Bad Soil Conditions - Should we do this?

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Hey all,

Any advice is appreciated on the below post. Pictures and documents included, as well as the story.

TL;DR - Pool company backed out because of soil conditions. Now others are building pools on our street. Is it wise to build the pool?

Back in April, I started posting about my pool design. We built a new home backing up to a greenbelt with a small back yard and were very excited about putting our pool in. We found a company we liked, worked out all the details, negotiated a great price, and signed the contract.

The day before excavation I get a call from the manager that they were concerned about the soil conditions. I remembered our home builder had provided us with a soil report so I sent it to the pool company and they said they were walking away unless we wanted to engineer the pool with pier and beams and void boxes to the tune of an extra $30K on top of the pool price.

We had already paid $2,500 to move our AC unit so they reimbursed us for that and so we decided to move on.

Fast forward to September/October and we noticed that 4 to 5 other homes are building pools on our street! One of them is just 4 doors down. I now feel that perhaps we negotiated a great price before they saw the construction effort involved and decided they were going to lose too much money on the project. I have attached our soil report along with the one that is down the street and my questions are:

1) What steps can we take with our evaluation process to make sure we are protected and the pool will be stable?
- For example, I have attached a document describing a new mat and drainage technique to keep soil moisture stable. Has anyone done that?
- If the pool company provides a lifetime warranty on the shell, can we make sure that covers tilting and sinking as well as cracking? (Former pool company said that tilting was their concern with our soil).
2) Should we even do this based on our soil report? Is the soil that bad? My friends are all pointing to the fact that everything east of I35 in Austin has terrible soil and yet there are hundreds of pools that no one complains about.

I have also attached the initial dimensions of the pool shown, but we are now willing to scale that down if necessary. Initially, I wanted a lap pool since the pool had to be so skinny.

From our soil report, " PVM Reduction - Point estimates of the PVM of the in-situ soil profile are greater than 4 ½ inches for the lots listed in Table 3 of this report. Remediation will be required on these lots to reduce the PVM to less than 4 ½ inches. Additional recommendations regarding PVR reduction are included in the Recommendations - PVM Reduction section of this report. "

Pictures and Documents below:


Pool Layout.jpgPool back view_Page_3.jpgOur Lot Soil Report.jpgNeighbor Lot with Pool Soil Report.jpg
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Thanks for the fast reply. I was told yesterday, "we have engineers in house and once they put their stamp of approval on it they can be sued if anything happens". Not very reassuring since I don't want to sue someone to make sure my pool is built correctly.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,146

The above thread shows what can happen if the ground is not stable.

If you have your own engineer draw up the plans, then you can put out a RFP (Request For Proposal) and get quotes based on the same specifications.
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
That could be a good idea.

But I wonder if I am better off just hiring an attorney to redline the language of the pool contract and ensure that they will cover any and all costs associated with sinking/tilting/cracked pool.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,146
That assumes that the company would agree to the modified contract, which is unlikely.

They already walked away because you didn't want to pay for reinforcement.

Even if they agree and something goes wrong, you're not going to be compensated for the stress, worry, aggravation and loss of use.

Even if they agree to fix any future problems, it doesn't mean that they actually will. Maybe the company will go bankrupt. Maybe they will drag their feet for a year or two by denying that there's a problem or that it's not covered under the terms of the contract. Or, maybe they do studies for a year or two for whatever. Maybe they will just ignore you until you sue them. Maybe the owner of the company will get hit by a bus and the company will get closed down.

Get it designed right and built right.
 
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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
These are all really good points.

I guess I'm wondering, if I hire a geotechnical engineer and do an RFP to build it and something happens I'll be stuck with two different parties that both can point fingers at each other. Would you recommend the geo-tech engineer supervises the project?
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,146
Would you recommend the geo-tech engineer supervises the project?
The engineer should always make sure that the project is done to the specifications.

It's up to you if you want to use the builder's engineer or not. If you do, then you should probably go with their recommendations.

Why didn't you want to go with the $30,000.00 engineering plan that was recommended?
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,216
Central California
I'm the first to pile on when it comes to contractor misconduct, so it's only fair I comment. Your contractor not only did you a huge favor but I can't believe he stepped up and paid for that air conditioner. I think it was justified, in that he should have figured out the soil issue before you had that done. But that would have been an expense to you for a soil engineer, so either way you should have paid about that amount. Franky, if you go ahead with a pool with a different contractor, and get it done correctly (engineered), you owe that money back to the original contractor. By walking away, instead of just building the pool, grabbing the profit, and sticking you with the potential problem, that's twice he showed his true colors.

James beat me to it regarding sharing that other thread. And here's another one where the OP's pool is splitting in two because of bad soil conditions. He actually did have his engineered, and it's still in trouble. His warranty issue also came into play.


@JamesW is giving you some most excellent advice and comments.
 

Sollace

Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
316
Byran TX
I didn't read all the replies. I'm good like that!
But my thought is, go talk to your neighbors that are putting in pools. See what they're doing and compare to what you are. You may not know them but now you can. Ask them if they've had delays with their build over the ground stability. Are you on a flood plane? Has your area flooded?

I'm not an expert but common sense says that if a house can be built on that property, then a pool can too. On that note, are there cracks in your house? Sinking? I wonder if talking to the city would gain you any clues about why your pool company is so concerned? Maybe your property insurance guy? They can look up lots of stuff.

You could also contact your HOA. They may know of any future problems.
 
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jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
2,945
Morris Cnty NJ
James gave you good advice. The pool company who walked away was very honorable in their actions. I'm not sure of the details, but having neighbors building pools doeant mean they have the same soil profile or site conditions. Your best offense is to go directly speak to several neighbors. See what they built and what they spent with detail to engineering. It's ok to use the PBs engineer, but it's a must to have a second PE review the plans amd give an opinion.
 
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MinerJason

Bronze Supporter
Jan 29, 2018
276
Tucson, AZ
I guess I'm wondering, if I hire a geotechnical engineer and do an RFP to build it and something happens I'll be stuck with two different parties that both can point fingers at each other. Would you recommend the geo-tech engineer supervises the project?
I would think they'd want to supervise or at least observe to make sure their recommendations were followed and limit their liability. I'm a geotech engineer and I insist on supervising or observing any jobs where I've done the design, though I don't work on pools or small civil jobs so it may be different.

James gave you good advice. The pool company who walked away was very honorable in their actions. I'm not sure of the details, but having neighbors building pools doeant mean they have the same soil profile or site conditions. Your best offense is to go directly speak to several neighbors. See what they built and what they spent with detail to engineering. It's ok to use the PBs engineer, but it's a must to have a second PE review the plans amd give an opinion.
All of this. It's also possible (even prbable) that the builders of the other pools in the neighborhood didn't have soil testing results, and they could be unknowingly building pools without adequate support for the soil conditions.
 

Sollace

Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
316
Byran TX
Yes, that is why I brought up talking to the neighbors, the city if you're in city limits, and the HOA. Compare notes and see if there's a history of soil problems and stability. And your insurance guy would be able to research any claims. It's gathering all the information available and see where you are with it.
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Thank you everyone for your replies. Here is a bit of an update.

The house that is 4 doors down from me is building with "ABC" Pools. I reached out to "ABC" and emailed them my soil report. They compared my soil report to that of my neighbors and said it's pretty much the same. They just over dug it and put in the gravel.

I also reached out to another guy down the street that used BYOP (Build your own Pools) and his pool is brand new but he said the excavator was not worried when they dug it. Apparently, it was like gumbo but dried the next day.

I should probably preface that I am in a brand new neighborhood and every home has a soil report, many of which I have access to. The engineer recommended soil injections on my lot when the house was being built. They also recommended the same thing for the house down the street. I am reaching out to the soil injection company to see what they did and if we should do the same thing for our pool. However, they did not recommend piers for our home and our slab is sitting on post-tension cables. We've had some slight cracking in the driveway and front porch entry, but not in the house. We moved into the house in January of 2020.

To answer why we didn't pay the $30k for piers it's because it was outrageous compared to the price of the pool and I wanted second opinions.

So for further background on that first pool company, I also initially had the impression that they went above and beyond for us. But upon seeing 6 pools go up on my street and talking to other pool builders, it seems that I just negotiated too good of a price and they were going to lose money if they dug it. I don't blame them for backing out as they have a business to run and as someone pointed out it was their fault they didn't check structural integrity upfront. In fact, they wasted 2 months of my time going back and forth with design stuff and then canceled the day before our excavation so paying for the AC was probably the least they could have done.
 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,146
Getting an engineer is like insurance. Going without is taking a risk of having a loss that will be difficult to recover from. Only you can decide if it's worth buying the insurance or going without.
 
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Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,216
Central California
Well, your post came in right before I clicked "Post Reply" on mine, which was a half page on trying to convince you to hire an engineer. Glad to hear it! (I'll still take credit, it was likely some sort of psychic connection that I somehow engaged!) I hope your report comes back favorable!
 
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