So you’ve decided to add a pool or spa to your property. Great! What’s the process? How do I get started? What should I expect? How long will it take? These are just a few of the questions you may be asking. Here’s an overview of what to expect:
• Hire a pool designer – The best way to kick off a successful project is with a realistic design that not only satisfies your aesthetic desires, but also is functional. The Owner may have an idea of the shape and type of pool desired, but someone has to consider all the rules, including property setbacks, adequate space for decking, restrooms, and the list goes on and on. Unless the Owner the time and resources to figure all this out on their own, the Owner will need help.
On most commercial pool projects, especially if they are part of a larger project that includes buildings or other structures, an architect and possibly a landscape architect are hired by the owner to determine an aesthetic pool design idea. Or the Owner may hire an aquatic engineer or even a pool contractor to assist with the design process.
Owners may decide to solicit bids from pool contractors based on the design idea, but be prepared to get bid prices that may vary significantly. There are many details needed to build a pool, and unless these are specified in the Invitation to Bid (ITB), contractors may include different, non-comparable items in their bid, leaving you to decipher the differences between the bids.
• Hire an aquatic engineer – Every new pool or spa require a set of plans, prepared and sealed by an engineer. The engineer will utilize the design that the Owner (you), your designer, or the pool contractor presents to them, and prepare a set of paper drawings (plans). These plans will include the pool layout, list of equipment, plumbing isometric, sections and details of all the pool’s components.
Depending on the complexity and size of the new pool project, the Owner may want the engineer to produce a Project Manual for the project which will detail specifications, job logistics, finishes, time frames and deadlines, bonding requirements, contract language, a plethora of information that the contractor must consider when bidding and agree to. Project manuals are used more often when the project includes a developer and general contractor, with the pool contractor working as a subcontractor for the general contractor.
• Hire a pool contractor – After the Owner determines the pool contractors to obtain bid pricing from, the Owner will provide each with a set of the pool plans you have had produced by the aquatic engineer. The Owner will set a deadline for bid submissions and any other project requirements you desire. After receiving the bid quotations form the pool contractors, a thorough check of the pool contractors should be performed by you. (see Selecting a Licensed Professional)
The Owner will notify the pool contractor who is awarded the contract to meet to start the contract negotiation process. It is also proper and professional for the Owner to notify the unsuccessful bidders that the contract has been awarded.
• Negotiate a Contract – Unless the Owner has already hired an attorney to provide the contract documents for the project, the pool contractor will have their own contract forms. If either side thinks the contracts presented to them is too “one-sided”, then the parties will need to compromise to an agreeable resolution, or the deal may fall apart. The Owner will ten have to re-bid the project, causing delays and possibly additional costs.
One method of resolving the disagreement regarding the contract forms from each party is to obtain a contract format from a third, uninvolved party. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has produced a list of construction contracts that are widely accepted nationally. This may be the most neutral method for determining a contract that is acceptable to all. The AIA agreements can be modified, with permission from both parties. Payment terms, time frames, bonding requirements, and any other details specific to the project may become addenda to the contract. The plans that were produced by the engineer are also mentioned in the contract agreement.
As far as payment terms, it is not uncommon for a pool contractor to require a deposit for ‘mobilization’. This is usually to cover those out of pocket expenses such as contract administration, purchasing, meetings, permits, and other front-end expenses necessary before the work on site actually begins. Payment terms beyond the deposit are negotiable.
Notice of Commencement (N.O.C.) – The pool contractor, prior to the start of the permitting process, will file a N.O.C. with the county. This is a standard procedure that the State of Florida requires. In brief, the basic purpose of the N.O.C. is to have as part of public record, the name and address of the Owner, pool contractor, and other pertinent information. A filed N.O.C. is required to obtain a municipal building permit.
The pool contractor will submit the required FDOH forms, plan review fee and operating permit fee and plans to the local county Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to review the plans for critical safety items. The pool contractor does need to wait for the FDOH plan review before submitting the pool plans to the local municipal building department for a building permit. Besides the plans, the owner may also need to provide a property survey or site plan, a geotechnical soil boring report, or other documents as required by the building department.
When the FDOH completes their plan review, the FDOH will send a letter with any comments to the new pool applicant and the local municipal building department. Deficiencies noted on the FDOH letter must be corrected prior to the final FDOH inspection at the end of the project.
The pool contractor will submit to the municipal building department the permit applications, permit fees, and any other documentation that the city requires. The municipal building department plan review process is very involved, as the plans must be reviewed and processed through all the plan reviewers for the various trade disciplines. These disciplines may include, zoning, plumbing, structural, mechanical, electrical, fire, and others, depending on the type of pool or spa project. This plan review process takes time, and patience. If a plan reviewer has concerns about something on the plans that are not clear, need clarification, or do not meet code or the reviewer’s interpretation of the code, the pool contractor is notified and must resolve these issues before a building permit will be issued.
When the building department permit is issued, a construction start date can be provided by the pool contractor to the Owner for work to commence on the jobsite.
Construction – Warning. Constructing a pool is a bit messy…
The pool will first be laid out on the property, marked by stakes, wires, twine, paint and other methods. In some cases, demolition of existing structures , removal of trees, or other site development will be necessary before the pool layout can be performed.
Next, if the pool is an inground pool, the pool area will be excavated. In some pools, before excavation, additional foundation support, such as pilings, may be required to be installed. In other cases, demucking may be needed. Demucking is the removal and disposal of loose soils where the pool is to be located, and are not sufficiently dense and/or of a material that will not support the weight of a pool structure and water. A geotechnical soil boring report will state the details if additional foundation support is needed.
The pool excavation requires the use of heavy equipment, typically a backhoe or other type of excavator.
If the excavated soils are to be removed from the property, then the excavator will dump the unneeded soil into a large dump truck and will be hauled away.
After the pool site is excavated, then a series of activities take place including rough plumbing, steel reinforcement placement, bonding and grounding, concrete placement, equipment set in place, finish piping and valves, and pool finishes. All during these processes, there will be inspections by the various trade discipline inspectors from the building department. The inspectors will sign off if the work in progress is acceptable, or they will note any deficiencies that need correction.
It is common that cities do not want the pool filled with water, or will not do a final inspection, unless all other work in the pool area, even if unrelated to the pool contractor’s contract, is completed. This requirement varies from city to city. These items may include decking, landscaping, fence barriers, etc.
After the pool is filled, water treated and balanced, and equipment in proper operating condition, the city will be called out for its final inspection. If this inspection is satisfactory, then a written record of this satisfactory final inspection will be provided to the FDOH when requesting the FDOH final inspection. If the FDOH inspection is satisfactory, then a pool operating permit is issued and the pool can be opened for use.
Pool Operations – The pool contractor should provide hands-on orientation for the Owner and any in-house staff that will be responsible for pool operations. The contractor may also provide any warranty documents, equipment operating manuals, and the FDOH daily log form. In-house staff that will be involved with the pool should have any necessary education and training, as required by code.