Serious about a gunite pool in MD-need any help I can get

megankheapsJuly 14, 2010

My husband and I are in the final phases are meeting with PB's to install a gunite pool here in MD. We have met with 5 PB's and they all have differing opinions about 2 major aspect of the pool, the heating source and the decking materials. The plans are for a larger pool (1100sq ft or larger) with a springy diving board, LED lighting, nice landscaping (trees, not grasses and little plants), a black aluminum fence, and all grassy areas that were destroyed by equipment repaired. Those things are must haves but we do have some things we would like to have such as a smaller rock waterfall, a spa (my husband), tanning deck/beach entry. As beautiful as PebbleTec is, we have conceded that it is not a necessity. Our budget is about 100k. If we can not get what we want for that price we have decided to not build a pool at this time. We have decided that we would rather wait than build something we look at and say "I should have done this or that....." My questions are:

1. What type of heating system do you feel works the best (solar, propane, or heat pump) to keep the pool warm enough so that EVERYONE wants to swim? I understand the costs of each but which one do you like?

2. What type of decking do you like the best (exposed aggregate, SunDek, Artistic pavers, standard pavers, other)?

3. Any other ideas or thought you might have are very much welcome.

Thanks for any and all thoughts.


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Solar, in areas where pools are winterized is not a good mix generally speaking. Getting them to fully drain can be problematic.

Heat pumps REQUIRE a solar cover or automatic pool cover to reduce evaporation, the #1 heat loss cause. An 1100 sq. ft. pool will evaporate a lot. I doubt a heat pump will be able to overcome the loss of an uncovered pool of this size.

When you want the spa hot, you want it hot now. A 400K BTU gas fired heater will do it fastest, regardless of the outdoor temperature. It will also be able to heat the pool uncovered, though I do strongly urge the use of a a solar cover to help reduce fuel costs. I take it natural gas is not available, hence the propane.

Decking a matter of personal taste.

Things to think about:

Buyers remorse: The grass is NOT always greener. Coulda, woulda, will make you nuts. My Dad told me a story of when he was in Officer Training School about a Sargent who told him, "Do something Lieutenant!"

You get just as wet if you get wet in an 18' round AGP or a 25x50 in-ground gunite. So will the guests. Fun times will be had, it's that simple.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 8:04PM
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Our pool is under construction so I'll just tell you what I was told (northern Virginia):

1. Heating: want the water warmed fast? propane. One builder said he only uses his heater in the spring; opens the pool and burns 400gal propane to heat it up and he's done for the season (allows him to open early). Everyone we know has propane so I can't speak to a heat pump, although a lot of builders I talked to pushed them. Our friends nearby with propane love it because if they have a pool party on a chilly day it heats the water quickly.

2. Decking: we are doing aggregate. I do not like pavers (although they do look nice in pictures); we have a perennial garden with pavers and it is a maintenance nightmare (it's about 10 years old). Ants, weeds, shifting, you name it (the grass & weeds out here are on steroids or something: they will destroy anything). We really need to have the pavers re-sanded / pounded down or whatever one does in this situation. Anyway it was enough for me to veto pavers around our pool. Sundek sounds nice but I've never seen it and I believe it is expensive in this area - but if price isn't an issue check it out. And report back :)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 6:15PM
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What PB's are you dealing with?
I live in Carroll Co. and am finishing up with my pool renovation.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 8:38AM
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gal_thursday, I am in Sterling, VA, which PB are you using? We are in the interviewing process for our first pool. Would love to hear your feedback on PB and the whole process. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 9:05PM
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I live in CT. My pool is at 86 degrees today, heated just by the daily sunshine. Plaster finish, medium to dark gray.

Pool has been in for8 or 9 years now, summertime it's always in the high 80s just from the sunshine. We don't have any additional form of solar heating.

We have a propane heater, 400k Raypak 2100 ASME, we use it to heat the spa. Have a 375 gallon tank, it gets refilled about every 3 years.

The heater might be used to heat the pool in early spring, I open in early April. I close in mid-November. We've very seldom heated the pool late in the season, though the spa gets used right up until I close.

We just have a regular pool, nothing fancy, no tricks. 20' by 40', a swimout bench. I just wanted 40' length with turn tiles on the opposing walls for swimming laps.

We didnt go crazy budget-wise, we had the builder do just the pool and the 3' of kooldeck around it, plus they set the equipment. I did all the landscaping, stone walls, the 1800' of patio, the lighting and sound system, and the fence and pergola myself.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 12:21AM
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Thanks for all the feedback. We have met with 5 PB's, Outdoor Impressions (That PB is out. We did NOT mesh at all), Elite, Rowan, Backyard Creations and Lothorian. We really liked the last 3 but might give Elite a call back. We met with Elite last year but I didn't want to waste anyones time until I heard back from the other guys. We want to see what the other 3 come in at because we might just be expecting too much for our budget. We hope to know by Tuesday night if we are delusional or if we are getting a pool. I will let everyone know.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:37PM
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I went back and forth on the heater (heat pump or gas). I ended up getting gas (propane, because our house and hot water is heated with propane and we have a large underground tank).

The heat pump units are more expensive, heat slowly, but are supposed to be more cost effective to run, although I question how much because our electric is fairly expensive.

The gas units heat much more quickly, but chew through the gas.

I figured we would use the heater for specific times (i.e. we want to swim at 3pm on Saturday, so fire it up Saturday morning, swim, then shut it off), not to generally keep the pool at a certain temp over a long period of time.

But since opening in mid April, we have only used the heater maybe 2 or 3 times. Between the solar cover and hot summer, we have not had the need to heat it.

As for decking, we went with colored brushed concrete to save a little $$. Probably should have gone with exposed agg. (Coulda, shoulda...) I like the concrete overall, but the color did not come out like we thought. If you use colored concrete, find the color you really want, and then go with one two shades darker.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:23AM
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@Meagan, we live over in Harford County and just completed ours in May. We used Elite and the process was great. You may also want to consider Pleasure Pools...great reputation. Link to our build is below.

Is the area where your pool is going shaded? Ours is in open sun and I can tell you that the water warms very quickly on its own, aided by the gray plaster we have. Our pool is smaller, at just over 700 sq feet, but with the recent heat wave, the water temp is in the high 80s naturally. We were in the high 70s by Memorial Day. Obviously personal preference, but for a few chills early in the season, the savings on equipment, gas and system complexity makes it well worth it for us.

We did brushed concrete for our 1200 sq feet of decking. We went "plain" so as to avoid creating a visual travesty of conflicting textures with the prominent retaining wall we had to install. The deck fades into the background now, allowing the pool and the wall to be our anchors. Oh, and it was significantly less expensive than stamped concrete or pavers (concrete or travertine).

Here is a link that might be useful: Baltimore Pool Build

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 6:59AM
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@megankheaps. Hi i was wondering if you can share as to how your built went with BYC? I just talked to them as well about getting an estimate.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 4:11PM
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