Bad Soil Conditions - Should we do this?

Sollace

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Aug 16, 2020
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Bryan TX
Here is another thread with more discussion on soil problems. (2013)
If anything, you could send a message to these past pool builds and see if their established pools have problems.
 
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Sollace

Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
498
Bryan TX
And another. This one on page 2 talks about the engineer taking soil samples after the dig . . . Anyway, details are there. Again, another pool builder to chat with )

 

Dirk

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LIMITATION of LIABILITY. Client hereby expressly agrees that engineer’s total liability to client for any and all injuries, claims, losses, expenses or damages whatsoever arising out of or related to the project or this agreement from any cause, including engineer’s negligence, errors, omissions, breach of contract or breach of warranty shall be limited to the amount payable by our professional liability insurance policy, at the time of the claim. We intend to maintain Professional Liability Insurance as long as we are in business.
That's better, but I'll refer you back to one of my previous posts where I recommended you get a hold of the vendors' insurance certificates so you can see what the coverage is (that's everyones': the engineer(s) and the PB). There should be enough insurance to cover the entire cost of a new pool, ideally. If he's only got $10K of coverage, then that's not enough.

But not unlike the PB going out of business, if there's a problem, then a claim is subject to the limits of the insurance, and, of course, that the insurance is still in effect. Which brings us back to making sure the job is done right in the first place. Which is what you're doing by engaging engineers. There's always going to be a risk, but you're taking great strides to minimize it. Good job!
 
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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
38
Austin, TX
Yea great points Dirk. I have asked for the limits on the insurance, but asking for the vendor's insurance certificates is an even better idea. I will be sure to do so tomorrow.

I'm undecided on whether I want the MLA guy or Henley. Decisions decisions...

Sollace, I did read what you sent and thanks for sending those over. I hadn't thought of the pre-swell idea but will mention that to PB and the Geotech I hire.
 
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jseyfert3

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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...
After reading this and the linked horror story threads, that's exactly what I was thinking. Zero regrets with our cheap above ground pool now!

and engineers tend to be annoyingly fact based in the work, and maybe too detail oriented for most people
Hey now! Oh wait, you're one too! 😁

If they can build a city of high-rises on landfill, they can build you a pool in your backyard...
Chicago was built on a swamp. It was a major victory for the engineers/architects when they figured out how to build anything higher than a few stories without it sinking.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

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Jun 5, 2019
1,300
Corona de Tucson, AZ
Hey now! Oh wait, you're one too! 😁
I've been told I am too verbose and tell too many details on many occasions. By other "engineers" in "management" all the time. (Current and past employers.) I know they don't care. I know you don't care.

I try not to talk at that level of detail but I am not always successful.

At the end of the day, DiVinci was correct. He said both "God is in the details." and "The Devil in in the details". In defense of us verbose engineers: if you are annoyed by one please think about this when you are driving across a bridge, relying on a radio to save your life or on the 113th story of a building. I live for those details. Luckily many of us do.

I tell my management that I will try to give them the "Twitter" version when I can. I tend to do the "Facebook" version here on TFP. You are lucky you don't get the "White Paper" version! :)

Chicago was built on a swamp. It was a major victory for the engineers/architects when they figured out how to build anything higher than a few stories without it sinking.

This is interesting. My mother still lives in Elk Grove Village, IL (and still has the second home in Delavan, WI near you).... I've been trying to move her out here because she is 86 years old. I can't get her to do it even though she's no longer happy with Illinois. She worked until COVID. That is how stubborn she (we) is (are). (I wish she would move so she could have some family around her.) (I also wish she would have moved to Delevan 5-10 years ago and sold EGV). But I digress here.

She said that Schaumburg, IL had a flood watch out from possible interaction with Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. She asked how that could happen. I basically said exactly the same thing as I just quoted from you. Her house there could not have a basement because it would flood. It's on fill and does have several cracks from settling on the fill.

But that swamp went out to the area where I grew up and slightly beyond... that's a good 20-25 miles from the lakeshore.... so it's not only a swamp, it is a massive one at that.

The soil conditions in the SW are actually completely different. It's expansive soil... see this... Expansive Soil Causes Basement & Foundation Problems

The swamp fill in Chicago actually doesn't present a problem to building something like an in ground pool. My across the street neighbor had an Olympic sized in ground when I was growing up... never really had problems.. I heard that fifty years later the third owner finally had it filled in mainly because they couldn't afford to run it anymore.. but it was still in good shape after 50 years or so.

But here in the Southwest, most houses are built on a slab (it doesn't freeze here enough to make a difference) and those slabs typically are post tensioned to the hold structure so it "floats" on the soil surface. This usually fixes issues in the houses in case you are on expansive soil (all of it is to a certain extent here, but the level of extent [detail] matters). In really bad cases the soil can expand and contract FEET in a season. An inch or two can be compensated by extra reinforcement in the concrete, not FEET though.

So that is what the poster is possibly up against. I don't think it is that bad for him, but I don't have all of the details. The details are important here.

To get a picture in your head, think Bentonite Clay--- Cat litter.... that is what the worst of the expansive clay soils are like. When it's wet it expands a LOT.

And oddly enough.. I am fine at my house. There is TERRIBLE soil about 15 miles away... so it is very localized. I am pretty sure most of Texas is the same or actually worse than Arizona.

One really weird thing about the soil here is that to dig dry, it's like concrete and a small jackhammer works the best. If you can't do that, you can turn it literally to mush (a few inches at a time so it takes days to hand dig a hole here easily) by soaking it with water for 24 hours or so.. It's almost a shock to someone from the Upper Midwest.
 

JamesW

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Mar 2, 2011
23,104

Here is an example of what can happen if the foundation is not adequate and why it's critical to get it right the first time.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,300
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I love your details. They provided a smile tonight, especially about an aging mom that won't move!
Yeah, and I am trying every time I call her. I've spent hours and hours and almost got her to commit to it once or twice.. I suspect I will be visiting her at Christmas and not the other way around this year, if I can get clearance from work to do it... Unfortunate because I can't afford to send all six of us....
 

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ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
38
Austin, TX
Thanks James.

Guys any thoughts on which route I should take?

Choice #1 - MLA - $750 - Can begin immediately and finish in 2 weeks. They also said they would like to work with the pool builder. The guy I spoke to did all the soil reports in my neighborhood and knows the contact at the developer. He would look at the old soil reports his company took along with grade/fill/cut info from the developer to make a recommendation and put their stamp on it. In their contract, they changed the liability part we talked about earlier, but the warranty they won't change. I told the Henley company I am about to reference below about this and they said this is because they can't warranty a recommendation. They can be held liable under professional liability but not under warranty of work they haven't performed (ie actually building the pool). Also said they would supervise the project and write a letter once it was done that the pool build met their design criteria.
  • NO REPRESENTATIONS or WARRANTIES. The parties recognize that the services provided by the Engineer under this Agreement involve the exercise of professional judgment and the rendering of professional opinions, about which reasonable engineers may differ. Consequently, and notwithstanding any other provision in this Agreement, nothing contained herein shall be construed: 1) to constitute a guarantee, warranty or assurance, either express or implied, that Engineer’s services will yield or accomplish a specific result; 2) to obligate the Engineer to exercise professional skill or judgment greater than that which can reasonably be expected from other Engineers under like circumstances; or 3) as an assumption by the Engineer of the liability of any other person.
Choice #2 - Henley - $1,150 - New Soil Report and recommendations for design. Will take 2 weeks to get started then another 2 weeks for analysis and recommendations to be ready. Will not pay for tear down and replacement of fence to get access to the yard or damage their rig causes to HOA property next to my house. Overall a longer process and likely more expensive.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,300
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I suspect the cheaper route will be the best one for you. However, having a second set of eyes on your soil couldn't hurt either. As long as you know that you are going to build that pool for sure then ripping the fence down is going to happen anyway. (IF there is no gate there, then it's a great opportunity to put a gate there, because there is where a gate should go. Seriously.) "Damage to HOA property"? Just have your final landscaper on contract to fix that if needed.

However, if it were me, I would probably rather spend the extra money on the pool itself, more reinforcement, more concrete rather than duplicating effort. It appears that both have ways out if the pool catastrophically fails.. I almost wonder if there is some insurance you can pay for based on what happens? You should always be able to insure controlled amounts of risk. I'd tell both of them that you want to have some assurance that the pool won't crack in half, and ask for the best way of doing this. You think that would be obvious, but it might not be.

It's a tough situation you are in....maybe... I think you will have it turn out fine. Is the pool company willing to work with #1? Do you have a good relation with the homebuilder? (This is a legitimate question as probably 85% of all new home buyers HATE their builder by year three).... if so then you might be answering your own question. If not, then you might be answering your own question.....
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
38
Austin, TX
I talked to MLA again. They will not make the recommendation for piers because GeoTech would have to get a structural engineer involved, but he said he can provide a table recommending to the pool builder how to get to various tolerances, IE if you want 3" movement go this route, 2" do this, 1" do this, etc.

On the other hand, Henley has this in the contract which is much more thorough.

" Engineering Analysis and Report Results of the field and laboratory investigations will be used to analyze the prevailing conditions at the site and provide recommendations for the following items:
1. Subsurface soil and groundwater conditions and impact on construction.
2. Estimates of Potential Vertical Movements related to soil.
3. Remedial efforts to reduce the potential for post-construction movement related to expansive soils (if necessary).
4. Recommendations for design and construction of a below grade pool shell, to include lateral earth pressures and drainage.
5. Recommendations for drilled pier foundations; and,
6. Earthwork material and compaction specifications.

These recommendations will be presented in a letter style report. An electronic version of the report will be provided. Hardcopies can be sent upon request. "
 

ajw22

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The cost difference for Henley is minor and they are giving you more with a second opinion. MLA may not want to throw the developer under the bus, given they worked with him, depending on what they find while Henley should be Independant.
 

Dirk

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+1 Henley

Finally... someone is specifying what they are going to do, and how they are going to protect the pool, instead of what they are not going to be responsible for and how they are going to protect themselves!
 
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Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,300
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Well, it would be interesting if their soil report differed from the builders company and there were potential issues for the house.... That would... Be so typical of homebuilders now...

It depends on what you think your soil is like, honestly. Because it's going to also delay the start of the pool. By months. Also if you trust your home builder and their subs. (maybe you do? I would be utterly amazed, but maybe). If you think you need the extra analysis and piers, then you only have the second choice. Do you know if this is typical for the area?

There is always perfection being the enemy of "good enough". That's possible here. It really depends if you trust the soil writeup from when the house was built or not. It doesn't sound like you have been in the house long enough to infer issues yet. You'd know if you have soil issues by about year three or so...

You will know more with the second bid, but I am not certain you will get a better end product out of it. Neither really are guaranteeing anything. This is why I asked if you could insure the build somehow?
Devils advocate here. Honestly. Do you have a pool builder involved in the process yet? It's not 100% clear that you do.

Anyway best of luck. This is starting to get interesting...
 

ATXFirstPool

Active member
Aug 4, 2019
38
Austin, TX
Thanks Rattus. Great points. I just got back the below from MLA this morning on their process.

"Our report would not include items 4 and 5. Without specific testing related to earth pressure, we would only provide fairly conservative design values which would likely result in an over-designed pool shell. Additionally, we can not provide pier recommendations without an additional boring. I think I told you over the phone that we could, but I did not realize that our boring was only 20 feet deep. Typically, we recommend piers to be greater than 20 feet deep in similar soils and we do not provide recommendations unless we have soil data for the entire length of the pier."

As for the pool builder, we are reaching out to tons of them to try to get a design and quote. If you're interested in reading into some drama, continue reading. I asked Cody Pools (big builder and the leader in our process) last night if we could expect to have a design meeting this week. He knows I am asking because I am busy and my wife is an ICU nurse so our schedules are all over the place. Below is my email and his response. I'm shocked...and trying to find another pool builder. We just had a very pleasant meeting with him last week and no communication since then.

_______
"Hey Ryan,

Are we meeting with you this week? We haven't gotten much communication."

_______

"Hey Rich,

I apologize, but I did say that I would reach out to you when I was close to finishing your design, so that we could schedule our next meeting. I’m not ready to schedule that meeting yet, which is why I haven’t reached back out.

It looks like we’re already pretty far out of sync of your expectations and I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit for you as a builder. It was great meeting you and I wish you the best of luck on your pool, but I think its best if you remove us from consideration for the project.

Take care,
Ryan Church"
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,300
Corona de Tucson, AZ
Thanks Rattus. Great points. I just got back the below from MLA this morning on their process.

"Our report would not include items 4 and 5. Without specific testing related to earth pressure, we would only provide fairly conservative design values which would likely result in an over-designed pool shell. Additionally, we can not provide pier recommendations without an additional boring. I think I told you over the phone that we could, but I did not realize that our boring was only 20 feet deep. Typically, we recommend piers to be greater than 20 feet deep in similar soils and we do not provide recommendations unless we have soil data for the entire length of the pier."

As for the pool builder, we are reaching out to tons of them to try to get a design and quote. If you're interested in reading into some drama, continue reading. I asked Cody Pools (big builder and the leader in our process) last night if we could expect to have a design meeting this week. He knows I am asking because I am busy and my wife is an ICU nurse so our schedules are all over the place. Below is my email and his response. I'm shocked...and trying to find another pool builder. We just had a very pleasant meeting with him last week and no communication since then.

_______
"Hey Ryan,

Are we meeting with you this week? We haven't gotten much communication."

_______

"Hey Rich,

I apologize, but I did say that I would reach out to you when I was close to finishing your design, so that we could schedule our next meeting. I’m not ready to schedule that meeting yet, which is why I haven’t reached back out.

It looks like we’re already pretty far out of sync of your expectations and I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit for you as a builder. It was great meeting you and I wish you the best of luck on your pool, but I think its best if you remove us from consideration for the project.

Take care,
Ryan Church"


Yeah, you've opened up a can of worms here. Were they the ones that were top in the running? Unfortunately for the last couple of years they have more business than they can deal with anyway, so asking for anything special is going to take a few of them out. I'd really consider doing an above ground pool for a couple of years and then seeing how the neighbors pools hold up. Sorry you are into this, but
I have heard that Texas pool builders are odd anyway.... But I'd be completely spooked by now...

I think you'll have to go with the expensive engineers and then you'll have to take their recommendations to all of the builders that haven't ditched you and see if any are even capable of building that. I suspect the one that just left wasn't capable of building a piered pool with the subs he uses. Or it's going to take two long when he can do two other simple pools in the meantime.

Honestly you are lucky. If you think communication is bad at this phase... wait until they start taking money from you.... Best of luck.
 

Nikilyn

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One really weird thing about the soil here is that to dig dry, it's like concrete and a small jackhammer works the best. If you can't do that, you can turn it literally to mush (a few inches at a time so it takes days to hand dig a hole here easily) by soaking it with water for 24 hours or so.. It's almost a shock to someone from the Upper Midwest.
Ain‘t that the truth! My husband needed to add another sprinkler head and couldn’t even get an inch into the ground. And that was in the grass that gets watered. Trying to dig to plant our citrus trees took a couple weeks because he’d have to soak it. Dig. Soak it. Dig.
 

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