A couple years later, I know y’all can’t wait for part 8 LOL
THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you already have the liner, you MUST!!!! Follow their floor layout, so the liner fits in correctly. If you are waiting to order the liner, be sure to be able to tell the manufacturer how you made the floor – so keep notes or make up a print of how you laid the floor!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For a vermiculite bottom, you want at least 2” of the verm mix throughout the bottom! To save $ on vermiculite and cement, the dirt floor should be shaped so that it’s 2” below the finished vermiculite grade. If you have voids, fill them in with gravel, if you have soft spots, scoop out the slop and fill them in and compact them! To assist in the shaping, put rebar pins at every transition point and, again, run strings. You can use the bottom of the panels to get your grades (just remember that the bottom of the panels are 2” below the finished vermiculite grade!) Use the walls to do your measuring – if you have a 14’ slope into a *’ deep hopper, measure 14’ along the panels and install a pin on each side. Then run a string between the 2 pins, tied at the bottom of the panels and measure out the 4’ from the wall and drop a plumb bob to install the first 2 pins that define your hopper. Use the panels to help define your transition points, then use strings to insure that the floor is ~ perfectly matched to the liner you’ll soon be installing.
Once all the floor pins are installed, tie a string to the pins at finished grade (use a tape measure off the wall strings to get the finished grade) – you’ll end up with a continuous string defining the slope/ sidewall transition and defining the hopper and wall corners, that is at finished grade (i.e. 2” above the dirt floor.) Mark the panels, with a magic marker, 2” up from the bottom all around the pool (this gives you a mark to trowel to) and then you can hold a new piece of string between any other strings or the mark on the wall to make sure your grade is good
OK, now your floor is strung out and ready for you to apply the vermiculite.
The recipe is 1 bag verm (16 – 20 lbs. / bag) with ½ bag (~42 lbs.) Portland cement (type I or II) and ~ 12 gallons water. The amount of water can vary depending on the weather (heat and humidity), how quickly you are able to lay down the mixes, whether the bags of verm are wet and if the floor, where you’re dumping the mix in the pool, is dry or wet.
Once the verm is mixed, you want to be able to take a handful of it and squeeze a little water out of it – you DO NOT want ‘oatmeal’.
If you’re using a mechanical mixer, add the water, then the ½ bag of cement. Then, as quickly as possible, add the bag of vermiculite. Once the vermiculite is in the mixer, turn the drum to ~ horizontal without it spilling out. Once the ingredients are mixed, dump the drum into a wheelbarrow and take it to the pool – if you leave the mix in the drum too long, you’ll end up with ‘cannonballs’ which are a PITA to try and trowel and will adversely effect the final finish!!!
TIP** if you have unfilled voids in the wall, shovel the first ‘trial mixes’ into them – once the person mixing gets the ratio of water correct, all they have to do is repeat it (50+ times) Using a large trash can to dip a 5 gal. bucket into is very efficient – the mixer dips the bucket in 2X and then ~ 1/3 – you can use a magic marker to make a line on the bucket for the 3rd dip, once you’ve got the mix down.
You need a couple preselected areas to dump the fruits of the mixer. If you haven’t already backfilled the pool, run a plank from the existing ground to the pool in those places (tip* shovel dirt at the end of the plank to make it easier to wheel onto) Keep in mind that you’ll eventually be finishing the floor there and plan appropriately. Also remember that you’ll be shoveling this stuff to where it’s gonna be put down, try not to ‘kill’ anyone with a huge haul from dump spot to finishing area BTW – it’s considered poor form to drop a wheelbarrow on the folks in the pool!
Coal shovels or big snowshovels are nice for moving a decent amount to the toweling area. I wish I could put in words the way to properly shovel for a finisher, but it’s something the troweler and the shoveler have to work out.
Keep rocks and dirt out of the finished product!!
(I might be willing to give some tips on troweling, but you gotta ask for that LOL)
We always worked our way from the shallow end to the deep. When doing the slopes and sidewalls, the sidewalls were done BEFORE the slope floor – whoever was doing the floor part matched up to the wall. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the sidewalls all completed before the slope was applied, just to do it in sections, with the wall part done first.
As this is your first time, it’s gonna take a LOT longer than the pros. Take it slow and steady! What we could do in a day might take you 2+ days, DON’T RUSH IT!!!!! This is your floor and you’ll have to live with it for years, so a day or a few hours extra now, making sure that it’s ~ perfect, are more than worth it!
Eventually, you’ll end up troweling yourself into a corner. Not a problem, do a day’s worth of bottom and then, if you’ve made it to the deep end bottom, use a ladder to get out. Tommorrow, you’ll be finishing up and you still have to pull the pins you ran the strings on and patch those holes. Not to mention, you have to sweep the floor at least 3X before you’re ready to drop the liner, after all the verm has set up. As you’re sweeping, you’ll see places that need a little touch-up.
This is about as complete as I can make it for now. I’m always looking for questions and feedback on this stuff!