New build, free form pool in North Texas *new pics 8/10

Michellef

Member
Mar 12, 2013
22
We are complete newbies to the pool-building arena. With an investment this big, we wanted to make sure we did everything right,so we plunged in to the research and learned everything we could about pool building. We interviewed 8 builders and obtained pool designs and bids from 6. I must have visited 10 different pool owners' homes, asking questions ad nauseum . This website was extremely helpful in the process, providing a non-biased forum to bounce questions off experts, read opinions, and gather information.

One of the most frustrating parts of the process was finding that nearly every company we interviewed had a different opinion on the way our pool should be engineered. Some wanted to do chemical injections, some piers - and even with piers, there were 3 different kinds (and each was the best!) Even opinions about salt water and the effect on stone and equipment varied greatly between pool builders. After 5 months of research, interviewing builders, and harassing friends and acquaintances with pools, we finally signed on the dotted line.

We chose our PB based on experience in our area, size/stability of company, comfort level with PB, customer reviews and price. The process has been slow but steady and we feel really comfortable with the resulting pool design and process - hope it all goes according to plan! I just hope we get 1 month of swim season this year.

Here’s the design:

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There is a slope in our back yard, toward the deep end (on the left), so there is a raised beam of about 2 feet on that side with a lowered decking. Along the back of the pool is the spa with rock spillway, 12 feet of weeping rocks and 3 foot grotto/ waterfall.

We signed our contract and within 2 1/2 weeks, the excavator showed up at our back gate. We have a large retaining wall which our pool builder assured us this would break in the process (but they would rebuild) to save our driveway and the other part of the yard from being ripped up (and as an added bonus, no need to move the shed. YAY!!)

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The excavation went smoothly and the extremely talented crew had it all dug up in a few hours. Amazing how that giant beast can finesse the benches, spa, and tanning ledge!

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Because of our expansive, unstable soil, we are doing a pre-swell which helps prevent the soil from later swelling up and cracking the pool structure. We put in 15,000 gallons of water to be absorbed by the dirt.
Nasty, murky water! It does help us envision what the pool will look like later when filled with water, though!

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A lot of nothing done this week due to rain in Texas. The engineering test should be completed TODAY and MAYBE the steel will go in tomorrow. Hoping for plumbing and (cross my fingers) gunite by next week.
 

diyindux

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2013
187
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Your soils are brutal to work with. Most people worry about settling but with the expansive soils you have you get to deal with the opposite.

Looks like your PB knows what they are doing.
 

Otis Campbell

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 5, 2013
100
Lewisville, TX
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

The pics look great. Congratulations on getting started! The weather forecast looks to be in your favor. I can't tell from the shots if the retaining wall crumbled or not. What happened?
 

diyindux

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2013
187
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Looks like the top was broken off in the second excavation photo. Not too bad considering.
 

harleysilo

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 1, 2012
1,938
North Georgia
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Care to elaborate on this whole expanding soil issue, and what steps they do to make it a non issue?
 

diyindux

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2013
187
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Expansive soils are soils that shrink or swell as their moisture content changes. A type of clay called montmorillonite is especially prone to volume changes. Clay particles are like thin plates. When montmorillonite gets wet, it takes in water and the particles rearrange into a flocculated structure. Basically this means that when dry the particles lay on top of each other like playing cards scattered on a table. When it gets wet, they rearrange into a structure more like a house of cards. Except they are held in that shape by charged ions. North Texas has lots of monmorillonite. If you plan to build on it, getting it wet and keeping it wet will make is swell up and stay that way. Here's a little leisure reading for everyone: http://geography.unt.edu/~pdong/courses ... K_2011.pdf
 

harleysilo

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Mar 1, 2012
1,938
North Georgia
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Interesting, so how does one keep it wet for years and years? Incidentally i recently learned that what is commonly known in these parts as Georgia Red Clay should be called Georgia Red Sand, my sample was less than 10% clay.
 

diyindux

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2013
187
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Once it is wet, it tends to hold the moisture pretty well. Then once the pool starts to crack that helps keep it wet!
 

Otis Campbell

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 5, 2013
100
Lewisville, TX
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Harley,

The idea isn't to get the soil wet and keep it wet. It is to get the soil saturated so that it has absorbed as much water as it possibly can. At that point the shell is placed above the soil and you've reduced, hopefully elimnated, the possiblity that the soil will ever heave into the shell and cause a problem. Don't take that explanation to your local school of engineering but that's how I understand it from talking to my PB.

Some builders do swell the soil and use chemical injections to keep it swollen. As Michellef said at the start of this thread there seems to be as many opinons and approaches as there are pool builders.
 

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diyindux

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2013
187
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Otis Campbell said:
Harley,

The idea isn't to get the soil wet and keep it wet. It is to get the soil saturated so that it has absorbed as much water as it possibly can. At that point the shell is placed above the soil and you've reduced, hopefully elimnated, the possiblity that the soil will ever heave into the shell and cause a problem. Don't take that explanation to your local school of engineering but that's how I understand it from talking to my PB.

Some builders do swell the soil and use chemical injections to keep it swollen. As Michellef said at the start of this thread there seems to be as many opinons and approaches as there are pool builders.
Using the word "wet" might be confusing. I apologize if anyone got the idea that it should look like a mud hole. The clay soaks up the water and there is a limit to what it can hold. At that point, it is saturated and has swelled as much as it can. You can pump out the excess water and the clay should stay in its expanded state. Think of it like a dried out, squashed sponge. When you submerge the sponge it swells up and as long as it stays damp it will stay that size.

Any new pics of the build, or is it still soaking?
 

Michellef

Member
Mar 12, 2013
22
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Great discussion. I've wondered what happens when it "dries", so the sponge analogy was helpful. There was a flurry of activity over the weekend - very impressive, actually. Plumbing and steel are done, today the lights were connected. After inspection I think we are ready for gunnite - hoping this week. I'll try to post more pictures tonight.
 

Michellef

Member
Mar 12, 2013
22
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Once the soil engineer gave the green light, almost every day has been busy.
Here is a picture of the bad clay - we think it's the black line in this picture. We don't have a lot, looking at the side profile of the pool.
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Friday was day #1 of plumbing. Unbelievable how many pipes are involved! These guys worked incredibly hard digging trenches all day long.
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Thanks for not cutting up the cable and electricity!
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Saturday was steel. Another long day in the heat - hard work.

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Monday was another full day of plumbing. The whole driveway was bored under to hook up to the sewer line in front of the house. Great job.
Tuesday was electrical to hook up the lights and ground the pool.

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Now we are just waiting for the inspection on the steel - and then gunite will be scheduled. We are hoping for Friday!
 

Spaniard

Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 15, 2013
19
Frisco, TX
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

Looks very nice. I'm in Frisco and starting my research. Would you mind disclosing your builder? I like that yours is looking at soil samples and taking that into account. Thank you.
 

zoobie

Active member
May 9, 2013
32
Atlanta GA
Re: New build, free form pool in North Texas

We just got the invoice for one visit from the soil engineer. I can't imagine a week's worth. Hope your build progresses smoothly. :)
 

Michellef

Member
Mar 12, 2013
22
The last couple of weeks have shown steady progress on the pool. We had a 1-2 day delay for rain, but otherwise everything has been really smooth.

The gunite went in about 10 days ago. The guys did a great job of putting up barriers to protect the porch and fence from splatter.
FYI, I guess this year there is a huge pool boom, so there is a giant demand for the gunite crews. Pool companies are getting backed up with demand delays. Even the big companies with their own crews are asking the private guys to help - then the smaller companies are running into delays because of the overload.
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The gunite set for 6 days before the rock crew came. With the 100+ heat, we made sure to water 3-4 times per day while curing.

The stone guys started Tuesday and worked 5 FULL DAYS this week (including Saturday) and still have a few hours left to work on Monday. They did the tile, rock on the exposed wall of the spa and raised beam, coping and water feature rocks. I was amazed at the amount of man hours that went into our rock work. This was the hottest week of the Texas summer so we were feeling pretty bad for the crew.

With 5 days at our house, they definitely made themselves at home.

They put a roof over their heads
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And a microwave in the spa
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and there was even a place to hang their hats.
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We noticed the microwave went kaput on the last day and ended up in the junk pile, so we got some pizzas for the crew on the last day.
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Here is a close up of the tile. The color is Mas ven Azul, from Master Tile
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We are pretty thrilled with how amazing the rock work looks. Here’s some close-ups of the stone on the spa and raised beam.
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A couple things about the coping... We had the salt water/ corrosion of Oklahoma Flagstone discussion with every PB we interviewed, and again we had multiple answers. Some said they would not do salt with Okla Flagsone. Others said it was fine as long as you sealed it every year. The PB we picked said that the corrosion of Okla. Flagstone has much more to do with the quality of the stone than sealing or salt. If the stone is poor quality (flaky, pitting), it will corrode no matter what environment it is in. He showed us the side of different stones - the poor quality looks much more striated, and obviously already flaking. The good stone looks pretty solid from the side. The poor quality should only be used in retaining walls. Here is a picture of the side of the coping - this stone looks great (according to my amateur eyes!).
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We asked our PB for the lightest color of stone. I didn't want a lot of dark orange/ rust/ black/ dark brown stone - we were looking for light tans, beige and browns. The crew drove an extra 90 minutes to get a palate at a different location for us. We are really happy with how the coping colors look.
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There will be a large stone on top of those stone pillars to form a grotto which will be installed tomorrow.
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We asked to have some rocks leading up to the grotto be flat - and you can see they look like stairs. The kids will use this to get up on the rock to jump off.
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The rock crew will be back after decking for a small retaining wall and coping on some steps.