Looking for advice on vinyl pool--short vs long-term

Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Hello! First time poster and first time pool owner here in MA! I have learned so much from TFP and I hope I can get some advice to help make informed decisions on our pool which is a steel-walled, vinyl-lined (presumed to be 12 years old), sand-bottom 20x40 pool with cement corner stairs.

Background: Purchased home that came with pool assumed to be built in 70s. Had tarp and tubes cover on it, and was not opened for past 2 years based on word from previous owners. Took cover off to find your usual stench, green-ish water, a few frogs, and crazy amounts of leaves. It was filled lower than it needed to be from what I see as the recommendation (images)--but seems like it has been holding this amount of water for quite some time. Found tear in liner on stairs, which was about where the water kept dropping to when attempting to fill. Decided it was time for a new liner and wanted to pressure test the lines, which we suspected to not be winterized properly, given the rest of the pool was neglected as well. Goal: new liner=new pool.

So, we had a company come through to start the liner replacement process (test lines, rip liner to see behind it). Started to go downhill from here. 1 of the returns failed pressure test. One of the 40ft walls had evidence of previous patching, and found a new unpatched deterioriated, corroded area in the radius in the deep end. One of the patches became undone and we looked at what was behind: large baseball sized holes. We suspect that the decking material and grade were to blame for the continuous deterioriation. Above this side of the pool is a wooden decking placed haphazardly, with just the ground underneath, likely causing water to seep in behind the walls. This is the same story on the radius in the deep end, same decking material, with deterioriating brick and mortar, just wreaking havoc to the walls. The other 40ft side: spotless! And that side is covered by brick pavers. So, the pool company suggested we spot fix the walls, but that doesn't guarantee us anything long-term.

The sand-bottom: we have a groundwater problem, found when the last few inches of the pool didn't drain and the liner began to float. The company cut the liner there to see if additional water came up, which it did in the days that followed (no significant rain). Presumed to have a maindrain at some point which was covered (technician felt it under the water). Recommendation: put down vermiculite and add a blind line/main drain/hydrostatic valve--something to keep the water out--but mainly to be able to put the liner down so that there isn't groundwater there. Seems like an awfully expensive way to solve for having a dry bottom to drop the liner. Note: I don't care so much about aesthetics of a sand-bottom pool--just want it to be safe and functional. I also read that putting down vermiculte could also allow for algae growth under the liner when groundwater is present.

Last consideration: we are planning to re-do our deck with new cement pavers with gravel base.

Where I am today: I would like a pool, but I don't want to face the situation that in a decade or less, we have to fill in the pool because the walls continue to fail. I don't want to spend $$ on a really nice pool patio only to have to dig it up later anyway..

Options I am considering:
1. Go forward with the repairs to the wall, replace broken return piping, add vermiculite bottom and follow-through with liner replacement. Let's say that's $25K. Is this worth it?
2. Shallow-out the pool to eliminate the ground water problem (with sand? does it have to be vermiculite/concrete?)--wall problem doesn't go away. No vermiculite is preffered to keep costs down. Let's say that's $25K + some. I don't know if this is possible?
3. Reconstruct in the same pit we have? No idea at this point how much this is, but assume insane amounts...
4. Cut our losses and just fill the darn thing and put our patio over it. Less than $25K for removal?

Short-term: we could have a pool for a few years. Long-term, we could have to rip up the new pavers and fill in the pool.

What do you think? Is our pool salvagable and if we take care of it, can we extend its life? Does 10 years sound about right?
Your help is appreciated more than you know! Thanks in advance!!
 

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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
29,653
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Welcome to TFP. You have a lot going on. Primary question is do you want a pool? If you had a clear backyard would you be looking to install a pool?

Having well points around a liner pool is not unusual to provide water management. The well points can be connected to a french drain and drain to daylight if the topography allows or it may take pumps in the well points to move the water.

I am not sure if we are talking about the same thing when you say to add a blind line/main drain/hydrostatic valve--something to keep the water out--but mainly to be able to put the liner down so that there isn't groundwater there. The right answer depends on your local conditions.

Vermiculite is a common bottom for a liner pool and should not cause any problems.

I would think you need to remove the wood deck and dig out along the wall on that side, repair and backfill as necessary, and repair any piping.

I think the major issues you have are installing a water management system around the pool, and then what pool wall repairs are needed. The liner, plumbing, equipment and deck are then pretty straight forward.

Let's see what @jimmythegreek or @Rich D has to say.
 
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Pool_Medic

In The Industry
Apr 1, 2018
1,554
Bangor Maine
Option 1 shouldn’t be 25k, I won’t have a house without a pool but that’s me. A handy DIY’er could fix that pool for under 10k. Liner out, run new return, repair walls, vermiculite bottom, install new liner. Then I would tackle the existing patio. After repairs are done a new liner will last 12-18 years depending on water chemistry.
 
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Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Option 1 shouldn’t be 25k, I won’t have a house without a pool but that’s me. A handy DIY’er could fix that pool for under 10k. Liner out, run new return, repair walls, vermiculite bottom, install new liner. Then I would tackle the existing patio. After repairs are done a new liner will last 12-18 years depending on water chemistry.

@Pool_Medic Thanks good to know. Are you interested? :D

Finding inflated prices when going with pool companies, and wish we were more comfortable with DIY. Patio is definitely getting replaced so I know we can stop additional deterioration.
 

Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Agree your looking at 10 to 15k for that work. Easy to shallow it out if thats preferred just some clean stone and then the floor
@jimmythegreek thank you. Any thoughts on putting sand back over as the new shallowed-out floor? Does it have to be vermiculite?

Additional consideration: we haven’t gotten a look at the pool’s frame on the same side of the decking, which worries me if also rusted out. Will dig out and take a look when going to replace pipes and fix walls, but any thoughts on impacts to the frame?
 

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Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
That's going to be the case for another year. Then prices will likely come down when the backlog has cleared and these guys need to eat again!

Good point, and hopefully that’s the case. Plenty of other work on the docket. Was just hoping for a backyard this summer so it’s a battle of need vs nice to have’s.
 

Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Did your house sale come with any warranty that the pool was in usable condition? Did you have any inspection on it?

Maddie :flower:

Thanks, Maddie. Not quite, since it was wintertime when we bought it. Pulled off part of the cover to have a look and seemed to be neglected but doable. Still think this is the case, but wanted to get more eyes and ears on for multiple opinions.
 

jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
3,900
Morris Cnty NJ
You can use sand, it's just a pain to make it decent because your walking on the sand to install liner. I wouldmt ever be able to do a samd bottom, my ocd would keep me there for a week trying to get the floor perfect after putting footprints in the sand
 

Bill1974

Well-known member
Jun 18, 2014
113
Hauppauge, NY
Pool Size
32000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Figure out all that should be fixed to make it right and the way you want. Then figure out in what order things have to be done. I am in a similar situation. Started with liner needing to be replaced. Could not see putting in a new line is a pool with the ugly metal coping I have currently. So after learning what needs to be done to make it way I would like it, I decided to do some work this year and have the rest done next year. This year I'm having the liner and coping replaced. I am putting in new skimmer and replacing some of the lines since it's possible. Next year will be replace the rest of lines, run new conduit for power so I can add a heat pump in the future. Then is redo all the concrete, pavers and retaining walls around the pool.

It would be nice to do it all at once, but sometimes it's not possible. I don't know how to properly deal with the water under the liner, but I am sure it's not the first time this happened and there are proven way to address it. The rest seems pretty straight forward and not to bad.
 

TheRaven

Well-known member
Jul 3, 2018
54
Fleetwood, PA
Find the smaller guys. You will probably have to look for awhile, took me about 8 months to round up a few interested parties for my project. I had a 14x28 shallow vinyl inground that I got with my house purchase, and it was similarly neglected (but clearly better built). But I wanted more, it wasn't nearly big enough nor deep enough. So I solicited the idea of physically expanding the shell out to 38ft and going at least 8ft deep. The big guys wouldn't touch it...just not interested. I found three smaller outfits that came out to have a look, but only one actually bid on it. Checking up on him (he is essentially a one-man outfit with a couple of part timers for helpers) I couldn't find a bad review. He came very highly recommended. So I signed and the project turned out great.

- You definitely want a hard bottom. Mine is now 4" of concrete with 2" of vermiculite.
- Those holes can be fixed and last, but it needs to be done right by someone who knows how to do it.
- Try to do as much as you can yourself. That's what I did for my build. I'm not a pool builder, but I am an engineer. So I let the expert craftsman handle the stuff that required the hand of an expert craftsman, and I handled the stuff that required the brain of an engineer. Do what you know you can do well, and find an expert for the stuff you can't.

Bottom line, I would definitely try to salvage the pool. My wife and I both agreed we wanted a pool, and we looked into both avenues - either expanding the one we have or ripping it out and starting new. Our project total came in less than half of the rip out and start over option. So it's worth it.
 

Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
You can use sand, it's just a pain to make it decent because your walking on the sand to install liner. I wouldmt ever be able to do a samd bottom, my ocd would keep me there for a week trying to get the floor perfect after putting footprints in the sand
I hear you, I think that would drive me nuts too. And it sounds like the hard bottom might be the more optimal way to go. Thanks again!
 
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Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Figure out all that should be fixed to make it right and the way you want. Then figure out in what order things have to be done. I am in a similar situation. Started with liner needing to be replaced. Could not see putting in a new line is a pool with the ugly metal coping I have currently. So after learning what needs to be done to make it way I would like it, I decided to do some work this year and have the rest done next year. This year I'm having the liner and coping replaced. I am putting in new skimmer and replacing some of the lines since it's possible. Next year will be replace the rest of lines, run new conduit for power so I can add a heat pump in the future. Then is redo all the concrete, pavers and retaining walls around the pool.

It would be nice to do it all at once, but sometimes it's not possible. I don't know how to properly deal with the water under the liner, but I am sure it's not the first time this happened and there are proven way to address it. The rest seems pretty straight forward and not to bad.
Thank you @Bill1974 , helpful to hear you’re in a similar situation.
I think our problem is that the string of related projects continues starting with the pool, i.e. if we don’t address the pool, especially the underground portion, we can’t do the pool patio. If we don’t do the patio, we impact the rest of our hardscaping project. But, I think we definitely need to do the coping, which wasn’t the case. The company that bid the $25K won’t even do the coping...so not only will I pay more, I also won’t get what I want. The search continues...I also nod the want to leave the pool drained for a year either
 

Lilz

Member
Mar 30, 2021
12
MA
Find the smaller guys. You will probably have to look for awhile, took me about 8 months to round up a few interested parties for my project. I had a 14x28 shallow vinyl inground that I got with my house purchase, and it was similarly neglected (but clearly better built). But I wanted more, it wasn't nearly big enough nor deep enough. So I solicited the idea of physically expanding the shell out to 38ft and going at least 8ft deep. The big guys wouldn't touch it...just not interested. I found three smaller outfits that came out to have a look, but only one actually bid on it. Checking up on him (he is essentially a one-man outfit with a couple of part timers for helpers) I couldn't find a bad review. He came very highly recommended. So I signed and the project turned out great.

- You definitely want a hard bottom. Mine is now 4" of concrete with 2" of vermiculite.
- Those holes can be fixed and last, but it needs to be done right by someone who knows how to do it.
- Try to do as much as you can yourself. That's what I did for my build. I'm not a pool builder, but I am an engineer. So I let the expert craftsman handle the stuff that required the hand of an expert craftsman, and I handled the stuff that required the brain of an engineer. Do what you know you can do well, and find an expert for the stuff you can't.

Bottom line, I would definitely try to salvage the pool. My wife and I both agreed we wanted a pool, and we looked into both avenues - either expanding the one we have or ripping it out and starting new. Our project total came in less than half of the rip out and start over option. So it's worth it.
Thanks, @TheRaven , really helpful to hear. If anything I’d want to downsize our monstrosity of a pool! I’m looking for the smaller guys too. Just so booked up.
good to know about the hard bottom, the more I think about it, the more it seems like the way to go.
what parts specifically did you feel comfortable handling if you don’t mind me asking? We’re in a similar situation: handy, but timid about this specific project because of the risks of messing up.
Glad to hear you think it’s a good idea to salvage. We agreed on it too, and now are looking for people willing to work on it!
 

TheRaven

Well-known member
Jul 3, 2018
54
Fleetwood, PA
Thanks, @TheRaven what parts specifically did you feel comfortable handling if you don’t mind me asking? We’re in a similar situation: handy, but timid about this specific project because of the risks of messing up.

Sorry, I never got notified that you responded. So i'm late to this question. I had the builder handle physically expanding the pool itself, I handled everything else. He came in and demo'ed the concrete and the side of the pool we were expanding, and dug out the deep end. We worked together on the new walls - I created a 3D model of the pool off of his measurements so we could figure out what panels would work, and then he took care of sourcing those panels and then built the new walls, poured the bond beam, put in an additional skimmer, return, and a set of drains, and installed the light niche. He ran the pipework for the new skimmer and return, I did the pipework for the lighting. He backfilled and poured the deck, and then graded around the shallow end of the pool. He and I did the liner together, and I pulled the wire for the lighting and terminated the new GFCI circuit for it. I brought the pipework onto the pad and installed the new pump and filter and piped it all in. I installed the new pad panel and timers, and then took care of startup and water balancing. I did all the landscaping. I also then added heat and salt this spring (ran out of time last year).

I have a build thread that I have not updated since September because I literally just finished "the project" last week. So I will get some finished pics tonight and finish the build thread:

VLIG Expansion - something a bit different.
 

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