New Plunge pool - minimum excavation and gunnite cost?


New member
Apr 5, 2016
Austin TX

We're looking to install a 16'x9' (4' deep) heated spa/plunge pool here in Austin. We dont want a full-size pool in order to save some money. However we had our first consult with a local reputable builder and he said that there are minimum excavation and gunnite charges that we'll have to pay for that we'll be wasting money on. Is he right or trying to upsell? I don't want to pay the fee to build a big hole for a small hole...

His point was that the subs dont want to deal with a small inground spa and will charge a minimum fee to come out and do the work. I suppose that could be true if they're so busy to turn down my job but I find it a little hard to believe. I have other firms coming out but wanted to get an opinion here. Here's what we're thinking of doing:




TFP Expert
Apr 19, 2013
Sacramento, CA
Is he correct? Well maybe. It depends how big their workload is and how important he is to them. Trying to keep this short. There are in the big picture of things two types of builders, integrated and non integrated. Integrated builders have their own excavation crews etc. They may only sub out gunite and maybe plaster. Non integrated sub out everything. If they are an integrated builder they don't care about the pool size, you schedule it and the crew shows up. I once worked for an integrated industrial builder, we did the entire building from the street to the roof except the electrical and plumbing.

The majority of pool builders are non integrated, the pool builder consists of an office staff, some superintendents and sales people. They rely on subs. If they do a lot of business and the sub is really reliant on them then there is no minimum charge, if not the sub will want a minimum charge because that crew could have made him more money being somewhere else or he won't lose money.

Integrated builders are usually large, build mid quality to high end pools and have been around for a while. They are not the cheapest. To find one just ask the builder if they have there own crews or if they sub out parts of the job.

Two points, first, I'm not saying integrated builders are better, they are just different business models with different economics. Second, I'm most familiar with the Sacramento, California market which is probably representative of most major markets but I really don't know that.


Well-known member
Jan 3, 2016
Mesa, Az
What you're looking at there is a spool (spa/pool). Search for builders that do spools. An excavator has to mobilize crew and equipment to turn one load or ten. His fixed costs are the same, so he will charge you for that. Same with gunite. Set-up, prep and teardown are the same if you shoot one cubic yard or 30. The only cost difference is materials, which are almost always a smaller part of the overall price than labor.

If you sold whole pies and someone only wanted one slice, you'd still charge for the whole pie, since you couldn't sell a partially eaten pie. Right??


New member
Apr 5, 2016
Austin TX
If their fixed costs are the same regardless, then it makes total sense.

He did call it a "spool" - I didnt even know that was a thing.

Thanks guys


Well-known member
Jul 6, 2015
Long Island City, NY
Discuss your project with a foundation contractor. The size and shape, shown in your picture lends itself to conventional forming and concrete placement.

From a pool builder's perspective your project is like a round peg in a square hole: There is no need for gunite because there are no complex shapes or wide expanses that are difficult to form. The excavation is shallow and need not strictly adhere to the shape of the pool. Therefore any excavation contractor could provide satisfactory results on an hourly basis. In your area the growing rate for excavation is $165/hr on an eight hour basis (RS Means, 2015) . Likewise plumbers work by the hour.