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New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Posted by stereotypeq (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 4, 11 at 22:44

hello gardenweb!

we just moved into a new house (well, new to us, it was built in the '20s) in central Los Angeles and decided to add a small pool to our modestly-sized backyard.

we have been reading tons of gardenweb posts about new pool builds to help us on our journey and we thought we'd contribute a post of our own to ask a few last-minute questions and help any other pool builders out there with similar concerns.

THE SPECS:

13' x 21' rectangular-ish custom-designed pool
1' raised spa, 6' x 4.5', with infinity edge
41' of 1' raised bond beam around back and side wall
18" raised sheer descent water feature
4 ft to 6ft depth
Solar heating system
Salt Wise salt water chlorinator
Automatic water filler
Easy Touch remote, indoor control panel, and spa side switch
Pentair Intelliflo 8x160 Pump
Pentair 420 Clean & Clear filter
400,000 BTU heater (not sure what brand, likely Pentair as well)
Extra Pentair pump for sheer descent
7 spa jets
French Gray plaster

our PB is Gary Gunderson with Mr. Carlos Pools and so far we're very happy with them. there have been a few hiccups along the way, but if anyone in history has ever had a 100% worry-free pool build i would be shocked.

we've been extremely hands-on with the project and very meticulous about every last detail, but gary has been very patient with us, as have all the other subcontractors and mr. carlos staff. and gary was more than fair during the contract negotiations and gave us a price FAR below our next lowest bidder.

if anything goes wrong with our build or our pool in the future, i will return to edit the above review, but so far so good!

so, here's the design...i don't know how many fans of '80s-era punk rock frequent the gardenweb forums, but we modeled the pool after a certain recognizable band logo... :)

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the steps have since been moved to the little "alcove" to the right so that the area where the steps are currently drawn is just a shallow-end hang-out area.

here are the initial renderings:

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we've since decided to go with gray coping (not sure what material yet, we'll get to that in the questions) and black 3x6" subway tile. here's a rough re-rendering (but with square tile):

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we just finished with the gunite phase, so now we have a week of watering, waiting, and consternation about tile and coping ahead of us...

pictures to follow, BUT FIRST, THE QUESTIONS!

1.) does anyone have any experience with black pool tile? we are very concerned about calcium buildup ruining the color...are we making a mistake going with black? we have heard about a device called the mpulse 3000 that supposedly de-calcifies the water electronically, but we can't find ANY online reviews for it. we have, however, found a lot of people skeptical of the science involved. anyone ever use it or know if it's worth buying? and what else can we do to keep our black tile shiny?

2.) has anyone ever seen a pool with 3x6 subway tile of ANY color on a raised bond beam? we can't find any pics online, it would be nice to have a visual reference before committing to our tile choice for LIFE!!!!!

3.) we're a little concerned about the floor of our pool. when they did the dig and put in the steel, the slope started from the spa area to the deep end. we asked our builder if we could have a level, flat pool floor for a few more feet before the slope began so we could utilize more shallow end space. he said that would be taken care of during the gunite phase. i reminded him about it a few times, mentioned it to the gunite supervisor before the job began, and made sure to remind the gunite supervisor several times that i wanted to be there to correct the slope when they were ready for that moment.

...so they shoot the gunite and the sun was going down and the slope was still the same. they had already run out of gunite material, so they couldn't shoot any more in, they just used some of the gunite that they had shoveled out of the pool already and tried to race against the sun to help flatten out the floor. in the end, the slope is still not satisfactory to us. AND since they spent the last half hour or so trying to deal with the slope, they didn't really smooth out the bottom of the pool at all.

so now we are left with a shoe-print-riddled pool with an unsatisfactory slope and a generally uneven bottom with some sections that sink by a few inches.

our gunite supervisor said they would happily correct any flaws, but i'm just unclear on the process. it's not TRAGICALLY off, and i know that plaster will smooth out a few things, but how much can they correct and smooth out once the gunite is shot and set? the deep end is only 5'11" instead of 6' so we're worried that any additional concrete added to the bottom will give us a 5'10" deep end, or lower.

one of the workers also said he was worried about adding too much gunite to the slope because it could cause cracks? that seemed odd to me; wouldn't more be better? not that we're asking for much more, 2 or 3 inches along the top of the slope maybe...

we don't have pictures of the bottom, but we'll try to post some soon.

4.) we have 3 steps, 1' each, except for the bottom step which i think is 15" (hopefully by the third step some buoyancy will kick in). it seems fine walking on them, but they are a bit steep. does anyone have 1' deep steps? or deeper? are they comfortable to use? we don't have kids, but our friends and neighbors do...will they be okay on 1' steps?

5.) our contract says that we need to water the gunite for at least 1 week, 3 times a day. our gunite guy says we should water it for 2 weeks. obviously we want to listen to the gunite guy and take our time, but it takes a bite out of our (already running behind) schedule to finish before we leave for holiday travel. any expert opinions? we'll definitely be watering for a week, can the second week of watering include watering during the tile and coping process?

6.) speaking of coping, we were initially thinking flagstone. but it turned out that that was because we didn't actually understand what flagstone was. :) we want one uniform color of coping with a rough, rock-like finish. possibly slate or maybe basalt? or bluestone? or granite? the idea is something like this.

or this.

tight, uniform, and angular, but with a rough surface and a slightly rough edge. (and a medium gray color)

anyone have any recommendations as far as which material would best suit our needs while still being cost effective?

okay, enough talk! it's picture time!!!

hopefully, like us, you enjoy pool build posts with lots of photos included, because that's what you're about to get! :)

here's the yard before it lost its innocence...

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this was a cute little arch cut in the hedges between the driveway and the yard:

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but she just wasn't big enough... :(

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and awayyyyy we go!

goodbye, mr. garden wall!

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goodbye mr. lattice structure on the side of the garage!

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goodbye mr. concrete slab!

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and hellooooo mr. hole!

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installing the steel:

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ripping up parts of the patio to run the electric...this process made me understand why dogs hide from strangers and loud noises. jackhammers are an unsettling presence in one's yard...

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this is the line for the Easy Touch panel inside our house, running under and through the patio:

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ripping up the driveway to run the plumbing and install the equipment...our neighbors were so bummed with the noise on this day...but they took pity on us when they saw what the yard looked like at the end of it:

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and here is what a plumbed and electrified hole looks like...we had another contractor working on another part of the house around the same time and he said it looked like the guys had done a really good job, which was quite reassuring. any other professionals want to weigh in?

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and after some snafus scheduling the inspection, some international travel, some nerve-wracking rain, and a broken cement truck, it was finally gunite day!

if our neighbors were bummed before, i wonder how they felt when they woke up to this on saturday morning:

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and then, s&*t got real...

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it's hard to say who we drove more crazy: the guys in charge of placing our spa jets or the gunite crew. but neither of them ever complained about our feeble decision-making skills or our OCD-level attention to detail, they just happily obliged us. truly, they are heroes.

here are the stairs as they were first shot:

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and here's jorge smoothing them to perfection:

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...and unfortunately that's all the photos we have so far! it got dark very quickly after they finished with the stairs and we didn't snap any photos today because we spent the afternoon watching "Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers" and that movie is seriously long so the sun went down before it was over. :(

but tomorrow or tuesday we'll return to read any responses we get and to post some photos of the controversial pool floor and finished steps.

thanks for reading and we look forward to sharing our first plunge with you in the (hopefully) near future!!!

(ps - we're also shooting a time-lapse video of the whole construction process, so stay tuned and we'll post it here when we're finished!)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Looking great! These guys seem to know what they are doing.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Great write-up and pictures. Looking forward to seeing it when they're finished.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Thanks! we're having the gunite guy come out Thursday to check out the messy floor to see if it needs to be smoothed out.. (there are foot prints etc. as they were not able to smooth it out)

I understand plaster will smooth everything, but it's only 1/2 inch thick no? How thick can it be to cover a bump in the gunite?

Also... any thoughts on Slate coping? I read that it was slippery. We have flagstone in our contract, but want straight lines ... long gray rectangles.. so now we're shopping.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Slates and flag stone, may or may not have a tendency to flake. It depends on the stone's characteristics. Some of the biggest factors are how thickly the layers were formed, how much pressure it was subjected to, it's porosity, and what the composition is.

The porosity is a significant factor, particularly with a salt water chlorine generator. Any stray micro currents can cause any metals in the rock to potentially get eaten, in a process called electrolysis.

If the layers are thin and porous, water may weep in. If the water is high in calcium, as is frequently the case in your geo, the calcium gets left behind when the stones dry out, leaving a white residue that usually requires the use of harsh chemicals such as muriatic acid to remove. Alas, this can also eat the stone. While the stone can be sealed, this often gets put on a back burner.

Temperature changes can also encourage erosion. The sun can heat the stone and then, when the pool is being used, substantially cooler water hits it.

I am not a big fan of slate around a pool. Looks sharp but choosing the right stone is a significant challenge.

Another sharp, modern look is a canter levered deck. This is where a poured concrete deck goes right to the pool edge, over the bond beam and a thin membrane is placed between the deck and beam to allow the two to expand and contract independently, reducing the potential for cracking.

Kool-Deck and similar products can add color and reduce the temperature of the deck, compared to most other deck surfaces.

A grinder makes quick work of any gunite chunks standing proud over the rest of the surface. I would be surprised if that created the least bit of concern by the PB, gunite or plasterers.

Don't expect a flat plane floor surface. There will be shallow undulations. The gunite guys and the plastering crew can't use large floats and bull floats in the pool like a mason pouring a large, flat, concrete floor. Do expect to see this at night with the lights on. Its not a defect.

Some areas may take some extra time to cure after plastering. The finish may be a bit thicker in spots and these can show as a slightly darker shade but will blend in over time.

I encourage you to learn about pool chemistry now, rather than later, even if you plan to hire a pool professional. Not all are as good as the contributors here or at some other pool forums. Knowing what should be gives you the opportunity to measure how your service pro is doing, before something bad happens.

Scott

Here is a link that might be useful: A very good pool school. See the upper right of the screen.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

This is really the look we want:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cPjn1ZsrlVw/TiZYU1Em6DI/AAAAAAAAAUE/GyXX-cNbyYI/s1600/DP_cohen-weintraub-pool_s4x3_lg.jpg

If we don't use slate, is there another material that will capture the same look and feel?

We're kind of lost as to what to ask for when we show up to a builders' supply shop, so we end up walking away more confused than when we arrived... :(

If we do go with slate, how much does the sealing process cost (roughly)? And if it's sealed will we still have issues w/ calcium?


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

I've never sen that stone here but being 3500 miles away doesn't make that a big surprise. Stone is heavy and as such, is expensive to transport.

Sealing only prevents penetration. Scale can still form on the exterior and is still a PITA to remove. It is typically an annual event and most do it themselves. It's not difficult. The sealants used vary by geos and local manufacturing. Avoid the stuff in box stores. The stuff in the concrete supply houses is usually better and the people there will know what is up with each product.

Don't rush. When unsure, ask a lot of questions. Harder and denser stone is better. Taking a nickel and scratching the stone will help. If you can easily wipe the scratch away, its usually good. If the scratch has a white powdery residue and isn't easily wiped, it's too soft.

Check for flakiness too. Stone splinters and slices can happen.

I would avoid a very dark stone, btw. It tends to get hot in the summer sun.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

UPDATE!

And now...the moment you've all been waiting for...

Our finished stairs!

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One word of caution for anyone building a pool out there: we had initially conceived of 3 1-foot stairs and a 4-foot shallow end. but the gunite guys reminded us that we needed to leave 3 inches for the coping, so our first stair is only 9 inches and the final drop to the floor is 15 inches.

If we had done the math during the design phase, i don't know what we would have changed (we don't want an extra stair taking up floor space) but it would have been a good thing to know since our pool is so small and designed so specifically. (Another issue was the coping overhang, which pushed our stairs out into the pool an extra 3" that we weren't expecting...)

Anyway, here are some completed gunite photos:

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The Spa!

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So here's the part we have an issue with...the idea is that when you step into the pool via the stairs you walk into a flat shallow end. To the left is the spa and more shallow end, to the front of you is shallow end, to the right is the deep end.

When the pool was dug, they said they'd work out the slope during gunite. The dirt and the steel started to slope at the foot of the spa, but we wanted the floor to stay flat for a few more horizontal feet and start to slope near the last bit of the stairs.

The gunite phase took longer than expected, though, since they were trying to be very precise about all of our corners and edges and lines and such. So at the end of the day it got too dark to really fix the slope properly.

Here is a photo of the slope line against the back wall...you can see it's pretty steady...

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They are supposed to come back tomorrow to even it out for us (and they're doing it happily...we still have no major complaints about our PB or our gunite crew, they've worked hard to make sure we're happy). We realize that this will slightly increase the degree of the slope to the deep end, but we're trying to maximize our shallow end space in our rather small pool.

Also, you can see that they didn't really smooth out the bottom of the pool at all...hopefully this will also be fixed tomorrow...

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Our latest question is about COPING... We've driven ourselves insane trying to find a stone with the right density that will handle the salt water well and yet still have a relatively uniform medium gray color.

Short answer: no such thing exists.

Longer answer: well, you can get quartzite, which is a little more sparkly than we were hoping for, and uniform color is a roll of the dice. you can maybe use bluestone, but it's supposedly expensive and color is also not guaranteed. you can use basalt (which is a type of bluestone?) but some say it won't stand up to the salt water and even though it's a more uniform color you have to order a sample from a quarry and wait for it or just order the material and hope they send you the color you want...

Very frustrating.

So now we're thinking that we'll give up and go with precast coping. It will handle the salt water fine and we can pick our color and it will look uniform.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuut...

There's a bunch of different precast companies, each with a different color palate, each a different distance from Los Angeles (thus creating a longer delivery time)...

So can anyone recommend a reliable, inexpensive precast company with at least several shades of gray available? We've looked into Arto, Stepstone, and Bellecrete thus far.

And if you know a company that does precast in a thickness of 2" or, preferably, less, that would be a bonus!!

Anyway, thanks for reading and here's one final shot of our big gunite box from the porch. More pics to come!

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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

I hate to do this, but you need to know how bad of a gunite job this is.

They may tell you that the interior finish will cover their imperfections, but this can only be to a certain extent.

Couple quick things I would address with them (I'll refernce numbers of photos from your last post). Keep in mind, I can only see a picture so maybe these are not accurate opinions.

Photo 1: The right side of one of the last steps is completely out of vertical level. Also the last step seems to be pitched toward the pool on the right side. Maybe a optical illusion?

Photo 2: The vertical corner of the spa that is inside of the pool is concave. This should be perfectly level as you will notice this line even with water.

Photo 3 and 4: The spa overflow was cut incorrectly. It cannot line up with the pools edge below or you will have water on your deck. One side looks correct, the other is cut in line with the pools edge. Add coping on the pool below and you have a problem. I would suggest a foot on both sides to avoid even splash out.

Photo 6: What is the notched out hole on the dam wall? Steel that was too high? They should have cut it down and finished it out. Hind sight. Also, what is the pipe on the floor that is so close to the bench wall? If it is a suction line, that will be hard to get a drain cover on as it should be centered.

Photos 7 and 8 are self explanatory. I cant believe they ran out of light with such a small pool. Sounds like an undersized crew.

Sorry to be harsh, but you need to know my thoughts from a very experienced builder. Good luck :)


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

We appreciate the honesty! If anyone sees anything wrong we want to know so we can fix it before it's too late!!!

The slope under the steps is expected: you walk into the pool in the middle of the slope. As i mentioned, we're trying to get them to add a bit more flat ground so at least 3/4ths of the step should be level, but the far side of the step will have a bit of an uneven steep drop off in the end.

Are you also saying that the TOP of the 3rd step is not level? It does look that way in that first picture... I hadn't noticed it from looking at the steps in real life...i'll double check today. Good eye!

I'm noticing the vertical corner of the spa now, too...the gunite guy said that the bottom of the spa walls (and the walls in general) had to come out a bit rather than being perfectly vertical in order to give structural support? i assume the concave line is a result of this...you don't think this can be fixed in the tile/coping phase?

We've been repeatedly told that gunite is an imperfect process and that tile, coping, and plaster will be the finishing work that will correct everything. That's why I'm posting these photos: how much can honestly be corrected and how much will we be living with forever?

I asked both the gunite guy and the tile/coping guy about the spa overflow splashing onto the coping below and they both said that it wouldn't be a problem. I forget what the explanation was, but I remember being convinced... :) I will bring it up again, though, because that would look awful.

We definitely noticed the leftover steel... :) They know that they were supposed to cut it away, but it was one of the things that got left behind due to the mad rush to try and fix the slope at the end of the day. They are supposed to take care of it today.

I believe the pipe on the floor is supposed to be a drain...There are 2 drains on the floor instead of one (safer?), I'm hoping that they knew what they were doing when they placed them, but I will bring this up for sure...Thanks for pointing this out.

I think the crew themselves were surprised about running out of light... They expected to be done by 2pm or so, but it just went later and since it's the winter time the sun just disappears so quickly after 4:30. I would blame myself for being so specific about our angles and designs and such, but I really don't think we held them up for more than 30 minutes or an hour longer than they would've been there otherwise. My optimistic side says "oh, they were just being perfectionists and really trying to nail all the measurements exactly and taking their time with it" but my pessimistic side says "OMG THEY SHOT ALL THE GUNITE AND EVERYTHING'S WRONG AND I SHOULD JUST TURN IT INTO A HUGE FLOWER BOX!!!" :)

Thanks again for your comments and honesty, they are HUGELY appreciated! I'll post a follow-up when there's been some progress and answers!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Okay, the gunite guys returned today and smoothed out our slope to give us a little more flat surface before the slope began. They didn't seem to think this was a wise idea, but since our pool is so small we really wanted to max out our shallow end space so we insisted.

They also smoothed out the rest of the shallow end floor, filled in a couple small holes, and, per natural_one's observation, leveled out the corner of the spa dam wall.

Natural_one had also pointed out that our steps were not quite level...i measured and he was right: one side was about an inch off from the other.

The gunite guys said that during the plaster phase they can usually smooth out small details like this, and can add up to an inch or two of plaster if necessary.

Pool construction has taught me one big lesson: every crew puts the responsibility on every other crew. :) The diggers say "don't worry about it, they'll fix it with steel." the steel guys say "don't worry about it, they'll fix it with gunite." the gunite guys say "don't worry about it, they'll fix it with plaster."

So my big nightmare will be when the plaster guys show up and say "you should've fixed this during the dig, steel, and gunite...why'd you wait for us?" :)

But to my understanding the plaster WILL add a half inch or an inch to the surfaces of the pool, so instead of driving the gunite guys crazy to get the steps perfect, i'm going to wait for the plaster crew to even it out. the last thing i want is for them to put TOO MUCH cement on the steps and not be able to chip it away without a big production...

So anyway, here's how the pool looks now...

The New Slope:

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it's not QUITE as much flat ground as we wanted, but as i saw the floor slowly rising and the slope getting steeper i figured i'd compromise and dial it back a bit. i can't wait until it dries so i can test it out for myself...!

Fixed Spa Edge:

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Fixed Spa Holes and Removed Steel (wish i had a better "before" picture, but there used to be 2 steel bars poking up from the corner and a fist-sized hole on the inside wall):

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Semi-Fixed Steps:

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NEW PROBLEMS:

i noticed the plumbing peeking out of the gunite along the wall... coping will go over this, but does it seem like an issue that we should address...?

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natural_one had noticed that our spa bench was a bit close to the pipe for the spa drain...i measured it and it's about 4 inches from the center of the pipe to the bench (so maybe 2 inches from the edge of the pipe to the bench?). what is the circumference of a spa drain...?

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the gunite crew claims that the finishing crew might just chip away at the bench to fit the drain in...that would look horrible. the gunite crew says that they shoot the gunite where it's specified, it's the fault of the plumbing crew for not putting the drain closer to the center (this seems like a reasonable statement...they knew we'd have a bench there...and our bench is actually narrower than most since we're trying to save space).

so is it too close? can it be fixed? who should fix it and how?

And the next big moment will be...COPING!

We have pretty much abandoned the idea of natural stone coping, having heard too many horror stories about salt water flaking away the stone, and also having not found any particular stone that has a consistent enough color (without getting crazy expensive).

So now we're looking at precast concrete, probably from Bellecrete, probably a light gray to go with our black tile. The question now is whether to go w/ a smooth finish or a sand blasted one...

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Sand blasted on the left, smooth on the right. Sand blasted has more traction, especially when wet. Smooth looks nicer, though. And when both of them get wet, the sand blasted turns a brownish color, but the smooth is more of a dark gray. But the smooth also retains water stains more obviously when it dries than the sand blasted (look at the above picture: if you look closely at the right edge of the smooth piece, you'll see some faint water staining that is much more noticeable in real life)...

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Has anyone had experience with smooth finished coping? Is the lack of traction a problem? Are the water stains a problem?

Your votes, gardenweb?? :)

We'll probably order our coping on Monday and do tile and coping after the holidays, so we'll update you and post more pictures in 2012! See you in THE FUTURE!!!!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

That drain is way too close. Drain covers are typically about 8" in diameter. No way to center that.

There should also have been a pot either set or formed to help even out the flow headed into the drain across the entire cover. This keeps water velocities low at the cover's surface.

What will happen now is the suction will be greater than the cover was designed for at the corner. This can create a vortex under the cover. Any long hair or jewelry could potentially tangle and trap someone below the water's surface.

Plastered finishes should not have areas that are twice as thick. It takes longer to cure, causes different shades to appear, and is evidence of poor craftsmanship on the part of supposedly skilled workers.

The exposed plumbing on the top of the beam is a significant no-no. Years from now when the old coping is removed for replacement, the tools used during the removal will nail that plumbing and the resulting required repairs will cost significantly and won't be the demo crews fault.

For the coping, I would expect the sand blasted finish will give you a more consistent look over the course of time. I expect calcium deposits will form and the removal process usually involves using acid to remove them. This would likely cause the smoothed finish to roughen. That would show more on the polished than sand blasted finish.

Please note that too smooth a concrete surface is not going to provide the hold a somewhat roughened surface will provide to the plaster. They may need a bond coat there to provide a better adhesion, preventing potential delamination of the plaster from the shell.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

well, the spa has two drains, it's not just the one. so i assume both drains will be smaller than if we were to have one big 8" drain? or do you mean that BOTH drains will be 8"?

and will the dual drain situation help at all w/ the theoretical vortex situation you're describing? (or are you taking 2 drains into account already?)

if the drain is too close, what can be done at this stage? would they have to jackhammer out the entire spa floor to re-plumb the spa?

i will probably insist that they build up the beam over the plumbing...even if they try to talk me out of it, it definitely just looks like it could be trouble...good point about potentially replacing the coping (especially when we're so on the fence about our current coping material!).

and we are definitely leaning towards the sand blasted finish...good point about calcium deposits/removal process. i'm surprised that there aren't more worry-free pool coping options out there... surely if we can carry satellite-powered technology in our pockets we can create cooler-looking-yet-salt-impervious pool coping... :)

thanks for your assessment and comments!! looking forward to hearing your thoughts on future chapters of our pool story! :)


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Both drains are tied for safety reasons. Special covers have been mandated, as have drain pots though the latter is not yet been given a definitive date of required implementation yet.

Each drain must meet the flow requirements of it's pump on it's own in case the other does manage to become blocked and still not have the water velocity at the cover exceed it's designed limits. Yes, it will need to be moved. As to how much will need to be jacked out, I can't say without actually standing there.

I will say that I am less than impressed with the work of this gunite crew and the plumber. When PBs don't use drain pots and "prefer" to use formed in gunite" solutions, it saddens me. They are trying to save $100 but it winds up costing them more in the long run.

Salt is not the issue. Never has been. Electrolysis is and adding salt to water enables a reduced resistance to current flow. I think you are confusing that with calcium. Different set of issues altogether.

Calcium can stick to just about anything. Hard water is hard water.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

With respect to the drain issue, I just stumbled across a pretty decent article on drain hydraulics that might interest you and others for that matter.

Scott

Here is a link that might be useful: Drain hydraulics


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

i emailed our PB w/ a picture of the drain, hopefully he recognizes the issue and offers to fix it, but if not we will insist. thanks for the info and the article!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

spoke w/ the builder today...he says it's okay if the drain cover is not perfectly centered over the pipe. i asked if it might create a safety issue, he said no way.

i might be inclined to disbelieve him (he obviously has an incentive to sweep it under the rug since he'd be on the hook for jackhammering, re-plumbing, and re-gunite-ing) but i cannot for the life of me find any articles on the web that disagree with him...

i even re-read the article poolguynj posted...lots of info, but nothing that says the drain cover MUST be centered over the drain pipe.

since it's only a matter of the cover being offset from the pipe by an inch, i can't imagine that such a small shift would have disastrous results...but i'm not a hydroelectric engineer (yet).

can anyone point me to an article that would either validate my PB's assurances or an article that contradicts him?

building this pool may yet kill me. but i'll be damned if it's an off-center drain that does it! :)


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

What drain cover he plans on using will play a part in this. Ask him. It may state it in the drain cover installation instructions. Seek more information on the latest VGB Act amendments which require drain pots, which you don't have.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

And we have arrived safely in the future!! Happy 2012 everyone!

our pool is rushing towards completion...we are going to be plastering on monday so i thought i'd update everyone on our progress in case there's anything else we need to keep our eyes open for!

in our last episode, we were concerned about some exposed plumbing at the top of our spa wall. well, when the coping and tile team came out, they put about an inch of cement (before the thin set) around the pool in order to make sure all the coping was level, so that pretty much covered the plumbing. crisis averted!

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we were also concerned about the spa drain not having enough clearance from the spa bench to center a drain cover over the pipe. we did as much research as we could and talked to a few people, our conclusion is that the drain cover will only be off by an inch or less and there seems to be no reason to really be afraid of that. if such a small amount of distance was so crucial, i can't imagine it would be left up to pool builders to keep an eye on it. :) we'll post an update here if it ends up landing us or one of our friends in the emergency room in the future.

we ended up going with light gray, sand finish, modern style precast coping from Bellecrete. very happy with how it ended up looking!

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we were a bit troubled to learn that Bellecrete's coping is actually 13x23 instead of the standard 12x24. we thought this might end up distorting some of our measurements, but in the end it all worked out.

a big piece of advice for any people out there designing their first pool: be aware of every measurement before you finish your design!!

you can see our design at the top of this post...we designed our pool to have 12" wide coping, and we based all the measurements of the dig and the gunite pour as coping-to-coping measurements. but we neglected to incorporate the OVERHANG of the coping around each edge. we neglected to include the extra half inch or so of brown that they have to layer on underneath the tile, and the half inch of plaster that will come to meet it, and the extra 1/4" of tile on top of that. not to mention the extra inch of coping width, now that we had 13" coping instead of 12".

these small anomalies may not matter if you're building a simple rectangular or free form pool, but our pool was designed to have very specific lines and angles, and an inch or two of deviation in a few key places could have distorted the whole thing.

thankfully, we were able to conquer most of these little tweaks as we went, it just took a lot of patience on behalf of Alex, our tile and coping crew leader.

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but of course, while building a pool, no phase can go by without some major hair-pulling moment... :)

in this case, we discovered that the plumbing for the spa was set too far back in our raised spa wall. we were hoping to have an equal 1 inch overhang on either side of the raised wall, but when they started chipping away at the gunite they found pipes in the way. they were able to adjust one pipe that was there for the electric, and that allowed them to give us at least a very small overhang, leaving the wall almost flush on the outside. it's not the biggest tragedy in the world since the wall is only visible when you cross the yard to enter the spa, but it was an unfortunate hassle that might have been avoided if we'd anticipated the "death by inches" process of building such a specifically designed pool.

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and soon the coping was done!

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up next: tile! we chose 3x6 black subway tile. it came out really great, but time will tell if calcium buildup will be our undoing. :)

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Alex, posing for the "Tile Dudez 2012" calendar. :)

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and boom, you got yourself a tiled pool, mister!

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grout came next and it made a HUGE difference! we went with Delorean Gray because we thought a stark white would get dirty too easily and also be a bit too busy on the wall. and also because Deloreans are awesome! :)

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boom, grouted!

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we really can't get over the difference the grout made, check it out:

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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in between all of this they also built us some wing walls and replaced some of the cement they tore out of our patio...

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and a company called EcoSolar installed our solar heating system on the roof of our garage! it's a pretty interesting concept: they roll out these black rubber strips with small tubes in them and install two pipes going from the pool equipment to the roof. the filtered pool water gets pumped through all the small tubes and heated by the sun and then returned to the pool. our garage roof gets unobstructed sun pretty much all day, so hopefully this will take a huge chunk out of our pool heating bill. we'll see...!

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they also hooked up all the plumbing and electric, installed our Easy Touch control panel inside our house, painted our equipment to protect it from the sun, set up our skimmer and automatic water filler, hauled away all the miscellaneous garbage, and--just today--replaced the concrete they tore out of our driveway! (they also cleaned up our poor fountain that has been enduring dirt, dust, and flying gunite this whole time...!)

we also (re)installed some sprinklers. another point of advice for novices: as tempting as it is to just move ahead with your pool build and worry about sprinklers and drainage later when your head is clear, DO IT WHILE THE PLUMBING AND ELECTRIC TRENCHES ARE STILL OPEN. (oops...)

so, monday is plaster and we'll finally be putting some water in this thing!!! a few days after that they send someone to help us learn about all the equipment, and we'll have a final inspection...they say that the plaster has to cure for a while, so it'll still be probably another week before we actually get to go swimming, but we're excited all the same!

anything we should know during these last few steps, gardenweb?? all advice is still welcomed!

we are going to be installing fake grass in the yard after the pool is plastered, possibly the first week of february? we hear that we're supposed to be very careful about getting dirt into the pool during the first month to avoid staining the plaster. how paranoid should we be about this? we're willing to hold off on the fake grass for a while if that's a smarter idea. we're going to be landscaping and installing lights around the back edge of the pool, so we're waiting until the end of february for that process at least.

don't know if anyone has any experience with SynLawn, or any other synthetic grass companies? anything we should know going into it? we have read quite a bit about the pros and cons of synthetic...it's not the easiest choice, but if it means that we don't have to worry about grass clippings going into our pool after every mowing and if it means we can avoid a slowly growing muddy spot near the pool steps from the high traffic, hopefully that gives the fake grass the edge over natural.

anyway, enjoy the pics and we'll post the finished pictures soon!!!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

The early stages of a plaster cure are when it's most vulnerable. You might want to consider throwing down some straw to hold the dirt down.

What plaster finish are you using? Start up care for different finishes varies some.

Start reading the Pool School section at Trouble Free Pools site. Order a proper test kit.

Being off an inch or two on the drain cover is OK but the current standard is for a sump under it. I think the sump should be a couple times deeper than the pipe diameter.

Scott

I really like the way your pool turned out.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

I love the tile. It looks gorgeous - very classy!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

thanks for the compliments on the tile! the house was built in the mid-'20s so we were trying to mix modern and deco design...we're really happy with how it came out and we really like how the fountain ended up complimenting the look of the tile (and vice versa!)

we were very disappointed with the limited tile options that are out there for pools. we drove to several places all over the LA area and the selection was always so basic. square tiles in either a shade of blue or with a sandy Arizona look, 1" mosaic tiles, or super '70s-ish tiles with dolphins on them or something. i don't know why there isn't a market for more varied pool tile options...

scott: i'm not sure about the plaster finish, it's not a pebble tec or anything like that, just a normal smooth plaster. it's going to be french gray in color.

they say we can adjust it to be lighter or darker on the day of the pour? we want the water to be on the darker blue side, but we don't want it to get too murky either... any tips on plaster coloration?

another frustrating aspect of pool building: researching water color in relation to plaster color. "french gray" has a really wide definition, and we've seen every shade of blue and green possible from looking up pictures of pools w/ french gray plaster. every pool seems different, especially when you consider varying depths, varying levels/directions of sun exposure, varying plaster manufacturers, etc. our current plan is to just go with our guts...

thanks for weighing in!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

With a French Gray plaster, don't expect a uniform finish, color wise. There will be dark streaks and lighter blotches. These are normal. I personally love the markings as it makes every pool unique.

Keep the pH near 7.1 to 7.4 and brush daily. No salt for at least 3 weeks, no chlorine for the 1st three days and then use bleach for the initial chlorine adding, no more than 1 ppm till it's 7 days old and then enough to get to 3 ppm.

Test the pH daily. It will rise. Use muriatic acid to lower it as needed.

Keep the filter running continuously for the 1st three and a half weeks.

Then follow the balancing instructions in Pool School.

The amounts of bleach and acid can be gotten from The Pool Calculator. See the link below. There is a pay for version on iTunes and Simple Pool is on the Android market.

Scott

Here is a link that might be useful: The Pool Calculator


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

I just wanted to add that the pool is looking great! The tile looks terrific! I'm also putting in a salt water pool and appreciate reading Scott's advice above.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

thanks rockybird! can't wait for it to be done...plaster was postponed on account of rain today, but we're still hoping to be swimming by the end of the month.

scott: we are going to be traveling a bit during february so we won't be able to babysit the pool very closely...is it better to leave the salt out entirely until the end of february or are there chemical/salt/ph milestones that we should find a way to address while we're gone?

we will probably have a pool person come out and check in on the pool while we're gone just in case...i'm just wondering what we should take into account while we're away.

thanks again for the advice!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

With plaster, there will be no salt added for about a month. No heater either! New plaster is at it's most vulnerable to staining so the initial cure process is vital.

The plaster will need brushing twice a day and it's pH checked daily for the 1st week. Then its daily brushing an pH checked every couple three days for the next couple weeks. Muriatic acid will be used to reduce the pH to a near neutral 7.2 (+/- 0.2) Always brush from the shallow end to the deep end, with the skimmers off and drains on. This will help draw the dust out that the brushing raises.

Have the fill water checked for calcium, copper and iron prior to filling. If they are there, a phosphonic acid based sequesterant should be added and used regularly, will keep the metal ions occupied so they can't form stains. Jack Purple Stuff is good for initial dosing and HTH's metal control is OK for maintenance at a lower cost.

The filter pressure will need checking and a 10 PSI rise from the starting pressure will indicate its time to backwash or clean the cartridges (I'm being too lazy to go back and look to see which you have).

Bleach or 12% liquid should be used after five days or so to bring the chlorine level to 1 or 2 ppm. Bleach has no stabilizer in it nor does it have and dissolving issues. Fortunately, cold water holds chlorine better so the sun won't burn it off too quickly.

After 15 days, stabilizer, aka CYA or cyanuric acid, can be poured into a white cotton tube sock and hung in front of a return or set in the skimmer(s). Target enough to bring the CYA level to about 50 ppm, plus or minus 10 ppm. It dissolves slowly and can take up to a week for tests to fully show. Later in the summer, you can expect to need to bring this level up to about 70 ppm.

Checking you calcium hardness level after a few weeks will help you to target the correct pH, alk levels. This has to do with what is called the Calcium Saturation Index, which you want to target a level of -0.1 to prevent scale from forming and to prevent etching of the plaster.

Salt can be added added after 27 days. It's gets poured in. I usually do it along the shallow end to make brushing it into solution easier. Again, shallow to deep end. Allow 24 hours of filter run time for a complete dispersion. Remember, if the water is 55 or colder, the cell will not generate. The salt makes the water conduct electricity so the cell works but this effect is diminished with cooler water.

The more closely you follow the curing procedures, the better the results will be. Your planned travels will require you to have someone continue the brushing and chem feedings while you are away. Make sure they KNOW what is needed and when.

No vacuuming or pool sweeps for at least three weeks. The plaster is too soft, may delaminate (separate from the shell) or show track marks.

Again, read Pool School and use the Pool Calculator.

Scott


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Looks great! It is good to know I am no longer the contender for the smallest pool in southern California...ours is 14 x 25.

Please though, you must tell this 80's wannabe punk kid which band logo you modeled your pool after? I'm drawing a blank..with the exception of X and Black Flag?


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

so we filled the pool (only took 8 hours!) and today we had a guy come out to start up all the equipment and everything seems to be hunky dory!!

we're contemplating our options as far as who will take care of the start up maintenance...the guy they sent to start up the equipment was really nice and seemed really knowledgeable, but he was saying he'd only brush the plaster every other day for a week. we called another company and for roughly the same money they would brush the plaster daily for 10 days.

we're a bit paranoid about the plaster: is there such a thing as too much brushing in these early days? would 4 days of brushing over a week be enough?

i read the rest of scott's comments to the start up guy and he agreed with pretty much all of it except for a few academic differences. we got a good vibe from the guy, so i hate to go with an unknown for these first few crucial days...but we also want to get our money's worth...

and happymrsf...you don't see it?? :) four slightly offset rectangles...? (it's most obvious when you look at the original drawing at the top of the post)


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Hey really liked your story we are actually going to start our own journey with Mr. Carlos Pools but really want to see your end product please finish your story. Thanks


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

And the punk bands name is ?


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Sorry to keep you in suspense, gardenweb! But we've finally brushed the plaster, put the salt in, laid down our synthetic grass, and gone through our startup...

AND WE FINALLY HAVE A FINISHED POOL!!!!!



For your enjoyment, here is a TIME LAPSE VIDEO of the entire process!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3yylPvsBCs




And here are the finished photos!


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After about 2 months of pool ownership, we haven't had any major problems, just a few issues with the initial equipment settings that seem to have been sorted out. All of the design worries we had have finally been put to bed. The shallow end is the perfect size, the steps and love seats have turned out to be the perfect length to stretch out on lengthwise, the flat ground at the bottom of the stairs is perfect for entry and hanging out, and swimming laps is totally comfortable!

If you've been following our posts like your favorite soap opera, or if you're googling around to find info about specific pool design questions, here are some of the details you may be curious about:

MR CARLOS POOLS - They were great. As you can tell from our posts, we had to keep an eye on every stage of the process to make sure the little details were taken care of (like with any contractor), but they were patient and accommodating and generally easy to reach whenever we needed them. They worked with us on the price the whole way and we really feel like they gave us a great deal, and we're extremely happy with the end result. We would definitely recommend them to anyone interested in building a pool in southern California.

INFINITY EDGE SPA - It worked out really well, the water flow started out perfectly even and consistent, which was a relief! Over time, calcium/hard water buildup on the tile has interrupted the flow in some places, so we've had to turn up the pump speed to keep the flow even, but that seems to have done the trick. Also, it was explained to us during the build, but we failed to grasp it: you can only heat either the spa or the pool at one time, you can't heat them both (unless you have a separate heater, i suppose). And when you turn on the spa jets, the infinity edge stops working after a certain amount of water is displaced. It's not a big problem, we just envisioned a continued infinity effect while soaking in the spa. But this WAS explained to us, we just didn't understand how it would work until we saw it. :)

SPA JET PRESSURE - With our upgraded pump, we were allowed 7 spa jets, so of course we installed all 7. But apparently for each jet you install the pressure lessens, and the jets that are furthest from the equipment don't shoot as hard as the closer ones. If we'd known that we may have just gone with 6 jets instead, or at least changed our placement of the ones we have. We can crank up the power of the pump, but it means either super high pressure from 4 jets and decent pressure from 3, or decent pressure from 4 and low pressure from 3... we've found our balance and sacrificed some pressure in the 7th jet (a foot jet on the far wall), but it was just a slight bum out.

Oh, and speaking of the spa, maybe the one design flaw in our plan was not having a step installed inside the pool so one can easily hoist oneself into the spa from the pool. It's rather comedic watching each other and our friends try to slide over the tile wall like orcas sliding onto the deck at Sea World, so it generally comes down to a choice of exiting the pool and walking around to the spa to preserve dignity or scrambling over the tile wall to preserve body heat. :)

SALT WATER SYSTEM - It's fine so far, but we haven't noticed a significant difference from a normal chlorine pool other than a slightly salty taste if you happen to drink some. No complaints, really, i just don't know if we would spend the money on it if we had it to do over. (Although we did avoid that chlorine smell that accompanies most pools and we don't have to worry about adding chlorine regularly.) Jury is still out, we'll see what the costs end up being over the next year or two.

FRENCH GRAY PLASTER - It gives the water a great blue color and it's super smooth to the touch, so overall we love it. One thing we didn't learn until the day of the plastering was that french gray (especially if you mix it to make it darker like we wanted) dries with a strange streaky look to it. Here's an example:

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It actually looks kind of aesthetically nice to us, so we're not sad about it, but we had envisioned a smoother look initially, so it was just a surprise. So if you're getting french gray plaster be aware that it will dry with streaks and a sort of "acid wash" look to it. Oh, and the smoothness of the plaster feels amazing, but i did almost slip and destroy myself on the steps one day, so we've had to learn to be a bit careful about getting in and out... :)

BLACK SUBWAY TILE - It looks awesome, but it's not without problems. Right after we did the grout it rained, so there were streaks on the tile for the longest time and some are still a little stubborn. We've been told that black tile is a challenge, which we accept, but in some places the calcium buildup is so heavy that i can't possibly imagine that blue or green tile wouldn't show an equal amount of calcium/water stains. Overall, the black still looks super nice, though, so we're still happy we picked it.

ARTIFICIAL GRASS - We went with Synlawn for our artificial grass and are extremely happy with it! The installation took 2 days and we had to book about 3 weeks in advance, and it was a bit pricey, but the end result has been great so far. It's very uniform but still looks natural, most people don't even notice that it's fake right away. It feels really comfortable to walk on. It gets a little hot in the midday sun, but not unbearable, and certainly not hotter than if we had put down a concrete deck (we'll see how it fares over the summer). I was worried that it might smell like burning plastic on a hot day, but there has been no odor so far at all (unless you lay down on the grass and put your nose right up against it). And it's such a relief not having to think about water, mowing, or fertilizer. And it's even more of a relief to not worry about muddy feet or sticky grass clippings while walking to/from the pool. Definitely the best decision for us. Highly recommend.

ECOSOLAR HEATING SYSTEM - Pretty amazing! The pool temperature has gone up to 85 a few times without us having to kick on the gas heater. Hopefully as the summer sets in this will happen more often. It usually hovers around 80 on a warm day, so heating it up from that point with the gas heater isn't so bad. Another worthy investment thus far.

EASY TOUCH PANEL - If you have the means, we HIGHLY recommend getting an Easy Touch panel/remote control and a spa side switch. It is absolute paradise to be able to adjust the heater, turn on the lights, turn on the spa, check the pool temperature, etc. from inside the house, instead of always walking out to the equipment to do it. And the spa switch is great…it lets us control the water feature, the spa jets, and the lights from the pool without having to go inside the house or over to the equipment. They're not cheap features, but for us it was worth every penny, and we're positive that we will end up getting more use out of the pool as a result.


And so we come to the end of our long journey, gardenweb... :(

Thank you all so much for all of your help, input, and comments! This forum was invaluable to us as we navigated our build.

We will occasionally check back here in case anyone has any questions for us or if anyone wants follow-ups over the next year or so. And we're looking for ideas for murals for the side of our garage if anyone wants to help us brainstorm! :)

Have an amazing summer!

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PS - It's the Black Flag logo. :)


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

stereotypeq....congrats...been enjoying your pics and editorials over the last few months.

Your pool turned out great...the symmetric design and color choices along with synthetic grass all came together swimmingly....if I may.

And to incorporate your logo into the design...brilliant!

It's ironic you posted these finished pictures while I was in the LA area with my family visiting none other than the one and only Mickey Mouse. We left Anaheim right before the rain came on Wed night...we were lucky with our vacation plans in that regard.

BTW...always enjoyed your music along with others of the post-punk era...Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Flipper, to name a few...

Enjoy your new pool!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

thanks!! we're so glad to finally be enjoying the pool after all these months of mess and noise and construction...

to be clear, though, black flag isn't OUR band... :) we're just fans!

take care and thanks again!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

stereotypeq...thanks for clarifying...and I thought I was a big fan....

Enjoy your new pool...it looks awesome!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

this is awesome! As someone who is considering installing a pool in our SoCal home, I'm interested in getting a big from Mr Carlos Pools. Would you be willing to share your budget for your project? Or even just a ballpark range? We have a small LA yard and envision a pool about the same size. Loved the time lapse video!!


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

sure. I think price depends on a bunch (including size of yard and what is needed to get in out and dig the hole) - but we did everything you see mentioned for around $45k i think. (salt water, solar heat, indoor panel, two pumps (variable speed, garden wall demo & replacement). This excludes landscaping (synthetic grass was around $5k).


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Your pool is AWESOME!

We are evaluating PBs right now, Mr Carlos came in WAAAY below the other bidders but I am worried about their rep. Checking Gunderson's license at the CSLB, he had his contractor's license revoked in 2007. Also, other people posted about getting Mechanic's liens from Mr Carlos . . .

That being said, I liked them, their sales person was not pushy at all, did not try to redesign the yard or anything. Would you recommend them?


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

So your actually thinking about using someone that has had their license revoked and multiple complaint's because the salesman was nice? Take a step back and think about that please.
The entire pool industry goes down to the lowest common denominator when it builds a pool and your considering the lowest on that scale?


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

They had a current license when they worked with us, and at the time there was someone trolling the internet saying otherwise... (so I looked up the License # provided).

I don't know the full story - but I did not have issues. Gary actually was our point person, but it was the subcontracting crews that did most of the work (from what I understand they use the same guys on most jobs). Everything was permitted etc.

If you concerned - ask questions. I can only comment on my experience.


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RE: New Pool Build in Los Angeles, lots of pics and QUESTIONS!

Great pool great info. I forwarded this over to my buddy at sst records so he could show it to Greg ginn.


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