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Thread: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

  1. Back To Top    #1

    Join Date
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    Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    My wife and I just purchased our first home and are already considering adding a pool to the backyard

    I have been through pool school and have been browsing other construction threads but I have some personalized questions if people have time.

    Background info
    We are at least 1 year away from breaking ground. This is early planning so we have realistic expectations and can set a budget to save towards etc.

    Here is our "blank canvas" so to speak



    We are in Northern California just outside the SF Bay area. I know we have expansive soil conditions based on our home inspection reports etc. Not sure on water table information.

    Fiberglass v. Gunite v. Vinyl
    I am leaning towards the fiberglass and SWG combination. I have seen enough posts to know the follow up question will be "why" so the deciding factors at the moment are improved water chemistry/lower maintenance time and potentially improved thermal properties...my wife will want a nice warm pool so I need to try and reduce the costs to keep it there.

    The lack of ability to customize the shape of my dream pool is also not an issue as pool safety (we have a 1 year old and are planning on more children) is our top criteria and an automatic pool safety cover is a requirement with whatever we finally decide upon. The shape requirements of an automatic safety cover appear to limit the creativity and customization benefits afforded by gunite construction.

    However, I am still open to gunite with pebbletec or pebblesheen type surface if anyone wants to chime in.

    Chlorine
    Leaning strongly towards salt water system and automation. Pentair brands and automation are my top choices right now

    Filter
    Leaning towards oversized cartridge

    Questions
    1-Spill overs?
    In addition to the pool we would also like a hot tub / spa. As a layman those 2 terms are synonymous to me. If there is a distinction in the industry please educate me. For the remainder of this post I'll just refer to them as "spa" to simplify things.

    I am seeing spill overs as an alternative to a separated spa and I like the aesthetics. I can use the spa as a water feature. I'm not sure how this impacts the actual usage of the spa or the plumbing and heating aspects of the pool/spa. I have read there are valves that change from pool mode to spa mode but don't know what that means for heating or how it would work with the automatic safety cover.

    2-In floor cleaning?
    Does anyone have advice regarding in floor cleaning and expansive soil conditions?

    I love the idea of automation with no pool cleaning hose to bother me while I am in the pool but I have also read about the dangers if the pool moves and shears off your cleaning heads. Would I be better off with a robotic cleaner that I set and forget then remove after it is done?

    3-Solar
    Before I started researching I thought solar panels were for electric heating but I have seen many posts regarding pumping water through the panels for heating. Are these types of solar panels less expensive than the electrical ones? Would this be a strongly recommended upgrade with our housing alignment? I put the compass facing of our house if that helps in the analysis.

    4-Closing
    I grew up with a concrete pool in the East Bay but was not in charge of any of the upkeep. Anyone in the area able to tell me if we need to close/winterize our pools? I know it can reach high 30's in an extremely cold winter but I don't ever remember seeing the pool I grew up with drained etc. I think we just stopped using it and maintaining the chemical balance.

    Thank you for reading my long winded introduction!
    No pool yet...just started planning

  2. Back To Top    #2

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Well first piece of advice, it costs way more than you think.

    I was pool stupid when I started thinking 40k would cut it....that was a joke. My requirements were much like yours. Jandy has pretty good automation, I'm probably going to get their PDA-based system for about 1k. Autocover and Robotic cleaners are a must have IMHO.
    20x41 Roman style w/reverse radius corners, Automatic Pool Cover , Jandy (LXi heater, CL480 Filter, 2sp FloPro 1.0 hp, Aquapure SWG, Water Colors LED Pool Light, AquaLink RS8, AquaPalm, iAqualink, Polaris 9300

  3. Back To Top    #3
    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Hot tub and spa are used more or less interchangeably.

    A spill-over spa does create significant challenges for an automatic cover design, though they are solvable. Basically the spill-over needs to be outside the pool and then piped into the pool below the cover track, or the spa has to be on a short edge of the pool and the cover not completely close, leaving the spill-over somewhere to spill into. Neither is ideal for most people, but it can all be done.

    Spas are generally done with shared equipment and an automation system these days. There is a single shared pool heater and either a single shared pump or a shared pump and also a spa jet pump. Water runs either to both the pool and spa (for the spill-over) (in pool mode), or it runs only to the spa. The spa is heated to temperature for each use. All of this is normally controlled by a simple couple of buttons on the automation system remote, though you can save money by leaving out the automation system and switching manually.

    In floor cleaning is expensive and tends to be trouble prone. In areas with high dust levels it is a miracle, but most places most people don't want it and would prefer a robotic cleaner. Robotic cleaners have their problems, none are totally reliable, but most of the time they work well and are easy to use.

    Solar is the least expensive way to heat the pool, highly recommended. You will still need a gas heater for the spa however, so you need to think about how much you are really going to use the pool when the air temperature is low and decide if solar is really worth it.

    In the SF area you can usually get away with not closing your pool. There was one year where that proved to be a problem, requiring the use of heaters to get through, but most of the pools made it anyway. Except for that one year very unusual year, simply having a freeze protection circuit is enough in that area. Some people close their pools anyway, which can eliminate a few worries (ie about power failures on cold nights).
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  4. Back To Top    #4

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by knjpool
    Well first piece of advice, it costs way more than you think.

    I was pool stupid when I started thinking 40k would cut it....that was a joke. My requirements were much like yours. Jandy has pretty good automation, I'm probably going to get their PDA-based system for about 1k. Autocover and Robotic cleaners are a must have IMHO.
    Thanks for the warning. I'm estimating up to 70k for my "dream" pool

    I understand the following are basically big ticket upgrade items above the normal pool features so I'm bracing myself
    -automatic pool cover adds approx. 10-12k
    -solar heating adds approx. 4-8k
    -waterfall/other features adds approx. 4-7k
    -robotic cleaner approx. 1k
    -Top quality automation approx. 1-2k
    No pool yet...just started planning

  5. Back To Top    #5

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    Hot tub and spa are used more or less interchangeably.

    A spill-over spa does create significant challenges for an automatic cover design, though they are solvable. Basically the spill-over needs to be outside the pool and then piped into the pool below the cover track, or the spa has to be on a short edge of the pool and the cover not completely close, leaving the spill-over somewhere to spill into. Neither is ideal for most people, but it can all be done.

    Spas are generally done with shared equipment and an automation system these days. There is a single shared pool heater and either a single shared pump or a shared pump and also a spa jet pump. Water runs either to both the pool and spa (for the spill-over) (in pool mode), or it runs only to the spa. The spa is heated to temperature for each use. All of this is normally controlled by a simple couple of buttons on the automation system remote, though you can save money by leaving out the automation system and switching manually.
    Thanks for that info. I was able to research this topic in more depth and found some examples. If I do the spillover outside the spillover mode can be linked with the pool cover to automatically turn off when it closes. Water circulation/filter is then handled without sharing until the spillover is back on. I guess I need a separate spa cover at that point for safety.

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    In floor cleaning is expensive and tends to be trouble prone. In areas with high dust levels it is a miracle, but most places most people don't want it and would prefer a robotic cleaner. Robotic cleaners have their problems, none are totally reliable, but most of the time they work well and are easy to use.
    The more I research in floor cleaning the less faith I have in it. I think the risk of heads shearing off with our expansive soil conditions is too high.

    A nice robotic cleaner that we drop in for an hour or so and check on later might be our best option for a low maintanence cleaner. We can then remove it from the pool and enjoy swims without dodging the "snake" as we called it growing up.

    I see many of the members on this forum have various robitic systems with positive results.

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    Solar is the least expensive way to heat the pool, highly recommended. You will still need a gas heater for the spa however, so you need to think about how much you are really going to use the pool when the air temperature is low and decide if solar is really worth it.
    I went hunting for solar heating after your post and found more info than I imagined. I am 100% interested in a solar heating system for the pool now. Completely different investment and performance than the PV solar systems I had previously looked into.

    I may even do domestic water heating while I am at it haha.

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    In the SF area you can usually get away with not closing your pool. There was one year where that proved to be a problem, requiring the use of heaters to get through, but most of the pools made it anyway. Except for that one year very unusual year, simply having a freeze protection circuit is enough in that area. Some people close their pools anyway, which can eliminate a few worries (ie about power failures on cold nights).
    Thanks for that confirmation about winterizing.
    No pool yet...just started planning

  6. Back To Top    #6

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    1a) A hot tub differs from an attached spa in that a hot tub is typically a stand alone device. Think of a Jacuzzi for a hot tub, not that I like that brand (I don't).
    1b) The valves will control where the water comes from and is sent to. In Pool Mode, water drawn from the pool is typically filtered and sent to both the pool and spa. The spa can only hold so much and spills back into the pool. In Spa Mode, all the water is drawn from the spa and sent back to the spa, isolating it from the pool. It's a lot easier and faster heating the spa's 350 gallons or so versus the pool's 20,000 gallons. A spa can be heated in about 15 minutes to 100 degrees. An 80 degree, 20K gallon pool would typically, using a gas fired 400,000 BTU heater heat the pool at about 1 to 3 degrees per hour to 85.

    2) In-Floors, IMHO, are not worth the money or risks. There is no such thing as a maintenance free pool, except someone else's. An In-Floor can help reduce vacuuming but won't eliminate the need, will cost more in energy, and can be very expensive to fix if you soil shifts or and shaker or roller (Earthquake types) cracks just one pipe below ground. A pool sweep like a Polaris, Legend, or The Pool Cleaner is a better value. I am not a big robot fan.

    3) Solar panels offer free heat but from the pix you posted, the only southern exposure, which is the most desirable, you have is only over the garage and that is at the front of the house. That means long pipe runs which will reduce the efficiency of the system, costing you in power consumption. Power isn't cheap in your neck of the woods. In fact, many times it is more cost effective to use natural gas over a heat pump because of the energy costs.

    4) I doubt you would need to winterize the pool. The use of an automation system's Freeze-Protect mode will, when needed, prevent the plumbing and filter equipment from freezing up and will likely cost less than winterization and startup costs.

    An automatic cover can be designed to fit most pools, especially when they are being built. They will help keep the pool safer, reduce evaporation, chemical usage, power consumption, and help keep the pool cleaner. They will need some service over the years as the cover fabric and pull ropes will need replacing periodically. This isn't cheap, but they do offer some peace of mind.

    A properly maintained pool of 10,000 gallons will use the same amount of chemicals for a given shape and environment will be the same regardless of whether it's concrete, vinyl liner, or fiberglass.

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

  7. Back To Top    #7


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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    A pool fence may be a lot less expensive than automated cover and doesn't block the UV action of sunlight in reducing chloramines. With heavy cover use, you may need ozone supplementation (did I actually say that?). Simple pool fence gets around all these issues.

    Those who use extensive pool covers may want to chime in now....
    IG 24k plaster with overflow spa. Goldline PS-8 SWG. Tristar 0.75 HP filter pump, Polaris 280, large cartridge filter, 400k BTU NG Max-E-Therm HD, SR Smith Turbo Twister, Life Saver pool fence, ORP managed.

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Many towns want the fence with a self-closing gate and MagnaLoc catch that little kids can't reach and alarms on the doors and windows that have access to the pool area, regardless of whether an auto-cover is there.

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

  9. Back To Top    #9
    XsAllOverIt's Avatar
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    My sister has an automatic pool cover in OH and she has regular problems with her water. Her friends without pool covers don't run into the same issues. I've tried to turn her onto TFP. She's spent a lot of money on chemicals in the past.
    18 x 36 Inground Gunnite, White Plaster 21K gallon
    18" raised spa, 8' Diameter (620 gallon)
    Triton II Sand filter, Intellichlor IC40 SWG
    Pentair Pump, Max-E-Therm 400 BTU
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    TFT-100 test kit

  10. Back To Top    #10
    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by XsAllOverIt
    she has regular problems with her water
    To avoid problems, you want the cover open, and the pool exposed to sunlight, at least a couple of hours a week and preferably more. Without that, the pool effectively becomes an indoor pool with bad air circulation, which is far more difficult to manage. This doesn't apply if the water is very cold, ie using a solid cover to winterize is fine.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  11. Back To Top    #11
    Richard320's Avatar
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Pay attention to the winds this year, and place the skimmer at the extreme downwind end. This is a sore subject for me, as whoever built my pool set it up for shortest pipe run, and if it's windy, all the surface debris blows right on past the skimmer.

    Another sore subject for me is patio drainage. I have planters around 3 sides, the house is pretty much the fourth, so when it rains, the water has to go out through a drain. Which is undersized, if you ask me. It appears to be 2' pipe, and from snaking it out, I can tell it has a couple sharp 90 degree bends, and no pitch. So it drains sloooooow. Go big.

    If I was planning from scratch, I'd be sure I had a multiport valve which allowed vacuum to waste. My filter has the backflush valve incorporated into it; I run normal or I backflush. Period. If I could bypass the filter, it would be so much faster and easier to drain the pool.

    A pool builder will (should?) know the building codes, but it's almost certain you'll need a fence at least 5' high and a self-closing, locking gate. I'm sure you can find out by doing some research online, or by calling the planning department. Then you can budget for any of that stuff.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
    Troublefree does not mean Maintenancefree. It's like brushing your teeth: You can spend a couple minutes a day and pennies a week or go to the dentist once a year and spend several thousand dollars.
    A pool is like a pet - you have to feed it every day, even the days you don't want to play with it!

  12. Back To Top    #12

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Will be putting a gate in addition to the automatic cover. I know it probably sounds like overkill but we have a 1 year old and are planning on at least one more addition to the family.

    I wasn't aware the cover should be opened for a set amount of time per week. I wonder if that becomes a nuisance in the Winter or if it doesn't matter if you won't be using it until you re-open and shock the pool during your next swim season.
    No pool yet...just started planning

  13. Back To Top    #13
    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    You can leave the cover on all winter. When the water is cold it really doesn't matter.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  14. Back To Top    #14
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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCalX
    I know it probably sounds like overkill but we have a 1 year old and are planning on at least one more addition to the family.
    Welcome to TFP and NO it is not overkill...I don't care what anyone says, but you can never be too careful with kids and a 8ft deep hole in the yard
    24'x52" AGP (13,500 Gallons), Intex SWG, (2)Solar Bear 4x20 panels, Hayward S220T Filter, 1/2hp Pentair Superflo

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  15. Back To Top    #15

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard320
    Pay attention to the winds this year, and place the skimmer at the extreme downwind end. This is a sore subject for me, as whoever built my pool set it up for shortest pipe run, and if it's windy, all the surface debris blows right on past the skimmer.
    This is a great tip! Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard320
    Another sore subject for me is patio drainage. I have planters around 3 sides, the house is pretty much the fourth, so when it rains, the water has to go out through a drain. Which is undersized, if you ask me. It appears to be 2' pipe, and from snaking it out, I can tell it has a couple sharp 90 degree bends, and no pitch. So it drains sloooooow. Go big.
    I have no clue about patio drainage. I'm a computer guy.

    I know our gutters are routed underground to some type of draining system in the backyard but I have no idea about specifics. I'm expecting any pool construction to basically ruin the existing drainage system. I need to make sure the cost to repair it will be in any bids I receive.
    No pool yet...just started planning

  16. Back To Top    #16


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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    My community (and others) require BOTH a pool safety fence and a fenced backyard. I think this is a good idea as it makes your backyard safer and more usable.
    IG 24k plaster with overflow spa. Goldline PS-8 SWG. Tristar 0.75 HP filter pump, Polaris 280, large cartridge filter, 400k BTU NG Max-E-Therm HD, SR Smith Turbo Twister, Life Saver pool fence, ORP managed.

  17. Back To Top    #17

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by learthur
    My community (and others) require BOTH a pool safety fence and a fenced backyard. I think this is a good idea as it makes your backyard safer and more usable.
    Maybe for you, but my backyard is four acres (unfenced) and pool is 100' from the house. That rule would cause a revolution around here, and most rural areas.
    Current: 28,000G 18'x36' I/G AnthonySylvan Plaster; Waterway 60 sq.ft. DE Filter; 1.0hp x 1.65 SF Two-Speed (B2982) WhisperFlo; 2004-Present
    Previous: 40,000G 20'x40' I/G Koven unlined WWII salvage 5/8" marine steel; Lomart Stainless Sand Filter; 3/4hp Hayward SuperPump; 1946-2003 (managed by me from about 1964)
    Ancient Taylor K-2000, upgraded with Taylor CH, TA, and FAS-DPD, and TFT CYA tests.

  18. Back To Top    #18

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    In sonoma county a automatic pool cover is all that's required.
    DONE, 20 x 40, inground gunite, 30" raised bond beam with 3 12" sheer descents, 8' diving board, pentair 420 cartridge filter, vs-3050 pump, intellechlor ic-40, auto cvr, Tahoe blue pebble tech, 6ea 4' x 12.5' & 2ea 1' x 12.5' helicol solar panels, legend robotic cleaner.

  19. Back To Top    #19

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    Re: Planning phase for new pool-Advice appreciated

    Hey NorCalX....Discovery Bay here

    I spent nearly two years researching/planning my pool project. My PB starts the job next week.

    Like you, I'm going with a FG pool.

    You've gotten a lot of good advise here....but two points I'd make.

    I used Google Sketchup (to scale) to help me visualize my design vision. It helped me decide location and more importantly - how much decking to pour...I don't have the biggest yard and I wanted to keep as much lawn as possible. Short of a 3D model...using the satellite photo's and scaled paper pool templates helped me decide the pool location and orientation.

    Lastly, while you'll learn a lot form the TFP forum....but my local PB was a wealth of local knowledge. Among other things, he helped me understand why a SWG isn't right for me. Can't recommend him enough (he's a member of the City Council and Brentwood’s Vice Mayor ).

    356RESTO
    30'x14' (12.5K Gallon) Viking Carmel - Saphire Blue Crystite Finish
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  20. Back To Top    #20

    Old thread swg arguement

    amcmeans,

    Curious, why wasn't SWG right for you?

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