Bad Soil Conditions - Should we do this?

Dirk

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TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,169
Central California
I am definitely going the insurance route, just don't know where to start or how to find one.
I might start with a referral from the PB. If something goes wrong down the road, and you've got an engineering stamp on the plans from an engineer referred to you by the builder, that pretty much seals the deal on one or both or either of them being liable for any repairs. A deeper pocket, so to speak.
 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,091
I am definitely going the insurance route, just don't know where to start or how to find one.
Google: geotechnical engineer (city), (state).

(7) The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals recommends site specific structural and geotechnical engineering for in-ground concrete or gunite swimming pools.


Geotechnical engineering studies for new construction (building foundations, retaining walls, basement walls, below-grade swimming pool structures, floor slabs, pavement thickness, etc.)

 
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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Thanks all and especially James for the help. This is why this forum is awesome! I will let everyone know how this goes.

I wonder if I do the engineering route if I can do the BYOP and just have the geoengineer help me supervise the construction.

Just got off with the geotech. He said he is like the first half of the evaluation where the structural engineer then designs the plans. Will let you all know what he comes back with.
 
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JJ_Tex

Bronze Supporter
Jul 17, 2019
1,723
Prosper, TX (DFW)
I am definitely going the insurance route, just don't know where to start or how to find one.
We hired one for our pool. I would ask your potential pool builders for recommendations for engineers they have worked with in the past. Obviously you want an engineer working for you, but that would be a good place to start.
 

JJ_Tex

Bronze Supporter
Jul 17, 2019
1,723
Prosper, TX (DFW)
Awesome thanks. Any idea what to expect on pricing? Did you get a geotech to look at soil as well?

You can message me if you'd rather.
We just had the engineer look and cost us about $1k. Our concern was with a 15' retaining wall that my backyard sits on top of and I really didnt want my new pool to end up in the neighbor's backyard. The engineer was able to work with the neighborhood developer to get the specs on the retaining wall, so we did not need to get soil samples.

His plans called for a mix of soil injections, extra rebar and piers, all in about $10k in extras through the builder. Luckily for us, when they excavated and started doing the piers, the bedrock was just a few feet underneath the pool bottom. The engineer, PB, guy doing the piers, and I got on a call and were able to save a lot of the $10k by only doing minimal piers (because he was already underway) and the extra rebar for the side of the shell up against the retaining wall.

In my case I turned out lucky and didnt need everything and probably could have skipped the engineer, but I sleep a lot better at night knowing I had one.
 
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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
That is great info, thanks. Your pool looks awesome. Very similar to how we want ours to be.

I am wondering if I need the geo-tech engineer since I already have soil samples. Shouldn't I just get a structural engineer as you did? 🤔🤔
 

Texas Splash

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
I feel for you. The black (gumbo) clay soil that runs through central/south Texas is horrible. We had some foundation work done, and I battle moving structures on our property throughout the changing seasons (clay collapse when dry and swelling from over-saturation). For our foundation work, they punched steel piers ~50 ft before hitting bedrock for support. Hopefully you'll get some favorable reports back so that you can go forward with your build. Best of luck!
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,236
Corona de Tucson, AZ
Speaking as a completely different type of engineer (electrical and software), you could wait for a couple of years to build the pool and see how the neighbors pools do, if you want. Especially if their soil profiles are the same. I would probably honestly consider that. That's some pretty specialized engineering but probably about 1K is what you will get charged by any licensed professional engineer for any type of structural design. Even if the result is that it's okay to build with extra gravel, etc. it's worth it.

There are areas here in Tucson with "expansive soil" and almost no local pool builder will touch those... and yes.. it's almost random where they are in the area. They will pull out of the contract if they find that type of soil, so this is not unheard of.

Are your cracks on the post tensioned slab surface drying cracks? I do know most builders now eat the small repairs rather than properly wetting the concrete and letting it sit for a year before building. I've had two sets of ceramic tile cracks happen due to drying issues, and they are doing a great job of weasling out of the second repair due to COVID. But it does matter which type. If you are getting structural cracks in a post tensioned slab then you are definitely going to have problems with a pool. Probably the house at some point too.... I really miss dug foundations and basements.. but they don't do that except in the most expensive housing in the South, unfortunately.

Good luck with the issue... there is always a way to fix these issues, but whether or not it's worth it to you is going to have to be your decision. I suspect that I'd move before spending double on a pool. As it is you'll be lucky to get 40% out of the normal cost build when you sell... I couldn't imaging losing 80%.... but that is me.....

Take all of this into consideration.. it might not be worth putting in an in ground pool. It's always possible to go above ground....Best of luck...
 

Sollace

Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
304
Byran TX
When we were looking for anything -- Specialist, dentist, doctor, realtor, and so on . . . We always asked around at work. We never had a bad referral from co-workers. I hope you find someone good.
 

Sollace

Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
304
Byran TX
I was mentioning this story to my husband. He said call an architect and they should have a civil engineer on staff. Hope that is the type of individual you're looking for.
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Thanks all. I reached out to two different geotechnical companies. There don't seem to be a lot around here that deal with residential work.

Hopefully I get some answers soon. I also had one pool builder tell me they have no problem putting sinking or tilting in the contract, so maybe that will work as well?
 
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Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,169
Central California
I also had one pool builder tell me they have no problem putting sinking or tilting in the contract, so maybe that will work as well?
As in warrantying against that? Sure, that's good to have, but that's not going to "work as well." You don't want to build a pool based on what someone says they will fix should something go wrong. You want it built so that nothing goes wrong in the first place. Warranties can vanish into thin air: PB dies, goes out of business, retires, changes name or contractor's license, or just declares bankruptcy when faced with your $50,000 repair. Then he'll open up shop down the road under a new identity. Happens all the time. And even if the warranty is honored, you'll be getting your pool fixed by the same numbskull that didn't know how to build it correctly the first time, except the second time he'll be working for free and trying to cut every corner possible: what kind of quality do you think you're going to get under those circumstances?
 
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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Great points Dirk.

So I am working with some pool builders and structural engineers.

From Pool Builders:
  • One pool builder that's already DQ'd themselves has been dismissive and said we build these all the time and just over dig and put in compacted gravel.
  • One other pool builder (smaller builder) but referred through a friend, said " Our PE can review and seal the drawings we prepare. We just need to add $1,500 for this service. "
^^^ Not sure what this means or if that would be sufficient.

From Geo Tech Engineers:
  • Said that if my soil report is that new they likely wouldn't go get a new one as not much has changed. The cost to get a new report would be $2,400.

From Structural Engineers:
  • Has been very difficult to find one that does residential work.
  • I have a meeting with one today and said they can help me. Any questions to ask these guys? They said they could supervise the project to make sure its done correctly.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,236
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I'm guessing that so far the $1,500 from a PE is probably the most appropriate response in your case. The reason I say this, is that he might have some soil reinforcement added. Or other means of helping the situation. No PE would stamp off on something unsafe. And a collapsing pool is going to potentially be unsafe.

But.... since you have your own guy lined up.....

When you talk to your structural engineer, ask if he'd (or someone in his firm) stamp the drawings so you don't have to do that twice. But there are going to be varying levels of things you can do, over doing it won't hurt except financially. There might be a middle road here. Everything that you've discussed on this thread is probably adequate for an engineer to know what you want. You are letting him know what you want, and the data will back up his decision. At this point he is representing you and engineers tend to be annoyingly fact based in the work, and maybe too detail oriented for most people. This is a good thing. I think you'll do fine. Good luck. Remember, you are not the first one to have this issue. There are already solutions to your problem that a good engineer in that field would have been trained on.

If additional work is needed and options are given ask for ballpark cost and risk for each option. Ask for an explanation of anything special.. the how and whys...

Please let the engineer know if you don't understand something he tells you. Most of us as engineers do subscribe to the theory (Einstein quote) that if you can't explain it to an eight year old, you don't know it that well yourself. He will be able to explain it to you if you ask when you don't understand something. Don't be shy with this.
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
29
Austin, TX
Thanks guys, much appreciated. The Geotech wouldn't draw up plans. They said I need a structural engineer and that they can just pull soil and give an analysis.

The independent guy I contacted is charging $3,100 but includes 3 site visits at $300 a pop and will supervise the project. They will also write a letter once it's done verifying everything by the pool builder was done correctly. Going this route is more expensive, but also allows us to use a bigger pool builder which may be the safer route.

The independent guy is also willing to give us his analysis for $1,200 and price out the engineering of the pool. If it ends up being too high we can terminate the project or purchase the blueprints and on-site visits for the remaining $1,900. Seems pretty fair to me.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,169
Central California
I think you're on the right track. I'll leave what technical questions to ask to our builder experts. The question that I would ask of any involved (PB and engineer) is for proof of insurance. It'll be in the form of some sort of certificate that you can verify yourself. Any written warranties or engineering stamps are worthless if there is not some deep pockets involved, and that means liability insurance. Not just a license or bond, actual liability insurance that covers all the things that can go wrong.

You should have a valid contract from each party involved. And you need to read that contract, especially any clauses that give them an out. We had one of those posted just the other day: contract specified all the work to be done just fine, but had a couple of clauses that basically said "We're not responsible for anything that goes wrong."

You need to approach this from both sides. You've been asking questions and learning about each side, but they are not mutually exclusive. You need a crew that can build this pool correctly given the existing conditions AND you need real assurances that they will stand behind that work should something fail. The former is provided by an engineer and a PB that can follow his plans, the latter is provided by the engineer's stamp and verifiable liability insurance of sufficient coverage (ideally for all vendors, not just the PB, not just the engineer).

The knucklehead that DQ'd himself, the one that just wanted to dig a deeper hole and fill it with gravel, did you a favor.

If they can build a city of high-rises on landfill, they can build you a pool in your backyard...