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What I Wish I Knew Before Building a Backyard Pool

Before I "dive" into what I wish I would have known before building a pool, let me just say my husband and I are so thankful we were able to put a pool in our backyard - it has seriously been a dream that we don't take for granted and a nice reward for how hard we have worked. During the pool build, we constantly reminded each other about how much of a privilege it was to have our own pool so that we never complained about the headaches of the construction. If you're thinking about building an in-ground gunite pool in your backyard, I've compiled everything I wish I would have known beforehand (that wasn't already readily available online as a resource) in hopes of saving you the same headaches!

ENGINEERING - Ask if your pool builder works with an engineer to ensure the expectation of how flush to the ground your pool will be. We received renderings from the pool builder (which I will include below) that showed our pool flush to the ground. Plus we had given the pool builder our site plan which they drew our pool to scale on the site plan to submit to the city for permitting and to our HOA. Since we had never built a pool before, we thought since our contract was for an in-ground pool and everyone had the site plans that our pool and pool deck would be flush to the ground as shown on the renderings. Oh boy! I was wrong! Right before the concrete deck was poured, it became evident that there would be a step down between our pool deck and the grass. At first I was shocked and a little peeved (but again, reminding myself that this was a privilege to build a pool). After meeting with our pool construction manager I was told that the renderings were for conceptual purposes only and that no pool builders in the area use site engineers anymore to figure out the exact slope of the lot. Luckily, we were able to visually fix the step down with some landscaping. But nonetheless, I would have asked more questions and would have probably brought in my own site engineer had I known our pool builder did not consider the slope.

POOL PLAN -I should have followed my own advice that I give to my clients when it comes to new construction home plans and to get every last detailed noted on the plan. We had four umbrella/net holes included in our contract but they were not indicated on the pool plan. The holes would have been missed if I was not present for the gunite spray (which is when they are added during a small time sensitive window) before the gunite hardens. Another detail I wish I would have requested to be added to the pool plan was more dimension lines. It would have been nice and would have set better expectations to show the distance between the house and the water's edge and the dimensions of the tanning ledge. Our pool salesman assured me that 2+ in-pool lounge chairs would fit on the tanning ledge. In reality, we cannot fit any loungers but can fit a single in-pool chair which we are loving.

FINISHES - New construction finish selections are my niche in the profession of Interior Design. I have helped countless clients select the interior finishes of their home and have even helped a handful of clients select their pool tiles, coping, and pool decking. However, until building my own pool; it had never dawned on me to view the finishes while wet because they will be wet the majority of the time while using the pool and will take on a different color - especially the coping!

SAFETY LEDGE - I am going to include a photo of our inspiration and the rendering below. Both show a flush finish underneath the waterfall shear fixtures. To my surprise, during the gunite stage - a handrail ledge was added. At first I did not like the look of it because it was not what I was expecting. However, the pool builder explained that it was a safety ledge for kids where they will always have something to grab ahold of. It made total sense and I was glad it was added in even though it was unexpected. Bonus for Matt, the ledge also doubles as a good spot for his beer : )

FENCE - Understand the pool fence code requirements before putting in a fence - even if you don’t plan to get a pool right away. I wish I would have known this when I had our fence installed a year prior to building a pool. Our neighborhood requires a metal fence and it was not included with the builder, so it was up to my husband and I to hire a sub-contractor. I had found a fence company that I wanted to work based on great customer service and a fair price. I told them that I would eventually be putting in a pool and I wanted to make sure the fence would be to code for the future pool. I trusted that they would know the code (or look it up in my jurisdiction) before installing the fence. My mistake was not verifying what the code was and if in fact the fence company executed it. Our pool was finished a year after the fence was installed and the pool builder informed me of the code that we needed to follow regarding our fence gates - the hinges were required to be spring closing so that they close on their own and 54" above the ground. We had to replace our fence hinges as they were not installed at the proper height in order to pass the final city permit for the pool.

We love our pool and are glad we took the "plunge" on the build when we did! If you are thinking about putting a pool in your backyard, Iet me know if there are any questions I can answer based on our personal pool build.


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