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Prerequisites for Layout:

  • A drawing of your pool/spa in 1/8" scale, showing all water features, raised bond beams, steps, benches, skimmers, lights, and location relative to property lines and house edges.
  • Yard that has been marked by Bluestake.

  • City Pool Building Permit (for Chandler, AZ anyways)

  • Area in the backyard where the pool will reside should be cleared of debris, rocks, weeds, and any other artifacts that could prevent the spray paint from contacting the ground.  If the backyard has an existing landscape which includes concrete, brickwork, or other hard-scape features, a special Pre-grade sub may need to come out to professionally perform a pre-grade.  Your excavator may also do the pre-grade, but it will be additional money on top of the excavation fee.



The Layout sub is probably the quickest and least expensive sub in the pool building process.   Usually they're in and out in about an hour.  They just take a can of spray paint and sketch out the shape of your pool from a drawing that you have.  They make the shape about 6" larger than the actual shape all around.  The reason they do this is because they need to take into account the pool shell thickness.  The whole job only cost me $85.  It was $70 for the pool, $10 for the spa, and $5 for the waterfall.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - 12:20pm
Layout person Preparing to Layout the PoolFor Layout, I found Mike, who worked as a superintendent for a bunch of the mid-tier pool companies in the valley.  Mike takes jobs on the side doing Layout for people like myself who are doing pools themselves.  Here he is at work looking over my drawing.  His tool set was pretty simple.  For most of the calculations, he used a simple green plastic template of semi-circles to match up with the circular shapes on my pool.  Once he found a match, he determined the center of the circle and marked it on the drawing.  This mark would then be used to anchor a tape measure from which to draw circles on the ground with.  Pretty nifty.

The Warez of a Layout SubHere's a tip: most subs hate it when people just draw stuff on a napkin.  It can be done and I know people who have done it but it makes their job harder.  I've been noticing that a lot of subs really appreciate a neat drawing, preferably done up on a computer.  In the construction industry, 1/8" scale is standard.  Its not wise to get cute and use a different scale.  After all, its your pool that's at stake.  On the left, you can see the rest of the tools used by Mike.  I thought to myself, "not a bad business - the overhead is minimal, startup costs are almost nothing and you end up making close to $100 for an hour's worth of work."

Michael Triangulating to find Center Points for his CirclesOnce he determined the locations of all the centers of the circles needed to trace out my pool, he marked them on the ground by triangulating the position using two tape measures together.  From there, he pounded nails into the ground at these locations and used it to draw out perfect curves. Eventually, after repeating this step a few times, the outline of my pool began to slowly come into view.

The neon orange spray paint was used to paint the actual pool edge lines on the dirt.  The nails with the orange plastic on the tips were used to mark off the area that was spray painted on the ground.  He spaced them out every few feet or so, re-creating the shape of the pool with the nails.  The purpose for this was to mark the outline of the pool's edge with something a little more substantial than spray paint.  I noticed that the spray paint came off the dirt pretty easily by just stepping on the paint.  I could have only imagined what would have happened if it rained ... Man, there goes my $85.  Again, the shape of the pool was drawn 6 inches larger than the pool drawing.  This was to take into account the pool shell's thickness.  Here are some other shots of him at work.



After spray painting the shape of my pool on the ground, he went back and started pounding nails into the ground along the perimeter of his spray painted lines.  Here are some additional pictures of him doing that.


During the layout process, as I began to actually SEE what the pool was going to look like, it forced me to reconsider and change some things on my original drawing:

  1. Got rid of planter on both sides of pool entry.  I didn't realize just how narrow the walkways were on either side of the pool's first entry step.  In my pool drawing, they looked sufficiently wide enough to allow foot traffic through very comfortably.  Uh-uh.  Not even close.  It may be hard to see from these pictures, but as a result of this, I effectively had to abandon both planters on either side of the first entry step.  This also meant that I had to chuck the accent boulders on both sides as well.
  2. If you look at the picture on the left, you can see that there is only about 4-5 feet of access space from the house edge to the pool's edge, even without the planter there.  Having the planter there along with two accent boulders plus the +6" step for the spa left the walkway about a foot and a half wide - way too narrow.  The picture on the right also shows how narrow the walkway to the right is.  I think without the planter there, the width of the sidewalk is just wide enough.   Abandoning the planter to the right also meant having to get rid of the extra bond beam that I wanted in the front of the pool.  Oh well.


  3. Moved the skimmer location.  Mike noticed that the skimmer in the original drawing was near the bottom of the pool (near the wall of the house).  Being that the equipment is on the left hand side, he moved it over to the left.  He said that it should be as close to the equipment as possible to save on the plumbing runs.  The skimmer is usually placed somewhere where its not in line of eyesight because it just sticks out like a sore thumb.  I really didn't mind it being moved, but now it will be placed right next the accent boulder near the spa/pool junction.  That would have prevented me from putting the other boulder there, but since its gone anyway due to the narrowness of the path, its a moot point.  You can see where the skimmer is going to go in the picture above (left).  Its drawn in as a rectangular box next just below the 3rd step.

  4. Changed shape of pool near setback lines to maximize pool width.  It was difficult to shape the pool in an aesthetically pleasing way without taking away too much from the width of the pool.  The space behind the TV niche (that's the part of the house that juts out a few feet on the right side of the drawing) forced Mike to trade-off maximizing the width of the pool to a reasonable length with carving out curves to make the pool shape look good.  If you look at the picture in item #1 above (to the right), you can kind of see the shape of the pool is not as nice as it could have been.  That was the compromise.  The other thing I had to keep in mind is that I have to stay 5ft away from any window opening.  If I encroached into that area, it would have forced me to have to replace those windows with a special tempered glass window (for safety reasons), which meant a lot more $$$.  Here is what the area just behind the TV niche looks like.  You see how creating a more pronounced curve behind there really started to eat into the width of the pool.  Oh well, he did his best.

  5. Changed shallow end of pool from 3' to 3'6."  I also decided to go with a 3'6" depth at the shallow end rather than 3".  I did so for two reasons:
    • Mike mentioned how shallow 3' really is.  He said that it wasn't really a practical depth to be of any recreational use.  I measured 3 ft up from my feet and the water level was lower than my waist.  He was absolutely right.
    • Notice I have three steps leading into the pool.  I want the first one to be 9" down because I wanted to put a chaise lounger chair in there.  9" is deep enough so that I'm close to the water (sitting in the lounge chair) but not deep enough so that I'll be hit by the water.  From that step, I would descend 12" for each step below that.  The next step would be 21", then the last step would be 33".  The next logical height would be 45" - which is 3'9".  And if you account for the water level to be 3" below the surface of the pool, that puts it at exactly 3'6" - this was really a no-brainer.

Anyways, that's it.  The whole process took about an hour.   It probably would have been faster except I was asking a bunch of questions along the way.  Man!  I had been staring at that dumb pool drawing for the longest time.  It was such a huge difference looking at it on the ground where it was going to go as opposed to looking at it on paper.  I couldn't believe how cool the pool looked in real life ... even if it was just spray-painted on the ground!

Incidentally, Mike is a GC-for-hire.  He said that he's done over 3000 pools in all his years in the industry (that includes the pools that he's GC'ed and the ones he's just layed out).  He said that he would charge $400 to be the GC of a pool.  That would include 10 visits ($40/visit) out to the house after each sub to inspect their work.  I was really tempted to take him up on the offer, but alas, I've already gotten started.  I respectfully declined.  However, $400 is an amazing deal.  He also offered to come out right before the first inspection (pre-gunite) to make sure all the sub's work up to that point is up to par.  He said he could do that for $40.  That one I couldn't refuse.  That would be a great little insurance visit - for only $40?  Anyways, I wouldn't hesitate to use him again.  He was quick, knowledgeable, very professional and very accurate/precise in laying out my pool.  I could tell he's done it thousands of times before.  He could have done it in his sleep.


Problems with Layout Phase / Things I would have done differently:

  • No problems at all, but then again, it was the shortest phase.  I changed around some things but that was really due to not being able to visualize some things physically on the drawing.  But not to take anything away from the Layout sub, he was someone who was definitely on top of his game!  He made it look easy.

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