Getting started! Owner Build in SoCal


Bronze Supporter
Aug 2, 2018
Mission Viejo, ca
Thank you guys! I became a supporter.

Today is officially Day 1 in our backyard renovation project. Excavators came out and removed our side yard, patio concrete, grass, and started removing our slope. They should finish tomorrow and then we will have our wall guy come and start the large retaining wall. They are estimating 2 weeks to finish... then the excavator comes back and digs the pool! So excited.

Lots of stuff to truly finalize, but we are off to a good start.

*pictures to follow once my account updates with my supporter doantion*


Bronze Supporter
Aug 2, 2018
Mission Viejo, ca
I still never figured out how to download more photos (keep getting an error). So I’m trying a google album. Here is the link:

Photos should include a 3D drawing of the pool (there have been changes, but should give you an idea), another design picture, our tile, a photo of what the tile looks installed (it’s a kitchen, but shows you the look and all the variance), then the start of our crazy renovation. We had our excavator down to start ripping up our patio and getting the hillside ready for a huge retaining wall, more photos will also show you the wall being built.

We are just about to the point to get started on the actually pool, however, we have rain in the forecast. Our soft date to dig in the 19th. Fingers crossed if we do push back, it’s not by much.

Still finalizing coping and pavers. Ordered our water features from Bobe Water and Fire today. Sub contractors are all ready to go, just finalizing our shotcrete vendor. The process has been long due to finding a decent price for the construction of the wall but we have (*knock on wood*) been very happy with everyone so far.

Goal is to be completed with everything by May.


Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
Tallahassee, FL
:shock: that is quite a hill you are holding back!!! I can see how it is going to cost some dimes to build a wall fo it!!

That in the world did you even find that? Then to think to use it on a pool! Talk about novel! Do you have the boxes at the house? I would dig through them to set up the way you want them installed. That will keep like ones apart and if any are boo-boo you can get those out as well.

That pretty badge looks good over there! THANKS!

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the design! Very different as well. I am guessing you are known for thinking outside the box! LOVE IT!



Bronze Supporter
Aug 2, 2018
Mission Viejo, ca
Yes, the wall has been extensive. Some of the bids came back over $50,000 for an unfinished wall without drains. I almost had a heart attack! Our sub working on it is a very small crew and it is going slow- but, they’ve done a great job. The city inspector has come twice now and they have easily passed inspection. So no complaints at all.

The tile is from Heath Ceramics and they are made in San Francisco (I drove up there to buy them, and I have all of them now in my garage). The majority of the landscape designers I follow on Instagram use their tiles and I think I just fell in love. They are hand glazed and are amazing with their variations. And yes, your suggestion is perfect. We will be tiling the whole bond beam and beforehand Heath recommends you separate the tile into piles of light, medium, and darks. Some will also be slightly longer than others, so I need to separate those out too.

The landscape designer we hired didn’t draw the pool yard as modern as I’d like- so now I’m trying to figure out how to do it myself. Which has been a struggle. I also fell in love with terrazzo and have been considering using it for my pool coping. Pretty much- I over design the heck out of it and change my mind a million times! The scuppers have been changes at least 5 times. We have now decided on custom copper U shaped ones that I can agjust once installed to how far they stick out. My concern is with my kids jumping into the pool- I don’t want anyone injuring themselves with the metal scuppers. Truly, there is just so much to learn. But, I oddly think I’m enjoying the design process.

Brian- thank you for the rec’s! We have one guy all of our subs have been recommending but I would like to get a couple of quotes before we decide. So far we have been very happy with our subs. I think getting a lot of quotes and taking our time to talk to each one of them beforehand has really helped. Hoping the process continues going well.


Bronze Supporter
Nov 6, 2017
The design renderings are fantastic. That is going to be an amazing backyard. I like the idea of copper u-shaped scuppers. That will be a very unique look. Kimkats idea of going through the tiles is great. It will take a little time but you seem like the type of person that wants it to look perfect and picking out where you want the best tiles to go will be pretty satisfying for the end project. Keep posting pictures!


Bronze Supporter
Aug 2, 2018
Mission Viejo, ca

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We’ve had rain. And then more rain. And when it dries, our excavator is backed up on more projects. And then it rains. And rains more. I’ve been ready for months and I think February is now out of the picture for digging. Huge problem though, our back retaining wall needs to be back filled. So they need the excavator. I don’t want to pay for the excavator to come and dig our pool only to have it ruined with rain (they already took all of our grass, so we just have dirt/mud and hills- it’s a mess). So, it looks like everything might be on hold.

I assumed the frustration would begin when the project started, I didn’t realize it would be waiting for the project to start.


Oct 20, 2014
Hi! We are doing an owner builder in Orange County (Southern California). Just moved beyond the permitting process and moving forward with bids. Hoping to start digging in the next 1-2 weeks. Unfortunately, excavation is A LOT more than we expected, so we’ve been pushed back collecting bids.

We used a designer to help us through the layout,and then we hired a great guy that helps do owner builds. He will come out during large portions of the job (like excavation) and works very closely with the plumber, etc. He is guiding us through the process, which is incredibly helpful.

Tile was HORRIBLE for me because I don’t like the typical pool tile. I wanted something a little different and found a few handmade companies locally. About to order the tile for the pool that is a beautiful rustic handmade white with a ton of variance in color. Also pricing out copper scuppers for water falls that won’t stick out far for the kids jumping.

I will post the detials of equipment once we receive it. Our guy helping us is working with the plumber and going through what is needed. A big issue we’ve hit is the depth. We have a elevated space our kids will jump from and a curved section for the kids to also jump. But with the size and shape of our pool it’s become difficult to slope it down to appropriate depth. I’m hoping to get 8ft by the curved area for diving, and 6 ft at the middle elevated section. We may also bring that top area down one step to help from a tall jump.

It definitely seems like there are way more “little things” to get through than expected. Permitting took FOREVER. But, I’m getting excited to seeing the digging begin.

updates to come soon.
Could you email me the contact information of your designer?

Likes: WalkerTribe7
Waterproof that retaining wall before the backfill it, and make sure there is a drainage system in place.
Thanks Roy, waterproofing and drainage already in place, it was part of the engineering plans and inspections. Can you believe 4 city inspections already done on the wall and 2 more to go? The wall is a beast.. 12” cmu with rebar 8” spacing on the bottom 2ft.
Yep, your local city has guidelines regarding the construction....e.g.
Our city surpringly does not. We had an engineering service take care of the pool, raised bond beams and wall requirements. Because of the topology of our area they decided not to have standard city plans. Our construction crew and inspector was surprised on the over engineering on steel and footers. 70 ft LF of footer took 16 cubic yards of 5000 psi of concrete. Yep our city requires minimum of 4500 psi for any structural concrete , so footer and shotcrete is $$$.


Bronze Supporter
Aug 2, 2018
Mission Viejo, ca
Everything started moving, and moving quickly!

SoCal rain has been crazy but we noticed there was about a week or so break soon. We had rain yesterday and some coming in this afternoon, but then clear skies for a week. My husband sent a text to our subs and checked their calendars and... our excavator just showed up! So, I guess we’re digging.

Their goal is to get forms done before the rain starts at about 2pm. Then they will be back tomorrow and Saturday. We have plumbing coming Monday (he wanted to come before rebar and get some stuff pre-done). Rebar is coming Tuesday, with the size of the steel and the project it will be 2-3 days. Hopefully Friday morning inspection and then Saturday shotcrete before Sunday rain.

It’s a tight schedule, but our time has been SO limited. Fingers crossed it works. I will post pictures today once they get through the mud

Digging time