First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Hi!

My wife and I have decided to add a pool to our home that is currently under construction (framing starts tomorrow!). We have never owned or built a house nor pool before, so the Internet and especially this website has been very helpful already. We have designed the house and pool ourselves using SweetHome3D (awesome free software by the way) and are now starting to interview pool builders.

We figured this is time to not just read on this forum but join and actively participate! We have so far interviewed a few pool builders and gotten some quotes (some in form of a text message, others with 10 pages the way I like it) and are now comparing all the information received and are trying to figure out what technologies and finishes/materials we want. Our budget is roughly 55,000 and for that amount we cannot go too crazy for a 13 x 36 pool with a 7 foot spa. But we also plan on living in this home for a long time, so we want something durable.

What is the best way to proceed for us on this forum? Should we just start one thread in the under construction section and post all our questions into that one thread and then also provide updates and pictures once we get started? Or is it better to have separate threads for our specific questions by topic (e.g. we already have a question about finding a smooth but durable pool finish) and then only post updates and pictures into the construction section? Also, is it appropriate to share pool quotes/bids with the forum for comments?

We are looking forward to learning a lot and sharing our story for the next 4-6 months !

3D-3.jpg3D-2.jpg3D-1.jpg
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
37,546
Tallahassee, FL
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Hi! What a neat looking pool design you have there! NICE job! You are off to a great start----------you found TFP before you signed a contract!

I am going to move this thread to Under Construction for you. With you having the pics and all I think it will work great there.

Here at TFP we like everything to be under one thread so the whole story stays together. There might be something that does not fit but on the most part it is best in one thread.

Please do post your bids here. You can talk about price but the prices vary so much from area to area that we tend to not be real helpful there. What we ARE helpful with is working on the design and equipment.

When you are talking to the PB (pool builder) make sure to get the model numbers for the equipment so we can make sure you are comparing apples to apples and getting what is best for your pool.

Kim:kim:
 

BattleOfYakima

TFP Guide
Apr 15, 2016
1,683
Central Florida
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Welcome to TFP! Awesome start! You'll get lots of help here! Since you have never owned or built a house nor pool before, I'm going to give you everything I would want to read if I was in your shoes. You may know none, some, or all of it. You can just skim/scroll through/glance/speed-read. You can always go back to pages and review again.

TFP Pool School has some pages that might begin to fill in the gaps real fast:
Let us know what you think & please ask us all your questions, we love sharing what we've learned!

we already have a question about finding a smooth but durable pool finish
ask away!

If you're just looking for a place to touch samples of the finishes, Cody Pools is a pool builder that has three physical retail store locations in Houston where you can drop in during business hours and actually touch the finishes. To be clear, I am not endorsing them, just informing that it is one way to judge the "smoothness" for yourself in your own hands if that is desired. Other pool builders might have samples available too, but I've called them before and confirmed they do. Since they are a builder, take whatever they say about durability with a grain of salt - instead, ask us what our users have reported over the years with each finish.
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Thanks for the great welcome!

Here a current summary of what we have so far:

- Design: If you have any thoughts / improvement ideas on the design let me know! The entry area is still something we don't know exactly what to do with. The quote attached below has that area a bit different and we are not sure what will work out best.

- Salt Water Pool

- Finish: we want smooth but durable (yes we want it all :D) My wife's parents have a pool that is about 12 years old and appears to have a plaster with blue colored pieces in it (maybe a quartz?). When we play with kids in that pool it feels ok on the feet, but if you rub the back of your hand or the top of your foot against a wall by accident, you will lose some skin. Our brand new apartment pool has a super smooth white finish and after reading here I assume it is actually the cheapest finish, regular white plaster. I also read about Aquabright, but not sure if that is in our budget or if it is time-tested enough. Any recommendations on what to do? We were just at the Cody pool showroom last week and saw their finishes. They only offer Pebble Tech and Pebble Sheen and won't do anything else, so if we go with them it would probably be Pebble Sheen.

- Equipment: VS pump (Pentair Intelliflow is recommended by lots of builders)

- Decking: Sundeck appears to be the only thing in our budget (we would love travertine pavers but apparently that is another 10k for our size of decking)

- Cleaner: debating between the electric robot and the water pressure driven cleaner. We like the idea of leaving it in the pool 24/7 and not having a power cord.

- Pool Cover: we want to heat the pool in the winters so need something to keep that heat in. The liquid stuff sounds interesting but not sure if we trust the marketing ...? Otherwise our budget will only allow for regular hooks and a manual cover.

- Step into Spa: We REALLY don't want a step into the spa as it takes away a seat and the kids love running in a circle at grandma's to turn the hot tub into a big swirl. But Cody pools told us it is against code to not have a step and that they won't build anything that is not 100 % up to code.

Overall we were impressed with the no-compromise quality approach Cody pools seem to take with the upgraded rebar and gunnite thickness and refusing to offer to do a plaster finish. Here is a link to the Cody quote and drawings, since it is so far the most comprehensive in detail. But at the same time we would have to pay for all those, agree to the Pebble Sheen and let them force us into a step

Here is the link to the quote and drawings:
2017-11-27 - Google Drive

Once we get more detailed quotes (more than just a price in a text or a 1 page document) I will post those as well!
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
37,546
Tallahassee, FL
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

I like the attached walk in better. Not so much of the shallow end is taken up with the wider bottom step.

Smooth=plain plaster or AuqaBright. Adding beads to the other stuff can smooth is out as well. Ask to visit different pools to feel them LOL

-cover-the liquid stuff works IF there is no wind or anything to disturb the surface of the water. Another thing to think about with is is that you will be adding something else to the water. A real cover may be a better way to go long term.

-Step in to Spa-ask to see the code and push back on that one if it is important to you. It does not hurt to ask. See what other builders have to say.

Now lets look at that contract............NOT liking the payout set up at all! It is very front loaded AND they want you to pay them BEFORE it is done!!! NOPE! What is to protect you if something goes wrong? I would not accept this. They will say "this is how we always do it". SO???? LOL IF you want my money you will get it this way xyz.

Do NOT get the ozone or UV systems please, pretty please. You can do searches for these systems to see why we do not like them. The sun provides all the UV you so that is free! There is a white search box at the top of this page. Give it a go and see what you think after reading it.

I think I covered just about everything. If not or if you think of new stuff just let us know!

How many pool builders have you talked to so far?

Kim:kim:
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

So something new came up today:
I met with a very reputable pool builder in the area who forwarded our soil testing that was done for the house foundation to his engineer. The engineer highly recommended piers based on the plasticity index of 48 and the potential vertical rise of up to 2" per the soils report. The strange thing is, I had forwarded the same soils report to the other 4 pool builders and even specifically asked if piers might be needed and they all said that piers should not be needed. Not sure if they even looked at the report or are just going based on their gut feeling for the neighborhood. We also asked some pool owners in the neighborhood who recently built but none of them had piers put in.

Not sure what to make of this? The reputable pool builder told me that even if there is a full structural warranty, nobody will do any fixes under warranty if one side of the pool comes out by an inch and the skimmers don't work anymore because the water level is no longer stable. He said shifting soils are always the first reason pool builders back out of a warranty.

Is there somebody on this forum that would be knowledgeable enough to look at our soils report to provide an answer on whether they think piers are needed or not? If yes, the link is below:
4837 Waycross - H171084 - Soils test.pdf - Google Drive
 

bdavis466

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 4, 2014
4,426
San Clemente, CA
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Most pools don't need or require soil reports so it's no surprise the builders are ignoring the advice.

Sure, you can build your pool without piers and it could be perfectly fine....or it may not. That's what engineers and their advice is for.

I laugh everytime I see a lifetime structural warranty on a pool shell. What does that even mean?
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Most pools don't need or require soil reports so it's no surprise the builders are ignoring the advice.

Sure, you can build your pool without piers and it could be perfectly fine....or it may not. That's what engineers and their advice is for.

I laugh everytime I see a lifetime structural warranty on a pool shell. What does that even mean?
I'm just wondering whether an engineer will tell me that I am fine with NOT using his services? Houston does not require engineered drawings unless there are piers or other special structural challenges like retaining walls or close proximity to the home. So if I ask an engineer ,he would have turn away work by telling me I don't need piers ... plus if he provides it in writing he would take on liability in case there are soil related issues. Just feels like asking an engineering firm to give me an opinion will always result in them suggesting piers on void boxes since it is the least risk + revenue for them?
 

bdavis466

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 4, 2014
4,426
San Clemente, CA
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

I see the dilemma. If the house needed piers, why wouldn't the pool as well? Is it worth the risk?

Your area is notorious for having very expansive soil but there are ways to control that and many have gotten by without doing anything special.
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Our house actually is not on piers which is why I'm a bit doubtful. Otherwise I would have definitely done the piers. We had gotten 3 quotes from engineers for the house and their consensus was to replace 3 feet of dirt with select fill (PI less than 20) and put a post-tension foundation on it.

The difference there is that their fee was the same , regardless of whether they design a PT slab or a slab on void boxes ...

We even still have some left over select fill on site. Do you think over digging the pool and putting that select fill down would be a good precaution in case we skip the engineer?
 

bdavis466

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 4, 2014
4,426
San Clemente, CA
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Certainly wouldn't hurt.

A post tensioned slab is no joke either though. That's a big expense that somebody decided was necessary.
 

BattleOfYakima

TFP Guide
Apr 15, 2016
1,683
Central Florida
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Great posts!

Might asking an engineer in another city for their 2nd opinion be helpful? It would eliminate the concern of them turning down business.

Alternatively, a strategy I employ when I'm traveling and need a local firm for something is to call a longtime attorney in that field (construction/real estate in your case) and ask them for a recommendation or referral to a local firm (engineer) that is trustworthy to provide an honest evaluation even if it means potentially turning down work for themselves. I've had good luck with this.
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Thanks for checking in. After talking with some more pool builders and none of them encouraging to do piers for our area we may just go ahead and trust them on that experience and skip the piers.

We went to a couple of showrooms to look at interior finishes. Aquabright by ECOfinish seems great but is too expensive. (17k vs 10-11k for a Pebble Finish). Plus the local applicator in Houston has only done 3-4 pools so far and just started last year.

We asked one pool builder that does exclusively PebbleSheen if he would consider Pebble Fina, but he said only if we sign a waiver that his Applicator requires: they really discourage it because of mottling, streaks and it not lasting as long.

Then in another showroom, we found WetEdge Primera Stone which seems PERFECT at least in the showroom. Super smooth, almost like a tile, great color options, 15 year warranty and even less expensive than the PebbleSheen finish. And the applicator said it can easily be refinished by sanding it down in 15 years instead of having to replaster. I posted another thread to see if anybody has had this installed for a while but did not get any responses. Do you know have any thoughts on Pebble Fina?
Long-term WetEdge Primera Stone pool experiences?
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
566
Santa Cruz, CA
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

We chose WetEdge Primera Stone for most of the same reasons you are looking at it - #1 smooth, #2 good warranty, #3 decent costs, and finally the added bonus that it can be refinished at least once in 15 or so years if needed.

We are only 3 seasons into our pool ownership, but I love the finish and would absolutely choose it again. Now, I do think Aquabright might be a better product, but I wasn't aware of it at the time we built our pool, and I am not even sure I would have paid the extra for it if we had that option.

If I was really on a budget I would have gone with a simple gray plaster - expecting some mottling, streaks, and discoloration in the surface. None of the other pebble finishes interested me.
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

thanks that's great to know!

Do you feel like the finish has gotten any rougher since the installation? Also, was your installation perfectly smooth everywhere or is it somewhat expected that they will miss a few spots when they polish the finish?

We chose WetEdge Primera Stone for most of the same reasons you are looking at it - #1 smooth, #2 good warranty, #3 decent costs, and finally the added bonus that it can be refinished at least once in 15 or so years if needed.

We are only 3 seasons into our pool ownership, but I love the finish and would absolutely choose it again. Now, I do think Aquabright might be a better product, but I wasn't aware of it at the time we built our pool, and I am not even sure I would have paid the extra for it if we had that option.

If I was really on a budget I would have gone with a simple gray plaster - expecting some mottling, streaks, and discoloration in the surface. None of the other pebble finishes interested me.
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
566
Santa Cruz, CA
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Our finish has not gotten any rougher at all. Originally the finish did have, and still has, a few spots that were not perfectly smooth. I was told to just use a little sand paper on any areas that needed a little extra work. I think there are a couple of tiny spots here and there that are still that way.

Also, the entire surface is not perfect by any means since it is hand troweled and then has the final polished finish. There a some minor waves and dips in the finish in places. It has never bothered me, but having a polished smooth finish makes it easier to see if you really look for it! :snorkle:

The biggest problem is due to having perfectly clear sparkly water due to this TFP site - it is a real problem you can see everything...I can see a single grain of sand on the bottom of the pool...:hammer:
 

rhawke

Bronze Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
210
Houston, TX
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

Thanks, we hope to see a Primera Stone pool in person next week but so far it sounds great!

Another topic: How much does rebar size and concrete thickness matter?

There are some differences in the 5 quotes that we got.

Bond Beam:
-- all seem the same: 4 x 1/2 re-bar 12" bond beam
Walls:
-- most are 6" tick with 3/8 re-bar 8" o.c.
-- one PB 6" walls with 4/8 re-bar 8" o.c.
-- one PB 8" walls with 4/8 re-bar 10" o.c.
Floors:
-- most are 8" tick with 3/8 re-bar 8" o.c.
-- one PB 8" walls with 4/8 re-bar 8" o.c.
-- one PB 12" walls with 4/8 re-bar 10" o.c.

I understand that generally, the thicker the rebar, the closer it is together and the thicker the concrete the better. But is there something wrong with the default 3/8" at 8" o.c. that most pool builders use? They still provide a 25 year warranty against pool shell cracking ...
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
37,546
Tallahassee, FL
Re: First Time Pool Owner (Houston Pool Build)

I asked someone that knows these kinds of things to step in to give some in put on the steel question.

Kim:kim:
 

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