Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

Swimming Pool Addition Project

By: Danny Lipford

Completed swimming pool.

Adding a swimming pool to your backyard is a big project that requires a lot of planning and coordination. In this video we’re following the construction of a free form concrete pool from start to finish, including:

  • Types of swimming pool materials
  • Pool design and layout
  • Excavation of pool
  • Pouring concrete for pool
  • Troweling plaster coat on pool
  • Building a stone waterfall
  • Landscaping around a pool

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This is a very relaxing backyard but it will be even more relaxing after this week’s show.

Announcer: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford, the voice of home improvement, with projects, tips, and ideas to help you improve your home.

This backyard may look a little familiar to you because we’ve taped a number of segments over the years right here. Segments including how to install landscape lighting and a number of our Around the Yard segments. The reason for that, is this is my home. And after years of considerable pressure from my children, I’ve decided to install a swimming pool.

Now I’ll take you through the entire process of what I’m going through right now and having to decide the size pool, the shape of the pool, and what type and how much surface I’ll have around the actual pool itself. Also, we’ll look at a number of other pool options, included a vinyl liner type system, that’s fairly inexpensive. And also a unique premade fiberglass pool that you drop in place with a crane.

Now it may seem like a complicated process to install a pool, particularly in a closed in area like this, but we’ll take you through it from start to finish in this week’s show.

Hey, this used to be my irrigation system in my backyard before the rough excavation started on our swimming pool. Now, this can kind of be a tough time when you’re building a pool is when all of the landscaping and sidewalks have been removed and you’re left with just mud.

Well, we’re very ready to being ready for our pool contractor to start digging the new pool. Now, I’ve been on the other side of the coin in this kind of situation as a contractor, building an addition onto someone’s home and you just have to be a little patient and anticipate a bit of a mess before you can start enjoying the improvements you’re making to the home.

Now one thing I’m very pleased with is this area just appears so much larger than it did before. This yard represents 15 years of landscaping projects, so there’s plenty of trees, bushes, and other plants to remove. In addition a portion of the retaining wall at the back of the yard had to come out to create access for the heavy equipment.

To get anything to that point we had to create a small road from the lower yard through the wooded area behind the house. A lot of work just to dig a hole.

Like any home improvement project, some of the best time that you can spend is on planning and design. That way your project can turn out just the way you’ve envisioned it. Now when I started thinking about what I wanted my pool to look like, I realized there’s a lot of things to decide on.

First of all, a lot of it is dictated on how space you have available. Now with everything wide open, a lot more space than I realized. Now, I could with a rectangular pool, just right across this area, and that would be perfect if I wanted to swim laps, wouldn’t even have to be that deep.

I also have an option, maybe to go with another shape, a kidney shape pool that would kind of wrap around. Now some of the other considerations may involve your local building codes and restrictions, because that may dictate how deep your pool can be or how far away from the house that you can place the pool. So make sure you check that out before you start making too many decisions.

Other decisions would include how much decking or how much landscaping you may want around the perimeter of the pool. Have a lot of landscaping, don’t forget the irrigation to keep the plants nice and healthy. May even want a sound system so a few speakers sprinkled around might be a good idea.

Now, I realized with all of these decisions that had to made, I needed some help so a couple of months ago I spent a lot of time with a landscape architect, Jim Crowe.

Jim, I know you realize the size area that I have to work with for the new pool. What do you finding works the best with the different schemes you’ve started working on here?

Jim Crowe: Well, Danny, the free form pool is working the best, it just seems to give us a better space to work with. We’re contrasting the hard edges of the house a little bit better, and softening the lines with this free form pool.

Danny Lipford: But it still leaves plenty of surface around it, which I wanted that for a table and chairs and that kind of thing.

Jim Crowe: It does well. We have some smaller spaces, of course, and we have some larger spaces; but it all seems to work really nice to give you adequate space around your pool for functions.

Danny Lipford: Now we talked about the shade arbor, and I wasn’t really sure where I wanted it, but you positioned it over here. Why did you choose that?

Jim Crowe: Well, we choose is it as a focal point out of the bay window, and also we’re trying to do some secondary screening back here on this fence. We wanted to take a little of that fence out of there so we made our little atmosphere a little bit cozy.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that should work out real well, particularly to screen that ugly fence on the back. Now, I notice on this one you put in something that we had talked about, the water feature, that would allow water to kind of trickle into the pool. Will this work with the kidney design?

Jim Crowe: Yeah. We’ll just take this idea of the little pool feature and we’ll just take it and add it in to this corner, and maybe design a little bit differently. But it will be a nice water feature that will bring water into our main pool.

Danny Lipford: Now I know you’re going to help me out on the selection of all of these plants, and I guess that you really have to think about that it is going around the pool when you’re making a selection on the plant.

Jim Crowe: Well, we’re looking for things that are low maintenance things that won’t get trashed in the pool, and we’re looking for a variety of colors and textures that will help bring out that pool atmosphere.

Danny Lipford: Man, this is going to be great, I can’t wait until we get this completed. While Jim and I are working the final details, check out this week’s Simple Solution.

Announcer: It’s time for this week’s Simple Solution from home repair expert Joe Truini.

Danny Lipford: Pegboard is great for storing and displaying tools in a workshop. Joe has a way to enhance that.

Joe Truini: The one disadvantage to pegboard is not everything in a workshop can be stored on a hook. So what I’ve decided to do is make a simple shelf out of a one by four. What I did I drilled a couple of holes in the back edge of the piece to accept some straight hooks from the pegboard system itself. I just insert the hooks in the back of the board, we’re going to put it right onto the pegboard. You see, just line it up.

Earlier I had lined these holes up so I knew exactly where to drill them. Then you just slip the hooks in, it’s angled back so you need to press down on this shelf just to straighten out the hooks. Now you’ve got a convenient shelf for storing glue, and tape measurers, and things you can’t just hang on a hook.

Danny Lipford: Well it’s great to use that, too, for things that you’re going to use all the time.

Joe Truini: Right, because it keeps it readily available. That’s why I drilled holes in the front edge for our screwdrivers and nut drivers on the top surface, and this way when you’re ready to need a screwdriver you just pull it right out.

Danny Lipford: Well this is an inexpensive solution to this problem. And I guess that you could build that as long as you want on your workshop wall?

Joe Truini: Absolutely this one is about 30 inches and has two hooks, and anything over 36 inches or so, you’d probably want to add a third hook right in the middle.

Danny Lipford: Well, while you were gone a lot has changed in my backyard. My pool contractor completed the entire shell of the new pool.

Now at any time you’re doing any project around your home it’s going to require setting aside time to make all the decisions so that everything turns out perfectly. Well if you’re building a swimming pool, you’ll definitely want to allow a little bit of time to watch the process, it’s amazing.

Using the drawings that our architect, Jim, provided the pool contractor, Mike Whittington, could begin mapping out the shape of the pool. These flexible form boards served as guide posts for the beginning of excavation.

This was really the exciting part, when that big track hoe started scooping out the backyard, because I knew the pool was beginning to take shape. Operating this big machine in these close quarters was a fairly challenging job.

The more detail sculpting of the walls and pool bottom was done by hand. Mike’s crew used a plywood template to be sure that the wall to bottom transition was consistent throughout the pool.

When the depth and shape was right it was time to prepare for the concrete by laying out the grid of steel rebar and tying it all together. This will reinforce the surfaces and prevent any cracking.

The specially formulated concrete arrived by truck and was transferred into a pump which pushed it through a large hose, up the hill, and into the backyard. The nozzle at the end of the hose added compressed air to the mix, creating a spray of concrete called shotcrete. Each area was built up slowly to the proper thickness before the finishers took over to shape the concrete into the finished form that would be our pool.

The concrete that makes up the pool shell is completely dry, so I can be the first one in my family to actually get in the pool. But getting down in the pool you can see just how really big it is and how it’s laid out. Actually this is the deepest part of it right where the drain will be, and I’m around 6-foot tall, so the water will be just a little over my head at this point.

You can also see some of the features like the swim up step that we have, which will perfect to swim up and step out, or just sit here and relax a little bit. There’s one there and there’s also one over on this side. Later on we’ll be building a little shade arbor up in here, so this will be a nice place to relax.

Now, you may have noticed this little canal that goes off on this side of the pool. What this will be once everything is complete, it will be a mountain of rocks up here where water will be introduced at the top, it’ll cascade down the front of the water feature right out into the pool.

Now with the pump of the water feature turned off, this will be nice and still, with about six to eight inches of water here. When the pump is on, it will create kind of ripple effect over the entire pool.

Now the next step is to smooth these walls out a little bit using a plaster that has a color integrated in it, so it will all be a nice bluish gray on the walls as well as the bottom of the pool itself. But before that our tile setter will have to drop by and install a layer of tile around the top part of the pool, so bring on the tile setter.

The tiles are held in place with mastic, which is troweled onto the surface of the concrete. A board temporarily attached to the wall keeps the tile perfectly straight and prevents them from slipping until all the mastic dries.

When the tile is dry, the grout is applied to complete the finished look. Meanwhile the plumbing and pool filter go in, as do the footings for the retaining wall behind the pool and the water feature. Since most of our materials are delivered to the lower yard, we’re using a compact utility vehicle to haul them through the woods up to the site.

Next, we prepare to pour the pool deck itself. A flexible foam form wraps around the pool to contain the concrete, and to give it a smooth, rounded edge. As the concrete goes in the forms their tapped to remove all of the air bubbles that could mar the finish. When you’re pouring a pool deck, it’s important to avoid any low spots so that water doesn’t stand on the finished surface.

When the concrete is dry, we use a circular saw with a masonry blade to cut a pattern into the surface, giving this expanse of concrete a little bit of character. Now speaking of character, check out this plaster. The bright blue color is a little scary at first, but the plaster crew assures me it will dry to a darker shade

The spiked shoes these guys wear are also a little scary, but it keeps them from damaging their work as they make their way around the pool. It’s a slow process because it’s all hand trowel work, but eventually the pool is ready for water.

Now we can turn our attention back to the deck. After a thorough cleaning, we have an acid stain applied to the concrete which transforms the surface from plain gray to a warm textured look.

I can’t believe how complicated building a pool like this has been, but we’re getting close. When we come back we’ll show you the landscaping, the landscape lights, outdoor speakers, and show you how we’re progressing on a very unique water feature we are putting in.

We’ll also look at a couple more cost effective options of getting a swimming pool in your yard, but first our Best New Product of the week.

Announcer: Let’s join Danny at the home center to check out this week’s best new product, brought to you by The Home Depot.

Danny Lipford: Elaborate showerheads have really been the rage over the last few years, and the showerhead manufacturers have responded, and now there’s hundreds of them to choose from.

Now one of the most popular type has been the larger one that when mounted in the center of the shower above you can give you that rainfall effect that everybody seems to love. But in the past you’ve had to enlist the services of a plumber in order to plumb all of that in, but not anymore.

This one from Waterpik called the AquaScape spa shower has the adjustable arm. That all you have to do in order to convert your simple shower into a spa like shower is to remove your old showerhead, then use the pipe tape—that’s included with this showerhead—and wrap it around the threads. Then you attach your adjustable arm and the showerhead, and then you’re ready for that spa experience.

This also has five different settings: one for a pulsating rain effect ,another drenching rain, a water saver that gives just a little bit of water coming out of it, then the center spray, and another one that is a pulsating massage. Now everyone likes a lot of water pressure when you’re taking a shower, and this one uses Optiflow technology that maximizes that water pressure. Hey what a great project for this weekend.

We’ve drained the water level of the pool down a bit, so that the crew that’s building our waterfall can complete all of their work. We’ll take a look at it in just a little bit.

Now one thing we have completed, all of the landscaping, all the way around the pool and it’s made such a difference. Now one thing we’ve tried on this that I’ve never used before is a recycled mulch material that is made out of rubber tires.

Now supposedly this won’t float, which is very important with a bed so close to the pool, because if we get a heavy rain in here. If you have mulch that floats into the pool, never a good idea so we’ll see how that works out. Also it doesn’t decay, so I won’t have to worry about putting in any other mulch in it in the years to come.

Now this is a fairly complicated and expensive way of getting a swimming pool in your backyard. There are far simpler ways and less expensive options.

Vinyl pools are excavated in much the same way as concrete pools, but instead of spraying on concrete the sculpted earth is covered with a dry mix of sand and mortar which is wet in place and then smoothed out with a trowel.

The vertical walls of this style pool are constructed from another material like aluminum or treated wood depending on the system being used. And then covered with a pad to protect the vinyl liner.

The upper rim of the pool contains a channel where the vinyl liner is attached. These pools are typically half of the cost of a concrete pool, but the shapes are limited to those provided by the manufacturer.

For a slightly more expensive option, there’s the fiberglass pool. These pools are completely prefabricated before they arrive at a site. And the installation is usually fairly quick, because they are simply lifted off the truck and set in place. This pool is a great option, but the logistics of delivery may limit the locations of where it can be installed or have a big impact on the total cost.

Well on this pool, we’re almost complete. We need our painter to drop by and put another coat of paint on our shade arbor, our electrician needs to drop by and install of our landscape lights.

But the guy that has the biggest job is Jack Willard, who’s putting together the puzzle that will end up being our waterfall. Now, Jack, when you approach something like this, just how do you even get started?

Jack Willard: Well, you’ve really got to know what the customer is looking for. What size limitations they’ve got, and quite frankly how much money they want to spend on it.

Danny Lipford: Sure. Yeah, I know that’s a big part of it. And, of course, I looked through all kinds of magazines and found a picture that was close to what I wanted. I guess that’s probably a good idea for homeowners to at least show you something.

Jack Willard: Gives us something to start with.

Danny Lipford: OK. Now you’ve spent yesterday putting a lot of the cinder blocks in here. What purpose does that really serve?

Jack Willard: This gives us a foundation without using up all of the stones. We could have used stones, but we would have used everything and it would have all been hidden. This case we’re using ugly old blocks that will be covered up anyways.

Danny Lipford: OK, and a little less expensive than using the stones. It can get fairly expensive because they are kind of hard to come by and they’re very heavy and anytime you have a heavy building material it really starts getting expensive.

Jack Willard: That’s right.

Danny Lipford: Now, you’ve got a variety of different shapes and sizes here. I guess that’s really necessary to get that natural look to the waterfall.

Jack Willard: That’s right, in nature everything’s not exactly the same, and no two waterfalls are exactly the same. The stones aren’t numbered so it’s going to look different than anything you’ve ever seen.

Danny Lipford: OK. Now later on I guess you start at the bottom and keep building it up, you’ve got the water line here. How will you handle that once the waterfall is complete?

Jack Willard: As far as on the top?

Danny Lipford: Right.

Jack Willard: We’re going to spill over a couple of different directions and then basically we’ll start channeling into different waterfalls. You’ll wind up with multiple actual falls—some taller, some smaller—and that gives you different sounds as the water drops into different pools of water.

Danny Lipford: I see, OK. I guess this is just an artistic endeavor, just work with it a little bit and keep going.

Jack Willard: Very much so.

Danny Lipford: Well you’ve got a lot of work to do here.

While Jack and his crew wrap up the water feature let’s take a look at this week’s Around the Yard tip.

Announcer: Let’s head outside for Around the Yard with lawn and garden expert Tricia Craven Worley brought to you by TimberTech composite decking.

Danny Lipford: You know you are so lucky to live in Southern California to where you can have oranges, grapefruit, limes growing right in your yard. That is great.

Tricia Craven Worley: Oh, well, I enjoy it, and I really enjoy my fruit everyday. This morning I had a grapefruit and aside from filling my tummy and making me feel all healthy I have a really helpful tip how to use it.

Danny Lipford: This looks pretty cool.

Tricia Craven Worley: Well, this is a fruit pot. Literally, a fruit pot. And what I did after eating it is I scooped out the rind and everything, and this becomes a really fabulous biodegradable pot that you can put right in the soil.

Danny Lipford: Well do you, in between the time that you plant it and the time that you put it in the soil, do you maybe put it in the window sill, something like that?

Tricia Craven Worley: Well, actually you could do that, but I prefer to put it in a tray, because I put some little slits in the bottom to help with the drainage. And then also when it finally goes into the soil, it will help it to biodegrade a little bit faster. So because of that, I do keep it in a tray, so when I water it, it will go.

And also as this pot begins to break down, it might tend to get a little smelly, and it might tend to lose a little bit and whatever but that’s all part of the process. So when I take it outside it’s really ready to go.

Danny Lipford: Well since you have so much fruit maybe I can sneak a little bit of this in my suitcase, huh?

Tricia Craven Worley: Danny!

Danny Lipford: Like a lot of home improvement projects, the swimming pool took a little bit longer than I wanted it to, but everything is complete and we’re already having a lot of fun. My biggest concern at the outset of this project was if I had enough space here for a pool, but I had more than I realized.

The pool is just the right size and shape. The sound of my little waterfall is so relaxing, and it’s not bad to look at either. The arbor we added creates a nice shady, focal point. And we accented the new landscaping with outdoor lighting, and a few speakers that blend right into the scenery.

After a pool’s completed, I found out that it didn’t take long for the neighbors to find out about it. But that’s exactly what we wanted, a place that our children would feel very comfortable inviting some of their friends over, and a place that my wife and I can entertain as well. And the good thing about it is I walk right out my back door and I feel like I’m on vacation.

Hey, thanks for following along with one of my home improvement projects, and I hope we’ve been able to share a few ideas that you can use if you’re thinking of adding a swimming pool to your backyard.

I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you next week.

Tune in next week for an insiders look for everything new for your kitchen and bath.

Announcer: If you’d like to purchase a video tape or DVD copy of this week’s show, visit our website at dannylipford.com, or call us at 1-800-946-4420.



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