New build in California, design phase

RHinSantaRosa

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
4
North Bay, CA
Just taking the first steps toward an owner-built pool in northern California. We are experienced home builders (and have done a LOT of concrete work) but have never designed or built a pool.

We have very clear ideas about what we're looking for, and know where it will go... but the client (my wife) wants a 3rd party swimming pool designer do draw up preliminary and construction plans - so Step 1 is to hire a pool designer/consultant. When it's time to file for the permit, we'll also need structural engineering drawings; we already have the geotech engineering reports in hand.

Do any of you have experience with and/or recommendations for a good pool design consultant? PoolEng.com in LA can do the structural work if necessary, but would prefer to work with a designer who is familiar with structural requirements. A quick search here didn't turn up any advice or recommendations. If you built your own pool, who did the drawings?
Thanks in advance,
Rob
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
778
Santa Cruz, CA
Our builder used PoolEng.com - I think most builders in the area, around us at least, tend to use them for drawings and structural work. Many of our subs came from as far away as your neck of the woods (Petaluma)...

Get a copy of Pool Studio and design it the way you (or the "client") wants it...

I am sure you can get help here doing that.

On our build I ended up doing the layout for what we wanted and the "builder" just put it into the plans he submitted to PoolEng
 
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RHinSantaRosa

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
4
North Bay, CA
Thanks for the advice, Monty. I read your build story from front to back a few months ago - it's one of the reasons I decided to go the owner-builder route. I have already had detailed conversations with Pooleng.com and have shared my geotech requirements with them; they certainly can do the structural design for me with no issues. Now I am looking for an experienced pool designer to do the conceptual 2D/3D drawings my client needs to get to the structural design. She is a visual thinker, so telling her that it's a straightforward rectangular 18'x32' pool with max 5-1/2' depth and an integrated spa and Pooleng can give me the structural drawings for that in a heartbeat won't do: she wants a "real pool designer" to give her plans she can critique.

What I am wondering is whether anyone here can recommend someone who does (probably Pool Studio) design for a fee, without the expectation that they would then become the pool builder?
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
778
Santa Cruz, CA
Have you ever had anyone quote building your pool? Once we did that it became clear that our ideas were often better than the pool "designers". Having said that they often offered their 3D design images to try to get us to sign with their company - even if it was really my design, but in 3D, it was still super basic.

I know that it can help visual people to see a completed design idea on screen. My wife certainly liked that part of our design phase. Of course the company that did the nicest Pool Studio design for us was also the most expensive company by 50-100% - but the 3D Pool Studio images that they made were a helpful starting point for us. After that we had some even crazier designs and ideas along the way. The Pool Studio version of my design seemed pretty basic compared to what some builder were proposing...

Hopefully there are some Northern California posters that might have a designer in mind. Sorry I don't know of one.

Part of why we signed with our pool builder is that they built a few of the pools we had independently found on Houzz - those were pools in the Marin county and Bay area that were designed by prominent local architects.
 

RHinSantaRosa

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
4
North Bay, CA
Monty, your first couple of posts start with surprise that the pool builders didn't have much/anything to contribute to your hand-drawn 'plans'. That's pretty much my experience as well (with one exception who thought he was auditioning for a job on Pool Kings or some other TV show about monster pools). I have lots of practical 'how-to' questions that I hope to get answered here, but first - I need to lock in on the basic design.

I had discussions with 2 locally well-known pool builders a year ago - neither impressed me as someone who would a) listen to what we really wanted to build - which is a classically simple, almost 'mid-century Palm Springs' rectangular pool with modern tech for the chlorination, filtration and pumping or b) have an open mind about features and technology decisions - and that usually leads to either confrontation or overpriced bids if they're forced to quote something they don't normally do. The only question either of them asked was, "how big" and the (paraphrased) next thing I heard was "That will be about $125K." Which, knowing what I know about concrete work - and pools, based on lots of lurking here and elsewhere - is way out of line and way out of our budget.

Without in any way intending to belittle the experience of the professional poolbuilders here, I'm confident about handling the concrete work associated with this pool; I've formed and poured more than 700 linear feet of foundation and retaining walls ranging from 3-8' tall x 6" up to 24" thick.. and we're up to about 1,800sf of flat work now. I was lucky enough to sign up a very successful retired concrete contractor to help me do the house foundation, and he introduced me to a bunch of good folks who have collectively done great work and saved me more than $100K just on masonry!

This project has 3 structures: the house, a 1,400sf detached garage/shop, and a 500sf post and beam pool/guest house with 1 BR and bath. Here in Sonoma County, there are separate permits for each structure; I've finalled the house, hope to final the pool house by the end of this month, and the garage/shop will be about a month behind. Alon the way, I have learned that building in California is a little different: every engineering discipline seems to have laws ensuring full employment! I'm pleased to say, though, that we haven't failed a single inspection for any part of any of these 3 builds... and the inspector has already signed off on the equipotential bond copper embedded in the concrete decks around the pool house.

I have one question specific to your project: are you happy with the automatic cover you put in, and have there been any complications from the removable coping over the vault? Choosing the cover vendor seems like a pre-requisite to the mechanical design, and it's a necessity here since I can't really build a fence around the pool.
 

OrlandoBull

Well-known member
Jul 30, 2015
195
Winter Garden , FL
As others have said, you could honestly do it yourself in pool studio. There is a free trial version, but you can't save your work. If you can leave a computer on, you can do everything else with it. The program isn't that hard to learn either.

I am an engineer, so I drew up my own plans, however, the wife and I started by scouring the web for photos of the perfect pool. Actually ended up finding our design on here with another owner-builder in our town. He was gracious enough to send me his plans so that I could get dimensions, I then tweaked for the minor changes we wanted and drew up our plans for permitting. BUT, he had 3D images that helped me show the wife what it would look like. Like your client, mine needed to see that to really visualize how it would look. So... look around here and if you see "it", reach out to the owner and see if they can provide you with any plans. I have done 1 rectangle pool and starting my second, if there is anything I can help you with, let me know.

I also agree, most on here that have built pools have way more insight than a PB/designer. Usually they draw/build/get paid and done. Those living with their pools have first hand experience with what they like and what they would change if doing it again.
 
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santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
778
Santa Cruz, CA
I have one question specific to your project: are you happy with the automatic cover you put in, and have there been any complications from the removable coping over the vault? Choosing the cover vendor seems like a pre-requisite to the mechanical design, and it's a necessity here since I can't really build a fence around the pool.
RH

We have had no trouble with the coping stones on the stainless brackets. It is nice to be able to slide a coping stone out of the way to get into the vault as needed.

We have had a little bit of rubbing on the underside of one coping piece when the full rolled up cover hits it a tiny bit - which has worn the cover a bit - I think the installers could have smoothed out the underside of the coping where that is now happening. It is probably reducing the life of my cover ever so slightly.

One tip for doing the vault is to make sure the vault and your new concrete decking are really straight and inline (no extra concrete overhanging the vault space) - even a 1/8" to 1/4" of wavyness in the concrete decking created a problem when they did our deck pour. Our concrete guy had to come back and grind the sides of the deck a bit to get our coping to line up nice and straight all the way along the vault. I think if they had used a wood form nailed to the inside of the vault wall that went up higher than the finished concrete decking it would have made things even cleaner. They just hand troweled that area and it wasn't laser straight.

On another note, you will probably need an additional prevention device, alarm(s), or additional fence/barrier for the pool even with the cover. California has had this new 2 barrier rule for pools since 2018.
 

RHinSantaRosa

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
4
North Bay, CA
Thanks for the info, Monty, and appreciate the offer, Orlando - would love to see any plans you are willing to share. I downloaded the CoverPools installers' guide this afternoon and it was very helpful, answered all the questions i had been planning to ask their sales rep regarding vault and track dimensions. I am now considering doing the first round of concrete work (vault, negative edge 4' deep footing key per geotechs, perimeter footings and overflow catch basin) before setting steel and plumbing. It's not the conventional construction sequence, but the result would be a solid foundation with vertical rebar in place before the pool walls get formed - and it's work I can do outside the scope of work of anyone I hire to work at pool builder markups.

I downloaded a copy of PoolStudio... as a former AutoCAD/CorelDraw/Sketchup user, I suspect I can learn it (but would cheerfully pay someone else to do the drawings: I am heads-down 7 days a week trying to finish construction on the pool house and workshop/garage). I keep saying "I will start working on the pool permit just as soon as I finish..." but, of course, the list never ends.
 
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