Help with new gunite pool in Houston

agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
Hf TFP
New here and very new to pools. So looking for solid tips that will help us avoid costly mistakes or reasons to adjust our choices.
Currently the pool is just in the design stages and nothing is set to happen until after next week(financing).
I've cross shopped the following pool builders: Platinum Pools, Premier Pools, Richards Total Backyard, Aquascapes, Houston Cool Pools, and Supreme Pools. Narrowed it down to two PB's based on price, responsiveness, and reviews.

Both are pretty much within a couple grand of each other and generally the upgrades are in the same ballpark. Our budget is $57K and we choose to go with a pool and spa combo to extend our usage.
I'll cover the general design and specs that are similar first.

Pool: 80-85 perimeter feet, tanning ledge, 3.5 - 6 depth, couple umbrella anchors, couple bubblers in the ledge, rock waterfall feature, quartz interior, travertine coping, 2 led lights, 4" drains to the street. (Pool will be around 370-380 sq ft surface area and 35-38 for the spa, around 11,500 gallons, is that small or medium?
Spa
: 7' foot spa with open spillway, 400,000K heater, raised 18", led light
Misc: firepit built on site with gas line, 500 sq feet decking (brushed concrete)

So here is where the differences show up.
PB1: Uses Jandy PHPM 2hP Pump, Jandy Cartridge CV460 filter, 2 skimmers, 4 main drains, 5 inlets, intermatic dual time clock, 1.5HP air blower, Polaris 280 w/PB4 Booster pump, Rainbow 320 inline Chlorinator, quartzscapes brand for finish, manual drain for pool (claims auto fills are notorious for being buggy), also mentioned that VS pumps are a gimmick and aren't effective when running at low rpms in other to keep the right pressures for filtration. Also replacement parts are $$$.

PB2: Pentair 420 cartridge filter, cyclonic pre filter, pentair intelliflo VS, pentair pool cleaner, glowbrite ligths, pentair 320 inline chlorination, auto fill line (with pressurized vacuum breaker), 5-7 return inlets, wetedge brand for finish, includes gutter downspout tie ins, extra 1.5 (105gpm) motor

Both didn't push the automation hard and sounds like it saves you a trip to the equipment pad to fire things up. So question to you guys is it worth the cost. I think PB1 is at $2700 and PB2 is at $1800. That means I would have to ditch my firepit :(

anything else that I missed that you would fine useful to know in order to help guide me?

Would appreciate any useful input and attached is the layout we are going with.
 

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mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
May 3, 2014
31,023
Laughlin, NV
Welcome to the forum!
With all those features and a spa, I could not imagine installing this pool without automation. I am biased Pentair, so would recommend the Intellicenter. Not sure why a pre filter is needed. I would get a robot pool cleaner but not from the pool builder. Maytronics/Dolphin are what many of us have. I also could not imagine installing a pool with out a SaltWater Chlorine Generator. The trihlcor things they are installing are OK for use when you are on vacation but you will need to add liquid chlorine EVERY DAY otherwise.
Other members will come by with their thoughts.
I suggest you read ABC's of Pool Water Chemistry.
 
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agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
Thanks

I guess I have to look into the automation. Sounded like it would allow me to warm up the spa in advance. But does it allow you to control each feature individually? As I can control the bubblers, waterfall , lights?
 

Dtkokay

Well-known member
Dec 31, 2019
259
Houston, Texas
PB1: 4 main drains? Most pools only have 1. I suppose that helps with even water circulation?

11.5K gallons / 80’ perimeter is a little below average size for Houston, based on the builders I spoke with. Around 100’ perimeter seemed to be average. But if your size pool works for you and your space, go for it.

About the autofill, it’s a pretty simple device, basically the same float / valve mechanism as a toilet. My pool is only a few weeks old, but it seems like it should be reliable.

I don’t have a spa, yet I cannot imagine life without automation. It’s so convenient.

I also really like having a variable speed pump. It gives you more flexibility with how you operate your pool.
 

mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
May 3, 2014
31,023
Laughlin, NV
But does it allow you to control each feature individually? As I can control the bubblers, waterfall , lights?
As long as you design it that way. To control each light separately, you will need a transformer for each light and a relay for each light in your automation.
 

Turbo1Ton

Gold Supporter
Dec 26, 2019
168
NE Oklahoma
As long as you design it that way. To control each light separately, you will need a transformer for each light and a relay for each light in your automation.
And it has to be plumbed appropriately as well. For example, my PB had plumbed my waterfalls to where I couldn't use them when the spa was on.

--Jeff
 

agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
Thanks, I guess I'll have to review the whole automation side and confirm the cost includes the proper plumbing and not just the control panel install with basic wiring.

Any opinions on Wetedge vs Quartzscape?
Jandy vs Pentair? Seems like those two plus Hayward are the top 3 dogs.
I'm not feeling the saltwater pool and may opt out for ozone / uv.
 

mknauss

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
May 3, 2014
31,023
Laughlin, NV

BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
290
Katy, Texas
Caution: I'm provide personal opinions based on a first time pool that started in June 2018 and was filled September 30, 2018, so it's just beginning its second full season. You know the old expression about opinions, so there. Most of what I "know" now, I learned here.

We have a similar design to yours but here are some things I would do differently. Our PB suggested 3.5 to 5 ft. We ("we" means my wife) wanted 6 ft, so that's what we got. She now agrees that five feet deepest would have been better. I wanted to be able to stand on the bottom anywhere in the pool for ease in rescue of a kid or other or even for some maintenance. Doing this again (I'd rather get a root canal once a month than build another pool), I'd do 5 ft deep end. People want to stand in the pool for some reason, and not many people can stand in six feet of water, so the deeper pool just means it holds more water and has a large unused area. You still can't dive in six feet, so what's the point?

Sun shelf. HUGE waste of pool area, at least for us. My wife sometimes when it's still too cold will sit on the edge with her feet in the water on the sun shelf but that's it. When she want so be sortof in the water, she's on a big float moving around the pool, not in a low chair in six inches of water. If I were doing this again, instead, I'd have steps the full width of the shallow end, as we find that people like to sit on the steps at various depths.

Skimmers. We're in Katy with prevailing Katy Prairie wind mostly out of the south, so one skimmer is on the north end of the pool. The other is SSE corner but would be better farther around toward the south end, as when the wind is not out of the south, it comes from the north. However there is a sun shelf at the south end. Like some other people here, we have the main drain mostly closed, with nearly all the water going through the skimmers, where we always have skimmer socks on the baskets.

Pumps. I don't know the models you mention, but if not variable speed, then change to variable. At 1/2 speed, our Pentair pump uses 1/8 as much electricity. At full speed it draws over 2500 watts. We have six returns including two on the bottom--one at around 5.5 ft deep and one at about 4 ft. Bottom returns are ostensibly to help even out water temperature. The also help keep the water mixing a little faster when you add chemicals.

Automation. Way more useful than a fire pit. I use the app from my PC or my phone or tablet all the time. Tinkering with pump run schedules and speeds. Turning on the filter pump or water feature pump on demand because we're sitting out with a glass of wine and want the water sound. I could have the heater on it too, but we mostly use the heater for the spa, so I have to change some valve settings when I use the heater anyway, so it's manual.

Inline chlorination. Once you've been here a while, you'll almost certainly stop using it, as it is a cyanuric acid time bomb, plus if you don't have a backflow preventer, it can cause concentrated chlorine to drift back into your heater core. Chlorine tabs are almost always a bad idea. I have the same Pentair tab dispenser and don't use it. People on this site are salt water chlorination users big time. I'm still on the fence on that concept. Everyone here likes 'em, but I personally know only two people who have salt water chlorination--one does because it was already there when they bought the house, and they use a pool service and have no knowledge whatsoever about what is going on with their pool; the other salt water chlorine user turned off the chlorinator as it "was eating up the stone around our pool." I'm still considering it, but for now I still use liquid chlorine poured from a jug 3 or 4 times a week. I probably would have had a "SWCG" installed in January, but the local dealer decided he wanted to make a lot of money off of just the one sale, so I backed away. Then before I got other bids, the VIRUS hit. You can read on this site about water chemistry...and you really should do so. Done right, you'll never have a problem with algae or other bad things with your pool water. Done wrong, and you'll be less than happy with your green pool. My neighbor two doors down got a pool same time as we did, and within a month he had algae "even with his inline chlorinator." The inline chlorinator isn't costing you much, so it's not a big deal when you stop using it.

Another thing our PB put in was a pressure side booster pump and Pentair pressure side cleaner. I cannot emphasize enough what a terrible idea that was and absolute, 100%, total waste of money. It was a very poor cleaner. The booster pump was noisy and used a lot of electricity. As Marty advised, get a robotic cleaner yourself. It does not use water pressure or pump suction but rather it just plugs into your electricity and is totally self contained. Independent of your pool water pumps and other mechanisms and more effective. Our Dolphin M500 cleans the bottom and the walls right up to and even slightly above the water line. However, the water on the sun shelf is too shallow, so I have to brush that off manually.

Little thing. We have a 2 hp air blower for the spa. Way to big. It blew water out over the top of the spa--not a lot, but I prefer for the water to stay in. I called the blower mfr to see if a variable speed controller was available, but no. They suggested I should have a 1 HP model. As an alternative, they suggested drilling holes in the pipe (the blower sits about 3.5 feet above the equipment pad on a big PVC pipe.) The holes worked. I kept adding holes until the water was no longer splashing out too much. If I change my mind, I can just start covering some or all of the holes.

Autofill. Ours has never worked. Either the water has to get really low for it to kick on, or it's poorly designed. In any case, when I need to add water, I take the cover off the autofill and put a heavy steel chisel on the autofill float until the water level is back where I want it. Umbrella holders. Be sure and check out summer sun before you place them. Two out of three of ours are not very useful other than at high noon.

Conclusion. Some choices you make are things you can change later. Others like pool depth, sun shelf, design of the spa (our spillover is wider than it needs to be) and things that involve underground plumbing, are worth extra consideration in advance.
 

BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
290
Katy, Texas
As long as you understand the need for chlorine. The Ozone / UV do not leave a residual sanitizer in your pool water. And I suspect Texas is pretty sunny. So you get UV for free.
I think we've had this conversation before. I subscribe to chlorine at normally recommended levels being a requirement regardless of anything else. I have to point out that the UV that is used for disinfection, including disrupting the DNA of chlorine resistant cryptosporidium and Covid-19, is UV-C. UV-C, aka short wavelength UV, while part of the electromagnetic spectrum from the sun, does not reach the ground, thanks to the Ozonosphere ("ozone layer" of the atmosphere) which absorbs virtually all the UV-C and 95% of UV-B--the dangerous UV causing skin burn, skin cancer, eye damage, and thank goodness for the ozonosphere. UV-A causes tanning and premature skin aging, but is not germicidal. Again, UV-C, the UV in disinfecting lamps, wands, and water treatment, doesn't get to us from the sun. Like O3 water treatment which oxidizes but lasts only a few seconds, UV has no residual benefit in the water and therefore is not a substitute for chlorine. It is beneficial but probably not worth the cost to most people...but it is worth more to me than other pool accessories I could get for the few hundred dollars it costs. Sanitation is very important to me. My wife is 69 (don't tell her I said that) and I'm 73, so we're in that high risk group. I do not believe any claims that with ozone and UV you can reduce chlorine levels by one half. However, if ozone and UV-C gives me a 5% improvement in bacteria and virus reduction, it is worth it to me. If we had young children, I absolutely would want it as well. Chlorine + ozone + UV-C is my "belt and braces" approach to sanitary pool water.
 
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agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
Thanks all, financing is squared away. Design and features is pretty much 95% done, we pick out materials this Saturday and hopefully they start June 2nd.
Crossing my fingers that we'll be swimming in early-mid July.
 

Desert Dog

Well-known member
Apr 4, 2020
126
Alpine, Ca
How handy are you? Skip the fire pit and giver yourself a project later. As far as the sun shelf, as long as it doesn't block your swimming lane, I say go for it. From the design, it looks fine where it is.
 

Jbrillo

Gold Supporter
Jun 11, 2018
369
League City, Texas
Please do yourself a favor and get the SWG. It is worth it on convenience alone. I had a few PB’s tell me variable speed pumps aren’t worth it. I can tell you that they very much are worth it. Do some research on here. Running them at lower speeds for a longer period is what you will need to do and they’ll use very little electricity. It was less than $20 month to my bill. Robots do a much better job of cleaning your pool than anything else and are very energy efficient as well. As far as automation goes, make sure you get automatic valves that will switch your pool to spa mode. Also, some automation devices only come with a local remote control. Be sure you can control it with your phone if you want to be able to control it when your not home. Good luck with your build!
 

Bvacchiano

Well-known member
Apr 6, 2018
258
Sugar Land, Texas
Man I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than not have an SWG in HOUSTON. You will be hating life dumping liquid chlorine in your pool EVERY day from June-October. You can read up on the troubles of Trichlor Tabs and high CYA. I wanna swim in my pool not make it my second job.
That Crud about the salt water eating up the stone around your pool is a hoax the pool builders came up with to steer people away from SWG. We are talking 3500 ppm in the pool not 50,000 ppm like the ocean. I’ve yet to see ONE SPECK of damage anywhere in my pool or on the travertine decking.
also I’d highly consider a Chiller here in HOUSTON unless you like swimming in a bathtub from June-October.
 

Matt L.

New member
Aug 1, 2018
1
Montgomery/tx
Man I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than not have an SWG in HOUSTON. You will be hating life dumping liquid chlorine in your pool EVERY day from June-October. You can read up on the troubles of Trichlor Tabs and high CYA. I wanna swim in my pool not make it my second job.
That Crud about the salt water eating up the stone around your pool is a hoax the pool builders came up with to steer people away from SWG.
Just curious, what benefit would it be for so many of the pool builders to be against SWG??
 

Liz107

New member
Apr 1, 2013
2
League City, TX
What do you want to use the sun shelf for? If you have little kids that will play in the pool, you may want the sun shelf close to the steps and the spa, not on the other end of the pool.
 

agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
How handy are you? Skip the fire pit and giver yourself a project later. As far as the sun shelf, as long as it doesn't block your swimming lane, I say go for it. From the design, it looks fine where it is.
Not too handy. Plus this will have a dedicated gas line and I won't have to deal with starting fires or smoke smell. Thx
 

agjr85

Active member
May 12, 2020
37
Spring, Texas
Agreed ditch the sun shelf, we never use ours. Ditch the auto fill, don’t need it just put hose in pool or
Let rain fill it.
We have small kids and little ones. I went with PB2 and they dont use the auto fill, but instead a manual control valve to fill when needed. So I won't need to drag a hose out.