single mom pool build charlotte nc! desperately in need of help!

New_Pool_Girl_NCJune 22, 2011

Hello Everyone,

I am new to this forum and wish that I found it long before I began to even think about construction on my new pool. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20 and we are all in now. I am not sure if everyone felt this way at some point during the process, but I am completely overwhelmed. This is my first pool in my first house, so I am very nervous about having a pool that is more safe and structurally sound than one that is aesthically appealing at this point, but looking at all of the beautiful pools here, I believe that I should get both.

Here is a little background. I interviewed several pool companies and was invited by various customer references to check out their pools. After seeing a couple of pools built by my pool company and speaking to several more references, I decided that my pool builder was the way to go.

Here are the specs for my pool (sorry if they are grouped kind of awkwardly - I'm just listing what's in the contract):

15' X 32' 3.5'-6' deep freeform pool

flagstone coping

6" waterline tile

400 sq ft of salted finished concrete decking

ivory quartz plaster

3 steps

1 bench

sunshelf with 8" of water, unbrella sleeve and 2 bubblers

spillover spa 7' raised 18" stackstone with 6 jets

2HP blower

1 spa light; 1 pool light

1 skimmer, 2 main drains, 3 returns

intermatic control system

1.5 HP Jandy pump

large Jandy Cartridge filter

Jandy Aqua-Pure Salt Chlorinator

400K BTU Natural Gas Heater

Aqua-Link PDA

Total - $47,500

These are the basic specs. Sorry, if there are no dimensions or other specific details listed above, it's because they are not included in the contract.

So the contract called for leaving all excess fill in my yard, which is not very big and has a slope. The plan was to use all of the excavated dirt to backfill the portion of my yard furthest from the house to make it level. After the first day of digging where we only got a third of the way through the excavation, I realized that the pool plan designed wasn't going to work. The dirt was piled up and somewhat compacted for about 2.5 feet and there was still more to go to bring it up to grade as well as more digging to do. That night I decided it would be best to leave the lower level low and leave the deck on the house side high and add a raised wall on the house side with stairs to the lower level.

I informed the pool builder of this and he said he could do it for an additional $3,900 because of the new requirement to haul away the excess dirt and the extra rebar and gunite, which I agreed to.

I understand construction has it's issues, but when I see some of the pool build processes here and look at mine, I am convinced that I have received the short end of the stick. For starters, the excavators removed landscaping from my slope that was never supposed to be touched. The excavation took a week. Please note that we did not hit rock or anything other than my sewer line which was re-routed less than a foot away from the outside of the pool shell and was repaired using rubber couplers and is still exposed and leaking.

They have left so much dirt piled in the only point of entry and exit to my pool area that the bobcat hit the side of my house and fortunately only crushed a gutter downspout (which has not yet been replaced).

Dirt has been piled on the side of my ac units and has sat for days and now the coils need an acid wash. They finally finished the excavation after a week and laid the rebar, which is sitting flat on the gravel. I'm no pool builder, but I've seen enough of your pools on this site to question this (based on what I've seen I think it's wrong, but please let me know if you disagree). My pool has been formed incorrectly as the left side of deck stairs have not been included so the raised wall goes all the way around the left side of the pool.

I have paid 40% of the contract price and we have not yet even pre-plumbed. Is there anything that I can do to assure that I will have a quality pool? I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place as I do not want to tick off my PB, but I feel like given the many hiccups that have not all been exclusively ordinary course of construction hiccups I have to say something.

I can provide more details and photos soon, but I wanted to get some views as to whether I was being too nervous and need to relax or have cause for real concern going forward.

Thanks so much!!

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new pool girl NC,
If you have paid 40% of the contract price, please do not pay any more until more work is complete. A good rule of thumb is to pay the % of work that has been completed. i.e. excavation, steel, gunite = about 55% of the project. There are always variables. Some PB's will install all the equipment when they do the plumbing prior to gunite. This will require you pay a higher % of the contract price at that stage.
You should be holding 10-15% at the end of the project. When the pool is running and instructions have been provided, then it's up to you to approve the work and pay the last payment.
Changes can be expensive. Plans provided for yards with significant elevation changes require more detail and should have been presented to you in that context.
Before you go a lot further, you should talk to the PB about who will be responsible for grading and removal of any excess dirt that remains on the site after the pool is complete. PB should do this. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:39AM
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Usually your first instinct is right.

Create a photobucket account and post some pics, the experts here may be able to give you some insight on what is right and wrong.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:43AM
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No blocks under the rebar? Don't let them shoot.

Is the rebar #3 forming 12" on center squares? What about the bond beam? #4 in a 2x2 box? 12" bond beam? 9" floor and walls?

Pix will definitely help. 3rd option when you drift over the pics in the album. Copy and paste to the message box, one per line.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Thanks guys for the responses so far. I will post some pictures tonight after I get home from work. I will also check the rebar numbers. The bond beam wasn't formed yet when I left home this morning, so I can confirm when I get there.

Golfgeek - Great advice, but I think it is too late on the payment front as my contract required 40% at excavation and 40% at gunnite. We definitely learn some expensive lessons in life.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 5:54PM
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Here is a try at posting photos.

This is my yard pre-pool with the slope and landscaping

Better view of slope

After first dig

View of the amount of excavated dirt being use to build up yard. It was 2ft and they weren't done. After seeing this I changed the design to lower the pool on the low side and keep a raised deck with steps on both sides.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:07PM
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Re-routed sewer line

Bent downspout

Dirt pile up as the dump truck did not come until Thursday when excavation started on Monday.

Not a trick shot. This thing almost fell on my house because they left no room to move with all of the dirt. By the time the truck left Thursday it had taken 5 full loads and the pool was still only 2/3rds dug.

Rebar - Sorry - I couldn't figure out what size re-bar was used, but it appears to be on 12in centers in some places and a little wider or smaller in others. No bricks on the floor or walls. Also the re-bar does not look like it comes up high enough for the raised wall that is supposed to be 2 feet high and 33 feet long with steps on each side, although the steps on the left side have not been formed and the rebar on the left side of the spa is higher than the rebar and top of pool wall on the right side.

Lastly, not sure if you can see it but there is a copper wire that goes halfway around the pool only. Is this sufficient for grounding / bonding the pool for electricity?

Steps for raised wall are formed here.

This is where the raise wall should be 2 feet above the top of the pool wall. Should the rebar be higher like up to the top of where the wall should be to support the gunnite?

The right side of the spa is where the top of the pool shell should be and the left side should be the same not the height of the spa.

The steps should start the drop down right past the bench, but it continues to the spa at the same height of the raised wall. Is the bench too low? It was about a foot higher pre-rebar, but I'm guessing they lowered it because they are going to form it with the gunnite.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I have a ton more pics if different perspectives are needed.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Im from a completely different side of our country, but what I can tell you is there is definitely some carelessness happening....I would flip a lid if I saw dirt piled up against my AC units.

In AZ, our payment terms are governed by our Attorney General...1k down, 30% after excavation, 30% after shotcrete/gunite, 30% after deck, and we get to collect the remainder BEFORE final finish. I would check your local governing bodies and see if anything is in place (we also have the Registrar of Contractors.)

As far as the steel goes, odds are they will block it up before gunite/ is typical to have it all set on the dirt, but it is usually blocked up before the steel crew leaves. Maybe this builder leaves it flat until they plan to shoot so it doesnt get trampled on. Not too sure.

Your raised beam areas should most likely have been steeled....unless they plan to build them out of block, but even then they would usually have skybars installed to tie the filled cells of the block into the steel cage of the pool.

I'll let some more local builders chime in with help. good luck.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 3:17AM
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Forget the gutter, that's $50.

The treatment of your AC units really ticked me off.

How dare that idiot backhoe operator dump that dirt on those units. Sure he doesn't care, but the PB damn sure should.

Also, are the boards on top of the units still? Are the units running, is it hot in your part of the country?

If left running like that with the fan blocked, it can destroy those units quickly.

Calling it complete disregard for your property just scratches the surface. Photo and document everything, and each phase.
Hopefully you will not need it, but if you do you will be glad you have it.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 8:40AM
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Thanks for the input so far. Please keep it coming. Here is the latest update. It was lightening and raining the night after the rebar was placed on Tuesday, so I didn't want to get too close, but this morning I went into the pool to take measurements and my pool is only dug 4.5 feet below the top of the pool shell on the deep end, which means it will be about 3.5-4 feet after gunnite. I changed the specs with the pool builder from 6 feet to 5 feet because he said I would have no shallow end. Well now all I have is a shallow end!!

If you look at the picture with the spa the top of the pool wall on the right side is the height of the pool all around, which puts it at the first bar down from the top of the rebar. The rebar is set in 12 inch squares so from the top to the floor there should be at least 6 squares for a 5 foot deep end and my bench is supposed to be in the deep end, but if you notice from the first bar down to the floor is only about 4.5 squares, which means my pool will be 3.5-4 feet in the deep end after gunnite. Is the gunnite in the sunshelf supposed to be the same depth as the gunnite in the pool floor? If so, there's no way that I will have the 8 inches of water am supposed to have.

The only place where it is dug 6 feet is right in front of the spa. There seems to be little to no communication between my PB and his crew here, and if there is it is very poor communication. They came to bend the wires last night, but still didn't form the steps for the raised decking to go down to grade past the bench. Maybe they are planning on doing it later?

Goyom - The boards on top of the units was my attempt to keep as much dirt as possible out of the unit itself. They weren't running because they were covered. It is pretty warm here in Charlotte this time of year, so we have been living without AC during the day so we could cover the units.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 11:34AM
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new pool girl NC,
The steel will be blocked up with 3" square concrete bridge blocks. This action should raise the steel to the proper beam height.
Depths for the pool should be measured as follows: measure from top of the form to the dirt. Subtract 6" or 8" for gunite(depends on engineered specs.) and 3" water line tile(top of water will be 3" below top of beam/form). This will give you the actual water depth of any area of the pool. This may vary by an inch depending on the accuracy of gunite and tile. Measure from lower form.(Don't mean to insult your intelligence, but I have had customers measure from the raised form!)
I'm a little surprised that no plumbing has been placed in the pool. Floor suction lines for the pool and spa need to be installed under the steel along with a skimmer somewhere down wind prior to gunite. Every PB does things a little different, but it is easier to install suction lines prior to steel, unless they are going to place pipe between the ground and steel.
Did the PB tell you why they put stone in the bottom of the pool? Does your site have ground water potential or perhaps expansive soil?
Ditto responses regarding the A/C units.
Pool excavation with the equipment in your photo should not take longer than 2 days max. unless something breaks down.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:24PM
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I would be really really mad if my excavator had done that!
I think my pool is bigger and deeper and it took less than two full days, and we also have a narrow side yard access. (pictures on my pool blog if you want to compare) We also had cave-ins and concrete tiebacks and rods to dig out with the dirt.
They did break a bunch of the neighbors pavers and a lot of sprinklers, but that is small stuff. And we had to do elevation changes on the fly.
Looking back, some of the plumbing was done after and/or during the rebar, so that should be fine.
The electrician came after the shotcrete to bond the pool, and we had big rebar pieces sticking out of the pool for ages until that was all done. Note that our exposed pool beam wall was shot at 12" and the rest of the walls were 8". You definitely want to be there when they shoot the pool so you can make sure they are doing it the way you want. If you bother to read my blog, you'll see that I made changes to the entry steps, and the PB made adjustments to the bench while the guys were there.
Anyway, I hope some of this helps you. Not technical help that the PBs here can give you, but you have something to compare to at least.
Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: My pool blog with photos

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:43PM
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Thanks guys. I went home today and there were blocks under the rebar. Thank goodness.

I spoke with the PB today about the depth of the pool and he said that because it was a triangular shaped pool the pool is designed to pitch toward the spa in the corner so the deep end in toward the back corner of the pool. I thought half the pool would be shallow and the other half would be deep, but when I looked at the plans, the location of the depths weren't specified just that the pool would be 3.5-5 feet deep. PB assured me that I would be standing in 4.5 feet of water near the bench when all was said and done, but I am still not convinced.

Golfgeek - I appreciate the tip for the measurement, and I will check it out in the morning (again)! My yard is red clay so perhaps the reason for the gravel base?

c9pilot - Great info and I really enjoyed your blog. Beautiful pool!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:28PM
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These incompetent people are the reason the pool industry gets a bad reputation. They have no business operating heavy equipment, especially in someones backyard. That is one of the worst digs i have ever seen.

I would also be very concerned about the rerouted sewer line that close to the pool. It looks like they used mission clamps to reconnect it and couldn't even get the pipe lined up straight. A licensed plumber is required in Charlotte to do this type of work to prevent this type of result.

Whoever designed the pool should have known that the dirt wouldn't work out. These people obviously have very little experience building pools. Its a shame they are creating another horror story that the rest of will have to deal with.

Who are they?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Renovxpt - Thank you for your response and attention to my concerns. There have been many aspects of this process that I have had to wonder about and have tried to figure if they were just a day in the life of pool construction or if I have somehow gotten the short end of the pool building stick. Given that I am still bound by my contract as there is no out for sheer sloppiness, I would prefer not to reveal the pool company until my pool is completed. The people I have spoken with who used this company were all very happy, hence my decision to go with them; however, every job is different. I am by no means trying to protect the pool company, but myself. Pool builders are human, and as I mentioned before I don't want to tick off my pool builder and have even more unnecessary delays and mistakes. I just want to know what should be done and what's right or wrong about the process. I don't want remedies or a breach of contract claim or a fight with my pool builder, I just want a beautiful pool that my family can enjoy for years to come.

Which is why I have come to the experts on this forum to guide me through the process, so I can somewhat supervise what my pool builder isn't.

For all wannabe pool owners, I am sure my experience is not the norm (or at least I hope), but do your homework, not just on the pool builder but on pool basics. Know what you want and where you want it and be sure to discuss it with your pool builder. Some details may seem minor, but if they are important to you, make sure your builder knows this (and has communicated this to the crew actually doing the work) in advance. Advance communication goes a long way in making sure you get the final product you're looking for.

I look forward to posting more pictures of the progress, but other than the blocks under the re-bar that was added on Thursday, there is nothing new to show. I am waiting for the plumber to come to pre-plumb the pool and the inspector to inspect the electrical bonding. Is there anything else I should confirm is done prior to gunite?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 10:32AM
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So sorry to see and hear about your difficulties. I am shocked to see some of these pics! We are currently in the middle of our build as well. We have had very minor issues, but they have been resolved quickly with our PB, so we consider ourselves lucky with a good PB so far.

Be advised - take tons and tons of pictures, and even videos. You don't have to post them all, but good to have a large amount of detailed picture and video of everything that is about to be permanently covered up by your gunite. Take wide shots, and take lots of close-ups. Can't have too many. You never know when/where you might need solid evidence of poor workmanship.

I truly hope things work out for you, and keep posting to this board, as the experts here (I am not one, but a customer like you) are very helpful.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 12:25PM
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New Pool Girl- You sound like a really nice person but it would be wise for you to consider the possibility that your PB is not as nice.

You have agreed to a contract that is heavily front-end loaded and getting ready to pay another 40%. That will leave you with very little leverage as it will cost the PB a lot more than the balance of the contract to complete the work. Contracts that are front end loaded like this are generally a red flag and should make one question the intentions of the contractor. Unlike Arizona there are no laws in NC governing progress payments for pools. However, there are laws requiring the contractor to have a NCGC license for contracts over 40k. You can check your permit documents on-line and see if they permitted the contract for the full amount. If they permitted it for less than 40k, you should check on-line to see if they have an appropriate license to perform the work. If they don't have the license the contract can be declared invalid. If they have the license, it wouldn't hurt to make sure the license holder actually works there. Its not uncommon for deceptive pool companies to operate using a persons license that isn't a principal operator of the business. You can also check with the NC Secretary of State to find out who is standing behind the work.

Being nice and trusting is fine until you become a victim. Do some more research before you commit another 40% to this project. Its hot right now and everyone wants their pool in right away, but in the long term throwing caution to the wind is not the best path to take. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 1:03PM
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new pool girl NC,
The plumbing should be pressurized to 35psi minimum. They should leave pressure on thru out construction. You should also see cans(niches) for the lights installed(pool and spa). These will also be bonded to the steel wth #8 copper wire. Floor suction lines, sometimes called main drain lines, will be installed in the pool and spa. Each of these lines should be split for safety. Ask your PB if he "splits the suction lines". He will know that you are referring to the safety issues. These lines should have 3' of separation in the pool and in the spa.
You might want to discuss the height of the jets in the spa and the height of the seating with your PB before gunite. It's common to have several different seating levels to get a little variety for the jets. It shouldn't cost any extra. Usually, it's pretty easy to get 3 levels that are stepped down in 2" increments. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 1:13PM
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Renovxpt - thank you so much for the information. Prior to signing I checked to confirm whether there was a licensed operator and the GC license is in the name of one of the principals, but the less than the contract information is good to know as the total price is less than the contract price prior to the addendum for the raised wall so I will look in to that. I try to be nice, but at this point, I am far from trusting or comfortable, so if there is anything I can do to gain leverage I will do it.

Golfgeek - this is exactly the kind of information I am looking to obtain. Not only does it spark conversation, it provides reference points for further research. I really appreciate the input. I will be asking PB about this.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 1:17AM
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