How a Pool Professional Builds a Vinyl Liner In Ground Swimming Pool

In ground swimming pools should always be built by professionals, but how do they do it?  let’s assume that all of the leg work going into the build has already been done (ie. the sale of the pool, the planning stages etc.)  This brings us to the start of the dig.

The Dig:

This is the part of the process where the builder will actually break ground and start removing dirt.  Typically this part will be completed in one day.  In some cases they may actually get to building the pool.  However before they get that far they will need to make sure that the dig is to the specifications of the plan.  This means that if the plan dictates that the pool be 8′ deep in the deep end, then the dig should reflect that.  However, they have to allow for 2″ of bottom material. The bottom material is typically either vermiculite, or a sand/ cement mix. So technically they would have to over dig the pool by at least 2″. They would have to be careful not to over dig it too much because you cannot replace dirt that has been taken out. If the pool is over dug too much they will have to bring in stone to bring the dig back within specs. Throughout the dig, someone will have to check the depth with a transit (laser) to ensure that it is being dug correctly.

The Build:

At this point the builders will begin to assemble the pools walls. The pool walls come in individual panels of different lengths. They will also come with a detailed layout showing which panel goes where. These panels are fastened together with nuts and bolts. Once the structure is built, they will square it (provided that it is a rectangular shape). Next they will stake the corners, then straighten the walls and stake the rest of the pool. Next they will level the pool with a laser/ transit.  After the pool has been straightened and leveled, the plumbing and electrical conduit is ran to the appropriate locations. At this point the footer is poured.

The Backfill:

The next day they will come back, and install the coping. Once the coping is installed they will backfill, typically with pea gravel or stone chips. If the pool will have an auto cover the auto cover box is installed as well. Lastly they will bond. Copper wire is ran around the entire pool. If the pool has steel walls every panel gets bonded as well as anything else metal within 5′ of the water. Next they do the rebar (sidewalk prep).

The Sidewalk:

This day they will come back and pour the sidewalks. Every foot away from the waters edge the side walk has to fall 1/8 of an inch. This ensures that when it rains the water will run away from the pool rather than into it. Once all of the sidewalks are formed they will pour the concrete.

Prepping The Bottom:

Next they will come back and take the forms off of the concrete. After all of the forms are off, they saw the concrete into sections to attempt to control cracks. Over time the concrete will crack and sawing lines in it will essentially coax the cracks to be where the lines are already placed. After they saw the concrete they pressure spray it to clear off any dirt or dust. Next they prep the bottom of the pool and clean the walls. After the bottom of the pool is prepped and the walls are cleaned they will place stakes in the bottom of the pool to run string for the exact transition points, where the bottom will ultimately be.

The Liner:

This day they will do the bottom by using either the vermiculite or the sand/cement mix. This process usually takes roughly 4 hours to complete. Once the bottom is done, it is time to drop the liner into place. They will start by securing the liner. Once they have the liner completely secured they will use a vacuum to suction the liner tightly to the pool walls. After the liner is vacuumed to the wall they will cut out around the steps, skimmer, main drains, lights and any returns there may be.  Once this is completed they are able to begin filling the pool with water!

Auto cover install: If there is going to be an automatic cover installed for this pool, it would need to be completely full. Once the  pool is completely full they are able to install the cover and you are ready to enjoy your new pool.

This is just the steps that are taken when pool professionals install vinyl liner in-ground pools.  I must insist that if you are planning to have a pool installed you allow a professional to install it. For more information on vinyl liner in-ground swimming pools please check out the rest of my blog.

Vinyl Liner Pool Building – Leave it to the Pros

Have you ever wondered about the best way to build an in ground swimming pool?  Have you been thinking about getting a swimming pool but are concerned about the cost involved in the build of it?  Are you really wanting an in ground swimming pool but are hesitating because you think that it will just cost too much?

Well let me be the one to tell you that the best way to go about building your very own vinyl liner in ground swimming pool is to let a professional do it.  I know that this may not be something that you want to hear or read in this case, but it is something that I think is worth really knowing.  I am aware that there are several places online where you can obtain a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool kit and build it yourself.  However, in my opinion building your own vinyl liner in ground swimming pool is never a good idea.  There are so many aspects and components that go into a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool that it would be very easy to miss a step and end up with something that you will not be happy with.
As a pool builder I am aware of all of the problems that can arise when installing  a vinyl  liner in ground swimming pool.  If you do not know what to do in order to effectively deal with these problems then they can turn into larger problems and before long you have spent far more money than you had anticipated.  At that point you might as well have just paid to have the pool professionally installed to begin with.  To make this point even clearer I want to go through the process of the build and point out areas in which problems can arise.
The Dig:
By the time I get to this point I like to have a very clear plan in place for the pool.  I will have already laid out the pool in the backyard so I know where everything will go.  You have to realize that unless you have an excavator or backhoe of your own you will need to rent one.  When renting something like that, time is money.  You don’t want to be wasting time trying to figure out what goes where while digging the pool.  Once I start that thing up I will want to just power through it until the pool is dug.  One of the key components of doing this right is to have someone checking the depth the entire way.  Getting the depth of the pool right is very important.  If too much dirt gets taken out then it will cost even more money to get it back to where it needs to be because you can’t just put the dirt back.  Loose dirt will settle over time and under the weight of the water in the pool.  If that happens then there will again be a large expense involved in repairing it.  Stone will need to be brought in and placed in the hole to bring the bottom back up to where it needs to be.  In my opinion the dig is quite possibly the most important part of the entire pool build.  It will dictate the quality and ease of the rest of the build.  If it is off by a little, then more work will need to be done, more money will need to be spent, and more time will need to be spent working on the build.  When digging the deep end of the pool I usually always dig it a foot or so deeper than what it needs to be just so I can add stone for proper drainage.  Around here there seems to almost always be ground water that collects in the deep end.  The amount that collects will change depending on location, but it is almost a sure thing that there will be ground water.  Ground water is another aspect of the installation that a builder has to address.
There are a couple things that I do to combat ground water issues.  I almost always install a sump pit just off the deck area of the pool.  This sump pit will allow the homeowner to remove water around the pool at any given time.  In most cases they will just leave a sump pump in the pit and allow it to use its float to turn itself on and off as the water level raises and falls.  Another thing that I will do is install a drain in the deep end of the pool.  This is where that one foot of stone will come into play.  A very simple way to do this is to use a piece of flex pipe.  Simply drill some holes in the line, smaller than the stone of course, coil it up, and bury it under the stone.  From there the line will be ran up the side wall, under the wall panel, and up the trench with all the other plumbing lines.  This will allow the home owner, or the service tech the ability to pump the water out from underneath the pool.  Usually though it is enough to just drill some holes into a five gallon bucket and bury that in the stone and use that to pump water out of until it comes time to do the bottom and drop the liner.  At that point, I will drop the liner and fill the pool.  The weight of the water in the pool will, in almost every case  be heavy enough to keep the ground water away.  Think of it this way, if the ground water has nowhere to flow to then there will not be a problem.  Again there are extreme cases in which the pressure from the ground water is strong enough to counter the weight of the water in the pool.  If that happens then there is a strong possibility of the liner floating.
Again This is another reason why it is best to allow a professional to install your swimming pool.  Ground water is an issue all in itself, but throw a liner in there and you can end up with a bigger problem.  I have seen a liner float so bad that it ended up needing to be replaced.  The key is taking care of the ground water before the liner gets to the point where it is being stretched out around the main drains.
The Build:
This part is not necessarily that difficult.  It is a matter of bolting the panels together in the right locations, and installing all the proper bracing.  The hard part comes when it is time to level them.  Again this is where a good dig comes into play.  I have seen digs that were so spot on that very little had to be done in order to get them level.  On the other hand I have seen digs that were so far off of where they needed to be that the crew had to spend an entire afternoon leveling the pool.  I have seen this part of the build done a couple different ways.  Typically the walls will be completely put together before leveling the pool.  Then using wooden blocks and shims the panels are brought to the correct height.  I have also seen crews use pavers to level their pools.  In this case they would put down a paver and get it level and then set the panel on top of it.  I suppose either way works, but to me it makes more sense to build the walls first and then level them.  It seems that leveling pavers first just adds more work, because even after the walls were finished being built they went back and double checked the levelness of all the panels anyway.  I have never been one to tell someone how to build a pool, I just know what works best for me.  Once the walls are level, square and all the plumbing has been ran, then it is time to pour the concrete footing or collar.  After the collar is poured I always double check the levelness just because in some cases the weight of the concrete can cause the panels to sink a bit.  Once the wall panels are level I always straightened the walls.  The best way to do this is to use turnbuckle braces.
The Backfill:
I would always allow the concrete footing to set up overnight and then return the next day to run the electrical conduit.  This part may require the need for an electrician.  The building codes differ from place to place, so builders always check and make sure they are following all building codes that apply.  This is yet another reason it is best to allow a professional pool builder to build your pool.  Many people are unaware of what the building codes are and if they are not followed it could result in a fine.  Obviously that would cost money as well.  Anyway, once I get all the conduit ran around the pool where it needs to go, I would then begin backfilling the pool.  Some people backfill with dirt, however if I am intending on pouring a concrete deck around the pool then I will prefer to backfill with stone.  I know that I could use deck braces to support the weight of the deck, but that would not help with the dirt settling around the pool and leaving voids under the deck.
The Deck:
Once the pool is completely backfilled then it is time to prep for the concrete deck.  For this I will again plan out what the deck should look like.  By that I mean shape.  Next I will lay down a layer of stone, and get it all to the appropriate height.  The concrete deck of the pool should be about four inches thick and it should have fall.  This means that the farther away from the edge of the pool the lower the deck should be.  This will allow any water to run off the deck away from the pool.  When I have the stone at the right height in all the proper locations,  I will then form the deck using concrete forms.  Once the deck is completely formed up, I will use rebar to create a grid within deck area.  This will help to give the concrete strength.  Once all the rebar is laid out within the forms it will all have to be tied together.  When that is finished it will then be ready to pour the concrete.  Pouring the concrete really does require some technique.  Not everybody has the skill needed to do it right.  If it is not done right then it will look bad and once it cures it will look bad forever unless it is busted up and re-poured.  This is another reason why it is important to have a professional install your pool.
The Bottom:
The bottom of a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool is something that requires a lot of technique and labor to do properly.  Usually it is done with either a sand/cement mix, or by using vermiculite.  Either way the process of doing a bottom on a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool is a challenge.  Perhaps I am just a bit of a perfectionist, but I have seen some bottoms that were in pretty rough shape.  The idea is to get it as smooth as possible.  I can assure you that anything that happens to get underneath the liner will be easily felt from inside the pool.  I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason even the smallest piece of debris under the liner feels like a rock from inside the pool.  Anyway with a good crew and the know how, an average size pool bottom will take anywhere from three to four hours to complete and get the liner in.  Again if there is ground water in the pool, obviously it will have to be dealt with when the time comes.  Once the bottom is finished it is time to install the liner.  This is a job for a few people.  Liners are large and typically have some substantial weight to them.  They need to be sucked back into place by using vacuums, and then all the proper holes will need to be cut for the main drains, returns, lights, skimmers, and anything else.  Again this is something that is best left for the professionals.  A hole in the wrong spot could result in the need for a new liner, or a patch/aka eyesore.
Like I said, there are several places where a vinyl liner pool kit can be bought online, however the cost of hiring a professional pool builder would be worth it.  A professional will have the experience and know how to deal with any issues that may and will likely arise throughout the building process.  Not to mention all of the permits needed will be obtained by the builder and all of the liability will be on the builder as well.  If anything were to go wrong then it would be up to the builder to handle and correct it.  When it comes to building vinyl liner in ground swimming pools I think that it is best left up to the professionals.
For more information on in ground vinyl liner swimming pools please check out my other blog posts.

Landscaping – Swimming pool builder – Working together

I have recently read an article in “the Edge” magazine about how to achieve a successful collaboration between a pool builder and a landscape designer.  This article can be found in the 2014 first quarter copy.  I found it to be very informative and would like to offer my readers the gist of what it is about.  We all know that with the internet we can obtain information in a matter of seconds.  We have the luxury of researching things with far more ease than the generations that came before us.  That being said when it comes to building your pool or doing your landscaping around the pool, you should first look into what has been done and what company you should hire to do these things.  More often than not you will have to hire two different companies to do both of these things.  There are few companies that build pools and do landscape designs.  Today I just want to give you some insight on how to get your pool and landscaping done efficiently while working with two different companies.

First off you will want to research the companies you hire.  Look on line and see if there are any reviews available that were written by their previous clients.  This will give you some pretty good insight as to weather or not to hire them.  After all, when someone has spent a good chunk of money on something they will not be too reluctant to share their experience.  Especially if they can do it on line, in written form.  If they are unhappy with the outcome then they will not hesitate to share it with others.  That is the beauty of the internet.  You can use the experience of others to make an educated decision about your own project.  I also want to stress that while you may have an idea in your head about how you want things to look in the end, it is important to remember that the landscape architect is there to do the designing.  However it is acceptable for you to come to the designer with some ideas that you like and ask that they incorporate them into their design.  Most designers will be happy to accommodate you.  That is another nice thing about the internet, it has Pintrest.

Pintrest is a good resource for researching landscaping and pool ideas.  Another important key to a successful pool/landscaping project is having a pool builder and landscape architect that see eye to eye.  If your builder and landscaper are constantly butting heads then you will likely have a not so desirable experience and the outcome will reflect that.

Conversely if your pool builder and landscaper work well together then you will likely have a positive experience and the outcome will reflect that.  A few things happen when the builder and landscaper are on the same page.  First is that any problems that may arise during the process will be solved effectively and in a timely manner.  Second is that they will likely be in good spirits which will show in the end.  Third is that they will likely learn from one another.  In many instances when a builder and landscaper work well together they can both make suggestions and take them to heart.  You will not find that kind of interaction with a landscaper and builder who don’t see eye to eye.  This will not only benefit you by having your backyard be the result of people who work well together, but it will also help others because that builder and landscaper will likely remember the suggestions for their next job.  So you may be wondering how to ensure that your landscaper and pool builder work well together.

There are some things that you can do to help them out.  One thing that you can do is make sure that their roles in the project are clearly defined.  If you have two different companies working in the same backyard then you want to make sure that the pool builder understands that the design that the landscape architect created, and you signed off on, is the plan you want.  Sometimes when situations arise during the build, the best solution may conflict with the overall design.  This is where a good working relationship between the builder and landscaper is key.  Obviously in this type of situation something will need to be done.  With a good working relationship the builder and landscaper can talk about what needs to be done, and what is the best way to do it.  If it comes down to changing the design a touch, then it will be up to the landscaper to do so and bring it to your attention.  This way everybody is on the same page and there will be no surprises in the end.  After all you are the customer, and ultimately if you are not happy then they are not happy.  These are some things that can help ensure that your backyard project turns out beautifully.

How pool professionals plumb a Paramount Swing Sweep system

                Paramount Swing Sweep Plumbing

There are some things that as the customer, you may not know about your pool.  The more bells and whistles you have on the pool the more there is that you will likely not know.  I think that it is important for a customer to know as much as possible about their pool and how it works.  Today I am going to go into detail about how a pool professional would go about plumbing a Paramount Swing Sweep in floor cleaning system.  However before I get into that I think I should first give you some general pool plumbing information to start from.

A basic pool will have a skimmer, main drain, and returns.  The skimmer is what removes debris that are floating on the pool surface.  It has a basket inside of it that can be removed and emptied.  The plumbing line for the skimmer goes to the pump and hooked up to a valve.  The main drain is the drain that is located on the floor of the pool.  If you have a newer pool then you will likely have two main drains on the floor.  The reason for having two main drains is for safety.  Both drains are plumbed into one line which goes to the pump and hooked to the same valve as the skimmer.  This valve will allow you to turn on either the skimmer, the main drain, or both at the same time.  This type of valve is ideal for vacuuming the pool as it allows you to isolate the skimmer, which will give you better suction for vacuuming.  From the valve, the water goes through the pump, into the filter, and then either through a heater or heat pump if you have one, or through a chlorinator or salt cell before going back to the pool. The water goes back into the pool through the returns.

Returns are the jet like fittings on the walls of the pool.  You will likely have two or more in your pool.  When you have more than one they will likely be plumbed together into one line.

That is just a basic explanation of how swimming pool plumbing works.  When you get into using a Paramount Swing Sweep system things will get a bit more complex.  First you will notice that the main drain, and returns are different than that of standard returns and main drains.  This is because these are specially designed for the Paramount system.

The MDX-R3 is the main drain that will get used for this system.  It is designed to receive large amounts of debris and remove it from your pool.  Another thing you will notice is that there is only one of them.  That is because this system uses a secondary drain called an SDX.  This allows there to be only one drain on the floor of the pool if desired.

The SDX can be installed on the wall of the pool, or the floor if needed.  This is again a safety precaution.  If the MDX-R3 gets blocked off then the SDX is fully capable of taking on the full suction of the pump.  This allows whatever is blocking the MDX-R3 to be easily removed.  Like standard main drains, these two are plumbed together underground.


More often than not you will also have a Debris Canister as well.  This is a device much like a skimmer that takes all of the debris removed by the main drain and stores it until it is ready to be emptied.  Also, like a skimmer, you can gain access to the debris canister through the deck of the pool.  You simply have to remove the lid and pull out the full net and dump it out.  Without the debris canister, all of the debris removed by the MDX-R3 will go all the way to the pump and get trapped in the pump basket.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, you will just have the inconvenience of having to shut the pump off every time the basket gets full, which would be more often than when using the debris canister.

You will also notice that the returns are very different than a standard return.  This is because they are specially designed to Move back and fourth in a 90 degree pattern.  This is what moves all of the debris to the main drain for removal.  These are very unique returns and very effective.  They function in zones.  There will be a few going at a time for around 30 seconds or so.  Then they will switch to a different zone where a few more will kick on.  Every time they turn off they change positions, so that when they come on again they are aiming a different direction.  They do this by being plumbed into a water valve.

The water valve acts like the brains of this whole operation.  It uses a system of gears to open and close different ports and actuate the different SwingJets.  To give you a better idea let’s pretend that you have a pool that has 9 SwingJets on it.  That many jets would require a 3 port valve.  That is because you can have 3 jets on one port.  The water flowing through the valve turns the gears and opens the ports individually.  Every time a port is opened you will have three jets working.  As the gears continue to turn that port will close, the jets will change position, and another port will open.  It continues cycling in that way the entire time the pump is on.  So how does all this get plumbed together to make it all work?

I always start at the pool.  I will get the MDX-R3 set where it needs to be and then determine where I want the SDX.  A lot of the time I will choose to put the SDX on the wall of the pool but toward the bottom.  From there I will start to plumb.  With the MDX, there will be a 4″ section of PVC, and a reducer bushing to reduce the 4″ down to 2 1/2″.  The 4″ pipe must be used for the system to work properly.  However you can again reduce the 2 1/2″ down to 2″.  After that I will Tee in the SDX line and run the plumbing up the wall of the pool to the debris canister.  See the image below.

The line will go in one side of the canister and out the bottom.  From there it will go all the way to the pump to be hooked into a valve.  At this point I can switch to 1 1/2″ pipe if I choose, however with hydraulics, the bigger the pipe the better.  Here the system will be plumbed into the equipment like normal.  It will go into the pump, then filter, then heater/ heat pump, and then through a salt cell or chlorinator.  Coming out of the salt cell or chlorinator is where it gets different again.

This is where the water valve comes into play.  The center of the valve is where the water comes in.  In the example above there will be three other openings in the bottom of the valve that represent the different ports.  Each opening will get a line plumbed into it.  From there the lines will make their way back to the pool.  Being that there are 9 jets to deal with I will have already planned out what zone each jet will be on, keeping in mind that each port will get 3 jets.  Once I have that figured out I can take the lines from each jet and plumb them into the appropriate port.

To do this I will create a branch from each port of the valve.  Basically I will make it so each of the 3 lines coming out of the valve plumb into the three lines coming from the pre determined jets for that port.  This may sound more confusing than it really is.  Once you have all of the lines in the appropriate ports you are finished.  From there the system is ready to go once the water is in the pool.

For more information on Paramount please check out their website at or take a look at my 3 part blog posts on how to have your vinyl liner in ground pool clean itself.

A Day in the Life of a Pool Builder Grunt

Throughout my blogging experience I have geared my posts toward teaching my readers about the different aspects of owning/having a vinyl liner in ground pool built.  Today’s post will be the 67th post I have written.  I have covered topics related to pool safety, from how to keep you children physically safe while in the pool, to how to prevent recreational water illnesses.  I have discussed topics related to specific products as well as covering more general topics like choosing a heat pump or gas heater for you pool.  I certainly hope that what I have written thus far has given people some insight into the swimming pool world.  However out of all of these topics I have covered I have yet to write about the pool builder grunt.  Today, just for a change of pace I want to give my readers a look into the life of the average pool builder grunt.

I would venture to say that the majority of professional pool builders consist of a crew of at least 5 workers.  Some builders, depending on the size of their company and the volume of pools they build each year may have several crews.  Within the crews you will likely find that there are one or two workers that act as the bosses on the job.  Typically there will be one person who is heading up the job.  They may be the owner of the company or they may be the “project manager”.  Basically beyond that the rest of the crew consists of what I would call grunt workers.  These individuals are those that do what they are asked to do and have little say in the way the build should progress.  In an effort to clear things up a little better I will go through my own experience as a pool builder.  I think that this will give you a better understanding of how a pool company works.  At this point in the post you might be questioning why you would even care.  The reason is that I think that it is just as important to understand the lives of these workers as it is to understand the process of what they are doing.

When I started building pools years ago I came into the company knowing nothing about pool building or construction for that matter.  The only thing that I had going for me is that I was a reliable employee and had a good attitude.  I went in my first day with an understanding that the work I was about to do was going to be harder than any job that I had ever done before.  However I didn’t realize just how hard it would be.  The process of building a pool is a very physically enduring at times.  Some days all you do is work your butt off.  What makes it a bit more difficult is that you are doing this throughout the heat of the day.  I live in northern Indiana but let me tell you that we get some very hot summer days in which the heat index reaches 108 or so.  In addition to that when you are down in a hole surrounded by very reflective steel the temperature rises even more.  So after my first day I seriously contemplated looking for something different.  However I thought to myself that due to the physical nature of the job if I stuck to it for a while then the compensation would get better.  When I started I was making just barely above minimum wage.  In addition to that I was a seasonal employee and got laid off every November.  I received no benefits like health care, vacation time, sick days, or personal days.  It was the perfect job for me at the time because I was in school and figured that I could at least work my way up a little bit in pay and after receiving my degree I could move on to something better.  Well I busted my butt for a few years without getting a raise.  At that point I took on a second job at a local radio station as a remote technician.  That certainly helped me out financially but definitely made time management a bit more difficult.  There were days in which I would have to wake up at 5:30am to be at work by 6 building pools until about 4:00pm when I would have to leave to attend class.  After class I would have to go to the radio station to pick up the remote equipment and drive to a location where the DJ would be broadcasting from for a few hours to set up the equipment.  After the broadcast I would load up the equipment and drive back to the station to unload and get home around midnight to do whatever homework I had or study until about 2:00am.  Then I  would wake up a few hours later to do it all again.  That is how my life went for a while, and I imagine that there are other pool builder grunts that are currently in the same situation.

It took about three years or so before I got a raise at the pool company.  That is when I again stepped up my game and took it upon myself to do the jobs that others didn’t want to do or that I wasn’t trusted to do in the past.  Then one summer I got a call from my brother asking if there were any position open at the pool company.  It turned out that a friend of ours was looking for something new and had experience in construction.  I knew that he would be a good fit with the company and would thrive there.  In addition to construction experience he had an immense knowledge of all things technical.  He was basically a pool building whiz and just didn’t know it yet.  After I got off the phone with my brother I called my boss and told him the situation.  He told me to have my friend put his application in.  I called my friend and told him to put in his app.  After that call I got a call from my boss telling me to have my friend call the owner on his cell.  The next morning when I arrived at work I saw my friend sitting there ready to work.  I was right about the fact that he would do well in the company.  It wasn’t but a few months that he was making more money than me.  I know that you aren’t supposed to talk about your wages with your fellow employees but this was my friend and actually more like my brother.  In fact we were so close that in my younger days I was in a band that was named after him.  At first I was a little upset but, in reality it made perfect sense.  He had a better understanding about the process and how things went together.  Also come to find out shortly after, he was making like 3 cents more than me.  What that did was light a fire under me.  I realized that this was the person that I should base my work ethic off of.  He was always ready to go and nothing intimidated him when it came to work.  He would go about doing something new as if he had been doing it for years.  That is exactly what I did.  I took on everything they threw at me with confidence and it paid off.  I began to get raises and more responsibility.  My friend and I always stayed within a few cents from each other and things went on like that for a while.

The day finally came when I graduated with a bachelors degree.  I was still working at the pool company without benefits and getting laid off each winter.  Then something happened that changed everything.  I got news that I was going to be a daddy.  That is when the second fire was lit under me.  I went to my boss and told him that I needed year round employment with a raise and benefits or I would have to find something different in a hurry.  I made my case by detailing the progress I had made over the last seven years all the while working at another job and attending school.  I described my dedication to the company by returning each year.  Unfortunately I was not able to continue building pools full time.  Instead I was transferred to the service side of the company.  I received year round employment and health benefits.  I was relieved that I finally had something worthwhile that would allow me to take care of my new family.  At the same time I was a little sad that I no longer got to work with my friends on the construction side of things.

I spent the next summer doing nothing but liner replacements and while I was happy that I was finally making more money and had health benefits for my son I was unhappy doing the work I was doing.  I could never see myself as a liner replacement guy in my 40’s or anything and meanwhile I now had this degree that I wasn’t using.  At that point I decided it was time for another change.  That is when I got into my current position and I could’t be happier.  I am finally using my degree, and I don’t go home smelling like something that came from the black lagoon everyday.  I am also gaining more knowledge everyday and I am in the position to pass on that knowledge to my customers.

You know for every high there is a low.  In all my excitement with my new job I feel that I am slowly losing touch with those guys I worked with for so long.  I used to see them every day.  In regard to that friend who I based my work ethic off of, I used to hang out with him every Wednesday evening.  Then it got to the point where I would only be able to make it out every once in a while.  Then something terrible happened.  I was sitting at my desk one morning when I got a call from my former boss from the pool company.  Initially I spoke to him like I used to in a light hearted manner, but after he began to speak I could sense the seriousness in his voice.  He said that he had bad news, and that my friend who had been like a brother to me and whom I based my entire work ethic off of was found dead in his house that morning.  This is one of those things that is impossible to wrap your head around at first.  I mean I had just saw him at my wedding, and before that at my bachelor party, and before that at my 30th birthday, and he was there the day I proposed to my wife.  A friend like that just doesn’t pass away out of nowhere.  It turned out that his girlfriend had shot him in the head shortly after he told her that she had to move out of his house.

The reason I am willing to disclose this information is because I know that some people often overlook the human aspect of a grunt worker.  When it comes to something like building a pool, the customer is paying a fairly substantial amount of money and wants the best.  They can often overlook the fact that the workers in their backyard are people.  It sounds weird to say that but I think that it is true.  If the homeowner has a problem or question they go to the owner of the company.  They don’t talk to the worker.  They often don’t express their gratitude for a job well done.

I will always remember my friend as the man who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic.  I take every challenge that comes my way head on because I know by the years of watching him that if you attack a challenge with confidence you will rarely fail at it.  He was a very good worker and a very good friend.  I would have liked to see more people tell him that while he was here because I know he would have appreciated it.

Please don’t take the people building your pool for granted.  They are working hard to give you something that will bring you and your family a lot of happiness for years and years.  More often than not they are not doing it because they make big bucks, because most of them probably make just enough to get by.  They are doing it because it is rewarding.  They take a plain old backyard and turn it into a beautiful space.  One of my favorite things about the job was when I got to see the looks on the faces of the homeowners kids when they finally got to jump in for the first time.

Trust Your Pool Builder – Many ways to build a pool

There are many ways and different techniques that are used to build a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool.  The basic process is for the most part the same from builder to builder but each builder has different things they do that are specific to them.  Today I want to talk about the building process again and what types of things builders do differently from one to the other.  To do this I am going to go through the build process and as I get to something that varies from one builder to the next I will go into more detail about it.  Keep in mind there are several ways to do things in the pool building world and they all work just fine.

To begin the builder will mark out where the pool will go in relation to the house and yard.  Getting the orientation of the pool right is the first step in the process after the initial agreement to build had been made.  This is pretty consistent across the board of builders.  They will use stakes and paint to mark out where the pool goes and in which direction the steps will be facing.  Next comes the dig.  The dig may vary a bit from builder to builder, and more so when it comes to free form pools.  With a free form pool the dig drawing will have a lot of different measurements on it that the builder will follow when marking out the pool.  These measurements are important to get right if the builder intends to use that drawing to order the liner from.  Now because that is the case some builders are very particular as to making sure that all the measurements are correct.  On the other hand some builders will be more concerned with just getting the pool to fit the hole.  You have to understand that with a free form pool there is some adjustment that can be made.  Once the wall panels are bolted together you could easily move a section of the wall in or out.  Some builders use this to their advantage and instead of relying on the specific measurements they will move the walls in or out to fit the hole the best they can.  Then when it comes to the liner they will take new measurements to go off of and have the liner made to fit the pool rather than trying to build the pool to fit the liner.  Either way works just fine and the end result is still a beautiful pool.  Another thing that differs from builder to builder is the way they go about setting the wall panels.

The way that I am accustom to setting panels is to just bolt them together on the ground and work my way from one side of the step all the way around until I get back to the step on the other side.  Some other builders will go ahead and set blocks or spikes to the correct height and then set the panels on top of them as they bolt them together.  I have seen this several times in the past and I think that doing this makes bolting the panels together a bit easier, but every builder that I have seen do this will also double check the height of the panels with a transit at the end and have to do some adjustment anyway.  Its hard to tell if doing this saves time, wastes time, or equals out.  I suppose it also depends on the dig as well.  In reality if the pool is level in the end it doesn’t really matter how they go about it.  Another thing that I have noticed is a difference in they way and products builders do and use to do the bottom of the pool.

When it comes to the bottom of the pool there are two main types of material builders will use to make the bottom.  Some builders will use a sand/cement mix, while others use vermiculite.  Regardless of the product they use they will still trowel it out so that it is nice and smooth.  Some builders will put down a layer of stone and put the bottom material right on top of it.  Typically when you dig down 8 or 9 feet you will get some ground water.  Depending on the severity of the ground water builders will have to do something to ensure that it doesn’t effect the bottom process.  I have seen builders simply bury a five gallon bucket full of little holes so that they can easily pump out all the water right before they trowel the very bottom and drop the liner.  If the ground water is really bad then some builders will bury a line in the stone that will remain under the pool so they can pump out any water after the liner is is.  There is also a difference in when the bottom will be done.  Some builders do the bottom directly after they backfill the pool and before they pour the concrete deck around the pool, and some will pour the concrete before they do the bottom.  I always did the bottom last, for a couple reasons.  One is that it was just easier than having to clean concrete off the liner or out of the pool, and two is because there is less of a chance to puncture the liner if you wait until the end.  Again I suppose both ways work just fine and ultimately it is up to the builder to decide when and how they are going to do the bottom.

These are just some differences in the way that pool builders operate.  I am not saying that one way is right and one is wrong, just that they are different.  I think you should be aware of them in case you were to have a pool built and expect it to go one way and not the other.  The bottom line is that if the pool gets finished and looks amazing then however they did it must work just fine.  As a former builder I know what it is like to have a homeowner breathing down you neck about the way you are doing things, and I know first hand how frustrating it can be, so let the person you hire to build your pool do what they do and trust that it will look phenomenal in the end.  If you have picked a good builder then there is nothing to worry about.  These builders have likely been doing this for some time and know what they are doing.

Building an Inground Swimming Pool

A vinyl liner inground swimming pool is made up of components that get assemble together to make the finished pool.  This is coupled with a lot of hard work done by the builders.  However before the builders even see the components of the pool these components must first be made by the manufacturer.  In this post I will walk you through step by step on how the finished pool comes into existence.


To begin you must be aware that the walls of the pool is made up of several different panels that get bolted together creating the form of the pool.  These panels are made of two general types of material they are steel and a “non-corrosive material.”  The non-corrosive materials differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.  They can be a fiberglass material, a structural foam material, or a composite material.  and each manufacturer makes them differently from one another.  The reason that there are several different types of non-corrosive materials is because there are different levels of quality associated with each.  I am not going to get into the differences in this particular post but to learn more about these material please take a look at a previous post of mine titled Only Alpha Pool Products – Technological Advancements.  Just so you are aware, Only Alpha Pool Products has made some huge leaps forward in the manufacturing process of vinyl liner inground pool building materials, and hold several patents. A few of my posts touch on them in detail.  Another difference is in the steel manufacturing, Only Alpha has high tech machinery that is used to cut and bend the steel into the shape of the panel.  This ensures that each panel is identical to the previous one.  For more information check out Only Alpha’s website at  from there you can look at how both there steel panels and composite panels are made and discover the difference.  Only Alpha manufactures every component of the pool from the walls to the support braces.  Check out this video on how the steel panels are made Steel panel manufacturing.


Once all the components are made they are ready to be shipped to the builder.  Before this happens the builder needs to make the sale.  This process takes place between the builder and their customer.  In this meeting the customer will tell the builder what they want in their pool as far as how big, the shape, the depth, and any extra features they may want.  From their the builder will create a basic sketch of the pool and come up with an estimate for the customer.  Once everything has been approved the builder will submit everything to the manufacturer and they will come up with a detailed prints of the pool.  These prints will show the builder what goes where and give them the dimensions they will need to build the pool.  Sometimes this process goes back and forth between the builder and the manufacturer for fine tuning of the prints.  Once the manufacturer get the approval of the builder they will then get everything ready for the pool and ship it to the builder.

The Build:

When the builder receives the shipment from the manufacturer he will go through everything and make sure it is all there.  Then they will start digging the hole to the specifications provided by the manufacturer based on the preferences of the customer and builder.  At this point the customer may notice that the hole appears to be much larger than they had expected.  This is because the hole is larger than the end result.  This is so the builder can install all the braces, electrical, and plumbing around the pool.  This part of the process may differ from builder to builder, but typically once the hole is dug they will start assembling the panels creating the walls of the pool.  One of the prints provided by the manufacturer will show the builder where each panel goes in the pool.  For the most part this is pretty set in stone.  Especially if it is a free form pool. (one with a lot of curves) If the builder were to put a panel in the wrong spot then it could throw off the rest of the build and at the end they may find that the panels don’t fit to complete the form of the pool.  So you can see how important it is to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.  Once all the panels are in place you will be able to see the shape of the pool.

From there the builder will decide if the pool is properly in place, and if the pool is rectangular they will make sure that it is perfectly square.  After that they will secure the pool in place by staking it to the ground.  At this point they will install all of the plumbing lines to each appropriate fitting.  Typically you will have one line for the main drains, one for each skimmer, one for each return that may be on the pool, and one for any water feature that may be going in the pool.  From there the builder will install all the bracing around the pool pour a concrete collar or footer to permanently secure the pool into place.  This will likely be the end of day one of the build.  The following day will consist of running the conduit for the electrical components, Lights, outlets, auto cover, etc. and backfill the pool.  More often than not they will completely backfill the pool with stone to prevent settling.  From time to time you might see the builders backfill with dirt.  That is okay to some degree provided they have deck supports around the pool.  You have to realize that if the deck is poured without deck braces installed and the ground around the pool settles you will have a big problem.  The deck supports will hold up the concrete deck even if the ground below settles.  I think that it is more common to backfill with stone to prevent any settling form happening.  Depending on the extensiveness of the pool this may be the end of day two.  It does not sound like a lot but this part could take them all day.  Especially if they have to install the auto cover box.  The next day they will likely prepare the area around the pool for the concrete deck to be poured.  This is again something that differs from builder to builder.  I always poured the walks around the pool before doing the bottom and installing the liner.  It just made more sense to me to do it this way to prevent any wet concrete from getting into the pool or on the liner.  However some builders will do the bottom of the pool and install the liner before they pour the sidewalks around it.  I am not saying that one way is right and one is wrong.  Just that there are differences in the building process.

So lets stick to pouring the concrete walks around the pool before doing the bottom since that is what I am accustomed to.  Before they get to this point they will have the pool backfilled to where it needs to be and have the coping on the pool.  Now they are ready to form the concrete deck around the pool.  Again this is something that is usually predetermined by the homeowner and builder ahead of time, but I have been a part of forming the walks with the homeowner right there telling me how they want the walks to look.  That is not my favorite way of doing things.  In fact it is reminiscent of hanging a picture and having someone say “now a little to the left, bring it down a touch, take it to the right a smidge”, you get my point.  Anyway once the forms are in place they will bring in some rebar and lay it down in a grid type pattern cutting each piece to the appropriate length within the forms.  Most of the time they will also tie the rebar all together as they lay it in. Or have someone come behind the and do it.  You will also see them going around the forms making sure that they are all appropriately leveled.  The rule of thumb is that for every foot away from the waters edge the sidewalk will fall 1/8th of an inch.  So if the edge of the sidewalk in a particular area is 4 ft. from the waters edge is will also be 1/2 inch lower that the coping.  This next thing is something that I want to stress to anyone getting a pool.  Make sure that the builder does something to protect the coping before pouring the sidewalks.  I usually tape off the coping to prevent the concrete from getting on it.  More importantly it will protect the paint on the coping from the sealer they use on the concrete.  If that sealer gets onto the coping it can damage it.  The builder may or may not get to actually pouring the concrete around the pool the same day that they form it.  Either way once it is poured the will generally give it a day to cure.  Once it is cured they will come back and saw the concrete up into sections in an effort to control where it will crack.

After that they will clean everything with a pressure sprayer and prepare the bottom.  The final bottom will be either a mix of sand and cement or it will be a product called vermiculite.  Either way the process is essentially the same.  They will mix it with water and dump it into the pool a wheel barrow at a time.  Once it is in the pool a builder will move it around usually starting at the shallow end and working toward the deep end.  They will make a layer about two inches thick over the entire bottom of the pool.  As this is going on another builder will be raking the mix around making sure that the layer is even.  Once a section of the bottom is adequately raked out the builder will trowel it out making it incredible flat and smooth.  This process will continue throughout the pool until they have troweled every last inch of the pool.  At this point they will be ready for the liner.  The will install the liner into the pool being careful not to scuff the freshly troweled bottom.  When they get the liner in they will make sure that it is properly oriented in the pool.  Once it meets their satisfaction they will place one or two vacuums behind the liner and remove the air.  This will cause the liner to suck back into every nook and cranny.  Now they are ready to cut in all the returns, skimmers, and main drains and start filling the pool.  From there they will likely plumb in all the equipment (pump, filter, and heater) and do the final grade around the pool.

Sit back and Enjoy:

The pool is finished.  If there is an auto cover on the pool they will be able to install it once the pool is full.  However you are ready to swim, throw a party, have a cook out and simply enjoy the pool.

For more information please check out my other blog posts pertaining to vinyl liner inground swimming pools.

Building a Pool: Things to Look For

I just want to touch on a couple of things today regarding what to look for when you are having an inground vinyl liner pool installed.

As I have said before, this type of pool is becoming more and more popular due to the fact that you are able to have the high end look of a concrete pool without the high end cost of one.  In addition to that, the time it takes to install a vinyl liner inground swimming pool is substantially less than that of a concrete pool.  There are some things that you as a homeowner can and should look for during the building process.  One is making sure that the builder has all the permits that he or she needs for the pool.  Without proper permits, the building inspectors can postpone the build until proper permits are acquired.  This could potentially cause a lot of stress for you as the owner.  That being said, it is also a good idea to check out the companies in your area that do vinyl liner installs.  There are a lot of “companies” that will agree to do the job but their work may be questionable.  A good place to start is finding out if the company has a store front.  This may seem irrelevant to some, but the truth is that a company with a store front is likely to be more reliable than the guy working out of an old barn and rusty pick up truck.  Think of it this way: if they are responsible enough to maintain and run a store, then they will likely have that same mentality when it comes to building your pool.  I also recommend arranging a meeting with the owner prior to making any arrangements to break ground.  I always like to know who is working on my projects well before any plans are made to start.  By doing this, you will also have the opportunity to meet and assess their character.  I know we are taught to not judge a book by its cover, but when you are potentially spending a significant amount of money on something it is perfectly okay to want to get to know the guy who is going to be in charge.  In addition to that, be aware that a lot of companies contract out certain parts of the build to other companies.  It would be wise to find out who they sub the work out to ahead of time to allow you to check that company out.  You can find out all kinds of information online these days and often find reviews of companies done by customers who have used them in the past.  I know that this all may seem like common sense to some, but think about all the people who have been burned by a company in the past.

In addition to getting the proper permits, make sure your builder is getting all the inspections done that are required in your area.  The rules and guidelines to be followed differ from state to state and county to county.  So it is important that your builder is getting the required inspections for the area in which you live.  Most places will require a plumbing inspection as well as a bonding inspection.  This brings me to my next point: in many places it is required to have every piece of metal around your pool properly bonded.  This includes the wall panels of the pool (if they are steel), the coping around the pool (if it is metal), and the rebar around the pool that will be encased in the concrete sidewalks.  During this process you will see a copper wire running around the perimeter of the pool tying all of the metal components together.  This is a must in most locations.

Coping not covered

Speaking of the concrete around the pool and the coping,  most builders will cover the coping of the pool with something (usually plastic) before they pour the concrete around it.  This is a protective measure to keep the concrete off of the coping to ensure that it stays nice and neat.  If the builder does not cover the coping, then you could end up with concrete on the coping and nobody wants that as the finished product.  Another thing that this does is protect the coping from the sealer that they will use on the concrete.  When you have metal coping, it is usually painted or sometimes powder coated.  The sealer used on the concrete can actually eat through the paint on the coping.  When you have a brand new pool, you do not want the coping to be insufficient.  Once the coping is on the pool and the concrete deck is poured, the only way to fix the coping is either to strip off the old paint and re-paint it or bust up the concrete deck and replace the coping all together.  Neither one of these solutions is ideal, especially if the pool is brand new.  So, make sure that the builder is covering the coping prior to pouring the concrete.

Bad Pool Plumbing

The final thing I want to touch on is the plumbing lines.  Again, the code may be different from place to place, but usually they are to be buried at least 18 inches down.  This is to keep them from potentially freezing during the winter months.  If they are under concrete, I think it is a little different in that the concrete itself offers some protection to the pipes.  However, if you have your filter pad located a good distance from the pool, which most people do, make sure that the pipes in that stretch from the pool to the pad are below the frost line.

These are just some essentials to watch out for while your pool is being built.  I urge you as the homeowner to be aware of the project going on in your backyard.  Knowing what to expect could potentially save you from expensive repairs later on.

What to Expect During the Vinyl Liner In-ground Pool Building Process

When people decide to have an in-ground swimming pool built, they are often not sure what to expect.  Because they don’t know what to expect, they often get nervous about the building process.  For many people, when they visualize the installation of a pool in their backyard they often skip the actual build process all together and jump from what their backyard currently looks like to what their backyard will look like after the pool is built and the landscaping has been done.  This may cause some concerns for people who suddenly see a backyard full of dirt, metal, and pipes all over.  So, I just want to give some insight on what to expect.  That way when you see that “mess” in the backyard you can rest assured that the end result will be what you visualized it to be.


Ideally, the building process shouldn’t take too long, and it starts with the layout. This will often be done by someone from the pool building company and the homeowner, allowing them to get the position of the pool just right.  Next will come the dig, which usually lasts the duration of a day.  The “dig” usually includes digging the hole, building the walls, running the electrical, doing the initial plumbing, and pouring the footer/collar around the pool.  Initially, the dig will look larger than what the actual pool will be.  The reason for this is to allow room for the plumbing and support braces to be installed.

Once the walls start to go up, your pool will quickly start to take shape.  Many times I have heard a homeowner say that they didn’t realize how much dirt there would actually be around in their backyard after the dig.  You have to realize that there will be literally tons of dirt coming out of where you pool will be.  Some of it will be taken away in dump trucks, and some will be left for the final grade to be done.  Some builders will even opt to back fill the pool with it.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Using dirt to back fill will save money and, if done properly, will not affect the structural integrity of the pool.  If the builder is planning on back filling with dirt, they need to know that dirt will settle.  That being said they may want to add some extra support for the concrete deck, and it is a good idea to compact the dirt in layers to minimize the amount of settling that occurs.  If back filling with dirt is the plan, then the homeowner must realize that the amount of dirt left in their backyard will be substantial.  Some builders will only back fill with a non settling material, such as stone chips or pea gravel.  If this is the case, then the amount of dirt left in the yard will be considerably less.
Either way, be prepared to see some dirt in your yard.  Once the hole is dug and the walls are up they will run the plumbing lines, and electrical conduit to the proper places around your pool.  Sometimes, if the construction crew is large enough you might see them doing this as the pool is still being dug and built.  Once those lines are ran, the next step will be to square and stake the pool.  After that, they will level the pool and install the support braces.  They may also use a couple different types of braces.  Some will help to support the deck around the pool and other types will help when it comes time to straighten the walls.
When the pool is level and squared, and the braces are on, the builders will straighten the walls and pour the footer/collar.  After the collar is poured, they will double check to make sure the pool is still level and all the walls are straight.  If your pool is not a rectangle, there will be no need to straighten the walls or square the pool.  The collar/footer will need to cure overnight.
The next day will be dedicated to back filling the pool and preparing to pour the walks around the pool.  Some builders might back fill and do the bottom before pouring the walks around the pool.  I have always
poured the walks before doing the bottom mostly to help keep things clean.  I find that if the bottom is done before the walks, then it is almost inevitable that the pool water will become littered with debris, dust and even concrete from pouring the walks.  So, the builder will either do the bottom then the walks or the walks and then the bottom.  Either way the process for either step will be the same.  Because I am accustom to pouring the walks first, I will describe the process in that way.
For the sidewalks, they will put down a layer of stone, set up the concrete forms and build a rebar grid around the pool to aid in giving the concrete more strength.  Usually, this step requires the duration of the day so they probably will not pour the concrete until the following day.
When they come back the next day, they will do some last minute prep work and wait for the concrete truck to arrive.  Once that truck gets there, it’s go time.
At this point the crew will be rushing around to get the concrete laid out and finished the way they need it to be.  Remember that concrete doesn’t wait for anyone, especially on a hot day in the blazing sun.  Once the concrete is finished to their standards they will clean up.  The concrete needs to cure overnight and in some cases a little bit through the next day.  The next day will be dedicated to sawing the walks and preparing the pool for the installation of the bottom.  I always hate sawing the walks especially if they are stamped.  You spend all this time getting everything just right only to chop them up.  Well, that’s just me being a little dramatic: the walks need to have cuts made in them to help keep them from cracking.  Most concrete workers will tell you that concrete will always crack, and it’s just a matter of where.
 So, the walks are cut up to kind of let the concrete know where to crack.  Then, in order to remove all the concrete dust that the saw caused, the walks will be pressure sprayed.  Usually, the rest of the day will be spent cleaning up the pool to get ready for the bottom.  In some cases, the bottom may be done on this day as well, but usually there is too much to do to prepare, so the bottom will have to be done the following day.

The next day the bottom will be done.  There are a couple ways to do the bottom.  Some builders use a pool base made out of vermiculite and cement.  Others will use a mixture of masonry sand and cement.  Either way the end result is a smooth finish that will become hard enough to walk on.  The bottom will typically take all day, but once it is finished they will install the liner.  Once they install the liner, they will usually cut out all the areas that need to be removed, such as the step, skimmers, returns, main drains, etc.

After that, it’s time to fill the pool.  A good sized pool will take a couple days to fill with the hose, or in some cases you can fill it using a water truck, or fire hydrant, which will only take a couple hours tops.
The day after the bottom is done and the pool starts filling, they will usually come out and do the grade and plumb the system.  This basically means that they will smooth out all the dirt that is laying around to make it look as nice as dirt can look, and get the pool filtration system up and running.  From there, your pool is basically finished.  If you are having an auto cover installed, then that might take another few hours.

This is the basic process of how a vinyl liner in-ground pool is built.  There will most likely be variations to the process from builder to builder.  Like I said before, some will do the bottom and install the liner before they pour the walks around the pool.  Some might have a number of things happening at the same time, like plumbing the system and installing the auto cover or whatever they can do to save time and money.  Another thing to be aware of is the weather.  Mother nature plays a huge role in this timeline.  Some things can not be accomplished properly in the rain.  If the rain is so bad that it creates a muddy mess in your backyard, builders will have a hard time getting heavy machinery back there, like dump trucks or cement trucks, which will delay the process.  So, keep those things in mind and understand that things like this happen especially in the spring time.
Know that these guys are out there under the blistering sun working very hard, and occasionally getting hurt so you will be happy with the end result. If things are progressing slower than you would like, or if you see a dirt mess in your backyard, just know that it’s all part of the process and that they are doing what they can to get it done fast and get it done right.