Hello from sunny Tucson, AZ - New member hoping to build a pool soon

Dirk92GTA

New member
Oct 29, 2019
2
Tucson, AZ
Hello all,

Lifelong Tucsonan here. I grew up swimming in the neighborhood pool in the summers (Eastern Hills), spent summers in GA, Puerto Rico, Singapore, and enjoyed every second of it. I still swim whenever I get the chance. I have never owned a pool, have always wanted one, and am now in a position to build one. Kids are all done with High school and are in various stages of living at home or moving out.

I have small yard. I think I can make it work. I have had 2 PBs come out to see the yard. I spent time with one of them in their design studios and came up with a concept that I like. I meet with PB #2 in a few days for the same process. I have identified a 3rd PB that I will reach out to just to make sure.

I have enjoyed learning from all of your discussions and I look forward to learning more every day!
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
446
Corona de Tucson, AZ
My pool down in Corona de Tucson was completed in September. All I can probably add is that most of the pool builders in Tucson use the same subs for plaster, excavation and shotcrete, so really deal with the PB that gives you what you want at the best deal. Once they start building all the PB really does is schedule the subs, and "handles" problems. Major warranty issues end up going through the subs anyway (per talking with the subs).

It takes a long time here to complete anything-- especially a pool, too mainly because some of the subs are understaffed for the area. Particularly masons and concrete people. So be patient and expect your four 4 month long project to take 6 and you'll be fine.

Enjoy. Follow the TFP process here and you will have better looking water than your neighbors do. The only water chemistry "catches" here is high levels of hardness in Tucson's main system in particular (CDT is a separate system and isn't nearly as bad) and you will always be chasing pH down mainly because of high TA. The best way to manage it is just to keep adding Muriatic Acid weekly so it is not bad at all. Also if you do TFP you never will have to change water because of CYA getting too high, but eventually you will due to CH building up from evaporation and then the autofill refills. If you can convince the PB to fill on softened water, I'd recommend it. In my case the plumbing would have cost at least a thousand dollars to replumb from a soft line in the house, so I guess I'll be refilling periodically... or adding a cheap softener in a shed outside eventually. This depends on your house.

Note: the autofill (re-fill) should be on a softener if you can do it, but your initial fill needs to be straight tap-- hard.

If you have specific questions you can pm me. There are several others that have been here a lot longer that are from Tucson as well. There are a lot of us here.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
15,894
Tucson, AZ
If you can wait, I wouldn't start the build until the spring. You don't want them shooting gunite or doing plaster when the overnight temps can get down to freezing. It's not a huge deal around here because we rarely see prolonged freezing temps, but why risk it. If you can select a builder and get to be first on their schedule for the early spring, you could easily get a pool done before Memorial Day. My pool build started at the end of June (well into the build season) and it was completed right before Labor Day weekend, so almost 60 days. It is possible to get a build done in 60 days if you have a good contractor and they are well-established in the market as the subs are more responsive to builders that have been around a while.

If you the need the name of a third builder, PM me as I know of two.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
446
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I would agree with not building in December or January and maybe the first couple of weeks in February (depending on your elevation), but unless you know exactly what you want and the builders schedule is clear you are already past that, especially with the holidays in there.

I disagree with Matt for time frames in 2019 at least. I live in a new subdivision and many pools have been built in the last two years near me and except for a cookie cutter play pool from the evil Phoenix builder, I never saw any built in less than four months... And yes, I was keeping track. That one took three...

All the subs said they were swamped because I actually talked with them, including on some of the neighbors builds. There has been a housing boom in Tucson and many of the laborers have switched to building houses... Apparently there is more money in that. Now, I suspect that is coming to an end for awhile... It probably will be easier for you in 2020.

I had an extra problem with Pima County and the homebuilder that added about four weeks, but regardless from when we signed it was 5.5 months to completion. From when they broke ground it was about 75 days. About 14 were redoing my deck because the pavers sank. So 60 days from the dig is realistic, but it takes about that long to get on the schedule too.

My neighbor who used one of the most established builders and oldest in the area had their pool take even longer than mine... And it was a simpler build (but with more plumbing)...

So be prepared for issues to crop up. If you set your expectations at 6 months then the process will be emotionally easier.

It turns out good in the end regardless. But it's an adventure until it isn't..

This is going to be a grumpy thing to say but I got 5 bids and none really stood out, and some were very expensive compared to others for the same stuff literally because they use the same subs. I might have been able to get my pool done three weeks sooner if I would have taken one of the 10k extra bids but honestly, it's better that I didn't. Especially on a 40k pool.
 

Dirk92GTA

New member
Oct 29, 2019
2
Tucson, AZ
Thanks for all of your responses. I am currently experiencing a bit of sticker shock. My yard is small, so I knew going in that I could not have a massive pool and spa. I am looking at approximately a 25' long x 8' wide main pool area with non-raised-spa and lagoon. I did the best research I could, and think I chose three highly regarded builders in Tucson to deal with. My research was all online without any sort of real life references, however.

First designer and show room visit resulted in a pool, spa, kitchen island (just a grill, no fridge) design that was approx. 9k gallons at ~ $71K sans grill or landscaping. The initial design was extremely lame and I felt that they didn't listen to what we wanted. At the showroom I was able to expand upon their initial design and created something much more aligned with what I had hoped for.

Second designer and showroom visit was much better. The initial design was much more appealing and I only had minor tweaks here and there. However, the total pool/spa size was approx. 6k gallon at ~ $72k. I felt I was getting much more value at least, compared to #1, as the total design for the pool/spa/grill island was much better than builder #1 had proposed.

Third designer was out just today. They were way more worried about the wall heights and requirements for fencing than #1 or #2 were. We talked budgets and I was honest with them. They seemed surprised and a bit disappointed that I had been discussing an approx $75k build with the other 2 designers. They did not think that they could effectively compete. I will be be meeting them at their showroom next week to see what they come up with.

Builder #2 so far is my first choice. We really like the design and the total package. So far, this adventure is not exactly what I was expecting and my wife is not nearly as willing to go forward as I am. I was not expecting to pay 50% over $50K for a small-ish pool and deck (under 10K gallons total size). This is most likely my own naivete as this is my first ever pool build.

I'll send Matt a PM to see who he recommends and will try to get a 4th opinion. We are not in a rush to get this thing built, fortunately.

Thanks again for all of your initial advice. I hope to post more soon.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
446
Corona de Tucson, AZ
Best of luck with it. My pool was just over $40K and I spent another $7K on a standalone hot tub (and I am extremely happy I did it that way since I don't have to heat the pool, the spa is therapeutic which is good for an old guy like me, and it's VERY close to the house for winter use.. ).

Look at my thread on the build, and you will see what I mean. I had a lot of crazy issues but the quality of the pools in the neighborhood with my builder is good (there are three others), and I don't think they were better or worse than the neighbors contractors, all of us encountered the same issues more or less. If you want you can IM me too... I am probably not as "connected" as Matt is being relatively new to the area (just over 2 years), but I can give you a run down of the bids we got and why we did what we did-- with builder names. In some cases I even remember the names of the subs...

$71K might not be that bad depending on what you are doing. Adding a spa to a pool is 15K-25K extra depending on the features of the spa. If you are using expensive decking like Travertine then that's another $10K, if you are doing a lot of decking then... well it multiplies up. If you are having them do landscaping as well, that's another $5K-10K. In floor system (which I personally am happy with but it's shunned upon here) $4K... so it's the options that will get you. a 9K gallon pool is kinda small for that price but the devil is in the details.

If you are in Tucson proper (or Oro Valley) the fence requirements are worse than in the county.. however, they are not that much worse--this is more dependent on if you have young children or entertain families with young children, etc. Fences can add $10K to the project as well.

And one other thing.. you obviously have a small yard. That makes access and building more expensive.. that probably is adding $7-8K to the project.

Hopefully you'll figure it all out. We did multiple passes with all of the builders we got bids with and a couple weren't willing to go past one redo at all or without us paying them (evil Phoenix builder in particular)... that was a WONDERFUL way of weeding them out. All of the ones that I know of are far less responsive once that contract is signed. Guaranteed...
 
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JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
15,894
Tucson, AZ
$70k for a sub-10k gallon pool is ridiculous. My pool is double the volumes you’re being quoted and we paid less than $70k.

Agree that decking can really add to the cost but there are ways to get nice decking for less $$ if you’re willing to go with concrete instead of expensive pavers. I would definitely NOT let them do the ODK or landscaping. Both of those are pure-profit for the builder. Just have the PB stub out the water/gas/electrical and then do that separately. Landscaping can be done separately as well. Just make sure you get enough buried sleeves and drainage around the decking to allow for low voltage electrical and 3/4” PVC to pass through.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
446
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I am more than a bit amazed in some of the landscaping quotes here in Tucson.. (like 10x the Midwest) People pay real money here for stuff they can do themselves over the course of a year. Agreed. The secret is to run off to ebay or Amazon and buy a Chinese electric jackhammer for $100-150... and the shovel attachment for $35... then doing trenches are not any harder here than they were with a shovel in the Midwest.. and digging holes for trees isn't too bad either... Gas post hole diggers work were here for that as well, even though you might think otherwise. right now I own the post hole digger and my neighbor has the jackhammer but I'm buying one before spring...

And I mention Travertine specifically (mainly because I don't like it)... it's God awful expensive for something that is basically limestone.

I compromised... we did concrete pavers and now on the second pass with the good base, honestly they seem as good as a concrete deck so far. They are not nearly as "hot" as we thought they would be... they basically are concrete with coloring in them after all...