VLIG Expansion - something a bit different.

TheRaven

Active member
Jul 3, 2018
28
Fleetwood, PA
Ok I debated about even posting this build because it's really not all that exciting - no extra pretty features to ogle over, no million-dollar backyard to show off, not even much in the way of equipment for the gear-nerds to geek out about. But i'm doing it at least so it's out there on the net, because when I started researching this idea, I could find little to no info on whether or not it would even be possible. So if nothing else, it's a service to my fellow pool-lovers that find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

Background - bought our "big house" back in summer 2017...we had a nice but small house and were finally established in career and life and ready for THE house. We actually had signed a contract to build custom the year before but I lost my job soon after and we had to back out. After I found a landing spot the housing market really heated up in our bracket and presented us with a lot more options...we realized that we might actually be able to find a house WITH a pool rather than having to build a house and then save for a pool. Long story abbreviated, we found a house that we loved (well, she loved) that already had a pool. One problem - it was a really small pool.

So what we "inherited" was a 14x28 grecian with a 5.5ft "deep" end. Now that i've been on this site for some time i've come to understand that this type of pool is actually a thing...but where I come from I had never seen something like this. Up until this thing my understanding of pools was you either had a 48-54" deep above-ground or you had an 8-9ft deep in-ground...that's all there was in my area. I of course was expecting the latter and as a result, extremely disappointed by what we ended up with. So immediately I started looking at options. Obviously it would really suck to rip it out and build new - since we bought this house partly BECAUSE it had a pool already (I made many compromises in what I wanted because of that fact), so I wondered if, based on the nature of vinyl liner pools, it could simply be made larger. After much research and some consultation the consensus was MAYBE - it could definitely be made deeper, but to enlarge the footprint would depend on many factors that could not be determined until excavation.

Overall I contacted seven different builders (basically ALL the builders within reachable distance). Of those, only three were even interested, but only two actually came out to look at the situation. Only one followed through to the end. He was out three separate times to lay things out, measure and re-measure, and discuss options. I didn't really have a list of hard requirements - bigger and deeper is all I really cared about. But the guy worked with me to come up with an idea that he was confident would work. Fortunately he is also considered the VLIG "guru" in my area and came highly recommended - two of the other builders that declined the chance to bid recommended him.

So here's what we came up with...this was the existing situation:

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Yes the concrete was scary...this was another big reason for the project. Apparently the previous owner was a big fan of concrete but not so good at actually laying it...at least i'm guessing it was a DIY job because...well lets just say I pity anyone who hires the pro that did this. We covered some of the bad concrete with gardens and painted other parts for use...I removed all the gardens in anticipation of the builder's arrival, these pics are the evening before day 1.

The plan is to build a lazy L - essentially turning the existing footprint into an 8ft deep end and adding a 14ft shallow end. The required 24ft deep-end length would put the break line 1ft short of the shallow-end grecian corners start, which is where we would be attaching new panels.

Model.JPG

First step - rip out that scary concrete:

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It was up to 8 inches thick in spots. At this point I was already feeling so much better. Hated the "Abandoned-Asylum-Chic" look we had before.

At the start, things went fast. All the concrete was out in two days. We had one lost day due to equipment failure, but then right back to work on the excavation:

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He got the bond beam out where we needed to expand, then modified the existing panels so they would mate up to the new panels, and dug the deep end:

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Of course we had a tropical storm come through THE NEXT DAY. Fortunately, no major issues due to all the rain.

But then, the delays began. He said it normally takes a day or two to get panels (he gets his stuff from a local supplier so it's all overnight delivery)...it took a week and a half due to current demand. But, once the panels came in, they went up fast:

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That's where it stands now. We are once again waiting, for concrete this time. Fortunately the liner is ordered and the builder says that's our timeline-definer...he said he can easily finish the rest of the work before the liner will get here (he said to expect about two weeks) so regardless of what happens we are at least two weeks out from completion. Here's to hoping it doesn't take any longer. We'd love to be able to enjoy our new pool before the end of the season and i've still got a lot of work to do around the pool once it's done.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,442
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Wow. Neat project. Yes, the old concrete was HORRIBLE looking. I’m sure the real estate agent was scratching his or her head trying to figure out how to sell that image ... ”abandoned asylum” definitely hits it nicely.

The new size will be fun. My only eye popping moment came when I saw your picture of the excavator digging out the shallow end. The builder has dug out so close to that retaining wall that I would have liked to see braces put up while you’re waiting. If there’s any significant lateral force on that wall with a good rain storm saturating the ground, that wall will come right down. The footers are exposed and so there’s nothing holding that wall up. Obviously it’s holding now but I would be holding my breath until that gets filled in 😬😬😬

Good luck to you and post up some equipment specs and plumbing configuration. Maybe we can “help” you spend more of your money🤑
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
Raven how dare you say this is isn’t exciting ??? It’s bloody AMAZING. It takes way more stones to tackle this project than to start with a blank slate.

I have a big ole boring rectangle myself and it’s a good thing it’s big because there is no problems filling it with people. I never heard one compliant that it wasn’t a ‘backyard oasis’. I love those pools too. I do. But we put our money into the function over the form, not the usual form over function.

Your project will certainly inspire some in the future and if they are already underway when they find it, It will still help. Thanks for sharing.
 

spd500

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2020
564
Houston, TX
Your new design looks really good and having all the old concrete out will really improve the appearance of the yard. Great job so far.

I am very new to pool ownership and design, but I wonder why they would do the metal panel instead of gunite? Will the bottom half be all concrete? Is this something that is more common up north? I have never seen anything like that down here in the south.
 

TheRaven

Active member
Jul 3, 2018
28
Fleetwood, PA
Yes I was worried about the wall too. The builder used to do masonry and concrete before he got into the pool business, and still does those jobs when the pool business is slow...and he's not worried about the wall. It's a big wall and it's not holding back that much, plus the "wedge" design of the wall transfers force (if there even is any at this point) outward instead of downward. Furthermore, we are up relatively high and stay very dry - there is a drainage basin across the street from the front of the house and i'd estimate the pool is about 30-40ft above the floor of the basin...and even that basin only sees water during very extreme weather events.

That said I still keep an eye on that wall whenever we get any rain. Lol.

Yes this is a function-first pool. At least for me, 90% of the pool experience is the hole in the ground with water in it. Slides, rocks, waterfalls, tanning ledges, and lights add the extra 10% but cost 50% or more (not to mention adding many maintenance nightmares down the road). We decided to put that 50% into the deck, grill, and firepit area instead. Oh and an unexpected hot tub.

As for the supporting equipment, not very exciting. The existing pool had one skimmer, two returns, no drains. All piped back to a small pad about 30ft away on the side of the house. There was a Hayward SuperPump and a generic above-ground sand filter. It did the trick, just a bit slowly...after all there are above ground pools larger in volume than what we had in the ground. At the beginning of the season I replaced the filter with a Hayward c3030 (went big in anticipation of this project) and had planned to rebuild the pump (it had a slow main-seal leak). Unfortunately when I disassembled the pump for the rebuild the motor case literally disintegrated due to all the rust on the bottom. So a new motor got added to the list. Went with the Century V-green 165 and all new seals and basket for the pump. I plumbed in Jandy valves, and will add more with the new plumbing going in, and also added a "dump" line since in the last two summers I found myself needing to lower the water level surprisingly frequently. I also shored up the electrical a bit...the pump was wired with a 16awg extension cord plugged into a 15amp (non-weatherproof) receptacle fed by a 30A breaker (non-GFCI) breaker. I ran new 12awg line and added a 15A GFCI since the new pump draws much less than the old. Still planning on adding a dedicated sub-panel though. As for new plumbing - we will be adding another skimmer to the short shallow end wall and another return to the long shallow end wall, along with a set of main drains.

The existing pool did not have a light, which is ridiculous. I'm just adding an LED retrofitted AstroLite since all purpose-built LED options appear to be nightmares.

For the remainder of this year i'll be sticking with good 'ole bleach but I think next year I may go the salt route. Still researching and deliberating on that though. Sometimes it sounds like i'll be trading the inconvenience of constant chemical maintenance for the nightmare of constant equipment maintenance.
 

TheRaven

Active member
Jul 3, 2018
28
Fleetwood, PA
Your new design looks really good and having all the old concrete out will really improve the appearance of the yard. Great job so far.

I am very new to pool ownership and design, but I wonder why they would do the metal panel instead of gunite? Will the bottom half be all concrete? Is this something that is more common up north? I have never seen anything like that down here in the south.
This is a vinyl liner pool - no gunite. The existing walls are fiberglass and the new walls are steel. The bottom will be vermiculite - it's sorta like a lightweight concrete I guess.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
Sometimes it sounds like i'll be trading the inconvenience of constant chemical maintenance for the nightmare of constant equipment maintenance
You got the first part right. Daily testing and adding of bleach until you are at one with your pool and you can skip a day here and there or just guess close enough. The second half is all myth. The main drawback to SWG is the upfront cost. My 35k gallon pool needs a $3-$4 gallon of chlorine a day. My current 9.6 hours of SWG runtime costs me 96 cents a day based on what I paid for my unit and an assumed 8k hour lifespan. So I don’t have to lug or store jugs and it’s 3 or 4 times cheaper. Just all upfront. When my old one died it was never a question if I was replacing it. My only question was if it was really dead.
 

Homebrewale

Well-known member
Apr 21, 2020
330
Apex, NC
I would agree that the constant equipment maintenance with a SWG is a myth. I don't see any additional equipment maintenance. I find I have to do very little maintenance to the pool equipment.
 

TheRaven

Active member
Jul 3, 2018
28
Fleetwood, PA
And how long did your SWCGs last? If i'm spending $1200 on one of these systems it needs to last me more than 2-3 years. That's a common theme i'm seeing in the salt threads, cells or controls dead after a couple seasons. Same as LED lighting it seems.
 

Homebrewale

Well-known member
Apr 21, 2020
330
Apex, NC
There is the SWG controls and there is the cell. My current Hayward T-15 is 5 years old. Generally, the cells last about 6 years for my pool and cost about $600 to replace. So the annual cost is $100 for the cell. The circuit board was replaced once over 14 years. Also I had to replace the thermistor once on the circuit board which cost a few dollars.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
The 10k hour expected lifespan of most units had been shortened to 8k now. If you run 12 hours a day it equates to 666 days. Everybody has a different season length , but the Texan with the longer season is needing just as much liquid chlorine during that longer season so it’s still a wash.
 

spd500

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2020
564
Houston, TX
There is the SWG controls and there is the cell. My current Hayward T-15 is 5 years old. Generally, the cells last about 6 years for my pool and cost about $600 to replace. So the annual cost is $100 for the cell. The circuit board was replaced once over 14 years. Also I had to replace the thermistor once on the circuit board which cost a few dollars.
HAve you had problems with erosion of the pumps or equipment on your system?
 

Homebrewale

Well-known member
Apr 21, 2020
330
Apex, NC
The 10k hour expected lifespan of most units had been shortened to 8k now. If you run 12 hours a day it equates to 666 days. Everybody has a different season length , but the Texan with the longer season is needing just as much liquid chlorine during that longer season so it’s still a wash.
Wouldn't that be if the cell was being run at 100%? Considering the OP is in PA where chlorine demand may not be as high, the percentage may be at 50% or lower so the days would double.
 

spd500

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2020
564
Houston, TX
The 10k hour expected lifespan of most units had been shortened to 8k now. If you run 12 hours a day it equates to 666 days. Everybody has a different season length , but the Texan with the longer season is needing just as much liquid chlorine during that longer season so it’s still a wash.
Can I extend the number of days by buying oversized equipment? I know the say to go with double the size of the pool, but what about oversizing to say 4 times the size of the pool? Is there a point of diminishing returns?
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
Wouldn't that be if the cell was being run at 100%? Considering the OP is in PA where chlorine demand may not be as high, the percentage may be at 50% or lower so the days would double.
Yes. I was using 12 hours meaning 12 hours at 100% or 24 hours at 50%. That is the standard of the 2X oversized unit. Timing during the season and also location will require additional tweaking more and less.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
Can I extend the number of days by buying oversized equipment? I know the say to go with double the size of the pool, but what about oversizing to say 4 times the size of the pool? Is there a point of diminishing returns?
This is exactly the reason for the 2X. So it lasts 2X longer if it only has to run half the time to create the needed FC. Or if need be it can run a little longer and create even more to get through the highest demand days of the peak season. 3X is even better but at some point the unit will simply fail being exposed to the elements for so long. With a smaller pool in a hot climate (long season) I would buy as big of a unit as possible. In the north that may equate to it lasting 12 years on a 10k gallon pool. It might not last 12 years on its own.
 

Homebrewale

Well-known member
Apr 21, 2020
330
Apex, NC
HAve you had problems with erosion of the pumps or equipment on your system?
Not that I noticed. I replaced the heat pump once over the 14 years for leakage. I replaced the pump twice. Once because the pump quit running and the second time because I wanted a VSP. The old one was single speed and it was still running fine at the time the VSP was installed. The Polaris booster pump and sand filter are original equipment. The only problem I had with salt corrosion was the metal cups in the concrete for the steps handle and the deep end ladder. They had to be cut out and replaced. My pool company has switched from metal to plastic cups just for this reason.
 

spd500

Well-known member
Jul 20, 2020
564
Houston, TX
This is exactly the reason for the 2X. So it lasts 2X longer if it only has to run half the time to create the needed FC. Or if need be it can run a little longer and create even more to get through the highest demand days of the peak season. 3X is even better but at some point the unit will simply fail being exposed to the elements for so long. With a smaller pool in a hot climate (long season) I would buy as big of a unit as possible. In the north that may equate to it lasting 12 years on a 10k gallon pool. It might not last 12 years on its own.
That is very good to know, it doesn't seem like the prices go up that much to upgrade to a larger system from what I can tell online
 

Homebrewale

Well-known member
Apr 21, 2020
330
Apex, NC
Yes. I was using 12 hours meaning 12 hours at 100% or 24 hours at 50%. That is the standard of the 2X oversized unit. Timing during the season and also location will require additional tweaking more and less.
I only mentioned it because I thought the OP may only need to run at 50% for 12 hours to satisfy the chlorine demand. Some people don't understand that a cell running at 50% for 12 hours will last twice as long as one that runs 12 hours at 100%.
 
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Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,795
NY
That is very good to know, it doesn't seem like the prices go up that much to upgrade to a larger system from what I can tell online
Going 50% bigger usually costs 20% or less extra. The math is very much on your side. Unlike a filter where it is pretty much going to last forever, Going bigger on the SWG makes it last longer.