of sketch is attached to this post.

    [attachment=0:22bwdlqz]Plan_Generic2.jpg[/attachment:22bwdlqz]

    I am not sure where to start asking for input and advice from this forum --- but I have literally spent HOURS reading posts on this site over the past 2 weeks and I am ready to "take the plunge" and start soliciting ideas and advice.

    OUR CHALLENGES

    1. Our lot is 25,400 sq ft and our county (Cobb County, GA) limits impervious surface to 35% of total lot size (8,895 sq ft maximum of impervious surface)
    2. House footprint is 2,729 sq ft and current concrete footprint is 2,762 sq ft --- lot survey image uploaded at the end of this post
    3. There are many unanswered questions from the County on what is considered "impervious" - obviously concrete, structures, paved walkways, etc. count against us --- but we are still chasing answers as to how the County classifies the actual water surface of the pool/spa, wood decking (not our preference), composite decking (i.e. Trex or like product which is our preference), permeable artificial turf (which we want for our upper level/bocce court)
    4. We are dealing with a 35' setback issue for our cabana building through negotiations with a very friendly and supportive neighbor to "gift" us about 150 sq ft of land from their lot in trade for us removing a couple of trees from their property when we have our tree removal work done.
    5. Our lot is on a steep grade --- so the excavation in the back will be quite a challenge!
    6. We have "oodles" of pesky Georgia Pines that need to be removed from our lot
    7. Our house has a very contemporary design --- that is why the sketch contains so many linear elements
    8. Not shown in the attached sketch are some additional walkways and a parking pad expansion we need to add at the top of our driveway to manage vehicles/traffic --- this adds to the impervious constraint to the tune of 1,400 sq ft

    THE QUESTIONS

    1. Where do we go from here? What should be our approach to get our plans to the next level for submittal to the county? Our experience with the first landscape architect was a total nightmare! Do we hand everything off to a pool builder?
    2. Are we crazy to consider going the Owner/Builder route? We need to get the maximum bang for our buck!
    3. What creative options can forum readers offer us on tackling the impervious constraint limit on our lot given our wish list in our plan? What cost-effective permeable or pervious products are out there that we can consider?
    4. Looking at our sketch --- what design mistakes do you spot that could cost us crazy money? Are there better, more cost-effective approaches to specific plan elements?
    5. If you know of subject-matter experts in Atlanta, we'd love to talk with them! Or, would it be feasible to consider hiring someone for planning that lives in another part of the country?
    6. We need guidance on how to "pull our project apart" so we can begin the cost estimating process --- we don't want to start on anything until we have a good handle on the "all in" investment we are facing

    We are in your hands!

    Thanks,
    Angela & Jim

    [attachment=1:22bwdlqz]Survey-PersonalDetailsRemoved2.jpg[/attachment:22bwdlqz]
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Join Date
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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Hello and welcome to TFP.

    Sorry I can't answer all of your questions, but I will comment on one. Even after being involved in the process of building an IGP and knowing the names of most of the subs that our PB used, If I were to do it again, I'd still probably use a PB again (the same one if I stayed in this area). There are just too many parts and too much risk knowing the costs involved. There a lot of people that go the owner/builder route, but I think if I had chosen that path, the pool build would still be in some level of completion, even now 4 years later...

    You've got a way more ambitious project that we had, so you could possibly split some of the work up and mange some aspects while a PB handled the others.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the surface of the pool and the water would be considered impervious.
    Gary
    21k gal SW, IG Gunite PebbleSheen, 1HP Jandy, Jandy 340 filter, Polaris 280, 17' fiberglass slide w/ 2HP pump.

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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    I am only going to answer a couple of your points, first if it were me I would go with a contractor with pool building experience, the main reason I say this is you appear to be in a area with a lot of regulatory compliance requirements, and a good contractor will know how to deal with these, particularly when you get into overlapping and conflicting regulation. This not not just a pool, but an outbuilding area, etc.

    On the second point I have some real concerns about your design from a practical point of view, here are the points that concern me:

    1, multiple fire pits near the pool, sure it may look good, but assuming those are wood burning fire pits, you will have all sorts of problem with ash, etc. getting into your pool water and through the chemical balance off, not to mention potential safety issues if you have kids around, etc.

    2, I don't see any place listed for your pool equipment, I would suggest a mechanical room in your new structure for it, instead of leaving it outdoors on an exposed pad, it will tend to be quieter and protect the equipment form the elements better.

    3, this is a personal issue, but I don't like access to the changing room being through the kitchen. (also if I had it to do over again I would have a boys and a girls separate changing rooms or 2 bathrooms to be used as changing areas, while outdoor showers can be good, depending on your pool use an indoor one can be good also), I assume you have a water heater in the storage room?
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac-1
    I am only going to answer a couple of your points, first if it were me I would go with a contractor with pool building experience, the main reason I say this is you appear to be in a area with a lot of regulatory compliance requirements, and a good contractor will know how to deal with these, particularly when you get into overlapping and conflicting regulation. This not not just a pool, but an outbuilding area, etc.

    On the second point I have some real concerns about your design from a practical point of view, here are the points that concern me:

    1, multiple fire pits near the pool, sure it may look good, but assuming those are wood burning fire pits, you will have all sorts of problem with ash, etc. getting into your pool water and through the chemical balance off, not to mention potential safety issues if you have kids around, etc.

    2, I don't see any place listed for your pool equipment, I would suggest a mechanical room in your new structure for it, instead of leaving it outdoors on an exposed pad, it will tend to be quieter and protect the equipment form the elements better.

    3, this is a personal issue, but I don't like access to the changing room being through the kitchen. (also if I had it to do over again I would have a boys and a girls separate changing rooms or 2 bathrooms to be used as changing areas, while outdoor showers can be good, depending on your pool use an indoor one can be good also), I assume you have a water heater in the storage room?
    Isaac -

    Thank you very much for your feedback! You bring up many very good points. The firepots are gas/lava rock (similar to photo below) --- so no worries with ash, etc. that would be associated with wood burning firepots. This will also allow us to turn the fire on/off with the click of a switch. Our only child is an adult now (21 years old) --- although she still lives with us!

    [attachment=0:3o7kvv1v]FirePitExample.jpg[/attachment:3o7kvv1v]

    Our initial plan for the pool equipment is to place it on a pad next to our A/C units on the NE side of our house as that would allow us to place solar panels on our roof and feed down to the equipment. I am curious however, how much room typical pool equipment require? If we reconfigured the cabana structure --- what dimensions should a mechanical room be? I would like to seriously consider your suggestion of putting the equipment inside a mechanical room integrated with the cabana if there is room. I will post a more detailed sketch of the planned cabana building once the interior designer has it finished.

    Since the cabana building won't be climate controlled, we are worried about having an inside shower because of mold/mildew. The weather here in Georgia is so hot/humid for much of the year, we are afraid that the shower would never properly dry.

    Finally, we are dealing with a singular governmental jurisdicition --- as we live in an unincorporated part of Cobb County. This simplifies things to some degree, but Cobb County definitely has lots of community development standards!

    Keep the feedback coming,
    Angela & Jim
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by crabboy
    Sorry I can't answer all of your questions, but I will comment on one. Even after being involved in the process of building an IGP and knowing the names of most of the subs that our PB used, If I were to do it again, I'd still probably use a PB again (the same one if I stayed in this area). There are just too many parts and too much risk knowing the costs involved. There a lot of people that go the owner/builder route, but I think if I had chosen that path, the pool build would still be in some level of completion, even now 4 years later...
    Crabboy-

    What process did you use to narrow down and ultimately select the PB you hired? How many did you obtain quotes from and how did you decide which PBs to solicit bids from in the first place?

    Angela & Jim

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Angela & Jim

    My wife and I are going to go the owner builder route too on an in ground free form pool. we also live in Georgia and having acted as general contractors of our past two homes and knowing the true savings that can be had we decided to just go for it . we will start early spring 2011 . If you are the diy type then get quotes from several pool companies in the Atlanta area (there are some phenomenal pool builders in your area) to get a ball park on the project .we recently discovered a company in Gwinnett county that specializes in working with owner builders, after speaking with them we decided this is who we will go with. they are very experienced , have references and will show you pools they have helped homeowners build at significant savings. I don't want to violate any forum rules so i wont post the company name unless okd by a mod.but you can pm me for info.
    best of luck with your project!

    Scott

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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Sorry about taking so long to get back to you, but my internet connection was out from 9 am until 6 pm. On the indoor mechanical room, I can tell you mine is 8-10 x 12 ft (sort of L shaped with one end 2 feet wider) it has 2 doors one exterior and one interior (one at the top of the L and one at the bottom), also in the same room is a well pump, 500 gallon water tank, water pressurizing pump and tank along with an old refrigerator, 2 electrical panels and the transfer switch for the generator, plus a few shelves for pool equipment and chemicals. I would not call it cramped, but the same time I would not want to squeeze much more in there (unfortunately due to equipment changes over the years the well equipment and pool equipment have became somewhat intertwined), with my layout nearly 1/3 of the floor space is used as walking/access space. Having said that I think everything you need could fit into a 4x8 foot area if it had a pair of double wide doors for maintenance access, it might even be possible in a 3x6 foot area, but that could get tight if you include a heater, solar panel controller, SWG, etc.. I understand about the concerns for mold, etc., my pool is indoors in Louisiana with no active climate control other than fans. Due to humidity corrosion of fixtures is a major problem along with any wood furniture / shelving, wall paper, however mold has never been a problem with the shower in the bathroom, possibly because it is a drop in fiberglass model (I suspect condensation on tile would with grout would be a lot harder to maintain). Most of my interior finished walls are done in cypress planking (sold as an exterior grade house product) finished with polyurethane, 31 years on, and still solid, with only one refinishing about 10-12 year ago (the bathroom was finished in sheet rock and cloth woven style wallpaper, which was probably not the best of choice, however I know they now make special sheet rock products for wet areas). The only other big problem was the cabinet work, which was originally finished with particle board shelving, needless to say particle board and water do no mix.

    Ike

    p.s. my son turns 21 this year, I am not sure that is saying much about their ability to know not to stick their hands into fire though, or more importantly where fire was 5 minutes ago
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
    I use and endorse TFtestKits TF-100 from http://tftestkits.net
    ~Remember TFP counts on your donations to keep this site ad free~

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    We thought everyone might enjoy seeing photos of our lot to better envision where we are planning for the pool, cabana, outdoor kitchen, bocce court etc. to go. We have a large quantity of trees to take out and lots of excavating/cut/fill to do! The retaining walls around the permiter of our backyard will be a massive project on their own. We're diligently working towards refining our master plan and developing a strategy to deal with the 35% constraint in our county in impervious surface. We have discovered that our county never allows a variance above the 35%, so we have to find a creative way to squeeze everything on our "dreamlist" into the 3,500 sq ft we have to work with as well as be open-minded about materials like permeable pavers, etc.

    Next steps:
    Hire boundary surveys for two of the adjacent lots so we can get the drainage easement with Neighbor #1 moved/redrawn and formalize a small "land gift" from Neighbor #2 that will allow us to orientate our cabana "square" with the back of our house and still honor the 35' setback required from our rear property line. We are very fortunate to have cool neighbors.

    View to the street from our front porch - this gives you a sense of how steep our lot is:
    [attachment=2:howtgckc]xDSCN0016.JPG[/attachment:howtgckc]

    View of the back exterior wall of our house, the existing deck will be demolished:
    [attachment=1:howtgckc]xDSCN0051.JPG[/attachment:howtgckc]

    View of back portion of lot, notice orange boundary tape which is where new fence will go:
    [attachment=0:howtgckc]xgustafson 010.jpg[/attachment:howtgckc]

    If anyone has further feedback on the questions we posted at the top this thread, we'd love your input!

    Thanks,
    Angela & Jim
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Join Date
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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by angelagus

    What process did you use to narrow down and ultimately select the PB you hired? How many did you obtain quotes from and how did you decide which PBs to solicit bids from in the first place?

    Angela & Jim
    We got quotes from 3 pool builders, the first a neighbor in our old neighborhood used, second is one we heard of and the third was right down the street. Atlas, Olympic and Neptune. Prices were all in the ballpark and we ended up with Neptune since they were close and the owner lives in the neighborhood behind our house (we went to see his pool). Can't say there weren't any bumps in the road on the way, but they made it work and did a good job. We were happy with them and would use them again.
    Gary
    21k gal SW, IG Gunite PebbleSheen, 1HP Jandy, Jandy 340 filter, Polaris 280, 17' fiberglass slide w/ 2HP pump.

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Are pavers considered impervious in your county?
    11000 Gals, Intelliflo, Sta-Rite Cartridge, Polaris 360

    Pool I built in my old house: my-new-pool-build-t4534.html

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    I'll assume you know this already, but good luck to ya with the county inspector. They are beyond on top of things there in cobb. You'll be so glad when you don't have to see them again. They will annoy you to no end, but at least you know in the end that you will get everything covered. Good luck.

    Only tip I have on your drawing besides the safety of the fire pits already mentioned is to not put vegetation poolside like that. You will get a ton of not only leaves in the pool, but dirt and bugs bugs bugs... snakes, moles, chipmunks....I get all that one county away from you with no less than 4 feet of concrete away from nothing but grass.
    Might look nice on paper, but you'll regret it the first season.
    25k gal vinyl AquaRite T-15

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by cobra46
    Are pavers considered impervious in your county?
    Yes, pavers are considered impervious --- unless you splurge for permeable pavers. We will likely have to go this route for some of our walkways, etc. We are working on fine-tuning the plan now and we are working on the construction drawings and elevations for the cabana now. Exciting stuff...that is...until we see how much the entire wishlist is going to cost!

    Angela & Jim

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    Re: GA Owner/Builder or Hire General Contractor? Advice Please!

    Quote Originally Posted by danbutter
    I'll assume you know this already, but good luck to ya with the county inspector. They are beyond on top of things there in cobb. You'll be so glad when you don't have to see them again. They will annoy you to no end, but at least you know in the end that you will get everything covered. Good luck.

    Only tip I have on your drawing besides the safety of the fire pits already mentioned is to not put vegetation poolside like that. You will get a ton of not only leaves in the pool, but dirt and bugs bugs bugs... snakes, moles, chipmunks....I get all that one county away from you with no less than 4 feet of concrete away from nothing but grass.
    Might look nice on paper, but you'll regret it the first season.
    Dan,

    Thanks for the advice on having vegetation so close to the pool...this is a good catch and much appreciated advice as we want to spend our time enjoying the outdoors, not cleaning the pool or dealing with critters. We have spoken to lots of people that have years of experience dealing with Cobb County. It is interesting to us how compartmentalized the different departments seem to be within the county (i.e. building permits/inspectors, storm water management, arborist, etc).

    Phase One with Cobb County is to reregister our property boundaries (neighbor is gifting us a small piece of land) and to get the county to agree to move the drainage easement that runs along the side of our lot --- as this is not at all where stormwater is actually traveling. Everyone we have talked to has advised us that each time we go to the county we should focus on only one thing so no one gets confused. We never thought that "hydrology study" would be in our vocabulary!

    Many thanks,
    Angela & Jim

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