Design & Build Cocktail Pool, Bulverde, Tx

Dave Z

Aug 28, 2020
Bulverde, Texas
Lots of hard lessons learned. I now have lots of respect for pool builders.

Two contractors not so good, had to fire and a little rework.

A few little things to do, finishing touches

Thanks TFP and it’s members for all the help and ideas.



Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
Northern NJ
Pool Size
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Nice, share your lessons learned and contractor experiences when you have some time.
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Dave Z

Aug 28, 2020
Bulverde, Texas
Lessons learned, while fresh in my head.

Unique build

We can’t dig, it’s solid limestone where we live.

Unless you want to jackhammer ... for a long time, it’s going to be an above ground pool.

Clear loose rocks and dirt, bobcat work, paint the area to clear, don’t tell him where you want it cleared.

Footings, clearly mark where you want it, double check his first line! Then check as you proceed. Level all directions is important.

Setting butter sticks (quarry blocks). 2’x2’x5’ Up to 3,500 lbs.

Excavator with grappling jaws. Big equipment, needs lots of room.

Pre measure the blocks!

Height and length can very well over an inch, saw cut.

Widths up to 6” raw stone.

Layout a plan to minimize gaps, where the wide ones can be, etc.

Good shims as you go, keeping it level as you go up.

Lots of 3x3x 1/4” construction washers work well.

After they are all on place, small spaces and gaps, shoot some construction glue in.

Big gaps, later.

This is dry stack, very little structual strength!

The Gunite is the strength, not the blocks.

Determine top of Gunite.

Mount 1x3 straight boards around the inside.

How thick is the coping? 1-1/4”, 2”, ...

Drill 3/4” holes so you have some adjustment later.

Tapcons and fender washes.

Tap in place level, I’d say within 1/4” total max.

After level, construction glue in place.

String lines for the shape, back of coping.

Bricks and string. Mark the top of the butter sticks for reuse.

You will be taking them off and on.

Make sure it’s square ... if possible.

The blocks are very rough.

Gaps behind the coping can very from 1-5 inches.

We are going to fill the back gap with small smooth black rocks now that it is finished.

Form the bottom of Gunite

Lay a good straight board across the top of Gunite boards for measuring.

Initial base, road base, caliche base, 3/4 to dust ...

YARDMAX 1850 lb. Compaction Force Plate Compactor

Cheap small compactor, under $400

Get a can of starter spray. Can be hard to start if damp outside.

Fill and rake level/flat about 3” at a time, then compact.

Light water, or you get mud.

No rush, time, rain and compaction are your friends.

It becomes almost like concrete.

Plumbing, I went over board on calculations, every foot, fitting, equipment.

I was looking to turn the pool in about an hour.

4,400 gallons at 75 gpm is 59 minutes.

Not the normal turnover

Fittings and valves, special fittings (Wye, corner tees) all in Sch 40, no DWV fittings.

Buy PVC Fittings & Pipe at Wholesale Prices Online

Good prices, shipping expensive, try to do only one order.

PVC glue, I liked the heavy duty, not regular or medium duty.

Goop it on!

Planning for the last joint in a subassembly or run is important.

Leak test at 15 psi, I did not pressure test, dangerous.

Air molecules are smaller than water molecules.

It will find a leak or dry fitting pretty quick, less than an hour.

8 hours and no pressure drop, your golden.

Temperature changes throughout the day can give false readings.

And, .... can blow out temporary plugs. 😬

Forming benches, platforms, stairs.

I really have not come up with a good way to do this.

Base, sand bags, cinder blocks, ???

I did with wood, I would not do it that way again, too much labor and cost. Gunite guys did not like either, they are not used to seeing it. It just holds the Gunite in place till it cures, the Gunite is the strength structure holding the water. I’ve used in the past and even removed the forms later. In this case, they will rot away in time.


Each pool is unique, have it design for strength needed, I used my thumb. Have had lots of experience in foundations.

I used #4 grade 40 , 10” centers

For walls, 12” Gunite, double rebar mat was my design.

Grade 60 is too hard to bend.

Bending over splicing I recommended.

A bit more planning, but I believe better in the long run.

Good tying is very important, your going to have guys walking all over it. It should be solid! Tight!


I prefer dry mix, I believe better.

Messy! Lots of waste.

Waste, have them make small piles, easier to dispose of later.

Tarps, plastic, boards, be ready.

Tarps, used billboard road signs, heavy duty!

$20 for a 12’ x 50’

You want to keep the natural stone pretty.

Protect above the top of Gunite boards with plastic stuffed behind the top of Gunite boards.

Plug the outside of big gaps, you want them to shoot into the gaps to firm up the dry stacked blocks.

This is hard labor shooting Gunite.

Be nice, but double check there work as they go along.

They may not be able to read blue prints, they will just shoot about 3” on top of the rebar ...

Top of Gunite should slope out 1/4” to 1/2” for setting coping later.

When they scoop out around the stub outs, returns, have them wash the pvc pipes clean with a sponge. Real pain after it’s dry.

Coping and tile by one contractor!

I did not like the poured coping option.

Everyone does things differently.

Very visually important.

Layout all the coping for back slope, high spots, ...

Measure and come up with a plan so you don’t have one ugly short piece of random coping.

Set the 4 corners first, you now have 4 inside fits.

Plaster crew was awesome, need very little direction, lucky.

Fill took 10 hrs, 3am pump on, sleep!


Gold Supporter
Aug 16, 2020
Bryan TX
Wow. I completely missed this build/thread. My thought: Is there enough of a barrier so you don't step into the pool from the patio? Like little kids running around, slip and boom into the pool -- I could picture it so clearly.

I love that people driving by won't see the pool. It's hidden from view with that block border. It's genius! It turned out so well. I assume you were your own contractor and hired workers while you oversaw it all? Simply amazing.

I bet you're going to kick back and enjoy the rest of the holidays. Rest.