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Thread: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

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    Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    It's amazing how long it is taking for us to get concrete quotes (pun intended!) on our pool. One builder measured the grade - it drops 5' over 30' or so. So we know there needs to be a wall.

    We're still waiting for a basic plan/quote from one builder, but the other 2 that are in contention are saying very different things about how high the wall needs to be.

    One builder says we can do a sitting wall either 18" or 30" (wall with a bench) and they will cut and flip the top of the hill down to the bottom to raise the bottom of the hill.

    The other builder is saying the wall will need to be 5' high or in some combination with the pool being raised.

    But these are rough estimates for the plans, because we have to pay them to do a site survey and officially plan it all out, which would essentially end up being a deposit towards the pool.

    Because we need to have real stone (historic district, I'm actually drawn to a smooth stucco wall, but I'm not sure that would pass), we want the wall to be as small, usable, and cheap as possible.

    Any opinions, thoughts on this?

    Apparently, either way, my budget is way off, which is not awesome. I really thought we could do a pool (18x36), patio (800 sq ft), fence (440 ft) for 70k, but the only quote so far in that range had some red flags with it - flex pipe and pipes under the pool, that would make me feel uncomfortable.

    Elsa
    1600 gal Arctic Wolverine Swim Spa, approx 8' x 14' with Niagara swim current

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    Rick H's Avatar
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Hi, my situation may be a different, and I am not sure exactly what the drop in my yard was. But, my backyard sloped down away from the back of my house, not overly steep, but over 30 feet it was probably close to 4'-5' drop. I was hoping to avoid building a wall if at all possible. Starting from the back of my house where we wanted a concrete patio(15 X 20) my PB kept that about level with the back of the house. At the end of that patio, he went down 12 inches and this is where the concrete around the pool starts, so I have one step down from the upper patio to the pool concrete. He used all the fill from digging the pool on the lowest side of the yard past the pool, and built a large berm, leveling it with the pool concrete. The berm/hill runs about 15' past the pool, and he rounded it off so that the hill isn't too steep from any angle, but, the yard about 5' higher on that side than it used to be. So, coming off the back of the house, I have a stampcrete patio about 15' long, a step down to the concrete surrounding pool (5' around pool), the pool (15' wide), 5 more feet of concrete on back side of pool, then about 15' of flat yard, then the new hill. We wanted to avoid a retaining wall, as the cost would have been prohibitive to us getting the whole project done. All the fill from the pool was used in the hill. Just an idea that worked for us, Good luck.
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Rick, that's helpful. Do you have a picture of your pool and the hill that I could see?

    Elsa
    1600 gal Arctic Wolverine Swim Spa, approx 8' x 14' with Niagara swim current

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    Ksnewman's Avatar
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    We had a 12' difference in elevation and had to have a retaining wall built in order to create level yard. I really have no expert advice except if I were you, I would consult an engineer. It was the best $$ we spent. There were so many issues as to what material to use for backfill, etc.
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Did you talk with an engineer before you signed a contract with a PB or after? That is a good idea.
    1600 gal Arctic Wolverine Swim Spa, approx 8' x 14' with Niagara swim current

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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    I had similar issue. My land is very hilly and my PB did his best to make it so any walls I needed would be small. His hope was to make it so the surrounding land could be graded. However, after talking with several planners, it was determined that it would be safer and overall better to do a wall. It added significant cost to my overall build but I figure that I end up saving money in the long run with less landscaping each year and gained back an area of my yard that is now usable rather than one huge slope which would have been a nightmare.

    Like you, I had choices in how high to build the wall. At it's highest point, I think it's just under 6'. We left about 12" from the height of the patio to the top of the wall so I could grade in the garden area to have water run-off in the right direction.

    Here are some pics of the wall (about 90' long I believe). This was obviously taken before my patio and fence went in.

    This is what they were trying to fix.









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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Generally speaking, pool builders are not designers nor engineers. They are builders. Most contracts will stipulate this and will establish that there are no warranties for retaining walls, drainage, etc.

    I agree with the advice to consult with an engineering firm before working quotes or contracts, and not just for retaining wall advice/plans, but also for site drainage. Relative to the overall project cost, the cost for this type of engineering is usually reasonable and worthwhile.

    In my region, most municipalities require engineering plans (from a licensed professional engineer) for retaining walls higher than 2 ft. before permit approval is granted.
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    Ksnewman's Avatar
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Quote Originally Posted by soundgardeners
    Did you talk with an engineer before you signed a contract with a PB or after? That is a good idea.
    We had the engineer design retaining wall which was done before pool builder started. I was the GC for the project so I coordinated between building the wall and the pool builder. You can look under New Pool Hills of TN for photo of the hill.
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    We are in the process of building a pool in a backyard that slopes down quite a bit. We started out doing a soil sample and then the engineer used that to decide what his requirements would be for the various retaining walls that would be needed to hold the pool in place. The original engineering plan was for three levels of retaining walls on either side of the pool for a total of 6 retaining walls (each dropping 4 feet). The original cost for the retaining walls was probably more than the cost for the pool. We discussed the matter with the PB and we decided that the engineer was doing a little overkill because he was requiring extreme retaining walls with heavy duty footers even on the two retaining walls that were not going to be weight bearing. So we decided (along with the PB) to deviate from the engineering plan on those two retaining walls. Then we took a part of the money we saved on the project and purchased a million dollar insurance policy for the project. So in the end the cost of the retaining walls was about the price of the pool itself. I feel like in the end we are building three pools: 1. the pool itself; 2. the retaining walls; and 3. the pool house. I know that we are paying for the pool three times with what we are doing.

    Hope this helps. Retaining walls on a slope are a nasty thing. Be aware before you commit.

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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    This is all helpful to hear. What type of engineer would that be, that can help determine retaining walls?

    Elsa
    1600 gal Arctic Wolverine Swim Spa, approx 8' x 14' with Niagara swim current

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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    I would ask the PBs who they use.

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    Ksnewman's Avatar
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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    Quote Originally Posted by soundgardeners
    This is all helpful to hear. What type of engineer would that be, that can help determine retaining walls?

    Elsa
    We used a civil engineer.
    18x36 kidney 20,000 gallons IG vinyl. Pentair Easy Touch 8 w/IntelliChlor IC40. Triton II TR100. Pentair Intellifllo Variable Speed. Waterfall/Jump Rock. 2 Pentair Intellibrite lights. TF-100 Test Kit. And a very happy husband who gets to play in the pool without having to take care of it.

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    Re: Building a pool on a hill - differing opinions

    We purchased our property with it already constructed, but our pool is bordered by a terrace and the effect is quite lovely...if complicated to engineer. We looked into the history of the job before we purchased. In our case, since the hill sloped toward the house and pool area was formerly a catch basin, they built a perimeter drain and sump and tied the latter into our pool plumbing to anage storm water during high rain/water table events.

    What I enjoy about the terrace with the steps leading down is the landscaping opportunity...ours has a Japanese maple, rosebush, azaleas, lilac etc. so there's always some nice screening and aesthetic blooms. Great for privacy and aesthetic enjoyment. The pool itself is just a standard Grecian vinyl...comparatively cheap in these parts. I suspect that is because the engineering and landscaping ate the budget. But 12 years later, this suits my preference...as I enjoy the terrace in its own right and would not trade it for a wall The drawbacks, however, are debris in pool (I use a pool skim and robot now) and the shadiness of one side, which does result in supplementary heating in the kind of mild summer temps we've had lately.
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