Building a pool is a long, expensive process, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here I'll dive into the step-by-step process we went through when building our pool.
The very first stage of building a pool requires a lot of research. From the outside, many pool builders appear the same, but quality and feature offerings vary widely among them. After doing online research to narrow down who you want to interview, schedule appointments for reps to meet you at your home.
A sales rep from each company will come to your home. Though each have their own unique pitch processes, most will want to walk your yard and take measurements. Some may show you brochures or PowerPoints about what they offer and it’s important for you to show them what it is you want out of your pool.
Layout & Design
The first true step in the pool build process is what I like to refer to as the dreaming stage. We narrowed down our potential pool builders to three whom we had draw up potential plans with budgets. One design was so far off base it was clear the rep hadn’t paid attention to anything we wanted. That was an easy one to nix!
Our favorite two designs appeared very similar in design and both were excellent. We would have been happy with either of them so we broke down everything we knew about the features and budget in a spreadsheet to help us organize what we were getting for our money. Here’s what it looked like:
A couple of things that didn't make the spreadsheet ended up being the determining factors in our decision: accessibility and personal contacts. At the end of the day, we chose the company that our close friends had had a great experience. These are the 3D rendering of our pool design:
A pool is a huge expense, not only the construction but the maintenance, water and utilities needed to run it. While each pool company will vary on payment schedules, my research showed that many companies expected payments at similar stages. For reference, here is what ours looked like:
Initial deposit at contract signing
30% due at excavation
35% due at gunite
30% due at tile
5% due at completion
For example, if your total pool cost is $100,000 AFTER your contract deposit, you’ll owe the following at each stage:
$30,000 at excavation
$35,000 at gunite
$30,000 at tile
$5,000 at completion
If you can’t pay for the pool in full while it’s being built, there are many loan options available for you to consider. Construction loans, home improvement loans, and HELOCs are just some that your bank may offer you. I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan, though, so my best advice is to save money, budget accordingly, and build a pool that you can afford.
Before excavation your builder will invite you to pick the finishes for your pool. This will include choose coping tiles (the ones that go around the edge of your pool on the deck), your decking (i.e. concrete, pavers, tiles, turf, etc.), waterline tiles, and tile or stone for the elevated features. You’ll also be asked to choose your interior pool finish, or what was typically the plaster. There are more pool finish options these days (more on those below), so be sure to scour the internet for inspiration so you have any idea of what pool vibe you’re going for!
In our case, our entire home is black and white and I wanted that to spill over (see what I did there?) to the pool design. For that reason I knew I wanted to lean towards black or white stone and tile with a really dark bottom pool.
Excavation is the OFFICIAL start of pool construction! A team will come out to measure, stake out and spray paint the outline of the pool. This part may seem inconsequential, but it’s the ONLY opportunity you have to make changes to your pool placement. If they outline the pool and you think it needs to be moved a few feet in either direction, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Once they start digging, that’s it.
Later that day or within the next couple of days a small excavation crew will be sent out to start digging. We had one guy running the excavator and another guy hand digging with a shovel, sculpting out the interior benches and steps. If your pool will have a retaining wall or elevated features, plywood will be set up to act as the frame. Depending on the size of your pool this stage could take between 3 days and a couple of weeks.
Plumbing & Electrical
Plumbing and electrical are arguably the longest part of the pool building process. This will be the circulatory system for your entire pool from drainage, ventilation, water features, and lighting. Crews will dig trenches around your pool, leading to the placement of the pool equipment, and around any areas necessary for drainage.
It is SO important to have your Superintendent overseeing this process. Ours caught TWO pipes missing from the install. These pipes were responsible for the two sidewall suctions in the deep end of the pool and would have created a serious drainage hazard. Word to the wise: almost anything is fixable before shotcrete!
Once the hole has been dug and sculpted, rebar will be placed along the bottom and the walls. This stage of the build will ultimately determine the durability of your pool over the course of its life. Building codes vary by municipality, but it’s important to check all of the rebar requirements with you superintendent to guarantee the subcontractors are using the correct grade of rebar and spacing them correctly.
From my research, I’ve seen that each rebar should be spaced 2.5 inches from each other. I’m linking a great article that had substantial information about rebar requirements in swimming pools.
Your superintendent should be on-site during each stage of the build for QAQC, but the fact of the matter is that YOU are the only person on-site every single day so try to be as informed as possible so you know what questions to ask.
This is the part where your pool starts looking like an actual pool and not just a construction zone! This process began really early in the morning and only took one day to complete. The crews will set up tarp walls around the pool to keep your porch and home protected from overspray.
After the pool is plastered there will be a week-long curing period where you will be required to wet down the entire pool to ensure the finish doesn’t dry too quickly. This will entail hooking up a long hose with a spray nozzle and fully saturating the pool 2-3 times a day for 7-10 days. We were lucky to have plenty of rain that week so this was an easy assignment for us!
Tile and Decking
By this point you are getting so close to completion! By now all the tile you picked out should have arrived and is ready to be installed. The tile will go in first, including your coping surround and any elevated walls or water features. After this is complete, your crew will frame out your decking and start setting the rebar.
If you are going to have umbrella holes in your decking, now is the time to flag where you want them to go. Once the concrete is complete it will be about 24 hours until you can walk on it.
Pro Tip: If you want to leave handprints of your family or children, ask your Superintendent when a good time would be to do this! We waited about an hour after the concrete was smoothed so our handprints weren’t sloppy!
There are different types of pool finishes and your pool builder will likely have a preferred product. We chose Wet Edge Luna Quartz in Madagascar, which is the darkest finish they offer. Quartz finishes are more durable than traditional plaster but are more affordable than Pebble Tec finishes. Talk to your builder about longevity and potential cons of each option before you finalize your choice.
We have a true black-bottom pool, but because of all the blue specks of quartz, the water looks like a really deep blue. Your builder should show you the samples both wet and dry, but be sure to look up pictures of pools with the same finish to get a really good idea of how your finish will look once water is in the pool.
After the finish install is complete, you’re ready to fill her up!
You’ve made it! You’re almost ready to swim! A crew will come out and start up your pool equipment including the filters, pump and UV systems. We weren’t allowed to add any chemicals to the pool or turn on the heater until the pump had been running for 7 days, so if this is the case for you, swim at your own risk (we did).
Your company will likely include some version of what they call Pool School where a member of their team shows you how to work each piece of equipment, how to work the phone app if your pool has one, and how to balance the pool chemistry. If you have a great builder, they will be available for you to contact any time you have questions in the future!
Building a pool is a long, expensive, messy process so I’m sure there are details I forgot.
If you found this post helpful or have any questions, let me know in the comments!
Follow me on IG @houseofrad405 and on TikTok @houseofrad to see the finished pool!
Until next time,