Inground Swimming Pool FAQs
Gunite pool construction involves multiple phases. After planning and designing the pool, these steps typically include: permitting, layout, excavation, steel installation, plumbing, electric, gunite application, installation of tile and coping, deck installation, plaster/interior finish, and start-up.
The sequence here may vary based on local building codes and practices, as well as if the project contains any highly specialized custom design features.
With normal backyard conditions and weather that allows for the construction to proceed, builders in many areas of the country usually need eight to 10 weeks from excavation to complete a typical residential gunite pool.
In some geographic markets, build times average a few weeks longer. In general, the more complex the design and the more special features it has, the more time your project will take.
Other variables often extend build times. Among them: time of year, permits/variances, difficult building conditions (e.g., property access, hitting groundwater, subterranean rock, or unmarked utility lines), addendums to change the design or features customer payment progress adjacent outdoor features under construction, and custom material choices requiring a special order.
Above all, weather conditions, such as rain or extreme heat and humidity, can cause delays.
Gunite construction is multiphase—requiring a series of steps using various tradesmen for each. Reputable pool builders adhere to the timelines and terms outlined in the sales contract.
Beneath the ground, several conditions can slow or impede pool-construction. Examples include underground rock, extended tree roots, a high local water table (in which water from the earth seeps into an excavated hole), and buried utility lines that utility-reporting services did not identify.
While qualified pool contractors use strategies to overcome most of these subterranean hurdles, build-schedules often must be extended.
Learn more: Backyard Conditions that Impact Building Costs
Soil that expands, contracts, shifts, or is unstable for other reasons can impact a pool’s construction and long-term stability. For example, in an open excavated hole, sandy soil may cause the walls to collapse. Soil with a high clay content may expand or contract with seasonal temperature or moisture changes.
Professional pool contractors are accustomed to these kinds of challenges and have solutions for the majority of them. Tactics vary by the nature of the challenge and building practices in the local market.
Learn more here: Backyard Conditions that Impact Building Costs
Builders use a variety of techniques to overcome soil challenges for gunite pool construction. Methods often vary by region of the country.
For example, to address unstable earth, they may lay a bed of compacted fill with pea gravel in the excavated hole or increase the amount of gunite and steel in the pool shell. To address sandy soil, they may frame the excavated hole with plywood to hold its shape until gunite is applied.
In certain cases, an analysis by a soil engineer may be needed, and more extensive tactics may be required.
A gunite pool is built with a concrete blend that consists of sand, cement, and water. (Shotcrete is a similar blend, but also contains pea gravel.)
Construction crews spray the material through a high-pressure air hose onto a reinforcing network of steel bars to form a thick, rock-hard pool shell. Both gunite and shotcrete pools are engineered concrete creations that provides superb design flexibility and lasting durability.
Learn more about construction elements of a gunite pool: 5 Key Construction Terms for Concrete Designs
Gunite pools offer many advantages. Unlike their fabricated fiberglass or vinyl liner counterparts, they are custom designed to your specifications and built to capitalize on unique variables in your backyard.
Gunite pools offer maximum creative freedom and visual appeal. Builders can form virtually any size, shape, depth, and multilevel configuration. A gunite design can seamlessly and more easily include a wider array of decorative and functional features than you can have in a vinyl or fiberglass pool.
Engineered to last for decades, gunite pool shells boast an engineered network of steel reinforcement that makes them the industry standard for strength and longevity.
Learn more: Affordable Custom Pool Style
When you invite a designer to your home for a gunite pool estimate, he or she will begin by measuring your backyard and conducting a general survey of your overall property.
The designer will ask about your vision for your new backyard. He or she will discuss available options such as pool shape, dimensions, design features, the inclusion of a spa, finish materials, and various high-tech equipment options that help automate care and save water and energy.
After learning how your family plans to use the pool, your lifestyle preferences, any special requests you may have, backyard conditions, local building regulations, and your overall target budget, he or she will create a custom pool plan for this array of criteria.
In some cases—particularly for basic pools and popular shapes—your designer may create the general plan during this initial meeting. If your project is more complex—or when 2-D or 3-D pool renderings are used—he or she may advise that additional time is needed to prepare a plan for your review at a later date.
If you would like to consider a pool loan, your designer can also share information about financing programs (oac.).
Click here to request an appointment for a Blue Haven in-home pool estimate.
Because gunite pools are custom projects—each with unique specifications, site conditions, and built with materials and craftsmen that vary by markets around the country—it’s difficult to cite an average cost.
One major consideration will be whether or not the project includes a spa. This popular feature may add around 15 to 25 percent of the cost of the basic pool.
Other determining factors that affect the final price include size (often measured in perimeter feet), depth, shape, design elements, functional features, equipment and technology options (e.g., pool automation), material choices, accessories (e.g., a pool slide), local construction costs, local labor costs, and specific backyard building conditions.
By speaking to local pool builders and providing some general specifications, you will develop a sense for the typical starting pool prices in your area.
3 Reasons Swimming Pool Builders Should Never Cut Corners
Affordable Custom Pool Style
Property conditions that drive pool-building costs include: access to the backyard for heavy equipment, slopes and elevation changes, various soil conditions, and any underground obstacles. Other variables range from overhead utility lines to unusually stringent local building codes.
Yes, sources are available for pool loans, and some pool builders help arrange pool financing for buyers. Lenders provide both secured (where the borrower has collateral, such as home equity) and unsecured loans (where interest rates are typically higher).
Blue Haven offices draw on an exclusive national network of home-improvement lenders to help clients obtain financing (on approved credit). Programs vary state by state, and lenders have different underwriting criteria.
To check your creditworthiness for a pool loan, the best approach is to begin with a credit evaluation. Ask your pool builder if you can complete a single or joint application to run a free credit check for review.
A finance specialist can evaluate the credit report for your overall creditworthiness, and he or she can look for lenders with criteria that best aligns with your credit profile. Some of the factors taken into consideration include your FICO score, debt-to-income ratio, and amount of unsecured credit.
Learn more about Blue Haven pool financing, and view an online credit review form.
Gunite spas are custom builds that are popular among pool buyers because they serve as a lovely focal point in the pool and offer so many health and lifestyle benefits. Particularly when the spa is elevated, its façade and spillway provide superb design opportunities and also serve as a distinctive water feature.
Beyond their beauty, spas bring added value to your lifestyle. This amenity can provide an ideal amenity for unwinding mentally and physically, warm hydrotherapy for sore muscles, a place for low-impact exercise, support for enhancing blood circulation, promotion of better sleep patterns, general relaxation and serenity, and a setting for socializing and conversation. This feature also provides a fun spot to hang out or play—even when it’s cooler at night or after swim season ends.
Learn more about gunite spas and design ideas: Custom In-ground Spas
The most popular gunite spa shape is circular, since a circle or a rounded shape makes conversation and interaction easy. These shapes are also most efficient for holding the most people.
However, some pool buyers opt for custom geometric options with straight lines—squares, rectangles, triangles, or modified versions of them.
Pick a custom spa shape that complements your pool shape and style. Many choices are available, from bold geometric silhouettes to organic free-form shapes.
If you plan on having lots of family and friends in the spa, remember that most shapes do not seat a crowd as efficiently as a circle. Ask your pool designer for suggestions.
Depending on the region of the country, including an in-ground spa might add around 15 to 25 percent of the cost of the basic pool.
Factors that typically affect the bottom line include: spa size, spa shape, and spa-pool configuration. Common design variables include the spa’s position—is it built within the pool perimeter (an “interior spa”) or outside the perimeter (an “exterior spa”), the spa’s elevation—is it level with the pool surface or raised above it, and decorative finishes or special features such as custom dam walls and spillways.
The cost may also be affected by the excavation work needed to level the ground where the spa will go. Including a spa may also require the purchase of a more powerful pool heater to quickly warm the water or a bigger pump to power the hydrotherapy jets. However, these additions maximize a spa’s benefits and extend the months each year you can enjoy them.
Yes, you can build a stand-alone custom spa without a pool. A gunite spa can boast some of the same decorative features as a gunite pool.
Building a free-standing spa can cost almost as much as a small gunite pool. That’s because each specialty crew must come to the job site to complete each of the various construction phases—just as they would for an entire pool.
Despite the investment, some homeowners still choose to build a stand-alone gunite spa. They won’t settle for a portable hot tub because they want an attractive, permanent custom backyard amenity—versus a prefabricated vessel sitting on the ground.
Learn more: Hot Tubs vs. In-Ground Spas: What’s the Difference?
Depending on the backyard configuration, you will likely need a rough minimum of 500 square feet for an in-ground pool.
However, the final minimum number will vary with the shape of the property. That’s because gunite pools allow builders to develop shrewd designs to maximize use of available space. Enormous versatility for pool size and shape is possible. A builder may even configure a pool that will use space from both your backyard and side yard.
Other factors may enter the equation and influence how much backyard space you can use and where the pool may be positioned. One is building codes, which vary by city. For example, most codes require pools to be 3 to 5 feet away from the house and the property line.
Keep in mind, you will need some area around the pool for decking. You may want to include other backyard features as well. Your builder will advise you of other considerations—as well as opportunities—for space-saving design solutions.
Learn more about pool planning: Pool Design Dimensions: 3 Key Initial Questions to Ask
Most often, the answer is yes. Because a gunite pool provides maximum design versatility, the chances are good that a builder can configure your pool’s size and shape to fit within tight dimensions.
Keep in mind that property setbacks, building codes, minimum deck requirements, and other backyard conditions can limit the ultimate square footage that can go to the pool. You also will want to have room for a pool deck.
Experienced pool builders can develop clever—often surprising—design solutions for making the most of available real estate.
For efficient in-ground pool construction, property access is essential. That’s because heavy equipment, such as excavators, dump trucks, and gunite or shotcrete rigs, must enter the backyard. Adjacent homes, fences, trees, or hardscape may be in the way. Narrow side yards—such as those with a protruding gas meter or air conditioning unit—can also limit access. Other kinds of obstacles may exist.
In these cases, pool builders can usually find a solution. They range from fence removal and restoration to use of smaller excavation equipment.
Learn more: Backyard Conditions that Impact Building Costs
Along with your builder, you can determine a gunite pool size by considering available backyard space, desired pool shape, pool style, features, accessories, and plans for any outdoor amenities.
How your family plans to use a pool is also important: For example, if you want a pool for swimming laps or a pool with a diving board, a minimum length is typically required. Likewise, including a beach entry and a big custom spa for a family of six will dictate a specific length/depth requirements.
On the other hand, if you just want to jump in the water to cool off, a compact splash pool will suffice.
You can learn more here about planning pool size:
Swimming Pool Design Dimensions: 3 Key Initial Questions to Ask
Concrete Pools Ensure Best Versatility for Size Shape & Configuration
With a gunite pool’s design versatility, shape options are virtually unlimited. Favorites fall into four broad categories: classic, Greco-Roman designs; straight-edge/geometric options such as rectangles or L-shapes; curvy, flowing silhouettes like a figure-8, “cloud,” and organic, free-form shapes; and custom configurations that mix curves and straight lines.
However, you can also request a modified version of any shape—even “set,” traditional ones like a Roman or a rectangle. Professional designers can surprise you with a creative, tailored shape.
In general, in-ground pools composed of straight-edge geometric forms—such as squares and rectangles—use space more efficiently than do free-form or curvilinear pools.
However, with the vast level of customization that’s possible with a gunite pool, other shapes may also work in compact backyards with unique property configurations or elevations. Your designer will be able to guide you in selecting an optimal pool shape for your particular yard and preferences.
Unlike a traditional pool with a shallow end that transitions to an 8-foot deep end, a sports or play pool has two shallow ends and a slightly deeper section in the middle.
Typical configurations have depths of roughly 3-5-4 feet or 3.5-5.5-4 feet. These dimensions make it easier to stand in the water and engage in various activities.
For example, you can string a volleyball net across the middle (“deep”) area, and have players on each side compete on equal or comparable footing. These pools also provide a larger shallow end for children’s enjoyment.
Learn more about sports pools: 3 Features to Enhance Your Comfort & Convenience
Three kinds of materials are used to produce in-ground pools: vinyl liner, fiberglass, and gunite (concrete/shotcrete).
A specialty form of concrete, gunite is a mix of sand, cement, and water. To build a gunite pool, crews apply it pneumatically, which means it is shot at high velocity through a high-pressure hose. The flexible, lasting material covers a network of steel bars, forming a thick, reinforced, rock-hard pool shell.
Gunite is similar to shotcrete. It is also called a “dry mix” because—unlike shotcrete—it arrives at the job site in dry form before water is added to make the material wet.
Learn more about gunite and how it’s used with other construction materials to build pools: 5 Key Construction Terms for Concrete Designs
A form of concrete used for building large structures, shotcrete is a mix of sand, cement, pea gravel, and water. It is similar to gunite, and the application procedure is essentially the same as for a gunite pool. However, water is premixed in ahead of time at a concrete batch-plant facility. Then, this “wet mix” shotcrete material is trucked to the pool site for use.
Learn more about shotcrete and how it’s used with other pool construction materials to: 5 Key Construction Terms for Concrete Designs
Pool plaster or marcite (also called white coat) is a kind of interior surface for a pool. The key ingredients in marcite are water, white cement, marble dust, and additives to make it smooth.
The terms “marcite” and “plaster” are often used interchangeably. The term plaster is often used to refer to any form of interior pool finish, such as quartz or pebble.
Specialty tradesmen apply the wet material over the dried gunite shell. Once dry, the layer of plaster performs the critical job of waterproofing the pool structure. It also creates an attractive interior surface throughout the pool.
Pool plaster—or interior finish—comes in three types marcite plaster, ColorQuartz™ aggregate, and pebble. Each carries a unique set of attributes affecting appearance, performance, lifespan, and initial cost.
Learn more about the differences between pool finishes here: Interior Finishes: Comparing Marcite Quartz and Pebble
The most common form of pool finish is marcite—a mixture of water, white cement, marble dust, and additives.
Marcite is white. (Some builders will tint it shades of blue or greyish-black, but this approach may pose undesirable consequences.)
Marcite carries the lowest initial price of three kinds of material finishes for a pool interior. However, it requires greater maintenance and earlier replacement—costing more over time.
In a pool with properly balanced water, marcite typically provides a lifespan of 5 to 12 years. However, other factors—such as hard water or improper water chemistry—can cause faster deterioration.
While all three forms of interior finish deteriorate over the course of years, marcite is by far the most vulnerable to a host of factors that degrade its appearance and reduce its lifespan.
Learn more: Pool Plaster Problems: Typical Causes
ColorQuartz™ aggregate is an upgraded pool finish that combines a marcite plaster base with small, rounded granules of quartz aggregate with permanent colored ceramics.
While its upfront cost is higher than marcite, ColorQuartz™ has skyrocketed in popularity due to the advantages and long-term value it delivers.
Compared to plain marcite plaster, a ColorQuartz™ finish offers superior benefits. It comes in a variety of lasting blues, teals, greens, greys, tans, and other choices that produce a highly appealing appearance.
A ColorQuartz™ pool interior outperforms one that’s plain marcite. The quartz granules help protect the pool finish from chips, chemical etching, ultraviolet deterioration, mechanical wear and abrasion, and erosion from harsh, improperly maintained water.
Because a durable ceramic coating is what gives the quartz finish its speckled color, the color stays true without bleeding, leaching, or diminishing. Ultimately, ColorQuartz™ wears longer than plain marcite; depending on water quality and maintenance, it often lasts 10 to 15 years.
Pebble pool finish is an extremely attractive, high-end product that contains marcite plaster and small sizes of river rock or pebble aggregate. It comes in an array of colors and size blends—as well as choices for the pebble size.
The application is similar to regular marcite plaster or ColorQuartz™ , but involves a second step on another construction day. Of the three pool-surface options, pebble requires the highest initial cost.
Discerning homeowners appreciate the rich, distinctive appearance pebble finishes create. It is also highly resilient, although it does not withstand acid washing as well as quartz.
Above all, a pebble finish delivers outstanding longevity; lifespans–which vary with water chemistry and conditions–can range from 12 to 20 years.
Learn more about the differences between pool finishes: Pool Interior Finishes: Comparing Marcite Quartz and Pebble
On a gunite pool, entry steps are built like the rest of the pool using either gunite or shotcrete applied over steel bars. (If you have heard of plastic steps, it would have been in reference to a vinyl liner pool.)