Pool Design Frustration - working towards contract

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
I'm a new member, diving into the construction threads and learning as much as I can. I'm trying to get a pool project off the grounds, but I'm stalled by non-responsive pool builders and the design phase. I thought I would get some input from people on this forum as I'm wondering if my expectations are wrong - do I need to do something differently.

Property is new construction, we've been in the house 18 months. Our first priority was hardscape against the back of the house - patio using pavers, concrete BBQ island w/ beer tap and fridge, outdoor fireplace, and patio cover. All of that is done, the rest of the yard is dirt and weeds :). We called this Phase I. Phase II is pool construction, Phase III is filling in the gaps. Not a huge yard, diagonal backyard fence line that is 19 feet off the north side of the house, 65 feet off the south side. See pic. There is a slope at fence line.

What we want to do is place roughly a 400sf pool into the deep corner, using as much of the long (south) side of the yard, but with the main pool entrance and baja shelf in the middle of the yard facing the short (north) side of the yard. One pool company gave us a pretty simple design, more kidney shaped with a rock waterfall in the corner (wife didn't love it). We've been trying to look at geometric designs with a sheer waterfall, basically running along the fence lines, off 6 feet for planting. Due to the slope, the pool will need seat wall/raised bond beam along the east and south sides of the pool.

My lovely wife knows what she doesn't want, but not sure what she does want (if that makes sense) - she just knows she wants calm, relaxing, simple, inviting. It has to be a little unique given the space. So the question is, how do people go about designing? Do you typically rely solely on the pool company? We used a landscape designer for the hardscape, but really didn't get a full yard vision - good and bad experience with the landscaper, he didn't wow us with anything specific on incorporating a pool. The pool builder I'm working with now gave an initial design that wasn't what we want and I've spent almost 3 weeks going back and forth with him, he's busy I'm sure, but I can't get enough variety out of him yet. Isn't it normal that they would provide a few different designs? PB has a great rep, I really like the guy I've been working with - other than he's just slow. And the two other companies I've talked to are even slower.

I guess one of my areas of ignorance are any limitations given the yard shape and where we want to place the pool - I've asked, no response to that. The general idea we had (right or wrong) was pool on south side to middle of yard, small grass or plant area, pool equipment pad in the north corner (with possibly a small she-shed next to that).

I know what I want on the operational side of things - pumps, controls, lights, baja shelf, SWG, etc. - I'm just stuck at the design phase. And given how backed up pool companies are here, I'm realistic that it may not be completed until well into the fall or later. Frankly, I thought I'd be under contract by now, but the back-and-forth is so slow, I'm dialing back my expectations. Only issue for construction is access - we don't have six feet along the side of our house without deconstructing a concrete retaining wall and cutting into the slope (at one point, would need to cut in to within a few inches of the fence line). One company said they'd just deconstruct and reconstruct the wall. Another said they wouldn't do that, they'd use a conveyor system - at a 6k price premium (but good news, that type of dig is immediate while the traditional dig would be September).

I'd like to be posting design and contruction pics like so many others I've read through on this site; I just need help and guidance to get out of the design phase. Any advice would be much appreciated.
 

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knickchick4205

Silver Supporter
Apr 18, 2018
47
Alpharetta, GA
Your pool is a very permanent thing. My pool Builder was wonderful. they redesigned at least 16 ties. I wanted something very different. They were more than willing to work with me. You are in the busy season of pool building, so as excited and determined as you may be, he may be extra busy right now.
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
12,659
Bedford, TX
Spenser,

My pool builder had several pool designers that were basically free lance.. They did not get paid unless we bought a pool.. The one we had was great and worked closely with us to get what we wanted but made sure we did not do anything too stupid.

On the other hand out of the 6 companies we called, only about 4 responded, and out of that only three were even interested in building our pool. The one we pick was the one that had the best designer...

Jim R.
 

dotbombjoe

Silver Supporter
Aug 9, 2017
111
Rancho Mission Viejo, CA
I'd expect the response you are seeing. Pool builder should be busy right now, especially in CA with all the weather we've had this season...they're backed up. I don't want to be a downer but I can't imagine you'll be done for Fall...pools can go quickly but they often don't and given the way the schedule/weather has worked this year, chances seem relatively slim for a quick build.

I can't really think of many limitations in terms of placement other than setbacks for your town/county...down here in OC, the water can't be closer than 3' to the property line. They can get mini-bobcats through pretty tight spaces and you don't have a massive pool -- I'd expect that to be cheaper than a conveyor approach.

I know it may not be your thing, but I'd get some graph paper and start sketching out some ideas yourself...at least to start really getting a feel for the shape/location possibilities. Each wall of the pool will be 1' so make sure you consider that...are you thinking more square or longer and narrower? 20x20 or 10x40 or somewhere in between?

The more direction/constraints/hints you can give the faster you'll probably start seeing designs you find appealing.

I'm a fan of geometric pools...I feel they look cleaner and have always felt they have more usable space and lend themselves to covers better, but it's definitely a personal thing.

I wouldn't be shy about posting a few photos of your backyard from different angles in case anyone here feels up for brainstorming some ideas with you...stranger things have happened! It would help to see where your finished space is and what it looks like...

No spa?
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
39,130
Tallahassee, FL
Give a pic of your real yard. Make notes of setbacks and such. We should be able to come up with something to start with.

Kim:kim:
 

jimmythegreek

Bronze Supporter
Aug 10, 2017
931
Morris Cnty NJ
As said this time of year is the busiest you wont get a pool installed anytime soon without a lucky break. You kinda jumped the gun with phase 1. Pool should have been done first if you dont have good level access. It's very hard to build and dig one without making a mess. You can always goto an independent designer/engineer and get what you want and pay them, then price out your pool to builders. That's the only real way to get apples to apples pricing
 

Dutiful Daughter

Gold Supporter
May 12, 2019
37
Oregon
My two bits are that I'm surprised your landscape designer didn't do a full backyard vision for you. I think that you need some thoughts about that corner before you can see something from the pool design that will work. With that corner -- I'm betting you will be happier long term if you first focus on the landscaping of the corner and then let that guide you to the pool shape and direction.

It sounds like you still need to focus on the look and feel of the pool - have you guys looked at a lot of photos -- if so, what stands out? Small aside -- my personal experience with water features is that they are a pain to maintain. I can't speak to pool water features -- but we have 3 working waterfalls in our landscape -- and seriously one is always down, or needs to be looked at for water flow, or there is a tear etc. In fact, I was just emailing one of our landscape guys -- they have to reline the pond in the back yard and assess one waterfall that may be in the way of a beloved tree, and the front yard needs a new pump and is losing water. . . .
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
Some good advice, thanks for the support. In response to some of the comments:

No spa. We don't really want the expense to heat and the real estate hit. If I was going to do a spa, it would be a separate hot tub. We'll be installing solar for the pool.

I have reached out to our landscaper - everyone is busy. We'll see what he comes up with. We ran the general plan by him before but never really developed the pool design.

We'll want the pool set off the fence lines for five feet of planting which is more than what the code requirement is.

Pool first would have been ideal, but that would have meant almost a year without patio, cover, outdoor living of any kinds - couldn't do that. I'll take the access hit, regardless of what that means.

Here are some pictures - I appreciate that some might want to jump in. If nothing else, you'll be able to see the before shots - pool is just a matter of time.

From Fireplace.jpgSouth Corner.jpgMiddle of Yard.jpgLooking North to South.jpgFrom BBQ Island Looking South.jpgAcross Patio Looking North.jpg
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
39,130
Tallahassee, FL
This one will be a challenge for sure. So you have a 5' set back for hard surface right? That is all along the fence?

Because of the "hill" by the fence you will have to have "walls" around your pool to act as retaining walls. We can make them pretty with some waterfalls and such. We can also make them BLING to be extra pretty!

Do you want ANY yard at all?

Do you have small kids?
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
622
Santa Cruz, CA
If you are looking for geometric - how about something with some straight lines on 2 sides and a curve facing the house/entertainment area?

I found a really cool design that would almost fit your yard - with a few changes it might really match up to your property lines...

 
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spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
This one will be a challenge for sure. So you have a 5' set back for hard surface right? That is all along the fence?

Because of the "hill" by the fence you will have to have "walls" around your pool to act as retaining walls. We can make them pretty with some waterfalls and such. We can also make them BLING to be extra pretty!

Do you want ANY yard at all?

Do you have small kids?
We just want a small bit of yard between BBQ and pool, no kids (future grand kids at some point). Small grass area for a small dog, landscaping to fill and blend.

Yes, the hill pretty much requires seat walls or raised walls of some sort. Which works, provides planting areas and can create a good look along the back side of the pool. That’s part of the reason we thought a simple, sheer waterfall within the wall would be a nice touch. Not sure there is room elsewhere in the yard for a water feature and we do want some sort of water feature. The designs we’ve been playing with are in the 400sft range. We are good with that size.
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
6,028
Northern NJ
I think you have to choose the PB you want to work with. You have a good idea what you want and not much flexibility in that space. Your site has sone access challenges and your pool is small so the PB profit potential is limited. You may need to work at the selected PB pace to get a quality build.

Sketch out your ideas to scale and see how much build able area you really have. Use your sketches as basis for discussion with PBs.
 

dotbombjoe

Silver Supporter
Aug 9, 2017
111
Rancho Mission Viejo, CA
Might just be me, but I think a straight geometric pool may look a bit awkward with the curves of your existing patio flooring. The photo of the contemporary pool linked above -- or something like it -- might be a good compromise...straight lines on the fence-lengths and a curve of some sort towards the patio area. It may be nice to match the curves of the patio flooring along the house-facing side of the pool. You could use large pavers on a bed of black stones (or fake grass) between the patio pool.

What is along the north-side side yard? It might be tight but if you could get the equipment back there, it might improve the aesthetics a bit. If you can do that, I'm picturing a small seating area in that southern nook of the yard. This would give you another place to be...another angle of what will be your gorgeous back yard. The straight, angled length of the pool will require a raised bond beam so you could have a few water features along that wall. If you don't want another seating area, maybe that would be a good place for the she-shed and eventual storage for pool toys for the grandkids.

101751

It could be nice to have a bench along that length of the pool as well...the grandkids would love to crawl along that and under/through the water features.

If you can't fit equipment in the northern side-yard, maybe consider putting the equipment behind an eye-height wall in the southern-most nook...the pool-side of the wall could be an amazing water feature (I'm picturing a stacked stone water wall; doesn't have to be black like my photo). They can look really cool, the way the sun bounces off the water flowing over the rocks. You could use tall plantings along the fence behind it to add some life/nature to that part of the yard and further enhance the sense of privacy all while hiding the equipment/she-shed/both.

101750

Another option could be to raise the entire pool and have the house-facing side be an infinity edge (with entry steps in the middle). This would reduce the feel/height of the fence-side retaining walls and you could even use the catch basin as a wading pool if the grandkids are young/not ready for the 'big' pool. Raising the pool may also help ease the transition space between the existing patio flooring and the pool itself...but this route would add quite a bit of expense for sure...it would have some wow factor though. :)
 
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jimmythegreek

Bronze Supporter
Aug 10, 2017
931
Morris Cnty NJ
My wallet hurts just reading that lol. But I do agree that would be some serious design wow and you should consider a blend of geometric as mentioned. I agree the curves in your existing patio need to meet some curves in the pool design. I like the idea of straight on one side and curves on the other
 

Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
266
MA
You certainly have some great design recommendations there. My only addition would be reference to a water feature. I always knew I was going to include a Boulder wall along my pool to accommodate my grading. I was really on the fence about a waterfall feature. Now I can not imagine not having one. Well worth a few gallons acid... If done properly you will not even need to run the water to be able to enjoy the aesthetic value. You have some definite grade differences that could be transformed into really cool features.

Speaking of grade differences. That "bowl" in your back yard is very concerning from a drainage point of view. Most of your yard will now be hardscaping so you need to carefully consider where all the water will go. Be sure you have a good drainage plan in place. This could also cause problems with the dig, so it will be important to discuss how unforseen storm events will be handled and how they will be paid for. Most of the time there is not much forward thinking in this area and it leaves the homeowner scrambling with tarps and pumps with no help from the PB.

Another subject that you should clarify with your PB is proper backfill compaction. This is another area that seems to get swept under the rug in the pool building industry. You will need a properly compacted area to place your decking on. Proper compaction is always done in small lifts. Pushing in 2-4' of soil then running a tire over it is unacceptable. IMG_20180915_202356.jpgWaterfall.jpgwaterfall side.jpg
 
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spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
Great ideas. I just need to get some design options from the PB. The bowl of the yard hasn’t been an issue yet, main drains run along patio. It’s this way from the landscaper who did Phase I hardscape and pushed all the dirt up the yard, knowing Phase II pool was next, but that got delayed. PB said they’d be taking a lot of dirt from the yard. At this point I’m settling in to the idea of having it built and ready for Spring 2020, not looking likely to have anything usable even by September this year. I have a landscape architect involved with his pool ideas, playing against two pool builders at this point. Just have to be patient.
 

Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
266
MA
main drains run along patio.
What do the drains connect to?
Difficult to say from the pics and plot plan, However it appears the storm water will run along the sides of the house if the ground does not absorb it fast enough. Is that correct ?
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
What do the drains connect to?
Difficult to say from the pics and plot plan, However it appears the storm water will run along the sides of the house if the ground does not absorb it fast enough. Is that correct ?
Yes, drains on both sides of the house, drains fine. In a big storm it ma pool a little in a low spot off patio, but that will go away once the rest of the yard is done.
 

spenserj87

Silver Supporter
Apr 1, 2019
9
Roseville, CA
We’ve gotten a couple designs from one pool company, none that we really love. I contacted a second company who had given us more of a free form kidney style and asked him to do a geometric design. This is what he came up with. Thoughts? 899B7522-378C-4797-9C63-14A30E52ED6D.jpeg6C43A519-BDF1-4381-BC44-40A3D504B01E.jpegB9BAACAD-5217-4C8A-96F1-F180CE982ABA.jpegC8635A1B-7797-4AF0-9E26-47C4554FFA0A.jpeg3AAE7AC3-5C7B-4A0F-86E0-DEE61A167689.jpeg6F652378-4B94-4F38-AE1D-B0180A194C47.jpegD76600B8-BCC6-49A7-B794-ABBDC2186FED.jpeg
 

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