I'm looking for some ideas / views that I may not have considered for a new pool build south of Houston, TX. Sorry for the length, there are several questions in here; I'm finding conflicting data and would appreciate some independent expertise.
I prefer the feel of a vinyl liner or tile to a plaster finish, and would prefer to avoid plaster if possible. I've looked at “smooth” plasters such as durazzo, but still prefer either vinyl or glazed tile. Is there another finish I should be looking at? I like fiberglass too, but I can't see how to make it work for us.
Basically, we live in a swamp. Mostly gumbo soil (expansive), in a shallow depression, with significant groundwater drainage problems (minimal risk of flooding from waterways, but rain takes a LONG time to drain away, and the local water table can sit right at grade level for several days after a heavy rain).
So, I'm worried about in-ground gunite & plaster or fiberglass pools floating, and about the pressure that the expansive soils can apply to pool walls.
Is there a significant risk from the expansive soil on vinyl pool walls? The market around here is almost exclusively gunite, I suspect this may be related, but I can't get a definitive answer on why the market is that way. Aren't gunite walls also susceptible to expansive soils?
One option we are considering to minimize the risk of the pool shell floating is to go with the pool sitting partially out of the ground, keeping the water level several inches above grade, but I'm still concerned that maintenance down the road is going to be nearly impossible if the groundwater is high. Is there anything I can do to mitigate the risk of a shell popping out?
I have not found a fiberglass pool that can be left partially out of the ground, and I don't have enough space to slope the deck gradually up from current grade at the house several inches up to the pool edge.
Is one construction method better than the others for this type of soil? How about blending techniques? I am willing to think outside the box if none of the "big 3" methods is suitable.
I considered getting a gunite shell for strength, and lining it with vinyl for the feel, but there could be a problem with water getting behind the liner – already confirmed by web searches and posts on this website. Is there a way to avoid that? One solution I am contemplating is to utilize the main drain in the gunite shell as a drainage sink for water between the liner and shell. I don't want main drains in the pool anyway, I'm going to rely on skimmers and a vacuum. But if I got a gunite shell with main drains, is there anything I could put over the main drain to protect the liner while allowing water to drain away? Is this opening up a can of worms for mold growth?
Are there other solutions?