The pool building process, A beginners step by step guide to pool construction - 10 minute read
Concrete swimming pools should be designed with function and form to suit your property and lifestyle. When looking at constructing a pool be sure to check the inclusions from the builder and the quality behind their work. The materials, trades and equipment used all play an equal part in creating an enjoyable lifestyle feature of the property.
The goal is to design a concrete swimming pool with function and form that’s been shaped to work with your property, lifestyle and budget. When considering to build a pool be mindful of the summer peak period, we recommend starting the thought and conversation with the builder earlier in the year to allow enough time to polish your design ideas without pressure. Allowing plenty of time also ensures that there will be no substitute for quality due to deadlines. Autumn-Winter is the ideal season to start your pool thinking.
Tip: Educate yourself with pool requirements, see the Swimming Pool and Spa Association here
Before discussing any ideas you may have with designing and constructing a pool it is best to educate yourself as much as possible to understand the process and possible limitations. While many builders will be able to provide advice on the project common considerations are budget, access, lifestyle and property requirements.
Tip: Always ensure that you do a license check on any proposed builder or contractor, check the register out here
Duration: 1 – 2 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 1
All projects will require an onsite inspection to discuss and understand your outdoor lifestyle desire. Within this inspection, it will give the builder insight to the access, landscape, size and of course designs. It's a good idea to have key points and inspiration noted to discuss with the builder and ensure all aspects are covered off during the inspection.
- The location of the pool and existing structures (house, deck, garage)
- Mains services (Water, Gas, Electricity)
- Regulations and standard by council and government
- Wishlists and budgets
- Incorporating existing home, garden and outdoor areas
- Practical and compliance challenges VS functionality requirements and desires
Clients will have either an open mind of strong ideas with what they want and how they want their dream pool to be designed. Both of these mindsets are great and can lead with an exceptional outcome while discussing the parameters within constructing a pool with the builder.
We strongly recommend that you form a list of all considerations you wish to include in the pool build process, this could include:
- Seasonable or usable year-round
- What is the purpose? Lifestyle? Lap pool? Plunge pool
- Can it be heated economically?
- Easy maintenance
- Family Friendly
- Able to sit and relax poolside
- Depths of each end
- Flow on one level from the back of the home (amenity to home)
- Visually merge with aspects of the property and house
- Increase the value of the property
- Practical and safe
Tip: Taking “poolspiration” from online platforms with photos, lifestyle and landscape designs can help the builder understand your brief for the job. These can be fountains, shapes, water features and sizes.
Our recommendations based on our pool experience:
- If you have kids, they will always use the pool (so build it with kids in mind).
- Build steps and swimouts to enjoy poolside entertainment and keep the style simple to reduce costs and have a timeless style
- Design the shape of the pool to be an extension of your house or entertaining area
- Pool usage comes down to temperature, no matter how “energy efficient” your heating method may be, the fact is that the bigger the pool you build the more expensive and harder it will be to heat.
- Integrate the pool to flow with other aspects of the property with decks, pergolas, BBQ areas.
Tip: Aim to start looking for a pool builder in winter (June - July) if you wish to be swimming by Christmas!
Working with Landscape professionals can be included within the process of constructing your pool including any features you wish to include along with careful plant selection to ensure minimal pool maintenance and less headaches down the track. Landscape designers can also incorporate external aspects such as decking, BBQ areas, lifestyle areas, paving, pergolas and more.
Duration approx 2 - 4 weeks - Project Time Frame: Week 2 - 3
Once the site inspection is completed the design and scope will be formalised into a proposal. Upon approval and a contract in place, a deposit is required to survey the site and submit all details to the engineer for plans and drawings to acquire approval and a Construction Certificate. This process normally takes 2 - 4 weeks depending on the application. Useful information to assist is the lot number or RP which can be found on any rate notice, and a copy of the site or house plans.
Tip: Ensure any existing site or house plans are available along with any ground services diagrams to assist in surveying and engineering process
Every new pool in NSW must be approved for construction by a Licensed Certifier. Construction of the pool will either need a Development Application (DA) approval from the council or in some instances it can be processed quicker as complying development.
All pool plans will need to be drafted by a qualified engineer which should be included in the contract. All documentation should be prepared in a way that is easily presentable to the council or private certifier to ensure a streamlined approval process to commence works.
Duration approx 1 - 3 days - Project Time Frame: Week 3 - 4
Now the relevant approval is confirmed, the pool should be accurately marked out, this can be done by the builder or a surveyor, we strongly advise the use of a surveyor to ensure that the pool is constructed in the right place, as once it is in, there's no going back!
With the mark out completed, the excavator will proceed to cut and dig the pool in an accurate way to ensure clean, straight lines reducing any sort of additional materials required. If the ground is unstable, sandy, waterlogged or rock, there will be additional requirements to excavate to engineers plans.
Tip: Access to the dig location is critical, ensure any means of access is clear and easy to avoid delays and additional fees
Excavation can range from a single day to 3, again depending on the complexity of the shape, access, ground and weather conditions. All excavated soil is to be removed from site and usually included with the contract, there may be further charges if additional distance is required to remove to an approved site.
Steel Fixing & Pre Plumb
Duration: 1 – 2 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 4
Completing the excavation, the perimeter of the pool will be set out with timber stakes and markers, these will be used for the next step of building the steel frame. These cannot be moved during the process as they set the boundaries and levels required to construct the pool.
A criss-cross steel cage will be constructed around the entire pool dig out for the concrete to be sprayed over the top. This reinforced steel cage is critical to the structural integrity of the pool. Each reo bar is precisely laid in place and tied off as per the engineers plans and requirements.
Tip: Be advised that the exposed steel may be sharp, Take care when inspecting the progress of your pool’s construction.
The steel cage will also include and swim outs, steps or ledges included in the design. There are plastic saddles which elevate the steel from off the ground and walls to allow the shotcrete to encompass the entire steel frame, centering it within the centre of the walls and floor.
With steel fixing complete, the pre-plumb with fit all required pipes, lines, lights and skimmer to the pool shell. All lights and internal pool electrical lines will also be laid. Pipes will be capped off to ensure no materials enter the pipes during further construction steps. Pipes will either be run just outside the pool shell, or run all the way to the finished equipment location for all equipment to be fitted and connected at a later step.
Duration: 1 – 7 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 5
The next process of your pool construction is the application of shotcrete to the steel frame. Shotcrete is a mixture of sand, rock and cement that will be applied by “shooting” the concrete mix around your pool’s steel reinforcement frame.
Tip: Ensure moisture is kept up to the fresh concrete to avoid cracking
After the shotcrete has been applied, there is a “care” period that needs to be enforced to ensure the concrete cues correctly, the structural integrity of the concrete can become weak if this is not properly followed.
You (or the builder) will need to apply a light spray of water to the entire pool surface 2- 3 times per day for approximately 5 days. This helps retain the moisture in the concrete and allows the shell to evenly dry without cracking while retaining its strength.
Duration: 3 – 3 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 6 - 7
The interior finish (Pebblecrete / Jewels 4 pools / Tiles) is the next step and one of the last to completing the pool. The concrete shell must be clean of debris, water and any concrete over spray. The surface of the pool may be scraped with a shovel to remove any nacks that may be sharp or lead to an uneven surface.
Any pipes, fittings, or drains be sealed with a waterproofing agent PRIOR to applying the interior finish, this will ensure a watertight pool and avoid a costly exercise trying to waterproof these points later once the construction is complete.
The glue/adhesive is sprayed onto and brushed over the concrete surface, the mixture of pebble/beads is then sprayed on and trowelled over to create a smooth finish. The surface is then washed to expose the finished product and left to cue.
Tip: the interior finish is one of the most important steps in the appearance of your finished pool, allow for extra time to ensure a quality job!
Once dry and set, the surface is acid washed to remove any remaining residue and polish the surface.
Tiles and coping
Duration: 3 – 5 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 7
One of the last steps is to lay the coping tile and waterline tiles. The coping tile usually needs to have a screeted foundation which is level and smooth over the top of the concrete shell, as when the concrete structure is poured the coping is not a focus point and usually will need to be made level for the tiles.
Tip: The concrete beam (top of the pool edge) isn't always poured level, in most instances the tiler will have to level this out with extra material to ensure a clean, tidy & level surface to work on.
To lay a screed level on top of the concrete beam could take 2 - 3 days and then to measure, cut and lay the coping tile could take a few days to a few weeks depending on the style requirements and the tiles selected.
The waterline tile is a job which would take between 1 - 2 days and is hand laid and carefully grouted around the waterline of your pool, common water lines are 200mm high to allow the different levels of water that may be in the pool.
Plumbing & Equipment
Duration: 1 – 2 Days - Project Time Frame: Week 8
Before commencing installing any equipment all plumbing lines are pressure tested to ensure that there has been no damage during the build. All pools will require a pump, filter, LED lights, and some sort of sanitisation system (salt water chlorinator or a Chemical dosing machine).
Tip: The equipment is the beating heart of the pool, and will be a key part in keeping it low maintenance, always ensure quality, reliable equipment is installed, cheaper is not better in this instance!
Leading pool brands are:
Many pools will also have heating lines and possibly solar, gas or a heat pump installed. Other auxiliary equipment could include waterfalls, light switches, pool automation units, booster pumps and spa equipment.
The pool will also require some sort of Automatic Pool Cleaner to keep the maintenance to a minimum, we recommend the Zodiac OT15. The older style of suction cleaners are also very common, we recommend the Water TechniX Rapid.
Tip: Pool Blankets and rollers are usually additional items, ask your builder about a package to have them included, this is a must if you plan to heat the pool!
Handover & Maintenance
Duration: 1 Day - Project Time Frame: Week 9
Now all aspects of the build is complete, the builder should have a service technician commission all equipment, bring it to life and complete a “handover” explaining every detail. Within this handover general maintenance will also be covered and what is expected by you as the owner to periodically check.
Tip: We recommend taking notes yourself (as written in your own words you will remember much easier than a high level to do list)
Initially in the first 4 - 6 weeks of the pool being filled it will require more “hands on maintenance”. This would include brushing the walls to remove excess calcium build up and vacuuming the pool to remove any debris that could lay on the floor and stain the fresh surface.
Tip: If you are unsure of the requirements always contact the builder for them to explain any points, a quick phone call is easier than fixing any damage to the pool!
This period is also crucial to correct water balance, if the levels are not accurate you could risk damaging the surface of the pool beyond repair. Water should be tested by your local pool shop initially to ensure the readings are accurate and the correct amount of chemicals are added for the first several months.