Over the years, I've been involved in, or directly built, hundreds of inground pools, most of the them a steel walled pool kit construction, with a vinyl liner. I've made a few of my own pool construction mistakes, and now make a living helping homeowners avoid errors in their pool projects. Here's a list of some pitfalls to avoid when you build your own inground vinyl pool.
POOL LOCATION: Spend time to choose the best location for your pool. You have to show on a plot plan the pool location and changing this location after you have your permit in hand may require a new drawing, and/or delays.
POOL PERMITS: On the permitting process fill out everything they ask for and nothing more. Sometimes the permit is a generic building permit so there may be questions that do not apply to pool construction. Ask them for information on pool inspections.
EXCAVATION: When excavating make sure your pool and surrounding land, is at the correct grade for storm run off - around the pool. Have a plan for removing extra fill dirt. it is more cost effective to have a dump truck on site during the digging of the pool, and a nearby location to take extra fill dirt, if you can't use it in other areas around the pool, after backfilling. do not forget to call811 a week before you dig.
GRADE: Make sure in setting the grade, or level of your inground pool, that you figure in the pool wall height, your coping and your patio so your pool when finished is not too low in the ground or too high, but just enough above surrounding areas to pitch the pool deck away from the pool, 1/4" for every foot. Storm run-off may require some grading of land around the pool, to pitch water completely around the pool.
WALLS: When installing your pool walls, before you tighten the bolts, make sure your top lip is level and the panels are plumb. A transit level is recommended to check for a square and consistent pool height. Leave the top and bottom wall bolts out at first, to allow for wall adjustments. Once level, connect the A-frame brace and tighten the bolts connecting the panels together. Recheck that pool is level and square before the concrete collar is poured.
CONCRETE COLLAR: When pouring your concrete collar make sure you put in enough concrete around the pool; skimping on concrete risks pool damage down the road. It should be as wide as your overdig, or about 30" wide, and 10-12" deep, completely burying the base of the pool walls and partially covering the A-braces. Another mistake is spending too much on concrete. Concrete companies have different quality mixes, but since this is buried, and used for support - have their cheapest mix delivered. Also, do not forget to put rebar pieces, as stakes in the bottom of the panels, before pouring the collar. This will help prevent wall movement as the concrete is poured against the base of the wall.
STEPS & SEATS: Another mistake to watch out for is setting the height of your pool steps or buddy seat or swim out. There are 2 types for all of these, bullnose and cantilever. If they are cantilever than they would be flush with the top of the pool wall and then your pavers go on top of that or if you are forming your coping with your concrete deck with forms. The other type is bullnose and to set the height properly for that type put a small piece of your bullnose coping on top of the wall and bring the top of your step up to the same height. Also make sure that you pitch the step slightly lower from front to back.
POOL FLOOR: When finishing your pool floor bottom the most important thing is setting your string lines and making sure your bottom is to the string line level, so dimensions are exact. Secondly, is to spend time to make the floor as smooth as you can get it. If your bottom is rough and uneven, when your pool light is on at night you will see every imperfection in the pool floor. POOL LINER: One problem to avoid during the liner installation process is to make sure the corners in positioned properly. Make sure a blower/vac or powerful shop vac is used to set the liner and leave it running while the pool is filling, until the shallow end has a few inches of water. I also advise not to cut out anything such as the step, skimmer or returns until you get water right below that point, to allow the liner to stretch to it's fullest.
BACKFILLING: The biggest mistake in backfilling is not tamping and wetting, or compacting the fill dirt in stages, as it goes in around the pool. This leaves you wide open for settling of your pool deck down the road. If you are using all stone or gravel that doesn’t need to be compacted. Some folks will "stratify" layers of soil and gravel, tamping and compacting between layers. A concrete pool deck will require 4-6" of gravel on top of the backfill, so be sure not to backfill too high.
EQUIPMENT: The mistakes that can be made in installing your equipment include wanting to place it far from the pool without upsizing the pump. Installing the equipment in the right order (pump, filter, heater, chlorinator) is obviously important, and if the pump is installed more than 1 foot higher than the pool, install a check valve. Be sure that where you plan to place your pool equipment conforms to your building code.
PLUMBING: When connecting your pool plumbing, know the right steps for the different types of connections. On all threaded connections, use a small amount of pipe dope or silicone, wrapped 3x with Teflon tape. For barbed fittings, used with poly pipe, use pipe dope around all the barbs, double clamp the pipe over the barbs, and tighten each clamp in opposite directions. Then with a torch, give a little heat to the black pipe and you should be able to give the clamps another turn or two. For rigid or flexible PVC, make sure you use a good PVC cleaner first on both the pipe and the fitting, right before gluing. Quickly PVC glue both, push the pipe into the fitting with a ¼ twist and hold for 15 seconds. Keep a rag handy to wipe up excess glue.
ELECTRICAL: The biggest mistake I see for DIY pool builders, on the electrical is the grounding and bonding. Find out what your inspector requires and do it that way you’ll save a lot of headaches. Also, when installing a wet niche pool light, stub up the pvc conduit at least 12” above the deck level, into a proper junction box. When wiring your equipment, most pumps and heaters come through pre-wired for 220 volts, and can be converted to 110 volt if need be. Wiring the wrong voltage can damage the equipment.
History is important, as it helps to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Now you are prepared to avoid some of these mistakes in DIY pool construction. Have any pool project pitfalls to add? Leave us a comment below for all to read.
SPP Pool Expert