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Building My Own Swimming Pool This is the story of how I decided to build my own swimming pool.  I started hanging out on poolforum.com in late July of 2002 and asked the members what it would take to undertake a project of this enormity.  The general consensus of the group was that I was certifiably nuts (well, not quite in those words).  Even the forum moderator, Ben Powell, who I highly respect, warned me about doing it.  It caused quite a stir.  In fact, the two postings that I made (#1 and #2) turned out, combined, to be the most viewed posting in poolforum history.  The reason there are two postings is that the first one generated so much response that the moderator locked it down due to its size and told me to start a new thread.  Little did he realize the 2nd one would end up almost as twice as large with 4x as many views!

Nevertheless ... I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Well Ö sort of. I wasn't planning to pull out a shovel and just start digging.  After all, that's what I have a 10-year old and and 8-year old for.  What I decided to do was be the acting general contractor (GC) - to be a homeowner/builder for a swimming pool in sunny Chandler, Arizona. I would have never thought it possible to undertake something of this magnitude (the most ambitious building project Iíve done to date is a pinewood derby car for my son), but after talking to a lot of people, it just made more and more sense to go this route. Here is a picture of how my backyard looked before I started this project:

Pool View from Left Side of House            Pool View from Right Side of House

CONTINUED BELOW

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Yup.  Natural Desert Landscaping.  Kinda grows on you, huh?  Not.  I moved into this house back in August of 2000.  That was two years ago. Why it sat for so long is a long story in itself.  I didnít start out one morning and decide, ďGee, I think Iíll build a pool today.Ē  Quite the opposite Ė I fully intended to find an experienced and reputable pool builder and have them build me the pool of my dreams.  In fact, I talked to eight pool builders.  And after spending months doing so, I discovered two things:

  1. Iím not getting as much pool for my money as I thought Iíd get.
  2. Building a pool is not rocket science.

I should probably stop right here to make one thing clear, so that there are no misunderstandings:  while I had planned to build the pool myself, I was not planning build the pool myself.   Did you get that?  As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I planned on being the General Contractor.  A GC doesn't actually do any of the actual work of building a pool nor do they need to know the particulars of each trade required to build a pool.  Instead, a GC hires subcontractor crews to do the work.  Each subcontractor crew specializes in one aspect of building a pool (e.g. plumbing, electrical, decking, ...) and the GC is responsible for knowing enough about the pool building process so that they can schedule them in one at a time in the proper sequence.  While the GC is not required to know everything, they do need to know enough so that they can communicate intelligently enough with each sub to convey what they want. The GC continues this process with each phase of the pool construction until all the subs have completed their work and the pool is finished.  If you think about it, a professional pool builder is basically a GC.  Well, that's not completely accurate.  They are a GC with a sales team, marketing team, drafters, engineers, service people, work crews, and in most cases, a concrete building wrapped around them.  Some of those things are necessary - but if you boil it all down, that's a LOT of overhead.  And someone has to pay for all that overhead - and that someone would be you - the homeowner.  After all, they are not a charity.  For me, I decided I was going to figure out what I needed to do to build a top-notch quality pool, ripping out all the extra overhead that I did not care to incur, then pour the money into the best subcontractors I could find to build me the best quality pool that I could.  Minus the overhead.

Simple as that.

So the big question is this: How much did I stand to save?  The answer turns out to be - quite a bit.  I dusted off some of my old pool builder quotes and it was anywhere from $10,000 - $15,000.  That's pretty substantial.  What could you do with $10,000?  I can think of a hundred things before giving it to a pool builder, that's for sure.  You can go to the financial section of this site to get the details of the cost comparisons.  I think some of the numbers will really shock you. 

So anyways, with that out of the way, here is the pool I want to build:

You can click on it to get a bigger view of it.  I did up this design in Visio 2000.  Its actually quite a cool pool design tool. After meeting with all those pool builders and seeing countless pool drawings and designs, you come out of that with a fairly good understanding of what can and cannot be done.  Then it was just a matter of putting it down on paper.  Visio just allows you to do that in a very neat fashion. Its got a lot of fancy schmancy spline tools to help you put it all together.  I came up with a design that was a conglomeration of the best designs of everything I had seen from the pool builders as I met with them.  It didnít take long, and I tweaked it over time until I came up with the current design that you see here.

Anyways, the purpose for this website to document as accurately as possible in time sequential fashion, what it took to build this darn pool.  Before I decided to do this, I searched high and low on the Internet and I couldnít believe there was no information on how to build a pool on your own.  Címon Ė this is 2002!  People today are showing each other how to build nuclear bombs for peteís sake Ė why not a pool?  Either Iím not searching on the right keywords or people are just not willing to put this kind of information on the web.  Whatever the reason, I want to change all that.  When I finally decided I was going to attempt this lunacy, I also decided that it would be fun, educational, and helpful to others to put together a website that shows what I did and how I did it.  Its really for my own benefit and also to show friends how I did it.  I want to take snapshots of the pool through the various stages of construction then show the finished product.

In case you  have just happened to wander onto this site, just so that there is no misunderstanding upfront:  I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL POOL BUILDER.  I donít pretend to know the first thing about building pools. Iím a professional software engineer and have been for about 13 years now.  And if there is anything that Iíve learned about undertaking any task in general, its this:   You donít have to know all the details of how to do everything for that task.  You just need to know where to get the information or know where to find the people who do.  Its as simple as that.  More than anything, it takes motivation and desire.  If youíve got that, you will go a long ways.  That goes for just about everything in life.  I have come to learn a great deal talking with people who know a thing or two about building pools, and have come to rely on them to help me through the various phases of building a pool.

Anyways, with that said, back to the disclaimer:  I am not responsible for anything that you do with the information from this site.  I cannot and will not guarantee that the information on this site is even correct.  What Iím attempting to do here is to just document what I did Ė not that it was right or wrong Ė but that it just happened and it was what I chose to do.   I am attempting to build a pool in the state of Arizona, specifically in the City of Chandler, even more specifically: for Ben Choi.  What I say in here may not (and most likely will not) have any relevance or bearing on how to build a pool in your neck of the woods.  I will say, though, that for those visiting the site from AZ, my pool is a fairly standard pool by AZ standards.  There will be a few differences in regulations and code from city to city, but most all the subs and pool builders that I've dealt with said that my pool is a fairly typical pool regardless of city.  On a related note, Regguheert, a frequent poster on the poolsforum.com website, astutely pointed out that in his neck of the woods in Virginia, there isn't a plethora of subs out there to attempt this sort of thing.  Sometimes, I think I don't realize how much the weather here drives entire industries and makes it possible to do things here that are near impossible in the east coast.  If I were to summarize what I want to achieve from this site, I would have to say:

  1. I want to document my pool building experience for my own benefit.
  2. I want show people a glimpse what it took me (mentally, physically) to be a general contractor of my own pool.
  3. I want to show people how a fairly standard pool is built in Arizona.

Hopefully, if you are out there reading this and thinking of GC'ing your own pool, this site will be another data point that you collect on your way to making an informed decision on how you want to build your pool.  Anyways, with all that said and out of the way, fasten your seatbelts!

Next Ė The Pool of my Dreams->

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