Once you make the decision to build a swimming pool, you need to know the basics of pool construction to know what your options are. There are a number of factors, and quite a few questions, that must be taken into consideration before construction begins. Many elements—from what type of pool you want to how you will maintain the finished poolscape—should be investigated before you hire a professional to manage your project. As the project progresses, you may have additional requests for custom design elements, but as the old saying goes, “You have to know the rules in order to break them.”
Inground pools come in three basic types: concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl. Deciding which material is best for you is determined by variables like budget, location, the desired style, size, and shape, and how the pool will be used.
Concrete Pools: Customization
Concrete is the best option for a homeowner seeking a completely custom pool design. If you can envision the pool of your dreams, a designer and builder can usually translate the idea into reality. However, there is a caveat: a good designer will advise that you harmonize your new pool with your property’s architecture and natural setting. For instance, if you have a view of a beautiful vista, an elegant infinity pool may be suitable while a contemporary pool would be more fitting in an urban setting.
Once the design is approved, it’s time for construction. After the hole is dug, the next step is to install the plumbing and line the excavated hole with a framework grid of steel reinforcing rods, or rebar. Secured together with wire, the rebar
is then covered with a thick layer of concrete that is sprayed onto the grid and troweled to form the pool shell. Typically, the concrete bond beam surrounding the perimeter is 12 to 14 inches thick, while the pool floors and walls are 6 to 8 inches.
The method of spraying concrete is called shotcrete. It can be done one of two ways: by using a dry mix that is injected with water as it exits the hose (often referred to as “gunite”), or by using a wet, premixed concrete that is pumped from a truck. After curing for about a week, concrete pools need to be finished with a finishing material; the most common choices are plaster, tile, and stone aggregate.
Plaster can be tinted almost any color and is troweled over the concrete to create a smooth, waterproof surface. Tile, which can be the most costly option, is also the easiest to maintain because algae has a difficult time growing along its smooth surface. Stone aggregate offers a natural look and is available in numerous color combinations. Smooth and polished pebbles are mixed with clear epoxy and troweled into the concrete, creating a waterproof surface.
Concrete pools can be built in most environments and can be completed in about six to 12 weeks, although complex designs can take longer. Normally homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000, but size and customization may increase the costs.
Fiberglass Pools: Speedy Installation
Formed from a one-piece shell made from a mold, fiberglass pools come in a wide variety of models, including infinity edges and perimeter overflows. They can also be enhanced with accessories such as factory-installed ceramic tile, custom jets, mosaics, and various water features. Fiberglass pools are commonly found in warmer climates, but they are beginning to gain popularity in colder climates thanks to the material’s flexibility. Fiberglass’ smooth surface also helps defend against algae and other contaminants, which reduces the amount of chemicals needed to keep the pool clean.
Once you’ve chosen a shell, a construction crew will dig a hole and lay the necessary plumbing. The fiberglass pool shell will be lowered into place by a crane. The crew will level it, hook up the plumbing, and fill in around it with sand. The entire installation process usually takes only a few days to complete. Fiberglass pools generally cost between $25,000 and $40,000, but can be priced higher depending on which accessories you choose.
Vinyl Pools: Variety of Patterns
Advancements in vinyl have made it easier to configure all types of shapes and styles for this type of pool. A vinyl pool usually consists of steel or polymer walls lined with a 20- to 30-millimeter-thick vinyl liner on a bed of sand or concrete. The liner is smooth to the touch, which also helps prevent algae growth.
With vinyl liners, the number of patterns and colors is almost endless. Some liners can be a subtle pattern along the floor and walls and then feature a bold style border around the waterline. Others have larger more prominent patterns throughout the liner. The large number of choices allows you to create any sort of theme you wish. Many pool owners also like the idea of being able to change their vinyl liner to create an entirely new look. Over time sunlight and harsh pool chemicals can deteriorate the liners, but with proper care, a liner can last 10 to 15 years.
Vinyl pools can incorporate extras such as waterfalls and in-pool barstools, while remaining budget-friendly. They can be installed in a few weeks, and since they flex with temperature changes, they are ideal for any location, including freeze/thaw climates. Most vinyl pools can be built for $30,000 to $35,000. High-end options like real ceramic tile at the waterline will increase the price.
Once You Decide on the Type of Swimming Pool
After you choose the type of pool you want and who will build it, other issues must be discussed. One of the first things your builder will do is have a soil engineer perform a soil conditions test. Your professional will also contact your local building and zoning department to gather pertinent information like how close the pool or its construction can be to a neighbor’s property, the main road, etc. At this time, all of the permits will also be filed.
You should also discuss other design elements such as landscaping, waterslides, rockwork, grottos, and water features. This will help the vision for the entire design come together, and your designer will assist in your decision-making every step of the way.
Photo courtesy of Shawn Talbot Photography; Designed by Skip Phillips, Questar Pools and Spas, Inc.; Built by Valley Pool and Spa, Kelowna, B.C., Canada