Structural crack help

Jaypeesi

Active member
May 5, 2018
29
Oakhurst Ca.
2.5 years ago we had a pool built. Ended up going with the most expensive of the bids because the company had been in business for the longest (by far) and we felt the owner was a "straight shooter" and genuinely came across as knowledgeable. As they built the pool in spring and we're extremely busy (along with all the pool builders) I didn't feel like we got the best pool they had built (they used sub contractors for most of the build). Some small issues with concrete and the pool equipment install. But nothing that was "end of the world" and we decided not to make an issue out of them. Fast forward to October 2020 we discovered a rusty crack near the deep end of the pool which was about 5' long (vertical). Immediately called the builder and they advise is to shut off the make up water and they would have someone out to repair the following week. In 5 day the pool level decreased by 4'. They pumped out the remaining water and returned the next day to repair. They cut a 3" wide x 5' strip out of the pool (found rebar about 2" from the surface) and installed the pebble tec finish as the solution. They also discovered a crack in the other side of the pool and patched that. Obviously this is probably not going to be the ultimate solution as the patch does not match and I believe the is a structural issue and that the pool will continue to crack as we have not addressed the reason for the initial issue. We are being extremely patient as they have let me know that they are the experts. As I am a boiler service tech (combustion and instrumentation) I am familiar with most aspects of construction from the dirt to finished product and have a fair bit of common sense. That being said, I would say that a pool is not supposed to crack and if it does they need to address the structural issues and once that is complete (from a licensed engineer) then they need to completely resurface the pool. I don't feel that is unreasonable, what do you think? (And they have a structural guarantee in the contract and on their website)
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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How did they fix the cracks structurally? Putting a new layer of pebble plaster on the pool does not fix the underlying structure.

Did you get the opinion of a structural engineer on the root cause and fix?

You may need concrete staples with epoxy injection for a mechanical solid fix. This is a common concrete repair technique.

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JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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Was a soil analysis ever done prior to the excavation and shell installation (rebar & shotcrete)? Was a geotechnical engineer consulted on ground conditions in your area (not always done or necessary but often a good idea)? Were the design plans signed off on and stamped by a structural engineer (the answer to that question should be "YES")? Finding rebar 2" below the surface is not unheard of but it's a sign of shoddy shotcrete work...it may be the rebar was not properly set at that point or a rebar end was not bent back, but it could also mean the shotcrete in that area was thinner than spec'd.

You are absolutely correct that the shell will continue to crack until the underlying structural deficiencies are addressed. You would be best served by working with your PB on this issue and letting them offer up their analysis and solution. However, you may need to engage the services of a third party engineering firm (geotech and structural) if you don't accept the fix proposed by your pool builder. If you know a lawyer, or pay for legal services, you may want to review the warranty and contract with them to understand your rights and obligations in this situation.

Stay positive, good luck and keep this thread posted with what you learn.
 

Jaypeesi

Active member
May 5, 2018
29
Oakhurst Ca.
I do not believe that there was any engineering with regards to the soil. Unfortunately we made the assumption that the pool builder was guiding us through the process and would inform us of any necessary actions on our part. I did find the pool plans and they were stamped by a p.e. so that is a good thing. We are located in the foothills in central California which we (again) assumed would be taken in to account as they pointed out multiple customers in the area where they had built pools. I am hoping that we do t have to get the lawyers involved but that is definitely a possibility. Are we being unreasonable about not expecting a pool to have structural issue and to have pool surface without obvious patches?
 

Rich D

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2018
960
MA
Are these cracks opposing each other close to the break point of where the deep end slope starts? This seems to be a common place for structural cracks. Do you have any construction pics showing the dig before rebar? It is a very good sign that they did respond and do something. I would certainly ask what there over all approach is and why they failed to investigate the cause of the cracks. Perhaps they are hoping the pool has settled all it is going to settle and they will now just have to come back and give you a better looking patch. I would not think you would be getting a brand new plaster job out of them as It is most likely just the shell they warranty. Hopefully you can haggle out a discounted price.
 

Jaypeesi

Active member
May 5, 2018
29
Oakhurst Ca.
Are these cracks opposing each other close to the break point of where the deep end slope starts? This seems to be a common place for structural cracks. Do you have any construction pics showing the dig before rebar? It is a very good sign that they did respond and do something. I would certainly ask what there over all approach is and why they failed to investigate the cause of the cracks. Perhaps they are hoping the pool has settled all it is going to settle and they will now just have to come back and give you a better looking patch. I would not think you would be getting a brand new plaster job out of them as It is most likely just the shell they warranty. Hopefully you can haggle out a discounted price.
The cracks appear to be diagonal from each other, one twords the deep end and the other from the deep end side of the step. Definitely seem to be related.
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
47,697
Tallahassee, FL
Allen and Matt laid it out very well. From now on make sure all of your communication with the PB is in writing so there is a paper trail. Keep us in the loop without naming names so we can learn from you please.
 

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JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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I do not believe that there was any engineering with regards to the soil. Unfortunately we made the assumption that the pool builder was guiding us through the process and would inform us of any necessary actions on our part. I did find the pool plans and they were stamped by a p.e. so that is a good thing. We are located in the foothills in central California which we (again) assumed would be taken in to account as they pointed out multiple customers in the area where they had built pools. I am hoping that we do t have to get the lawyers involved but that is definitely a possibility. Are we being unreasonable about not expecting a pool to have structural issue and to have pool surface without obvious patches?

No one ever really wants to talk to lawyers ... but they come in handy from time to time.

No, you are not unreasonable for wanting a pool shell that is structurally sound. In fact, that is exactly what a PB promises to build for you. If they consider themselves to be an honest and reputable company, then they will work to fix the structural issues.

The plaster surface is cosmetic. Unfortunately, when patching becomes necessary, there is literally no way you can patch a plaster job without it being obvious. The patch will eventually fade and blend in, but it will always look like a “scar” on the surface. The only way to fix that would be to replaster the pool. Since the structural defect caused the plaster to crack, I would think the PB would be able to do a plaster job at a discount to compensate you for the troubles.
 

Jaypeesi

Active member
May 5, 2018
29
Oakhurst Ca.
Thanks for all of the replies. I have been looking through the documentation we received from the pool builder. Within that were the plans they used to build the pool. Apparently they purchased the plans from a company (pool engineering) and they are "series 100" which are standard pool building plans. After spending time looking through the website I found that they offered other "series" of plans... For pools built near upslope retaining walls, special features and freestanding pools which I am starting to believe they should have use on our build as every bit of land here is on a slope. I am going to contact the engineering company and verify this theory. The owner of the company has sereral articles online about determining why pool structures fail. Hopefully he knows how to repair them also. Wish me luck!
 

JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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At a minimum, a geotechnical engineer familiar the ground conditions in your area should have been consulted prior to planning. It adds probably a thousand dollars to the price tag for their analysis and advice, but it’s a worthwhile investment given the structural costs that are sometimes involved in building a pool in an area with questionable ground stability.

Good digging into the info you have. It will be interesting to see what the pool engineering firm thinks.
 
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Jaypeesi

Active member
May 5, 2018
29
Oakhurst Ca.
We have pictures of everything. The pool appears to be level, based on the tile grout line. With no information from the builder yet other than doing the patch I have been forced to come up with my own theory as to what is occuring based on the information I have come across in the last few weeks. I believe that the down hill side of the pool is not being supported adequately and with 17500 gallons on water weight (140000ish pounds) i the pool is slowly splitting apart. Just a hypothesis but based on the fact that there are certain criteria for building a pool on a slope (wish I would have known this before we had it built).
 

JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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Work with the builder but don’t be afraid to spend your own money on a second opinion. You may be able to find a local’ish engineering firm to give you their analysis. A pool can be drained and core samples taken to see if the shell was properly constructed (required thickness and concrete strength). They can even sample the soil under the pool and around it to determine if geoengineering was necessary. It’ll cost you money out of pocket but you might need the ammunition it provides if the builder decides to walk away from the problem. Luckily for you, CA is pretty strict with contractors and licensing - if they are the established company they claim to be, the last thing they want is a pool shell that may have been built in an unsound way. You have the advantage as the customer, don’t be afraid to press it if you need to make things happen.
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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@Dirk will tell you how to take on a CA pool builder.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
22,092
Apparently they purchased the plans from a company (pool engineering) and they are "series 100" which are standard pool building plans. After spending time looking through the website I found that they offered other "series" of plans... For pools built near upslope retaining walls, special features and freestanding pools which I am starting to believe they should have use on our build as every bit of land here is on a slope.
There are two different issues that need to be addressed before building a pool.

The first issue is the specific site that the pool will sit on. You cannot buy a predetermined plan for this. This has to be done on an individual basis by a geotechnical engineer. This is site specific.

The second issue is to design the actual structural foundation and pool. This can be done by a structural engineer. Depending on the recommendations by a geotechnical engineer, you might be able to use “standard” design plans.
 

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