The steps to install an inground pool
After a recent tropical vacation, I came home with a longing for my very own swimming pool. My wife and I "discussed" in great length the type of pool that we would like to have. With out yard having what we thought was a gentle slope we felt that our options were open for either an above ground or inground. We decided that we wanted the permanent and aesthetically pleasing solution that an inground pool offers. And so it begins....
We were not about to pay the price that our local pool companies wanted for the installation and materials. We found out that they were also fully booked for most of the spring. Living in Missouri, we only have about 3.5 months of good pool weather so there was no option to delay the process. I began searching online for a pool kit. I took some measurements of the backyard and decided to order a kit from an online source for about $4900.00. We thought this was a great price and allowed us to put together a budget that was acceptable.
We proceeded to make a list of items we still had to secure and the budget amounts for each. We needed an excavator to dig the hole, electrical accessories to power the pool, concrete for the footing, some paver base and sand for the patio, lumber for the required fence, patio blocks and money for the local permit fees. We were able to come up with a budget of around $10,000 for the entire project. This was less than half of what the local contractors wanted for the same job. I should stop right here to say that this job is not for everyone. In fact, one could argue that it is not for most people. Contractor's are skilled at what they do and in some cases even required by code. I got lucky with our local municipality and they let my friends and I provide most of the labor.
The pool arrived via truck line and was easily unloaded into my garage y the driver and I. It was two skids and included all the necessary instructions and accessories except the liner. The liner arrived a few days later, on another truck. I used a tape measure to mark out the measurements on the ground and then contacted a local excavator who agreed to take on the job. It is important to note at this point that the local utility companies should be notified and given a few days to mark the area for underground utilities. We were fortunate that no utilities were running through the backyard.
The excavation only took a few hours to complete with a bobcat and small excavator. Our pool dimensions were 12' x 24' with a maximum depth of 6'. The dirt removed was used to level out part of our yard that was sloping pretty badly. There is an old say that "if you don't like the weather in Missouri just wait 5 minutes". It went from nice and sunny to a week of solid rain as soon as we got the hole dug. This might not have been a problem except that my friends and I took the week off from work to do the install. We ended up using a small sump pump and garden hose to remove the water to the nearby woods. Cardboard was used to provide walkways through the mud so that we could work. It was time to begin install.
The pool we purchased consisted of a 42" steel ring (walls) that bolted together. The first step was to bolt these panels into position and to get them level. These panels must be sitting on virgin, undisturbed soil. The virgin soil provides a solid base to keep the panels from sinking. A transit level was used to make sure that all the panels were sitting at the same height. This can also be done with strings and line levels, but is much more difficult this way. Transits can be rented from most tool rental stores. It is important to check each panel to make sure that it is level both horizontal and vertical. Short pieces of the provided rebar were used to hold the panels in place.
Once the panels were in place it was time to pour the concrete footing. 8 to 10 inches of concrete must be poured around the outside of the pool walls to provide a solid footing for the pool. I called a local concrete company and asked for 5.5 yds of the heaviest, cheapest concrete they had. The driver was able to back up next to the pool and use his chutes to pour into the hole. We used a wheelbarrow to reach the areas that he couldn't. This would not have been a terrible job if it hadn't been 90 degrees and sunny the day we did this. The process took us about 1.5 hours and allowed us to take the rest of the day off while the concrete cured.
In order to get a smooth floor, we used a mixture of sand and Portland cement. One could also use vermiculite for an even smoother finish for an additional cost. The floor was mixed with 1 part Portland cement (available in bags at Lowes and Home Depot) to 4 parts sand. The sand was hauled in by dump truck the previous day. We used a rental cement mixer from Home Depot to prepare the mixture. Once mixed, it was handed into the pool via buckets and applied with a trowel. We found that the wetter this material was, the smoother the finish. Now I should stop to mention that the floor drain plumbing must be done before this step so that the floor can be flush with the top of the drains.
We spent the next day completing the plumbing from the pool back to the pump. The kit came with 100 feet of flexible, 1.5" pvc tubing. We decided to replace this step with rigid pvc from the local hardware store. The additional cost was minimal and provided a neat, clean installation. The pvc pipes were strapped to the A-frame wall braces and stubbed out at the pump. We completed the hookup of the Jandy ball valves, pump unions and sand filter that afternoon. The excitement was building because the next day it was time to install the liner!
Vinyl pool liners come in boxes that have directional arrows printed on this. These arrow let the installer know where to set the box and which end of the pool to start it. If you follow these directions your life will be much easier. Three of us removed the liner from the box and walked along the pool walls, clipping it about every 10 feet. This is so that adjustments can be made before permanently hooking it into place. After clipping it, we realized that we need to push/pull the liner around a bit to get it straight. We finished clipping it into place and started putting the first water into the pool. We very excited because we could see the end in sight!
After letting the pool fill for a while, our excitement quickly left us. There were large wrinkles forming in the liner. I got in and tries to smooth them out with hands and feet with no luck. We were getting upset that we had worked so hard only to have terrible results at the end. I quickly did what any internet junky does and rand for the iPad. I have discovered over the years that YouTube is a wealth of knowledge and once again it did not fail me. I watched a video of a professional pool installer use a simple toiler plunger to move a liner around in a pool. I ran for the bathroom and proceeded to the pool. I was able to slowly suction and move the liner around enough to work the wrinkles to the corners. After the pool filled more, the wrinkles were stretched out and the day was saved. The results? A beautiful, sparkling swimming pool.
In the following days we added the chemicals and backfilled dirt around the pool. It was really starting to take shape at this point. The one mistake we made was to get some of the dirt into the fresh pool water. This proved to be a challenge to clean up and I actually wrote an article just on that process. We hauled in crushed rock and sand to put around the pool in preparation for the paver patio we were going to install. An important consideration at this point is making sure to soak the entire area so that it settles properly. If you do not do this, the patio or concrete you install will sink or crack.
A couple helpful things to consider if you are thinking about doing a project like this yourself are the electrical requirements and the permits. Most municipalities require permits to install a pool. These can include separate fence, deck, electrical, pool and excavation permits. Each can come with its own inspection and fee. I was fortunate enough to have a friend that was an electrician that was skilled enough to help me pass the inspection the first time. Electrical requirements for pools are VERY important because water and electric do not mix. You absolutely must make sure that all components are bonded in accordance with local codes to protect pool users. Bonding involves using a grid of copper or rebar and a solid copper wire to connect all metal components together. These components include the pool walls, ladders, lights, concrete and pumps. This steps keep the current equalized and can help to prevent electrical shock. You should always check with a license electrician to make sure you are meeting the bonding and grounding requirements for a swimming pool.
The process of installing a pool is time consuming and tedious. In my opinion, you must be an extremely detail oriented person to complete a job like this. In addition to detail, you must also be physically fit or have laborers who are able to complete the work for you. This is a great project for a homeowner with the time and ability. We found the cost savings to be tremendous and have been enjoying our new pool ever since. I hope this article helps those who are thinking about undertaking this project. I would be more than happy to help with any detailed questions that I have not answered here.