Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What to Expect When Having a Gunite Pool Constructed

If you are thinking about having an in-ground gunite pool built, this article can help you understand the phases in which your pool will be constructed and provide tips on avoiding pool construction pitfalls.

Many homeowners believe that one crew will be responsible for the construction of their entire pool; however, this is not a standard practice. Your pool builder will most likely sub-contract out different phases of the job to other trade contractors. During each phase of the construction, you'll see different individuals such as graders and excavators, steel and plumbing workers, electricians, a gunite crew, tile and coping tradesman, plaster and pool decking crews, a technician to connect your pool pump, filter and even a solar pool heating contractor.

Your pool builder should be a good project manager, in that he or she will be apt in avoiding delays and keeping the quality of workmanship high by managing and coordinating the sub-contractors.

Construction Tip: In most cases, your pool builders sub-contractors will provide acceptable or even exceptional quality products and services; however, there is one item in particular that you should purchase directly from the installer, NOT your pool builder -- your solar pool heater.

Often a pool builder will only offer the cheapest solar pool heater on the market, because that's the only product he can get. Not only will it more than likely be a sub-par solar pool heater, the retail mark-up, will be substantial. By avoiding the middleman and contracting directly with the actual installer of the solar pool heater -- a certified, professional contractor, it will save you $500-$1500 on the installation. You'll also receive a top quality product, you'll avoid the middleman markup, and the finger-pointing for any warranty or repair issues.

Let's take a look at each phase of pool construction:

Stage 1 Pool Design

When designing your dream pool with your builder, there are many things to consider. You and your designer will need to review:
  • Lot size and the topography of your land
  • Property line setbacks
  • Easements and underground utilities
  • Budget
  • Style and shape of the pool
  • Tile and coping options
  • Extra features, such as a spa, water feature, or planter beds, infinity edges, beach-type entrances, swimouts/benches, or shallow tanning area ledges
  • Pool deck including the size, materials, texture and accents
  • Pool equipment - slides or dives, ladders, railings, automatic pool cleaners, pumps, filters, heaters, and lights.
Once these decisions have been made, your pool designer can draw up the final plans and submit them to the city for the necessarily construction permits.

Construction Tip: Many Homeowner's Association will require the homeowner to submit the pool design plans to them BEFORE any construction work begins. Failure to follow proper HOA rules and regulations can cause delays, liens on your property and legal headaches.

Stage 2 Pool Excavation

The next step is to stake out and paint the shape of your pool in the yard. Any trees or shrubbery that will interfere with the pools design or fences that block access will be removed. A front end loader or a skid-steer loader can be used to dig the rough shape of the pool in just a few hours.

Construction Tip: Your builder should be able to warn you of and detail any additional costs you may incur in the excavation of the pool. For instance, if during the excavation they run into solid bedrock or if there is an underground spring or a high water table leaks into the digging area - you should be aware of any potential additional construction costs or delays.

Stage 3 Steel and Plumbing

Once the hole has been dug, it is reinforced with steel rebar to act as the pools skeleton and provide structural support for the shell. The rebar is bent into position approximately 2-4 inches from the walls. Then, the plumbers set the skimmers, returns, cleaner lines and drains in place. The electricians will also hang the pool light niches into the wall and connect the bonding wire to the shell at this time.

Stage 4 Gunite

Gunite is concrete that is shot out of a "gun" using high velocity air. As the concrete is shot behind and on top of the rebar, finishers use trowels to carve and sculpt it into the correct shape for your pool. The gunite needs to dry over the next several weeks before plaster can be applied.

Construction Tip: You may see cracks in the surface of the gunite during this phase; however, the plaster will cover these cracks and they will have no affect on the pools finish or ability of your pool to hold water. If, however, large or deep cracks form or an area crumbles, be sure to notify your builder.

Stage 5 Tile and Coping

As the gunite is curing, the perimeter tile and coping, the capstones of your pool wall, can be installed. Decks are also installed during this phase.

Stage 6 Electrical

Nearing the end of your pools installation, an electrician will install a breaker box, sometimes referred to as a sub-panel, in the area where the pool's pump, filer, and heater will be installed. The electrician will also connect the pool lights to junction boxes and run electrical conduit from those boxes back to the sub-panel.

Construction Tip: Most pool equipment will be located relatively close to the pool. Many people choose to build a small wall or plant a row of hedges to help hide the pool equipment from view and cut down on the noise when the filter is running. A small shed can also be build around the equipment, but be sure that the structure is properly ventilated so that your equipment won't overheat.

Stage 7 Plaster
Once the gunite has cured, the plaster crew will arrive to finish your pool's surface. The pool plaster is a waterproof layer, protecting the pool shell and steel, and providing a smooth layer that's not only easy to keep clean, but also is easy on your feet when swimming. In just 3-4 hours the plaster work will be complete and the crew will turn on the water to fill the pool.

Construction Tip: It's best to fill your newly plastered pool as quickly as possible without stopping. If possible, add extra hoses to fill the pool faster.

Stage 8 Pool Startup

You're almost done! Your pool builder will stop by to do the initial start-up of the equipment to ensure it's all in working order. He or she will also balance the chemicals in the water and schedule an orientation with you to review the future care needed, and the basic operations of the equipment.

Construction Tip: Your pools chemistry may fluctuate and require daily checks and the addition of specific chemicals for a while. If you do not know how to balance your pools chemicals, your builder can give you basic instructions, or you can hire a pool service, or visit your local pool store -- many will perform pool chemical analysis for free and also sell you the chemicals that you need to balance the waters chemistry.

During the eight phases of your pool's construction, there will be a lot of different people, equipment, noise, and mess, but in the end -- you'll be left with the luxury of being able to take a relaxing swim in your new pool. It will be worth the month or two of construction in the long run!

Central Florida Solar is owned and operated by Bill Park. As one of Central Florida's solar industry's true veterans, Bill has over 28 years of experience in solar energy systems design and installation. He has completed the Florida Solar Energy Center's photovoltaic system design program and he holds State of Florida solar contractor license #CVC 056645. Central Florida Solar sells, installs and services solar energy systems for water heating, pool heating and solar electric power serving greater Orlando including Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Volusia, and Sumter Counties - including The Villages. For more information, or to get a free solar quote, contact Central Florida Solar at 407-76SOLAR (407-767-6527) or visit their website at http://cflsolar.com.

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