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Thread: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

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    Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Hello everyone,

    I am seeking opinions on a situatiion we are in the middle of related to contruction of our pool. Here are the facts:

    1. We live in Massachusetts and this is our first pool. We want to buld a 18'x36' vinyl liner pool with an exposed aggregate deck. We have been working on planning, permitting, and financing this dream for close to 2 years.

    2. Part of our property is wetlands so we are limited by the wetlands buffer zone and property setback requirements to where the pool can be constructed. We obtained conservation commission and building department approval to construct the pool in our backyard.

    3. The shallow end of the pool would be located approximately 20' from the back of the house and would run legthwise (36') away from the house to the deep end (7.5') of the pool. Our yard is sloped away from the house, so the grade around the pool would need to be raised approximately 2.5' at the deep end of the pool. Access to the construction area would be through our side yard.

    4. We obtained three bids from pool builders. All three bids were relatively close in cost. We made our selection. The pool builder came to our house on three ocassions to discuss details and logistics. The contracted cost of the pool was approximately $28K for the pool and approxiametly $10K for the deck. We understood that the amount of fill that we might need to raise the grade could be an unknown and we budgeted $6K for that contingency. We gave the pool builder a $3k deposit and the deck company a $3K deposit.

    5. In prepartion for the pool and deck we did the following; cutdown and removed a very large tree, gave away our daughters swingset, ripped out and disposed of our perfectly good wood deck, installed a 100 amp subpanel, and modified our irrigation system. Our lawn was also damaged from the tree cutting.

    6. Construction was suppose to start this week. The pool builder called us last Friday and told us they would be moving machinery to our house on Monday and would start digging on Tuesday. My wife and I both work. Based on his projected schedule, my wife arranged to be home on Tuesday when the digging would start.

    7. On Monday the Pool Builder called me at work and told me they were moving the excavator in to our backyard and had driven over a portion of our neighbors front lawn. That neighbor was very upset. We had specifically reviewd property lines with the pool builder in our initial meeting. We also thought that the equipment would be parked on the street on Monday and moved into the yard on Tuesday when my wife would be home.

    8. Approximate 30 minutes later, the pool builder called and left a message that there was another problem and asked me to call him. I returned his call and he told me that they had started to dig and had determined that the soil/fill in my yard was "the worst I have ever seen in my career!" He then told me it was unuseable to build on or to even use for grading purposes in the yard and we would need to haul it all offsite for disposal and bring in good fill. I said "okay, how much is that going to cost?" He said "Probably between $8,000 to $12,000 (a 43% increase over our initial pool construction cost), but it could be way more." I then asked him what he was basing his evaluation on and he said the hole we dug. I said "You dug one hole right?" "Thats enough." he said. I told him to stop work and I would be home to look at the soil.

    9. I returned home later that day and found they had dug one hole that is approximately 2' x 2' x 2' deep. The hole is located where the deep end of the pool would be located. The soil appears to have some clay content, but overall I thought to myself that looks like pretty good loam. I work for an environmental engineering frim and I am aware that there are certain geotechnical properties necessary to build on soil. Hwever, I was disturbed that they had made their determination and change order cost estimate based on one 2' x 2' x 2' hole. I stood looking at the hole in the ground and couldn't stop thinking that our years of planning had been devastated in the 2 minutes it took them to dig the hole.

    10. Subsequently, my wife has talked to the owner of the company. He stated that he doubts we could have ever put a pool in our yard because of the soil conditions, wetlands issues, and access issues through our side yard and that the actual additional cost to install the pool would probably be much higher than the $12K estimate provided by the project manager. He further stated to her that he has been in the business for 37 years and this will be only his thrid pool that they could not put in. I'm not sure why he would even make this statement.

    11. We have now informed the company that we want to hold off and try to get a better handle on the soil conditions and associated costs. We requested a refund of our deposit from both companies. The deck company has said they will immediately refund our deposit. The pool builder said they have incurred approximately $1,600 in cost (liner and machine time), but will refund our deposit minus $500. The pool company owners rationale is he is "stuck" with a liner he cannot sell and he incurred cost running his excavator when they dug the 2'x2'x2' hole and they could have been using the excavator somewhere else. Despite the fact it is now Friday and the excavator still is sitting in my back yard next to the tiny little hole.

    12. Here is our current state: Ripped up lawn, cutdown tree that didn't need to be (stump still remains because the pool contractor said he would pull the stump if we cut down the tree), daughters upset because we gave away their swingset, demolished our perfectly good deck, incurred $500 in electrical costs, messed up irrigation system, upset neighbor, and perhaps most importantly an emotionally devastated wife and kids. At the end of the day, I am very upset and yes, even mad. But, I am not sure who to be mad at; the pool builder, who I think has acted in bad faith because he never really brought up many of these issues before and was so quick to increase the cost by 50% or more, or me for not doing more investigation into the details of building a pool.

    So, if you have read this long and whiny story and care to comment or perhaps provide some suggestions, what would you do at this point? I am also interested if you think we should get all of our deposit back.

    Thank you,

    Chris.

  2. Back To Top    #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I;m in mass. Im going to PM you.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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    Swampwoman's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I am so sorry for your trouble. Why not invite the other two pool bidders back out, have one of your ENG associates take core samples over the entire area to determine soil structure...

    And then ask for a DO NOT EXCEED revised quote from the other two. Eg. a TARGET budget and a DO NOT EXCEED possible final number based on the geological evidence given.

    It is possible that PB#1 saw an opportunity to increase his profit margin with the unknown of the topsoil. Not necessarily likely, but possible. So he may have bid it low just to get the work, then assume since you "knew" there'd be extra soil charges, that gave him cart blanche. Assessments from the other two companies might give you a guideline for an "actual" impact.

    If your contract has a termination clause, review it to determine the status of your deposit and the likelihood of getting it back. You could go small claims in an attempt to retrieve it, but I suspect a termination clause will map out that you're liable for work up to the termination of the contract.

    I didn't build it, but I now own a pool that at the time of construction pretty much everyone said couldn't be built, according to the original owners (hill, two septic tanks, small footprint next to house and bounded by barn-type 2-story structure that's now a pool house, environmentally sensitive area to the east, river in front, etc. and what was there prior was a cistern Our land has the twin curses of clay and sand!

    12 years later, she's in terrific shape. There are a few unique features, including a large sump underneath it that is connected to the pump and filter so that collected stormwater can be sent to waste or to the pool (there's sand down there), and there's a stone-covered perimeter drain between the concrete and the deck/or terrace area that's connected to two french drains on either side of the yard.

    So, where there's a will, there's a way. You just need a PB who can think outside the box a little.
    In ground extended Grecian, 22,000 gal, Hayward 220t sand filter, vinyl liner, dolphin m4 supreme.
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    It is hard to tell without seeing your property, but I am of the opinion that something is not right here. While I am not a pool builder, I do have a BS and MS in Civil Engineering with a minor concentration in soils engineering. I haven't done it in a while, but I used to be a field engineer for a geotech firm. I have taken more split spoon samples than I can count, dug test pits in 3 different states, and froze my rear end off many times performing perc tests. If I ever went to evaluate a potential site, dug a 2x2x2 test pit, and came back to the office, I would have been fired.

    It is possible you have a high water table, expansive soil, underground stream, buried organic matter, or some other factor that would indeed make building a pool difficult, I just don't understand how your contractor can make that determination from such a small test pit.

    You don't need somone to come in and do core / split spoon sampling - that is going to cost more money. You have an excavator on site allready, and this is a small (as far as earthworks) project. Two test pits to the expected depth of the pool (one in the shallow and one in the deep end) should tell you what you need to know. Maybe you do have a very loose soil that will not hold on the excavaction, and because of the required side slopes you would be in the wetlands area. Who knows? You deserve a better explination from your contractor.

    -dave
    27' Round ABG (17,000 gal) - +/- 11 hours of full sun per day
    Hard plumbed Hayward Perflex EC-40 DE filter w/ 1 HP pump (Got a new one June 2015)
    Filered 4 hours per day (on a timer)
    Pentair Aqualuminator - now working - and now dead once again, this time for good.
    Zodiac Wahoo

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Wow, I feel very sorry for you and your family! This is NOT the way having a pool built should turn out. I agree with the other posters that something funny is going on. We've had similar "hidden" issues come up with contractors when remodeling our house. It's incredibly frustrating, because you are already invested and the house is ripped up... they have you over a barrel, so to speak. In your case, they tried to get you committed by tearing up your backyard and then coming up with this.

    I don't know much about how a soil issue might impact the building of a pool, and the explanation from phonedave goes way beyond my pay grade. But, I agree that a more thorough investigation seems appropriate. At a minimum, I would call out other pool builders and ask them to examine the soil conditions. You might also shop around for a soils engineer. This may cost a bit (maybe $2K for cores and analysis???), but at least you would have solid info from someone without a conflict of interest involved. The other pool builders might be willing to build your pool even if soil conditions are not ideal and then you might end up with a mess on your hands. I consider this unlikely, as you would certainly have recourse to sue them if something happened to the pool as a result of poor soil conditions, but there are plenty of fly-by-night operations out there.

    If it really is found that there is an issue with the soil or high water table, what about an above ground pool? I know it's not what you planned, but there are some really nice ones out there, and you could build a very attractive raised deck around it to make it look nice and fit in with your landscaping. This addresses the issue of the torn up deck as well.

    Most importantly, keep this all in perspective and don't let it get you down too much. I agree its frustrating and VERY disappointing, but you are still in reasonable shape with respect to the finances and the ball is in your court. In addition, it's hardly swim season now, so a few extra months to build a nice pool will not impact your family's backyard fun. I think this will all turn out okay in the end. Best of luck to you.
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I agree with phonedave, I am an excavator with 30 years experience working with soil engineers on a regular basis and I have yet to see an engineer evaluate a whole job on one tiny test hole. I am always asked to dig down to the proposed elevation and if a soil condition still exists at that point go deeper to see the extent of it. I excavated and built my own pool backing on to a conservation floodplain with topsoil (loam) down to an elevation below the proposed pool bottom. I excavated down to below the topsoil installed weeping tile draining to a well point sump pump and brought in 3/4 clear crushed limestone backfill which goes in at a compaction rate of about 98% to bring the elevation back up to proposed grade. This added to the cost of the pool but not 50% more. I have not seen your yard, ( some pictures would probably be helpful) met your pool builder or seen the tiny test hole he dug but I have a hard time believing he could give you an estimated additional cost based on that tiny hole. I think it is way too early to flush your whole dream of pool ownership based on one tiny hole and one PB's opinion. When faced with an increase of this percentage I would be calling in more pool builders and getting new quotes. If the current PB's machine is still on site I would pay him whatever his minimum hourly charge is and as phonedave said dig two holes, one in the deep end and one in the shallow end to proposed elevations. Hit home depot for some fencing and posts so nobody accidentally falls into one and have more PB's come out, see the condition and re-quote.
    14X28 I/G steel wall hump back Kidney 3'-5', 30mil vinyl liner,92" spill over spa, 1hp Hayward Super 11-pool circ., 1 hp Hayward super 11- spa booster, Hayward Tristar waterfall pump through Jandy CS100 for three 24" Brilliant Wonders sheer descent waterfalls and two Jandy Laminar deck jets , Hayward Swim Clear Cartridge 425sqft, Hayward H-series 250,000 BTU N/G, Pro-logic PS8, T-Cell, Hayward Aqua Vac Robotic

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I would suggest that you hire a geotechnical engineering firm to advise you.

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    UnderWaterVanya's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    CraigMW beat me to my thought: AGP. Don't give up on in ground yet but consider an AGP or partially buried AGP.


    - Sent using Tapatalk
    Inlaws Pool Boy since June 14th 2012, Pool built ~ 2003, In-Ground, 16'x32'
    13500 gal, Vinyl Liner, Fiberglass Slide, TF-100 Test Kit, Hayward 210T
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    bigfunky's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I would settle up with the PB and get another one in ASAP. When projects start bad with a contractor they rarely finish good, mostly they get worse. How this guy could feed you a line all derived from a 2' x 2' x 2' pit and expect you to believe it is nuts.

    Did you check his references before hiring?
    26,000 gallon gunite IGP with 50 sq ft Spa, Jandy VS FloPro 2hp Pump, Jandy DEV48 Filter, Jandy AquaPure SWG, Jandy AquaLink PDA-PS6 Controller, RayPak R406A Heater, Polaris 380 Cleaner, completed April 2013

  10. Back To Top    #10

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Quote Originally Posted by Butcher
    Hit home depot for some fencing and posts so nobody accidentally falls into one and have more PB's come out, see the condition and re-quote.

    This - Get some orange snow fencing and some metal posts. Butcher knows his stuff. Never leave a test pit open and unfenced. Dig your two test pits and have other PBs come by, look at them, and give you firm quotes based on the now visable subsurface conditions.


    -dave
    27' Round ABG (17,000 gal) - +/- 11 hours of full sun per day
    Hard plumbed Hayward Perflex EC-40 DE filter w/ 1 HP pump (Got a new one June 2015)
    Filered 4 hours per day (on a timer)
    Pentair Aqualuminator - now working - and now dead once again, this time for good.
    Zodiac Wahoo

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Thank you everyone for the advice and encouragement.

    We ended up parting ways with the PB. The more we talked to them the clearer it became to us that they were just looking for the big change order. We asked for a refund of our deposit. They have stated they will refund the deposit minus $500. We have not yet received it. It took them a week to remove their excavator from our yard.

    We have now moved on. We are meeting with another PB on Friday to get their opinion. In addition, I will be collecting soil samples and having a geotechnical engineer from my company evaluate them. I guess the lesson is you can never do enough due diligence. We thought we were being very careful in our selection process, negotiating our contract, and understanding the construction process. We now know we did not do enough. This time we will be much more careful and move much more slowly.

    Thank you again.

  12. Back To Top    #12

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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Best of luck with this Chris. I'm sure there is a happy ending in sight.
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    bigfunky's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    I think it was a good move to get rid of that PB, $500 is a cheap price to pay to save all that agony. I've found in the pool building process you'll come across expenditures that catch you off guard but you feel are the right things to do, just trust your judgement and get advice here and you'll be good.

    One example I has was PB told me all piping to be rigid PVC, when plumber came out he started pulling all this flex out of his truck. I told him to stop, called my PM, and they pulled him off the job and got a new plumber in who did the job right.
    26,000 gallon gunite IGP with 50 sq ft Spa, Jandy VS FloPro 2hp Pump, Jandy DEV48 Filter, Jandy AquaPure SWG, Jandy AquaLink PDA-PS6 Controller, RayPak R406A Heater, Polaris 380 Cleaner, completed April 2013

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    MikeInNH's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    Ouch, sorry to hear about your issues. Curious to see what the next PB says about your site. If nothing then I would complain to the BBB about the old PB, they may not do anything but at least it would be on record. Could do a review on sites like Yelp also. Good luck.
    Mike
    2007 1st full year with AG pool~15k gallons 18'x33' JW
    6/2010 added 2 button Intex SWG-painless except for when reset
    Switched to BBB from Baquacil (couldn't pay me to go back)

  15. Back To Top    #15

    Re: Seeking opinions on a bad situation

    You are better to loose $500 now then the thousands this PB was going to try and chisel out of you. I think you made the right choice! Same old story give a cheap price and then make it up in extras( and then some by the sounds of it). Live...learn...move on.
    14X28 I/G steel wall hump back Kidney 3'-5', 30mil vinyl liner,92" spill over spa, 1hp Hayward Super 11-pool circ., 1 hp Hayward super 11- spa booster, Hayward Tristar waterfall pump through Jandy CS100 for three 24" Brilliant Wonders sheer descent waterfalls and two Jandy Laminar deck jets , Hayward Swim Clear Cartridge 425sqft, Hayward H-series 250,000 BTU N/G, Pro-logic PS8, T-Cell, Hayward Aqua Vac Robotic

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