New owner seeking renovation/rebuild advice

dan0788

Well-known member
Sep 9, 2021
49
NJ
Pool Size
25000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Hey everyone - long post incoming. First time pool owner and there’s lots for me to digest, so apologies in advance!

I recently purchased a fixer upper home and the pool, along with the rest of the property was pretty neglected. We had the pool inspected prior to purchasing and there were quite a few major issues that were pointed out. We knew we wanted the home and have a vision for what the pool and yard could eventually be so we still moved forward. Given the current state of the pool industry we just want to make sure we’re taking the right steps, in the right order and not to be taken advantage of.

The pool is a 1968 17x33 steel wall vinyl pool. The concrete decking around the pool needs to be replaced in its entirety. Its not really safe for adult use, let alone for our two kids. I’ve attached some pictures where you can see how much the concrete has moved, with certain areas having large enough gaps to reach half of my body behind the coping.

One side of the long wall has sunken down by 2 inches and the opposite wall is bowed inwards by 2.25 inches.

In June 2019 the previous owners had the following work done by a local company:

Remove sand floor and replace with vermiculite
Replace all wall foam
New liner installed
Total on receipts: $10,250

The pool was closed after this in 2019 and was not opened again until we inspected it. The owner said that they didn’t notice the “movement” in the walls until around this time. So that led us to believe that something could’ve been disturbed during this process.

Aside from the poor condition, it was deemed to be in 100% serviceable condition. The liner has no known leaks and has not needed to be topped off in 2 years. All equipment works and functions well. Based on what he saw, we should be able to use the pool until the end of the liners life for another 5+ years.

We were told by the pool inspector that we may be able to get away with replacing certain sections of the pool wall depending on what was causing the sinking/bowing. Obviously they only way to know would be to eventually pull back the liner and see whats going on.

I was then able to get in touch with the local company who did the work listed above and they were kind enough to answer any questions I had. In short they said that our property has a ground water issue that has washed away the base of the pool area over the 50+ years.

Note: I am 2 houses from a large lake so we have a higher than average water table. And in the short time I’ve lived here I’ve learned that my yard is prone to flooding from poor draining of the property. This will be addressed along with this entire project. Also worth noting almost every home in my immediate neighborhood has in-ground pools without catastrophic issues.

He said that the previous sand base had washed away and eventually caused the liner to fail. They replaced with vermiculite because it is porous and will allow ground water to come and go without “washing away.” He said that the same issue is what has caused the walls to shift due to the underlying earth being washed away (which also makes sense for the horrible condition of the decking). When I asked if it’s something that could be repaired he said that the walls are “in really bad shape and at the end of their life. Based on the condition and rust, you’re better off replacing the walls entirely. Based on the currently market it would cost roughly $25-30k to do so along with a new liner, plumbing, etc. And that he would try to salvage as much of the new floor as possible.”

Addressing the ground water is something thats a priority for me. Either some sort of de-watering drain under the pool or sump tubes around the deck based on some research. Not sure how that would work with the above suggestion of saving the existing floor.

I took this information with a grain of salt knowing his job is to sell pools BUT he’s currently the only person who’s seen the true underlying condition.

I guess my real question is: where do I start?

Our main concern before we knew about the walls was the decking for safety (as cosmetic) reasons. We want to do everything right and now cant justify spending any money repairing or replacing it if we’ll eventually have to rip it apart anyway.

I’d assume any reputable pool builder is going to want to see whats going on under the pool before saying how they would approach it. It also doesn’t really seem like something that can or should be put off once we starting going down the rabbit hole. If we drain the pool and remove the liner, we’re at the liberty of whatever we discover. It could be a single panel replacement or an entirely new pool install but we need to be prepared to address it instead of letting it sit empty and get worse.

Regardless, my plan is to open the pool next spring and use it for an entire season to get a lay of the land. I’d like to have the pool guy mentioned above open it and give me a thorough explanation of what he knows and how he would address it. Using that information I can contact multiple other builders and get more formal quotes throughout the season with the hopes of tackling this going into the summer of 2023.

I guess I’m just looking for any advice on the situation that can be offered. It’s my first pool and im sure there’s alot more going on than what I can see.
 

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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
38,914
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Welcome to TFP.

In my opinion, your pool and deck has outlived its economical life. Any money you put into it in repairs is a short term expense that is creating no value.

At some time you need to plan on building a new deck and pool. Maybe some things can be reused once they get into it but the plan and budget should anticipate all new construction incorporating the lessons learned about your site problems.

I hope what you have will safely last through swimming season 2022.
 

dan0788

Well-known member
Sep 9, 2021
49
NJ
Pool Size
25000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Welcome to TFP.

In my opinion, your pool and deck has outlived its economical life. Any money you put into it in repairs is a short term expense that is creating no value.

At some time you need to plan on building a new deck and pool. Maybe some things can be reused once they get into it but the plan and budget should anticipate all new construction incorporating the lessons learned about your site problems.

I hope what you have will safely last through swimming season 2022.
Thanks for the response. In the past 5 months since purchasing I've been mentally preparing myself for an entire rebuild. With a project of this cost i'd be most comfortable knowing its re-done correctly and with none of the old stuff compromising anything.

I guess my next question would be how do I ensure the soil and groundwater is properly addressed once the old pool is removed? I read somewhere that once soil is disturbed, it needs to be removed. Other than drainage is there anything else that can be done during the new install to help with the property issues?
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
38,914
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Where are you in NJ?

@jimmythegreek builds liner pools in the Morris County area.

You need a pool builder who knows more about construction then just how to dig holes in the ground. You need a water management and drainage plan developed. And maybe some concrete areas for retaining walls.

You should talk to builders about if a gunite pool is more suitable on your property. It may cost more initially but can better stand the ground movement and underground water you have. A gunite pool can be engineered for any environment.

@Rich D may also have some thoughts if he is around.
 

dan0788

Well-known member
Sep 9, 2021
49
NJ
Pool Size
25000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Im in Union County so right next door, hopefully they can chime in. Much appreciated!
 
Last edited:

jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
4,051
Morris Cnty NJ
I agree with Allen. When that pool was built you were lucky to get a steel wall. Most were wood framed creosote treated with a masonite type panel. In dry areas they actually lasted. In a high water table theres likely little left of the steel integrity. They rust quickly with ground water. They also never used concrete footers back then although with metal walls they might have added some. Either way I would use the pool the best you can and keep repairs simple and cheap. I can tell you theres no saving any part of that pool longterm. The panels will be rusted amd fused together and nothing should be reused. It would be like blowing up a V8 engine and redoing 4 of the 8 cylinders. Your already in there do the whole motor. This is the same thing. Cost wise it's nearly a new pool build, because your saving the digging but have to do extensive demo so it's a wash. Building on wet land takes skill and the basics need addressing first. Gutters need re routing underground and away, the grade needs adjusting likely, and figuring out id the water table is seasonal or constant. Just be careful as NJ has been over run with new pool builders who a good bunch are hardscape guys that saw a market for pools and ventured because they already have the right equipment to handle the work, but experience comes with time
 

dan0788

Well-known member
Sep 9, 2021
49
NJ
Pool Size
25000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
I agree with Allen. When that pool was built you were lucky to get a steel wall. Most were wood framed creosote treated with a masonite type panel. In dry areas they actually lasted. In a high water table theres likely little left of the steel integrity. They rust quickly with ground water. They also never used concrete footers back then although with metal walls they might have added some. Either way I would use the pool the best you can and keep repairs simple and cheap. I can tell you theres no saving any part of that pool longterm. The panels will be rusted amd fused together and nothing should be reused. It would be like blowing up a V8 engine and redoing 4 of the 8 cylinders. Your already in there do the whole motor. This is the same thing. Cost wise it's nearly a new pool build, because your saving the digging but have to do extensive demo so it's a wash. Building on wet land takes skill and the basics need addressing first. Gutters need re routing underground and away, the grade needs adjusting likely, and figuring out id the water table is seasonal or constant. Just be careful as NJ has been over run with new pool builders who a good bunch are hardscape guys that saw a market for pools and ventured because they already have the right equipment to handle the work, but experience comes with time
Thanks Jimmy. We've already started addressing the drainage issues for reasons other than the pool but still a long ways to go. We're hoping to get a season or two out of the current situation just to get a better understanding of how we want to use the pool.

In your experience, what are the steps taken in this type of rebuild? Im just trying to wrap my head around the process.

Is it treated just like a new build but instead of dig, its excavation? Are you trying to not disturb as much of the "base" as possible or does it not matter as much because drainage needs to go in. Ive seen something similar to a french drain under the deep end that is valved into the pump that can be used to manually remove ground water.

To what extent would you say certain parts of this project are diy friendly? We want it done right but it will also get very expensive, very fast.

If it was a new build from scratch, I'd have zero hesitation with a diy build. But given the circumstances I'm not that comfortable with installing something on "compromised" ground. I have access to everything needed for the excavation and disposal, plumbing, etc. If I find the right builder, does this seem like something I can sub contract with a kit and do as much as the small stuff as possible?

Sorry again for all the questions - lots to process!
 

jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
4,051
Morris Cnty NJ
You need to poke around the property and get a feel for the ground. Until you excavate you never truly know what dirt your dealing with. Newer homes can have spotty soils from sitework, where an area is decent and another can be a huge clay pit. It's actually easier to install new compared to replacing a liner pool. Depending on prices you get you may want to consider a fiberglass pool you could drop into the existing hole. If you have access to equipment its DIYable. I doubt you would find anyone to install a kit and work for just labor. Even if you did I would be hesitant based on your ground. De watering isnt that complicated it's all based on the topography of your yard. That under pool piping back to the pad is not what you want that's emergency stuff and a pain to deal with. You want a setup that naturally directs water with pitch, and if grade doesnt allow, you use sump pits and pump the water. My personal pool I built is on junk ground with high water, I have 3 pits with pumps that are on standby 24/7
 
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