Buffalo, NY - Gunite Saltwater Pool Build

bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
Greetings! Long story short, we've been noodling on a pool for three (3) years now. We had to cut short our last design because we moved from PA to NY. We're finally into the design stage and very nervous and excited! I've perused TFP mostly looking for any oversights / mishaps folks have experienced. Digging won't start until August, but at least we've started the process.

We have 4 children from 3 to 9. Goal is to create a fun pool area that can accommodate my family and other kids and their parents. Really looking for input and any changes folks think we should consider. We know ZERO about pools. Attached are some design snapshots and a snapshot of our lot from above. Here's where we are, which already reflects some input from the great TFP posters.

Pool
Type - Gunite
Pool - 24'x38' (free form and not to exceed 640sqft)
Coping - Stamped Concrete
Depth - 3.5' - 8' (w/ 8' diving board)
Slide - Considering this in addition to a diving board (eek!)
Autofill - Not included, but we're considering adding this
Drainage - None (builder said most folks don't have overflow drains up here)
Interior - Altima White Plaster (will be changed when we get into material selection phase)
Steps - Standard walk-in steps, 6' bench in shallow end

Equipment
Pump - Pentair Variable Flow
Filter - Pentair Clean & Clear Plus 420
Heater - Pentair Mastertemp 400,000 BTU
Lighting - 4 Pentair Globrite
Sanitizer - Pentair IC60 Salt
Automation - Pentair Intellicenter
Controller - None
Cleaning System - None
Cover - Mesh Safety Cover
Plaster / Tile - Wet Edge, Altima White (will be changed when we get into material selection phase)
Construction - 3' light broom concrete w/ 4" compacted stone
Pad - 4' x 8'

Contract does not specify Skimmer, Water Leveler (maybe part of Autofill?), Drain, and Leaf Trap. Should these be specified?

Other Stuff
- Sonance sound system w/ Sonos amp around pool
- Electric and CAT6 run to pool area w/ wireless access point(s)
- Control4 automation for select areas (e.g., pool gate alarm, security cameras, etc.)
- 12x14 Pavilion/Gazebo to host a 6-person table
 

Attachments

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kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
51,282
Tallahassee, FL
I am first! I am first!! Hi and thanks for letting us help your build!

Depth - 3.5' - 8' (w/ 8' diving board)
Slide - Considering this in addition to a diving board (eek!)
OH MADDIE @YippeeSkippy lookie, lookie!! Yes! Yes ! Your kids and friends are going to love this pool!
Drainage - None (builder said most folks don't have overflow drains up here)
BUT I bet they end up going out there in the middle of the storm to drain some water off..............you won't have to because you have the smart people of TFP helping you with the things you NEED in your pool.
Have you seen the ones that have the pebble on it and it is lower to the shell so the cleaner does not get caught on it? Do a search for pebble filled drain covers. The main drain is not a HAVE to but it does help mix the water especially with that wonderful 8' depth.
Leaf Trap
That is an add on. You can get it on your own and have them install it if you want.

I see you are saying 3.5 depth. I would start with 4' so you can do a good crawl stroke without worry of your knuckles hitting the bottom. "but the kids"................the kids will grow and grow fast so depth is not really an issue.

Unions and GOOD valves on all the equipment.

How many returns? How many skimmers?

Make sure to get model numbers for all equipment.

A light over the equipment and a hose bib by it as well to help with the filter cleaning.

Kim:kim:
 
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YippeeSkippy

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
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Jan 17, 2012
18,966
Evans, Georgia
Ooooh Nooooo!! Do NOT get the Globrite lights. They last 2-3 years and go pffffft. The biggest problem with them is that once Globrites are installed with their odd wall niche you can't get any other type of light in there to replace the ever=faulty lights with.
Ask for Microbrites instead.

@Jimrahbe can you please jump in with the right Pentair Pump & Automation selections for this pool? Grazie!

I ❤️ a deep pool that allows for diving and deep swimming games. :goodjob:

Please keep us updated with pics and progress, ok? We kinda dig on those posts a lot.

Maddie 🇺🇦
 
Last edited:

bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
lookie, lookie!! Yes! Yes ! Your kids and friends are going to love this pool!

I'll put you down for team diving board AND slide? :)

BUT I bet they end up going out there in the middle of the storm to drain some water off..............you won't have to because you have the smart people of TFP helping you with the things you NEED in your pool.

Is the overfill drain typically installed as part of the same skimmer as the autofill? I've searched TFP and seems there are all types of overfills, but most use the pPentair autofill.

Have you seen the ones that have the pebble on it and it is lower to the shell so the cleaner does not get caught on it? Do a search for pebble filled drain covers. The main drain is not a HAVE to but it does help mix the water especially with that wonderful 8' depth.

I've seen the ones w/out the pebble, but after googling I know what you mean. I'll see what the pool builder says and what it will cost me to add. I suppose without it I may have clarity issues in the deep end.

I see you are saying 3.5 depth. I would start with 4' so you can do a good crawl stroke without worry of your knuckles hitting the bottom. "but the kids"................the kids will grow and grow fast so depth is not really an issue.

Good call out and something that was totally not on my radar. Thank you!

Ooooh Nooooo!! Do NOT get the Globrite lights. They last 2-3 years and go pffffft. The biggest problem with them is that once Globrites are installed with their odd wall niche you can't get any other type of light in there to replace the ever=faulty lights with. Ask for Microbrites instead.

Noted. I have in my notes, from other TFP members, Nicheless LEDs. Are Microbrites preferred over Nicheless?
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
51,282
Tallahassee, FL
all types of overfills
For in ground pools the overfill is a pipe that is put right under the coping on the side/area of the pool that will put the pipe going to where it is safe for the overfill water to go. A grate will be put over the opening of the pipe in the pool.
I suppose without it I may have clarity issues in the deep end.
No clarity issues if you use the TFP method. The main drain will help mix the water for even temp though out the pool.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
20,188
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Let me just throw this out there - are you sure you want a gunite pool in Buffalo, NY (I grew up on LI so I’m somewhat familiar with NY weather). Vinyl pool construction tends to be the go-to in the NY area. If your construction starts in August … big IF these days … you absolutely do not want a pool plastered when the cold weather sets in which means you could be sitting with a concrete bucket in your backyard until next Spring. Gunite/plaster pools also don’t do well over the winter when closed as you can’t really adjust water chemistry when a pool is covered up which means the plaster can easily develop scaling issues. And finally, with a free form shape, you are going to need a very expensive Loop-Loc safety cover to close it. Vinyl is just so much more forgiving in your climate.

Obviously it’s your choice but there are some major build caveats with gunite in places where it freezes and snow berms can reach up to the roofs of houses …

@Newdude … thoughts?
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
35,236
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
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Newdude

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 16, 2019
15,683
NY
thoughts?
Gunite pools were really not a thing here until just the last few years. They are slowing taking over like they did everywhere else. I still find $3m -$5m houses with vinyl pools out back, but the newly built ones are going gunite. I guess time will tell if there was a specific reason that they weren't a thing here. Then again OP doesnt live on an Island with a high water table and flooding rains at times. If there are commercial/pubic pools by OP then they survive just fine as they have always had to be plaster. Funnily enough its a huge reason i don't like plaster. 1980s HoJos and waterparks. Just. Ewww. I cannot hop into a plaster pool without having CC falshbacks.


For cost alone i'm building my 2nd vinyl pool. A 20x40 for about $30k (pool only, no equipment or extra electric). We didn't price gunite but it would have been double +.
 
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bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
Question for anyone following - does anyone have stamped concrete around their pool? What did you do to make it less slippery? The stamped concrete patio we have is very slippery.

are you sure you want a gunite pool in Buffalo, NY

That ship has kind of sailed at this point, but I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Most my neighbors have gunite and some family members as well. No real material issues from what they've said.

Obviously it’s your choice but there are some major build caveats with gunite in places where it freezes and snow berms can reach up to the roofs of houses …

We are just north of the 'real' lake effect bands. So while we did get ~90 inches where I live this winter, it's not nearly as bad as just a few miles south of us.

I still find $3m -$5m houses with vinyl pools out back, but the newly built ones are going gunite. I guess time will tell if there was a specific reason that they weren't a thing here. Then again OP doesnt live on an Island with a high water table and flooding rains at times. If there are commercial/pubic pools by OP then they survive just fine as they have always had to be plaster. Funnily enough its a huge reason i don't like plaster. 1980s HoJos and waterparks. Just. Ewww. I cannot hop into a plaster pool without having CC falshbacks.

For cost alone i'm building my 2nd vinyl pool. A 20x40 for about $30k (pool only, no equipment or extra electric). We didn't price gunite but it would have been double +.

Gunite is expensive. I guess my thought, at the time, is we'd just eat costs up front and save on the backend where vinyl we'd pay a little more for pool maintenance over the life of the pool. Maybe an incorrect assumption, but then why does anyone ever go gunite if vinyl is better overall? As you can tell, I didn't spend too much time debating this.
 

Newdude

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 16, 2019
15,683
NY
but then why does anyone ever go gunite if vinyl is better overall

The status symbol. It's how we got borders on vinyl pools in the 80's. To give them that fancy sea shell water edge tile like their plaster cousins.

All three (fiberglass is the other) have their plusses and minuses. It's literally a Ford/Chevy/Dodge debate and all 3 are just as wet.

For long term costs the vinyl needs cheaper liners at more frequency than the other two who get hit with mondo refinishing bills when the time comes. If you take the average lifespans, it will all equal out in one's lifetime.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
20,188
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Around here in hot, hot, hot southern AZ with our blistering UV index, vinyl is non-starter. The portion of the vinyl above the water line would suffer dry-rot in less than 5 years. You’d be doing liner exchanges so frequently that you’d basically buy a plaster pool in 20 years. Plaster is really the only way to go. People do fiberglass around here but I’ve never really liked the feel of FG. Plaster, in the old days, used to contain asbestos fibers and the formulations would last 20 to 30 years easily. The tree-huggers got to it and now plaster is so “environmentally friendly” that you might as well plaster your pool with a mix of mud and Elmer’s glue … lasts about the same.

Good luck in your build but seriously, don’t plaster the pool and then close it over winter. The pool builder and plaster sub will swear on their mothers’ that there’s no problem doing that but I guarantee you a 80/20 chance that you will regret it come next spring. If the pool build is delayed and they can’t the plaster in before freezing temps hit, wait. You’re not using the pool past Labor Day anyway so there’s no rush.
 
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bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
Good luck in your build but seriously, don’t plaster the pool and then close it over winter. The pool builder and plaster sub will swear on their mothers’ that there’s no problem doing that but I guarantee you a 80/20 chance that you will regret it come next spring. If the pool build is delayed and they can’t the plaster in before freezing temps hit, wait. You’re not using the pool past Labor Day anyway so there’s no rush.

How long do you think we should have the pool open after plaster is applied? My neighbors last year had their pools open until early October. We didn't really get cold temps until end of October or so.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
20,188
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Proper plaster startup requires that the water chemistry, especially the calcite saturation index (CSI), be actively managed for 30 days after the plaster is applied. This ensures optimal hardness. The pH, in particular, can change very rapidly during the curing process and any temperature drift downwards makes the water more and more aggressive towards plaster. Good brushing every day is also recommended during the break in phase as well as filtering to capture any plaster dust. Even after the 30 days break in period, the pH of plaster pools tends to increase daily and require adjustments every couple of days with acid. This can go on for months after a plaster pool is finished. How can one effectively manage a pool’s chemistry when the temps begin to become freezing and the equipment needs to be drained and turned off?

Also, issues like plaster mottling and streaking as well as other cosmetic issues typically don’t appear until about a month or so after the plaster is installed. With a pool being covered up for winter you won’t see any of these issues.

Assuming the worst that happens to a plaster finish is that it develops white calcium scale. Once the cover is pulled in the spring and the equipment started up a PB would typically recommend a drain and acid wash to fix it. Acid washing plaster severely degrades its lifespan and can lead to more roughness and damage.

It’s just not a great idea to plaster a pool in winter as the pool owner is left with few options to intervene and correct issues.
 
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bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
Hi All - Some new questions now that I've went back to my builder with some of the questions / comments from the helpful TFP posters :)
  1. Builder is quoting me $900-$1,200 for autofill. Worth it and sensible (price wise?)?
  2. Builder will not accommodate overfill drain and has never done one for any previous customer.
  3. For LEDs, do we replace Globrites w/ Nicheless or Microbrites?
  4. Included in my contract is three (3) returns and one (1) skimmer. Good?
  5. Is the pebble filled drain (mentioned by @kimkats above) considered a main drain or a static relief plug? I assume the former?
  6. Builder won't provide equipment model numbers until pool start up and pool school. Is this unusual? What exactly should I be asking for? For example, my contract has 'Pentair MasterTemp 400' as the heater. When I look at Pentair's website there are five (5) versions of this heater (e.g., original, HD, ASME (two of these), and ASME HD), each with its own Item #. Is the item # what I should be seeking? Maybe the builder is thinking I want the serial numbers? Looks like HD, ASME, and ASME HD are more commercial equipment so item '460736' should be simple for builder to confirm?
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
51,282
Tallahassee, FL
1. Man that is high! You can run a hose and fill up as needed. An auto fill can be a problem IF a leaks develops. You will not notice the lose of water until you get your next HIGH water bill so I say let that one go.

2. sigh.....................That is a shame BUT we can teach you how to drain your pool IF needed.

3. not sure so will let someone else answer that one.

4. That will do but I would like to make sure the skimmer is where the wind will push anything that blows into your pool.

5..This is a "fancy" main drain. The plaster helps it blend in and the lower profile helps with cleaning and such.

6. This is NOT right as you have seen already with the heaters. This should be listed out in the contract. He can slip in any low price item he wants because of this. I would push on this one!
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
35,236
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Builder is quoting me $900-$1,200 for autofill. Worth it and sensible (price wise?)?

You are not in a high evaporation area like the Southwest. I don't mind needing to put a hsoe int he pool and turn the water on every week or so in the summer.

  1. Builder will not accommodate overfill drain and has never done one for any previous customer.

Not a problem. Have a sump pump and a hose. Your pool may get overfilled once or twice a season if we get a massive rain dump.

  1. For LEDs, do we replace Globrites w/ Nicheless or Microbrites?

Microbrites are nicheless lights that fit in 1.5" pipe. You don't want Glorbrites. Otherwise youc an look at CMP lights.

  1. Included in my contract is three (3) returns and one (1) skimmer. Good?

Get 2 skimmers. That way if one skimmer has a problem you can shut it down and use your pool. With one skimmer your pool will be shutdown until you get it repaired.

3 returns is fine.

  1. Is the pebble filled drain (mentioned by @kimkats above) considered a main drain or a static relief plug? I assume the former?

Main drain.

  1. Builder won't provide equipment model numbers until pool start up and pool school. Is this unusual?

Not acceptable. You should be able to decide if you want to wait for the equipment specified or substitute equipment you approve of that is equivalent quality.

  1. What exactly should I be asking for? For example, my contract has 'Pentair MasterTemp 400' as the heater. When I look at Pentair's website there are five (5) versions of this heater (e.g., original, HD, ASME (two of these), and ASME HD), each with its own Item #. Is the item # what I should be seeking? Maybe the builder is thinking I want the serial numbers? Looks like HD, ASME, and ASME HD are more commercial equipment so item '460736' should be simple for builder to confirm?

Of all the equipment specifying MasterTemp 400 is ok as even the base model is good enough.

Show us what level of detail builder has specified the equipment.
 

bbdude

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2017
46
Buffalo, NY
Not acceptable. You should be able to decide if you want to wait for the equipment specified or substitute equipment you approve of that is equivalent quality.

Of all the equipment specifying MasterTemp 400 is ok as even the base model is good enough.

Show us what level of detail builder has specified the equipment.

Here's what the contract reflects, verbatim:

Pump - Pentair Variable Flow
Filter - Pentair Clean & Clear Plus 420
Heater - Pentair Mastertemp 400,000 BTU
Lighting - 4 Pentair Globrite
Sanitizer - Pentair IC60 Salt
Automation - Pentair Intellicenter
Controller - None
Cleaning System - None
Cover - Mesh Safety Cover
 

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