Let the games begin...

PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Hey, TFP!

Somewhat recently found this forum as we started discussing the possibility of a pool.

Some background: We built (neighborhood builder/developer) in 2016 with intentions on staying 5 years to capitalize on growth, then cashing out the equity and rolling it to the next home. Well, kids love the schools, and are thriving. Wife grew up here so theres obviously sentiment there, and I work about 15 minutes away, which is convenient, albeit closer to "industry" than I'd prefer. That said, we've decided we'll stay 5+ years, and likely until my youngest graduates in 10 years. So we're gonna "enjoy today" and sacrifice some of the equity leverage we had, and install a pool.

Down to business, and I'll try to use some of the verbiage I've learned so far from this forum. I've contacted 3 PBs, and only 1 has followed through with a bid. Still getting recommendations for others, but the one who followed through was highly recommended (not sure if naming the PBs is frowned upon or not), and has been in business a long time. They boast their lifetime structural warranty, no hidden costs or surprises on the back end, etc. The sales pitch was good, but I'm not convinced that the equipment is the right choice. Then again, I believe I'm in that area of Texas that hates SWCG, according to you guys! haha!

Pool is relatively basic (see photos for proposal), but it did check all of the initial boxes we had.
Charge is by the linear footage, and this is 85'. Shape was irrelevant to cost and my wife preferred the free form.
Hayward LEDs (did not specify how many, but I want to say 2 pool 1 spa), with a local panel for control.
Jandy PlusHP pump (said the $1500 uncharge for VS was a good spot to cut costs - but this seems counterintuitive)
Repack (Rheem) gas pool heater (can heat the hot tub and spillover, or heat the pool, I'm told) - Model not specified
Jandy CS Series single element filter
N2 Fusion Chlorine tablet feeder +Nature2 system (45k gallon capacity?). When I asked about SWCG system he said its unnecessary, can chalk/salt up the cool decking and harm finishes. Said it was a special sales tactic by the industry, to sell a new product.
Polaris 9550 sport pool cleaner was recommended to purchase on our own, to save $500 off the cost, and it would be plug n play
Travertine and cool decking shown in rendering is included
Travertine wall and raised hot tub to match @ 12" height
Waterfall


No landscaping
No automation

Actually felt good after his sales pitch, and he was at the house for a few hours and we chatted quite a while. All in cost for the pictured and stated set up (lacking some details it seems) would be 53k. East Houston area for reference.

Any opinions or recommendations based on this info?

Appreciate it!
Thomas C
 

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jblizzle

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May 19, 2010
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Tucson, AZ
:wave: Welcome to TFP!

Avoid the nature 2 at all costs. Get the SWG.

Upgrading from a basic $300 single speed pump to a $1000 VS pump should not cost $1500. The install and everything is the same.
 
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Bama Rambler

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Jun 22, 2009
23,512
SouthWest Alabama
A couple of things I noticed.
As Jason said, avoid the Nature2
If you plan on actually using the heater you need them to specify the model number or at least the size. Bigger is better.
It's good on your part to have them specify anything they're providing. Model are best, but at least size and quantity at a minimum. (i.e. the lights)
Also as Jason said, replacing a single speed pump with a VS is the same amount of work so the cost difference should be the only upcharge. Actually they should have quoted a two speed pump as their base install, so the price difference shouldn't even be that much. I'd definitely question them about that.
As mentioned above, make sure they quote the size of the filter as well. As with the heater, bigger is better. I'd want the 200 sqft or the 250 sqft.

If you do go with the swcg, be sure they at least double the pool size in capacity when specifying the cell size.
 
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kimkats

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Jul 10, 2012
40,663
Tallahassee, FL
I LOVE your design!! Something for everyone! NICE job!

Look up the cost of the replacement elements for the nature2 THEN add on the cost of removing the stains caused by the metals=sad wallet.

A SWG is MUCH better. It does the work of chlorinating the pool for you with very little work on your part.

Kim:kim:
 

Jimrahbe

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Jul 7, 2014
13,927
Bedford, TX
Thomas,

I suggest you re-look at automation.. You have a Spa, which means having to manually switch two valve (twice) and turn on the heater to use it.. You have a water feature wall that you will need to manually control...

Without a spa, not having automation makes sense.. With a spa, not so much.. :)

Question for you... Have you ever been in a residential gunite spa? If not, you really want to try one, before buying one...

Thanks,

Jim R.
 
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PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Thanks for all the replies!

:wave: Welcome to TFP!

Avoid the nature 2 at all costs. Get the SWG.

Upgrading from a basic $300 single speed pump to a $1000 VS pump should not cost $1500. The install and everything is the same.
Agree, whole heartedly. The more I read, the more I'm thinking they've priced down to bare necessities, to land the bid, vs answering my question of "What would you truly recommend, if building for yourself and the long term". VS is on the list of requirements.

A couple of things I noticed.
As Jason said, avoid the Nature2
If you plan on actually using the heater you need them to specify the model number or at least the size. Bigger is better.
It's good on your part to have them specify anything they're providing. Model are best, but at least size and quantity at a minimum. (i.e. the lights)
Also as Jason said, replacing a single speed pump with a VS is the same amount of work so the cost difference should be the only upcharge. Actually they should have quoted a two speed pump as their base install, so the price difference shouldn't even be that much. I'd definitely question them about that.
As mentioned above, make sure they quote the size of the filter as well. As with the heater, bigger is better. I'd want the 200 sqft or the 250 sqft.

If you do go with the swcg, be sure they at least double the pool size in capacity when specifying the cell size.
I'm going to request specific models, so I can look up specs, for sure. The common thread on the Nature2 system seems to be consistent. Simply Don't. So, I'll get their recommendation on other options, or justify the need for that 'feature', rather. I'll follow up on the filter sizing.

I LOVE your design!! Something for everyone! NICE job!

Look up the cost of the replacement elements for the nature2 THEN add on the cost of removing the stains caused by the metals=sad wallet.

A SWG is MUCH better. It does the work of chlorinating the pool for you with very little work on your part.

Kim:kim:
The design really came out well! They knocked that portion out of the park, from my expectations. It was one conversation, and he only had our survey to go off of (office is about 45 minutes out), so that was what he brought, when he first came to the house. I gave a handful of non negotiable, and left the rest to him.

The metals produced, and the eventual staining are also commonly referenced. I've spoken with two other local builders who came recommended. Both were pretty adamant against salt, with one (coming Tuesday to bid) stating "I'm the owner of this pool company, and I had a salt pool and had a bad time with it, and we installed a great system. We guarantee you won't have issues, like you will with Salt in our area"
A friend of our's built about 4 years ago and I asked them what they would do different. "Chlorine setup, not a salt setup" was the first thing out of their mouth. This was followed by a much larger VS pump, better heater, and lighter color unite.

Thomas,

I suggest you re-look at automation.. You have a Spa, which means having to manually switch two valve (twice) and turn on the heater to use it.. You have a water feature wall that you will need to manually control...

Without a spa, not having automation makes sense.. With a spa, not so much.. :)

Question for you... Have you ever been in a residential gunite spa? If not, you really want to try one, before buying one...

Thanks,

Jim R.
I'll revisit the automation for some more info. He acted like it was a ton of money, and not that much of an inconvenience, but I don't believe I fully understood what would be required manually, without it. I don't mind turning valves, back flushing, testing, adjusting, etc. I'm just an ol' plant operator (console now, but outside technician for quite a while) so working equipment and understanding optimal ranges is definitely within my wheelhouse. That said, I don't want to skip on convenience/excellence, if its within reach and not excessive.
I've been in a few Gunite spas, as that is largely what is around here. Is there any specific element you're referencing? I'm open!
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
13,927
Bedford, TX
Thomas,

I just wanted to make sure you know what you are getting and are happy with it.. Spas are the most over sold and underused parts of a pool build.. Many people love them of course, but just as many are disappointed in how well they work and how comfortable they are, and as a result, never use them more than a couple of times.. A lot of money wasted... Since you have been in a gunite spa before, it is a moot point.

Thanks,

Jim R.
 
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PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Spoke with 2 other PBs in the area, and have a note out to a 3rd. One appointment for Tuesday evening, another for next Monday, and I'm sure I'll set up the last, when they call, hopefully Monday.

One common theme, is all recommend staying away from SWCG, when its asked if they have preference. I've asked all to discuss it more in detail when they come, and we cover the list of wants/desires.
 

PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Met with PB 'B' yesterday. Very casual, conversational consult. Small, family run outfit that is local and been around about 25 years with a great reputation. They use Hayward, certified with pebbletech, and seem very flexible with spec'ing equipment based on my wants. She asked about SWCG or Chlorine, and I told her my research, and she listed both options as potentials for the estimate. We discussed areas that should be invested in on the front end, and ways to address other items, like a potential chiller, as a DIY addition down the road. Overall, she was a delight to talk to, and very flexible/open to everything we requested. That said, they're a small family shop, and she said they only build 15-20 pools a year, and treat each as a custom job and it gets a lot of attention, so I can't be in a hurry with them. I respected that statement.

She did say that she had salt, and didn't have issues other than all of her furniture and some hardware items had corrosion issues, along with their decking/coping/stone work having problems after about 6 years with salt. Explained their switch back to chlorine, and said she hasn't looked back. She did make the comment she never had prettier water, than with a salt system and that it felt better on the skin. This is one topic that I cannot seem to find consistency on, aside from this site. Still digging deep into this one for my own benefit. She was absolutely not opposed to installing salt, and did not push a traditional chlorine sale, when it was all said and done.

We meet with PB 'C' sunday, and 'D' Monday. I expect proposals from all three around the same time. 'C' has a stellar reputation, and are a large, well known operation. 'D' carries the same status locally, but they're only in this area. They do, however, install very specific equipment and do not budge. If you don't like what they use, then you don't use them as a builder, so I have a feeling its going to be a waste of both of our time. Going into it as open minded as I can, before making a decision.

PB 'A' wants us to sign a contract and put a deposit in before equipment lists will be provided and final details drawn up. That didn't jive well, either.
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
40,663
Tallahassee, FL
One question to ask of them is if they use subs or have their on "in house" people to do the different work. THAT can make a huge difference! I really like what B had to say. If B had in house people that would be the tipping point to me in the long run.

A=nope! Not signing ANYTHING without details such as model numbers and size and design of the pool!!

D=that is not a good way to do things but cheaper for THEM as they can buy things in bulk. Wonder if they will pass the savings on to you??? My guess is nope.

Kim:kim:
 

PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Spot on, Kim. I did ask 'B' about their crews, and she said they sub-contract it, but there are two crews they've used for the majority of their builds, that they feel like are part of their team. Either a good sales pitch, and really playing the southern charm/neighborly business angle, or its legitimate. I'm reaching out to a few people who have had them as builders so I can swing by and take a look at the overall quality of work.

'D' is such an anomaly to me.. I work for a large company in a small town, so everyone really FROM here, knows almost everyone FROM here, to a degree. Several know 'D' personally, and confirmed what I've heard. They also mentioned that they've bragged about how many times Pentair has sent them on rather nice appreciation vacations, so to speak. While I'm sure the quality is up there, we'll see how the consult goes.

As usual, I'll keep updates as they come! Hoping to have some specific details by week's end, maybe early next week.
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
40,663
Tallahassee, FL
Oh I like that you will be able to chat with the owners of some of B's pools!!! Ask how well they have handled warranty work! VERY telling there!

Kim:kim:
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
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Jul 10, 2012
40,663
Tallahassee, FL
FYI, everyone uses subs. Just like the people that built the house you live in......all done by subs.
I am going to change the above a bit:
FYI, almost everyone uses subs.

There are a tiny few that have in house workers. They are few and far between but they are out there. Just so you know.

Kim:kim:
 

PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Met with PB 'C' Saturday evening. They were running a special this weekend, and set some time after their normal hours (sales tactic or not, it was nice) to sit down with us. He didn't have a lot of time to review our survey, but he did pay close attention to what I'd mentioned in an email, in response to a few questions he had.
Attached is the design that he proposed, after some minor tweaks (preference, and cost cutting) and I believe we're close. Functionality, and layout fit very well to what we had envisioned. Out of the back patio, towards a tanning shelf, and just a few feet further is the spa. Raised wall along the back for depth/texture and the standard travertine coping all the way around. Colors are not accurate (both house and pool), but those adjustments don't seem to be super critical. To lock in the pricing we did sign an agreement, which required zero money down, and would only cost us to back out of if we gave the green light, they pull permits, and then we back out. 0 penalties or losses, should we opt out for any reason between now and clearing for dig.

A few things about this PB that I noticed. They were very informal/casual and made us feel rather welcome. Very big family vibe out of that office, and these guys do a LOT of pools. I may have been gamed by a great salesman, but I'd like to think it was genuine. He started with what he felt was a good size pool for the yard, with a few perks and extras. When I shook my head no at the price, he laughed and simply turned his monitor and said lets go line by line and talk about everything. "Lets cut what you don't want, or what you're comfortable doing after the fact". In doing this, we shaved the total down to about $56k, which was very fair (in comparison) to the other bid in hand. This allows me to purchase the vacuum (they recommended two models, both Polaris sport robots) and decide later if I want to pay for Kool decking, but the concrete work is being done. All in all, this was a very positive experience, with them. The transparency, and willingness to just sit down and tweak to fit my budget was fantastic. Left me wanting to simply find a way to work in the elements that they originally proposed, as I do think they were great ideas.

Worth noting that PB 'B' is still working on their estimate/design, and should have that to me within a few days. PB 'D' comes tomorrow.

80' perimeter. 32' length, 16' width. 3.5' down to 6' for depth.

Now that I've got some more details, I'd like some input. Pool size is a touch smaller than I'd expected to go, but we're nearing the top of the budget. We've got a 14 year old boy and a 9 year old girl. We intend on using the pool almost near round (SE Texas is forgiving for pool 'season')

Its still the N2 fusion chlorination system (Yes, I'm well aware of the sentiment) and we talked for about 15 minutes about the system. They're going to dig into some questions I asked, and we'll revisit this. We talked about SWCG and they said its 100% my call, and they'll install and support it. Their comments about the SWCG confirmed what a couple individuals from work told me regarding their travertine, grout, some decking materials having to be replaced after about 8 years on salt. I know Texas seems to 'hate' salt from a PB perspective, but when I say its been unanimous, outside of TFP, I mean literally unanimous. Everyone says "I love the way it feels" but caveat the whole thing with material damage to the pool and surroundings. I'm baffled by this one, still.
Jandy EPump pro series 2hp VS pump
Jandy 340 cartridge filter
Plumbed for booster (I'll install later, if desired. It'll be stubbed but this was to save some up front cost)
iAqualink-4 automation
8' spa, with rolled edges (this was the first I'd seen this feature, and frankly it makes perfect sense)
tiered split face spillover
400k Jandy gas heater.
Tanning ledge 10.5' x 6' with 2 bubblers
6 returns 2 floor mains (all returns plumbed as home runs)
2.5" PVC for all water.
1 skimmer ( I questioned if this was enough and was told I could add another if I wanted, but they were confident it was all I'd need)
Ozone (free)
3 Jandy LED lights - 2 main 1 spa
Upgraded to the PebbleSheen color my wife wanted (tier 1) as white diamond was the only color included.
They agreed to do a bag of abalone free
6" 12" 6" raised wall along the back with 2 12" sheer decent water falls
SOD to repair all grass from construction

112904112902
 
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Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
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Jul 7, 2014
13,927
Bedford, TX
Their comments about the SWCG confirmed what a couple individuals from work told me regarding their travertine, grout, some decking materials having to be replaced after about 8 years on salt.
So... how many people from work that don't have a SWCG said that their travertine, grout, and decking all looked great after 8 years? :mrgreen:

Not really a fair comparison if you don't have both sides...

Obviously, your money and your rule.. Get what you are most comfortable with..

Good luck with your new pool build,

Jim R.
 

PlaysARobin

Gold Supporter
Jul 18, 2019
62
Mont Belvieu (East Houston)
Well, one just got their pool redone, after 18 years on chlorine, but it was simply plaster and brick coping, so we know it never looked good to begin with! Haha!

In fairness, I didn’t say I disagreed with the forum, but only noted this was the first builder who said they’d install and support my decision between chlorine and SWCG. They only supplied their grain of salt in the discussion. They are going to follow up with me on my concerns about metals (CYA?) building up, over time if using the n2 fusion system.

Any opinion on the other equipment, spec’d? Still learning who’s who, but I believe some actually ask you specifically, Jim, about pumps or automation.
 

YippeeSkippy

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Jan 17, 2012
11,092
Evans, Georgia
Ozone is a waste of space, I'd say "no thanks".

Be aware that *all* pools are salt pools after a year or two....every chemical added breaks down and leaves some residual salt behind. If you test those pools for salt you'll find they're all about half way there to the amount required for the SWG to perform. If you aren't going to get fancy stone coping and decking....why would it matter anyway??

Since the local builders don't understand about salt in pools, what makes you think they understand ozone any better???

Maddie :flower:
 
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Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
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Jul 7, 2014
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Bedford, TX
ny opinion on the other equipment, spec’d? Still learning who’s who, but I believe some actually ask you specifically, Jim, about pumps or automation.
TLC,

I am not a Jandy guy, but the list looks good to me...

I like that it has a VS pump... I am not sure that a 2 HP pump will be big enough to run your spa, bubblers, and waterfall wall...
I like that it has a large cartridge filter.. the bigger the better in my opinion..
I like the idea of plumbing for a booster but not installing it now.. Once you use a robot there is not going back, but it makes sense to plumb it "just in case"
I like that you are getting an automation system..
I am not much of a fan of built-in spas, unless you have been in one before.. Everyone needs to know what they are getting before they get it.
A heater is a heater and although we almost always recommend a Ray-Pak, it is not a major issue.
I like the number of returns, the more the better.
I would want two skimmers...
Ozone is worth just what you are paying for it... (Zero)
I am the odd man out, but I don't really like color LED lights.. They don't seem to last very long..

Thanks,

Jim R.
 
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