Buried Pool renovation

phonedave

Well-known member
May 30, 2012
741
Montville NJ
  • My wife mentioned to him that we wanted to go with a saltwater pool. His initial reaction wasn't great. He asked why we wanted to go with saltwater and then gave a little speech about how everything is going to rust more. My understanding of a saltwater pool is that the salt content isn't really any more than a traditional pool, which isn't very much, which means I wouldn't expect the air to all of sudden be saturated with salt enough to cause a problem. I'm also in Louisiana where the humidity is very high and everything rusts like crazy. Not so sure I would notice a difference.
Certain stone coping, such as limestone, don'y play well with salt pools - but you can seal them. You just have to maintain the sealer, and good sealer is not cheap. Other than that, anything that would rust with the Cl and salt levels in a "normal" pool is going to rust the same in a +/- 3000 ppm salt pool;.
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
Certain stone coping, such as limestone, don'y play well with salt pools - but you can seal them.
Wife seems to be set on Travertine because she wants to be able to sit on side of the pool and not mess up her swimsuit....... I told her we're a long way from that being the biggest problem with our pool and we'll have to wait and see how the costs stack up. They previously had regular concrete coping.
 

MinerJason

Bronze Supporter
Jan 29, 2018
276
Tucson, AZ
I was also led to believe that plastering was a very delicate process that required a lot of skill because the coat needed to be even, etc....but on this pool, the plaster is as thin as 1/4" in some places, and 1-1/4" in others.....
First, very cool project, I just read through everything and will be following along.

The difference in thickness is pretty common, though indicates a less than stellar plaster job. Plastering isn't as delicate many people think, and the coat doesn't need to be super even. The reason it's extremely difficult to DIY is primarily because you need a large mixer, a large grout pump, and a lot of people who all have trowel skills. You need all of the plaster applied in a short time period to prevent "cold joints" from forming, and there's simply no way to do that without a large crew and large mixing/pumping equipment. I saw you linked the DIY pool-replaster blog a while back, and what he did was break up his pool into small sections with stone tiles, with each section small enough that he and his family could plaster it in one short session in order to avoid cold joints. There technically are cold joints forming against the stone tile, but any cracking at that joint will be perfectly straight following the tile edge and not really noticeable.

Another issue with DIY plaster is that it's very difficult to source white portland cement if you're not a pool plasterer or pool builder. That's an easier problem to solve, but still a significant hurdle unless you want gray pool plaster.

I remodeled my pool not long ago, and seriously considered trying to plaster it myself. I work with concrete products a lot as part of my job, am pretty handy, and DIY pretty much everything. I had several ideas for ways to do this, but in the end I found a local pool plastering company that was able to give me a mini-pebble finish applied to my demanding spec's at a great price, so that's what I did.

One of the reasons I got a great price on the plaster is that I did all of the prep-work and other repairs myself, including chipping out all the plaster, replacing the skimmer, replacing a bunch of plumbing, replacing the return fittings, installing new waterline tile, extending the baja shelf and adding a step, capping the main drain and patching over it with new concrete, chipping out and patching weeping rebar in the shell, building and plumbing a water feature, replacing the light fixture, installing an autofill, etc. I also handled the start-up myself. If you're planning on doing most of the work yourself, don't contact a pool builder for plaster quotes, contact the plaster companies directly. Most pool builders sub out the plaster work. And a lot of plaster companies also do pool repairs, including large involved repairs.

  • I showed him the crack and mentioned that we had been looking into repairing it and mentioned the torque-lock stuff. He nodded when I said it but then later made a comment like "we normally just use staples". I have been watching a lot of videos about this stuff and obviously the guy who sells Torque-Lock clearly thinks his product is superior to everything else, and as someone who doesn't really know any better, I feel like I would trust that system more than gluing in the staples. What's the general consensus around here? Is Torque-Lock overkill for these types of cracks? I'd rather spend a little extra if its worth it to know we are getting a superior product, but is that pressure mechanism does nothing and the carbon fiber staples hold just as well, then maybe we'd just go with that. If spending an extra $1,000 to make sure that crack is repaired properly is what needs to be done, then so be it.
  • For the bond beam, he said he thinks they would just replace it. Cut off the rest of it all the way around the pool and re-pour the entire thing. Make some sense or completely unnecessary if the portions that are left intact are in good condition?
Being able to post-tension the staples does offer some slight advantage over standard staples, but the benefits are definitely being over sold. Steel or carbon fiber staples work very well. And the quality of the installation is going to have more influence over how strong the repair is than what type of staples are used.

Cutting off the whole bond beam and re-pouring does offer some advantages. If you keep parts of the old bond beam, making the transition from the new to the old and linking them together is a bit involved. Pouring the whole thing new also allows for easy proper leveling, which could eliminate the need for a mud cap, which can potentially be a weak point that leads to issues later on.
 

ManiacalMama

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2017
132
Antelope, CA
Wife seems to be set on Travertine because she wants to be able to sit on side of the pool and not mess up her swimsuit....... I told her we're a long way from that being the biggest problem with our pool and we'll have to wait and see how the costs stack up. They previously had regular concrete coping.
Our patio and pool decking is exposed aggregate and VERY uncomfortable to sit on and definitely snags the bathing suits. I bought a couple of outdoor rug runners and put them along the edges. They stay out there all season.
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
I remodeled my pool not long ago, and seriously considered trying to plaster it myself. I work with concrete products a lot as part of my job, am pretty handy, and DIY pretty much everything. I had several ideas for ways to do this, but in the end I found a local pool plastering company that was able to give me a mini-pebble finish applied to my demanding spec's at a great price, so that's what I did.
....

If you're planning on doing most of the work yourself, don't contact a pool builder for plaster quotes, contact the plaster companies directly. Most pool builders sub out the plaster work. And a lot of plaster companies also do pool repairs, including large involved repairs.
I would definitely prefer not to touch the plaster if I can get it at a reasonable price, but getting in touch directly with sub-contractors around here is extremely difficult. A guy I work with got a quote to re-plaster his pool and it was upwards of $16k. At that price, I'd be willing to take a lot of DIY risks :)

He never followed up to see how it held up, but this guy also DIY plastered his pool with Diamond Brite
DIY Pool Restoration Project

We would definitely prefer to get in touch with the subs, but haven't found them yet. The ultimate hope is that one of these pool companies give me a reasonable quote and I can hand off the whole project.....

Thanks for the input on the bond beam/staples also. I'm still a ways away from that so I'll do some more research and maybe have some more questions about that once I have everything uncovered.
 

MinerJason

Bronze Supporter
Jan 29, 2018
276
Tucson, AZ
I would definitely prefer not to touch the plaster if I can get it at a reasonable price, but getting in touch directly with sub-contractors around here is extremely difficult. A guy I work with got a quote to re-plaster his pool and it was upwards of $16k. At that price, I'd be willing to take a lot of DIY risks :)

He never followed up to see how it held up, but this guy also DIY plastered his pool with Diamond Brite
DIY Pool Restoration Project

We would definitely prefer to get in touch with the subs, but haven't found them yet. The ultimate hope is that one of these pool companies give me a reasonable quote and I can hand off the whole project.....

Thanks for the input on the bond beam/staples also. I'm still a ways away from that so I'll do some more research and maybe have some more questions about that once I have everything uncovered.
If you google "pool plaster Houston" you should be able to find a few. Looks like there's a Superior Pool Products in Houston too, they sell supplies to pool plastering companies and pool builders. They're not open to the general public, but I bet if you call they'd be happy to give you a few names of their favorite pool plasterer and pool repair customers.
 
  • Like
Reactions: wireform

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
I’m about 4 hours from Houston. I know there’s a bunch there and there’s a bunch about 1.5 hours east of us, but in town no one advertises it and no one has offered information when we asked.

We have another pool company coming in the morning now too. If none of these pan out we’ll start more heavily searching out the subs
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
Pool Guy #2 came by yesterday morning, but it coincided with someone else visiting for a separate project going on here, so I missed the majority of the meeting with him. From what I gathered talking with my wife after:

  • She told him up front we weren't interested in spending $80-$100k for a new pool. His initial reaction was that he thought we would still be looking at $50-$60k to fix this one.
  • In the beginning of the interaction she said he was mentioning that the things she may want to add or change like adding a tanning ledge would be easy because it's just forming and concrete. When I was there at the end he started talking about saving money and saying if we wanted to save a bit money don't add the tanning ledge. Also, he says it would be a lot of extra money to add the hot tub back in so instead he suggested filling that in as the tanning ledge would be a much cheaper option. All the pool builders so far want to turn it into a fully jetted spa. I haven't looked into the equipment differences, etc, but he made it sound like $10k in cost to fix the spa.
  • He looked at the cracks and said so far all the ones that are uncovered so far look fixable.
  • He asked to call him back when I was done chipping it out and he would have a look again. He also said he would be back again with his partner to have a look and run some numbers for us.
  • He also offered up that if they didn't do the job and we still wanted to do it that he could maybe get us in touch with some of his subcontractors and we could just contract it out ourselves.
For some reason in these interactions, we have to tell the pool builders multiple times that we are digging up all around the pool to expose the plumbing and electrical. It takes a few times of them telling us something about the plumbing being bad, etc before it finally clicks for them.

This guy also told us that we should not tear up the decking around the pool. He thinks it will make the pool pop out of the ground when it rains.

I don't get a good feeling from the short time I interacted with him about them getting us a decent price or that they really want to do it, but if we get access to some subs from it, that might be our best bet.
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
Pool guy #3 came today.

Nothing much to report. This guy didn't know anything or really ask much. He was sent to take pictures. He called his boss who was in the middle of hauling a pool and couldn't talk. His initial reaction when walking in the backyard was "Wow!". They've never been asked to renovate something like this before.

Said they would be back in touch early next week.

Edit: They just called back and said they would come back next week after all the concrete decking is broken up and removed..
 
Last edited:

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,566
NY
Nothing much to report. This guy didn't know anything or really ask much. He was sent to take pictures
Maybe going forward, send pics first to anybody you call. It will give them a better idea before they come to look. Not for nothing, but when you deal with the general public you tend to rarely believe them. I had a hard time getting PBs to believe me that I had the space for a pool and it was level enough. They still all wanted to come and see for themselves. Nowadays I could just snap and send a few pics and tell them to email me a quote.
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
yeah...we can try that if they are willing, but my wife has been the one calling and I don't think she has really talked to anyone other than the front office people.

I'd send them a link to this thread....but then I wouldn't be able to talk about them anymore :)
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
Pool work has been on hold due to some other work that needed to be done around the house before the contractor can start on our other project.

While working outside the guy that originally sold us the house (not the one that buried the pool) stopped by and we showed him that we uncovered the pool. He told us he knew a pool guy that could help and sent him over to us.

This pool guy has been in business for a long time and has done the pool work for one of the big campgrounds near by. He came by and talked to us and gave us ballpark number that at least sounds like it might be plausible for us to accept and the whole thing would be done in a few months.

One thing to keep in mind in all of this is that we don't have any gas service in our neighborhood so everything is full electrical.

  1. We think we have decided and the pool builder agrees that it may not be worth it to try to get the hot tub functional again. If we are going to spend money to heat something, we'd rather it be the whole pool and I don't know that our electrical service can handle heating both. Instead, we may just break down the wall and let it become part of the pool, but leave the seat so there a place to sit submerged in the pool.
  2. Part of his cost included redoing all of the plumbing, replacing the old lights and putting in some new LED lights, fixing all of the drains, etc, and adding a waterfall rock wall and tanning ledge.
  3. We also have decided that we are probably going to change the deep end from 8.5' deep to 6'. Pool builder says cost to do this isn't much. We just don't see us getting a diving board or slide given the much higher insurance cost, etc and we can get a bit more shallow area for people to hang and play etc.
  4. I'm not 100% sure he understood me when I told him the pool was buried. He asked me why I was chipping off the plaster and said it was unnecessary that they would just come over it with a bond coat and replaster after only chipping out and repairing hollow spots and cracks. Is this ok to do? I'm concerned that not removing it may cause issues later after sitting underground for so long. We would definitely want to hear what kind of warranty he will give on it if not completely removing it.
  5. We told him we wanted salt water and like all pool builders so far, advised against it. He said he will do it if we want, but says in his experience we will still be adding chlorine to the pool because the salt cells can't keep up. Any advice here on salt water pools? We have always heard they were easier to maintain and not as harsh on the kids eyes and skin so it's what we planning. Can weather/location matter in how well it holds up?
He is supposed to be coming by tomorrow to get some answers on what we would like to do and bring by some samples, etc to look at for coping and tile and talk about some more firm numbers. Any suggestions on points to bring up or questions to ask?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Apsuhead

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,566
NY
Can weather/location matter in how well it holds up?
Weather/location increases demand period. Whether its more liquid or more runtime of the SWG. You will need more of it and for more months than I do in NY.

Can you keep the hot tub as a unheated lounge ? The adults would love a VIP area at my house with a slight buffer from splashing kids. Its too hot to want to use the hot tub right now anyway.
 

michmela44

Well-known member
May 21, 2020
59
Lousiana
Can you keep the hot tub as a unheated lounge ? The adults would love a VIP area at my house with a slight buffer from splashing kids. Its too hot to want to use the hot tub right now anyway.
That's our thought process. I don't really see much use for a hot tub in South Louisiana unless it's a full spa with bubbles, etc. So we wanted to keep the seat there as it is and just let it be part of the pool. I assume it still needs good circulation, etc, so I figured we just take the wall down. Perhaps we can just take it down partially and still have adequate flow? Like cut a strip down the center and leave ~75% of the wall up?
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,566
NY
Perhaps we can just take it down partially and still have adequate flow? Like cut a strip down the center and leave ~75% of the wall up?
I'm no PB but I'd be attempting to go this way for sure. Have a regular return in the spa and it should have enough flow.
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
Jul 8, 2015
2,386
OV, CA
You will find lots of opinions here on SWG pools and the over whelming answer is YES! Just get one that is rated to twice the size of the pool. More than likely the PB has been working with pools with undersized SWG's and that is why they are not keeping up.

Yes you need to chip out all the old plaster down to the gunite even in a pool that wasn't buried to ensure a good bond with the new plaster. Bonding to the old plaster is a lazy short cut. And in your case where the pool was buried I wouldn't trust that the plaster bond to the shell isn't compromised. Given what you have done already.. chipping out the plaster is within your wheel house and the PB wont have to do it.

There is a lot of support around here for getting a separate spa. My pool has a built in spa and its a nice convenience but it probably takes a more to heat up since I have to heat up the concrete around it too. A stand alone spa will be more efficient. I like the idea of making that little semi circular area that the spa takes up a baja shelf.. it would be unique and would be an homage to the spa that was there. ;)

If you only have electrical service at your house look into heat pumps.. you may be surprised that you can heat the whole pool for reasonable.

Speaking of homages, have you thought of saving some of the old tile as accents.. so you can say.. that was the OLD tile.. Also I have seen people make their own tile accents, painted by the kids or something.. Each kid had their own tile and they where put down in the deep end or elsewhere , where the could go "visit" thier tile.

What would filling in the depth of the pool do? Even if you never put in diving boards or features you could just leave it as deep as it is... If you can stand up then its the deep end whether its 6 or 8 feet. I like old school deep ends.. that's me.

Great progress so far. I love the descriptions of the PB has they come out and see your project.
 
  • Like
Reactions: mgtfp