SF Bay Area build (done!!!)

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Original planning started back in 2011
We fired things back up near the end of 2018

Hard a hard time deciding on a PB
I filtered out the cheapest bidders and spoke with mid and high tier PBs (my own categories based on pricing and reviews and what I got from pools reviews showed)

Our final 2 selections came down to a mid tier PB (PB1) who can do hardscape if desired but is more than happy to coordinate with someone else and a high tier PB (PB2) who also does the entire project (landscaping etc.).

This was the hardest part of our process and it broke our heart to tell one of them no. I don't usually see the decision making process in other threads so I figured this might help someone else stuck doing too much analysis.

PB2 had a great portfolio and their work is in luxury pool magazines. Unfortunately it was just way out of budget. I gave them the project budget before we started talking design to make sure I wasn't wasting their time. The first draft they showed me was AMAZING but ended up being 30k over budget and didn't include landscaping.

PB2A.jpg

I was kind of expecting that because they kept asking what I wanted and I kept replying and each time I was like...are you sure this fits in the budget? At this stage I had no idea what things cost so everything on our radar was included (rope swing...slide...grotto...tons of boulder and rock work). When we scaled the project back down for the next draft the pool itself was just at the budget but didn't include any money for landscaping or the covered patio we planned.

PB2B.jpg
When I started slashing again to get under the project budget reality set in. I still had to clear 25-30k off the pool. We simply didn't have enough budget for this PB to do their magic in our yard. When we decided to end the design process my wife and I were genuinely sad we didn't have a chance to work with them. My wife and kids refer to PB2 as the Lucas Lagoon builder we couldn't go with.

The experience with PB1 was very different. They had a set price sheet with the most common items. Pool size was whatever you wanted and you paid by the LF. The basic package they offered included many of the suggested items this forum insists on. They aren't trying to be the cheapest and want the customer to be happy after they leave. PB2 has great reviews and has been building in the area 10+ years. They also did a few pools on my street (which is how I learned about them). The only negative is they don't have a large portfolio of rock work (we are chasing this lagoon style dream). They aren't at 0 projects but I definitely would have been more comfortable seeing more examples before contract signing. We tried to address this issue pre-contract by including specific pictures to set expectations.

One of the things I found odd at the time but appreciate now is they tried to talk me OUT of things. One item was waterline rock or above the waterline rock. Yes waterline rock looks much better but our area is notorious for bad water. They said it was running a big risk and upping the maintenance if you want the waterline rock. This was repeated to me by all the landscapers I spoke with as well. Those familiar with our area all tried to steer me away from putting it in the water. The common message was it would look great at install but a year or so down the line I will either hate the look or hate the work required to keep it looking nice. Another item they were helpful with was spa and firepit puchases. They said they are more than happy to build it but a 3rd party spa is much more enjoyable with more features etc. Same with a portable firepit. I found this type of advice rather than offering to build anything and pad the bill helpful.

The early draft from PB1 was based on our pool only budget and more modest in comparison. The draft ended up more modern and less lagoon like. They told me the lagoon features would blow through the budget I had set. However, the guts of the pool had everything I wanted. Pebble finish. Solar heating panels. Automation. Gas heater etc. It was just the aesthetic water feature budget was too low at this time.

PB1A.jpg

After we had our rough draft with PB1 we had to put it on hold and talked to landscapers. When I got some landscaper bids back I realized I had much more room for the pool if I wanted.

This was going about the same time we had to pass on PB2.

So we had a long talk as a family and decided we can wait and save more for the budget and a future PB2 build or see what PB1 can do for us. We were literally on the fence about just walking away and saying F this entire project at this point.

I basically combined the best ideas from everyone we had been speaking to up to this point.

At this point we didn't need to see anymore 3D models anymore and focused on just moving forward.

Combined ideas pool.jpg

I made the sunshelf even bigger than initially proposed by any PB (PB1 had the largest sunshelf at 13 feet and PB2 was at 11 feet). I expanded that sucker to 20 feet as splash deck because I pay by perimeter and there no change to my perimeter by doing that. It will have a separate sand color pebble finish for a nice beach like entry area.

I horizontally flipped PB1s design to make a big shallow end (17' diameter) for my kids to play in and enjoy at 3'6" deep. I initially wanted 4' but my wife is only 5' tall and her argument about not wanting water near her neck was a winner. She is not going to get any taller and I can squat down. PB2 had a 12' diameter that I didn't realize was small until I put my test rope and stakes in the yard. The deep end is 15' across and 7 feet deep. The raised wall for jumping is approx. 14 linear feet and will blend into the rock work of the grotto.

As for the rock water features I went with a modest approach above the waterline weeping wall and modest loveseat grotto and a raised wall I refer to as the fun/jump zone in the deep end. It will be faced with rock/stone as well.

Now I didn't find this picture until after design work was complete and the project began. But I have this saved as the target blue print for the project and every phase of the project this is available for sub contractor review.

Sample6X.jpg

If we can get close to this my wife and I will be very happy with our selection of PB1 as it includes all the other items we initially wanted in our budget as well (including front and backyard completion).


This was all going on during the unusually wet year here in the SF Bay Area so we were taking our sweet time deciding on PBs and landscapers to do the other work. The weather finally turned to spring and we have been going full speed since the rain stopped. Pool dig began on Sat 4/13 (I will always remember this as the GOT pregame show pool).

Unfortunately we don't have our final landscaper selected yet and the ones we are talking to started letting me know schedules are filling up. We set a self imposed deadline to make our decision by the end of this week. They were all notified pool dig was starting and I got feedback about what I needed to do for them. Nobody had any issues with dig starting etc.
 
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NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
And the digging began!

Dig day 1.jpg
Dig day 1A.jpg
Dirt compaction.jpg

Day 1 ....

That left over dirt/clay is intentional to help with building up raised patios. The landscapers will compact and fix it later. I just wanted to make sure they had enough to work with. I had rough guidance from them before the dig on what to have left behind.

And then the digging came to a crawl when they hit hard clay about 3 feet down. Crud.

Surcharge time... (probably have to remove my PH automation because of this...oh well I can add acid manually)

Bring out the ripper on Day 2



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And yes I went out and measured from the top of the forms to the dig and marked notes as I went around. A few inches off here and there but generally the dig is approx. 12" more than the design calls for water depth. For example the shelf was 18" deep and design is 6" when done. Shallow end was 4'4" deep at the shallowest point I found and the design is for 3'6" water depth when done.

And post digging I noticed this...

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One of the gophers was refusing to leave and attempted to fill in the grotto section of the pool. I hope he moves along before gunite...


Rough plumb started today. I should have updates on plumbing and steel no later than Monday I hope
 
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kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
41,288
Tallahassee, FL
What a journey you have already been on in picking a PB and making sure he could see your dream! The landscaper is going to be oh so important to make your dream come true. I promise to never even fly over your area as I have one of the blackest thumbs you have ever seen :roll: Now give my a puppy or kitten and I get them grown u[ just fine LOL

I am glad to see you have already done your "job" by measuring it already!

I am going to share a set of links I put together so you can start doing research on plaster. This covers how to pick a color and what to do to make sure your plaster is going to last for a good, long time:
Ten Guidelines for Quality Pool Plaster Best one of all
Not All Color Pigments are Good for Pools How to pick a good color for plaster.
All Plaster Finishes Should Last 20 Years
Trouble Free Pool
Trouble Free Pool

Kim:kim:
 
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NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
20190419_162033.jpg

I have an assistant help with all my amateur inspections

Rough plumbing started with a partial crew digging trenches

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Main plumber returned on Sat before easter to finish up the rough plumbing.

I heard him fire up the torch to heat bend the pipe and came out to watch him for a bit

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Monday was rebar day.

They cut a portion of the sunshelf away for future steps

These sunshelf related decisions took us forever to make. I obsessively read all suggested depths and passed along information to my wife. The sunshelf is basically her project. I talked her out of a beach entry so I'm happy. She gets final say on depth because I don't see myself spending much time up there.

We wavered back and forth between a 2 stage depth profile for a while but finally decided on a mostly uniform depth of 6"

We then had to decide how we wanted to do the steps into the pool. Lots of back and forth was solved when our PB suggested to recess the steps in the shelf and leave the main body open for play with no obstacles. He traced it on the shelf and we liked it. Problem solved.


I think the next step is waiting for inspection and then we move ahead to gunite.


While all of this was going on I made my final decision on a landscaper. We really liked our final 2 and I feel bad I had to tell one no. LS1 is really busy but has been planning with us since the beginning. LS2 was recently contacted because we feared LS1 was booking a full schedule. LS2 was really interested in our project and very friendly....but he was maybe too interested (he showed up unannounced and came to look at the yard one day). We made our final decision based on past history with other contractors (we chose a flooring contractor who was available and responsive over a busy one in the past and the job was horrible...and true story they went out of business less than a year later). We decided being booked with work is a good sign not a bad one and are willing to accept a delay in the pool building. Next opening is mid to late May for landscaping.

I figure it gives the gunite shell more time to properly cure
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
41,288
Tallahassee, FL
What a cute "snoopavisor" you have there! Looks like they know what is what out there! LOL

Good move on the shelf and steps! Putting the steps there will make the pool swim area better. It also looks neat!

LS2 just showed up?? Nope, nope, nope...........kind of creepy. Busy LS1 must be busy for a reason so..........best to wait for the best!

Kim:kim:
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
PB wasn't happy with the rebar and is having them redo some portions when they return to build the grotto structure. I am an amateur i couldn't see what he was referring to but more safety is better.

In the meantime we started boulder shopping. Local place was out of stock for the style of boulders we want (so disappointed after clearing our work calendars).

We did get to see the coping samples though.

When we arrived i noticed our PB had a giant sponge and lots of bottled water. I didn't realize it was for showing us changed in the stone and was glad he was being thorough. We looked at samples in the store and pulled them outside in the sun as well. We viewed them wet and dry.

My wife is loving a coping called rams horn tumbled gold. I believe it is a type of idaho quartzite. It has a brownish/red (looks like caramel to me). I am happy because it looks like a durable material (fingers crossed to avoid flaking and deteriorating stone in future).

I took dry and wet pics of the samples we brought home but the camera doesn't show it well. It has a sparkle when the sun catches it just right as well.

With this we can narrow our next boulder shopping trip to what matches.


Rams horn tumbled gold-1.jpgRams horn tumbled gold-3.jpgRams horn tumbled gold-2.jpg
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
NPT browsing day

Interesting to once again see how things change from the showroom lights to when you take it outside and then spray with water


Here is what we are leaning towards

Tile.jpg
-2x2 Safari Desert Sand

We were talked into 2x2 because it will work better with our free form curves
The large tiles may not be aesthetically pleasing when they have to bend and don't line up nicely
My wife was originally drawn to a real stone but we talked about maintenance and long term care and decided this tile is easier to care for
She did insist on the textured tile instead of the smooth one but we are both happy with the selection



Stacked ledger.jpg
-Scabos split face for our raised wall portion

This was probably the fastest selection for the pool so far. We didn't want the smooth glossy options and we really liked the color variation on this
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Full plumbing.jpg

While we were out doing NPT shopping the plumbing crew got to work.

They dropped off all their supplies the previous evening



ParaskimV.jpg

ParaskimV woo hoo

2 skimmers in my pool



Will take pictures later when they are done doing all the plumbing work
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
41,288
Tallahassee, FL
I love, love, love your picks!!! Well done!!!

I think the smaller tiles is a VERY good decision for the very reason you stated.....they will follow the curves much better. What color grout will you go with? If you are not sure you can get your hands on some grout sticks that you can use to see how the different colors look with the pretty colors of everything!

Kim:kim:
 
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NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
They finished up plumbing after rebar was in


pad.jpg

This is the pad with all the water and electrical items in the trench

solar stub.jpg

Solar stub is all set.

Need to remove existing shade structure and put a new one in before panels go on top.

pressure test.jpg

Pressure has been good and steady for 4 or 5 days now I think

final plumbing.jpg

final plumbing ID.jpg


They also set the frame for the grotto

Grotto shell.jpg

We think it is too big and will most likely ask for it to be made smaller (bet that is a first....make a feature SMALLER!)

Measures at 77" from the bench and 54" (4'6") from the ground (top of wooden forms).

I think there is currently going to be way too much head room in there from what we envisioned. We don't need to stand on the bench inside.

We also want to blend it in with adjacent boulders and the weeping wall. I can't picture that being easy with a 5 foot high grotto structure

I'm thinking we lop off 1 foot...maybe even 1.5 feet.

Will discuss in more detail with PB during the week
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
No pictures this time just a brief update

Passed inspection #1 and ready for gunite next week

Inspector was happy to see they are going above and beyond engineering requirements and I liked hearing those comments while following them around
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Passed?? OH YEAH!!!

So what is the word on the grotto?

Kim:kim:
Grotto has been adjusted and was a simple fix.

The rebar guys who framed it went off the plans from pooleng and put it up while my PB was on another job site. The plans we have from pooleng are based on STANDING grottos so even though they set it up for the smallest one provided it was still 5 feet above the waterline and 6+ feet above the bench. My PB agreed that was not the look we were going for and had a follow up conversation with pooleng confirming they could drop the height (didn't want to build different from plans and have an issue with inspector). PB got the ok and we dropped it where I "think" we will be happy.

This is one of the few items my PB is not an expert on and we talk back and forth on it all the time. We knew going in my PB doesn't have hundreds of grottos in their portfolio but we are comfortable with how it is being approached.


As for the ACTUAL height I based it on the only grotto I could find on TFP that gave full detailed dimensions
I give full credit to @imrodee and her details provided in the Grotto height thread

Ours will be similar dimensions when done

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IMG_2024.jpg

Hers
4'6" across
3'6" waterline to ceiling

Ours
4' across
3'6" waterline to ceiling

With a 14" bench and 3'6" waterline we have comfy head space and kids can even stand on the bench but we won't be too large and have a cavern feel. We mainly don't want a vertical tower that doesn't blend well. We considered going even smaller than 3'6" above waterline but couldn't decide the "ideal" number and figured we know what 3'6" looks like and are copying that.

We also discussed ledges for drinks or other items in the grotto but decided against it.

Just a grotto...return to clean the bench and a light so we can see.

Keep it simple
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Boulder shopping continues.

I took our current candidates and did wet/dry tests at various points in the day to see how they change.

Halfway through the day I got a new sample from another rockyard so you will see it added.

The boulders being tested:
-shenandoah granite (smaller one on the left of most pictures)
-gold country (smaller one on the right of most pictures)
-calistoga (bigger one in the middle)

The coping has changed from the safari 2x2 to a quartzite pinwheel (we viewed a pool to see coping style and my wife LOVED their coping/tile combo so we are swapping to the same thing). I'm nervous about putting actual stone in the water and hoping we avoid the white line but I am giving her this selection and not fighting for ceramic.

The coping is idaho quartzite with gold (the sample with the white mark usually on the left). A runner up is idaho quartize with silver (sample on the right)


My wife and I both did NOT like the green that shows up in both the shenandoah granite and gold country.
The underlying rock color is blue and when it gets wet turns a very visible green. Less of it in the shenandoah granite but enough to make us cringe.

Here are the pics:

early afternoon dry.jpgearly afternoon wet.jpgmid day dry.jpgmid day wet.jpg
morning shade dry.jpgmorning shade wet.jpg
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Due to our dislike of the green I went and found the calistoga sample today

The calistoga when wet has nice brown orange/red type coloration and is the current front runner with my wife

I am doing background research on whether it makes a good candidate for our pool water features before I decide

late afternoon dry.jpglate afternoon wet.jpg
late afternoon back view dry.jpglate afternoon back view wet.jpglate afternoon rotate dry.jpglate afternoon rotate wet.jpg
 

NorCalX

Gold Supporter
Feb 3, 2011
248
Brentwood, CA
Throw a dart!! They are all pretty!! Where you able to do the acid test?
What acid test o_O

*edit*

Oh found it in the boulder thread

***
Only some sedimentary rocks dissolve in acid, but it's a worthwhile test. Typical test is just applying a few drops of 5-10% hydrochloric acid and seeing if it fizzes or bubbles. If it does, the rock has carbonates in it.
***

Need to find some hydrochloric acid I guess!
Searching online I see muriatic acid 20% and above is most common.
Hmm...need to go digging around more.

Good news is I have sample boulders I can test it on now
 
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