To DIY or not to DIY in Houston. That is the question.

schwimmen

Bronze Supporter
Jan 30, 2017
119
Houston TX
Greetings, fellow TFPers.

My husband and I decided to put in a pool. Actually, we thought we'd be swimming in it by now. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

We started out by looking at fiberglass last fall. The price point (upper 20s to low 30s) was really appealing, as was the low maintenance, SWG-compatibility, and the quick install. However, we soon realized that the models we were looking at were probably not going to cut it in terms of some of our must-haves (depth, ability to have planting beds near pool) and some of our wish list items (contractor's unwillingness to install certain current generators and/or pavers). We haven't ruled out fiberglass, but we started looking at gunite, too. I prefer the appearance of the gunite and really like the ability to maximize the small space that we do have with the features that we really want. We've gotten bids from a couple of reputable companies - and the sticker shock that comes along with it. We were looking at a really basic, rectangular pool (12 x 28 range) without many bells and whistles (no spa, no raised walls or water features), so I was a bit surprised when the quotes came back in the mid to upper 40s. The costs quickly go into the 50s and 60s with with add-ons.

We haven't ruled out going with a PB. Heaven knows it would make things easier. But I am researching the owner/builder/DIY route, too. If we're going to make the investment, the idea of investing some of the savings into features that we wouldn't otherwise have a budget for, is appealing. We don't have experience doing this for a pool, but we have handled the design work, some of the construction, and relationships with GCs and subs on two house projects. I've been reading up on several owner/builder jobs as well as posts on the pros/cons. I'm interested in specific bits of info, especially from those who have or may be attempting this in Houston, though I'm open to getting feedback from anyone who's willing to provide it!

-Houstonians/Texans: how did you handle liability with your subs? Did you take out a policy to cover the build, or did your subs carry their own?
-Regarding the design, how much detail did you include (for subs and for permit application) with respect to electric, plumbing, rebar, and grading?
-Did you hire a consultant to inspect certain parts of the job, or did you rely on yourself/city inspector to handle it?
-Did you find that your actual savings was in line with what you expected to save?
-And if there are any Houstonians who had a good experience with subs, can I private message you about them?

Much thanks!
 

lonestarcj7

Silver Supporter
Feb 12, 2017
20
Kingwood, TX
I am not a pool builder but having someone build one for me. I am also a commercial general contractor in Houston so I do know a thing or two about construction. I will share what little bit I know.

First a really important question, are you in the Houston city limits? If so, the City of Houston will be your permitting authority and with that comes a few hoops.

I will try and answer your questions in order as written above:

Your subs should be insured, ask to be named on their insurance policy and receive a copy of it. It's standard practice (at least in my world).

If you are going to shop pricing in each of the disciplines, it is important to have as much detail as possible. Things such as pipe size, rebar size, amount of decking, tile and coping allowances and pool equipment can all vary the pricing significantly.

If you are in the City of Houston city limits, the city will inspect the lay out, electrical, plumbing and conduct a final inspection. The electrician and the plumber will have to pull their own permits under your general construction permit. I didn't hire a consultant mainly because of my profession.

Can't answer the last two questions since I have a PB (whom I really like!).

Good luck!
 

jmoore312

Active member
Jul 5, 2016
40
DFW
I am in the Dallas area and went through the same thing you are and a very similar pool (15 x 30 rectangle but we included a spa). I finally decided to DIY and am about halfway through the process (gunite recently completed and tile and coping going in next week). I have found it to be the right choice for me. I work out of the house so I'm able to talk with the subs, answer any questions and make sure everything is what I wanted. And the subs all seem very good about helping answer any questions I may have. Coincidentally, my neighbor is having a pool put in and I was able to hire his excavator. I also got a few subs recommended here on the forum. You can also drive around and look for pools being built. Get their information! As of now, it looks like I will save about 23% versus hiring a builder and I will gladly take that!

As far as liability, I did not take any policies out. And for design, check with your city to see what they require. In mine, no engineered plans were needed. It was a very basic design drawn out by me, showing pool with plot plans. My city website gave me most of the info I needed (just Googled city name, pool plan requirements). I don't see the need to hire a consultant since the city will need to inspect anyway and the most subs do enough pools that they know what needs to be done.

Hope this helps! Like I said, I am very happy I went this route.
 

schwimmen

Bronze Supporter
Jan 30, 2017
119
Houston TX
Thanks so much, lonestarcj7.

Yes, we're in the city limits (Heights area), so I've started looking into the city's requirements.

I've made a couple of calls to the permitting department and went to pick up the forms last week. Apparently there are two sets of requirements - those for the health dept and those for permitting the structure. The health dept deals with skimmers, fences, pool color, etc. They gave me a list of requirements on their end. The added requirements for the structural permit include a grade/fill survey and an impervious cover survey. If more than 65% of your lot is covered with structures/asphalt/pool/etc., the city requires that you have a storm water plan for catchment basins and such. (For those who have 'normal' sized yards, 65% probably sounds generous, but our lots are generally 6000 sf or less.) Luckily we're under the 65%. Otherwise we'd be looking at several thousand more for engineering plans and basin install.

On a positive note, we have no HOA, and if we have all of our ducks in a row, we can get our permit in one day.


I am not a pool builder but having someone build one for me. I am also a commercial general contractor in Houston so I do know a thing or two about construction. I will share what little bit I know.

First a really important question, are you in the Houston city limits? If so, the City of Houston will be your permitting authority and with that comes a few hoops.

I will try and answer your questions in order as written above:

Your subs should be insured, ask to be named on their insurance policy and receive a copy of it. It's standard practice (at least in my world).

If you are going to shop pricing in each of the disciplines, it is important to have as much detail as possible. Things such as pipe size, rebar size, amount of decking, tile and coping allowances and pool equipment can all vary the pricing significantly.

If you are in the City of Houston city limits, the city will inspect the lay out, electrical, plumbing and conduct a final inspection. The electrician and the plumber will have to pull their own permits under your general construction permit. I didn't hire a consultant mainly because of my profession.

Can't answer the last two questions since I have a PB (whom I really like!).

Good luck!
 

schwimmen

Bronze Supporter
Jan 30, 2017
119
Houston TX
Thanks jmoore312. You give me hope :)

Sounds like we may need engineered plans because the pool would be within 5 feet of our fence. I'm not certain if the pool design itself will need a lot of detail, but we would need an engineer to say that the pool would not harm the fence or something to that effect. I just keep telling myself, 'what doesn't kill you...'

We'll probably be replacing the fence anyway, and the neighbor's house is far enough away that I do not think it will be an issue.

I guess I'll continue stalking the new pool sites in the neighborhood waiting for subs to show. (Both are in the gunite-curing phase at the moment.) Here's hoping I can do it without getting hauled in by the neighborhood watch constable.

- - - Updated - - -

That's hard-core, Van G. The only thing getting me through this process is the knowledge that we can use this pool year-round ;)
 

gonesquatchen

Member
Feb 20, 2017
7
Cypress,TX
Greetings from Cypress. I am not sure who you got quotes from but they seem a little high (we are under construction in Cypress), especially since when we did out research there was a lot of commonality in subs. We are building a 32L x (16R-21C-17L), and with some nice finishes like Wet Edge pebble with glass bead, Raised beam, travertine, and variable speed pump we are only at 40k. That was a middle of the road price because my wife loved the sales guy.
 

Marlahoutex

Platinum Supporter
Bronze Supporter
Aug 9, 2014
2,550
Houston tx
The number of builders that are willing to build inside the loop are few, at least in my experience. That mat be why, living in Cypress, you got a better price.
 

schwimmen

Bronze Supporter
Jan 30, 2017
119
Houston TX
Thanks, gonesquatchen. Just sent you a PM. If you're happy with them, I would love to contact your PB to see if they are willing to build here. Heck, I'm even willing to handle the permitting process with the city.

Greetings from Cypress. I am not sure who you got quotes from but they seem a little high (we are under construction in Cypress), especially since when we did out research there was a lot of commonality in subs. We are building a 32L x (16R-21C-17L), and with some nice finishes like Wet Edge pebble with glass bead, Raised beam, travertine, and variable speed pump we are only at 40k. That was a middle of the road price because my wife loved the sales guy.