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.