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Still afraid to get started? Read on ...
Posted on Thursday, August 11 2005 @ 02:54:53 EDT
Topic: Process
ProcessI've been getting a lot of email recently from folks who are intrigued with the idea of going the owner/builder route, but still don't have quite enough "momentum" yet to take the plunge. If you're in that category, you'll want to read on ...

I know that many of us feel that we are not good at coordinating large projects, especially the size of a swimming pool construction project. While I really believe that a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in overcoming the fears, many still would not feel comfortable without a little bit of professional help. That's Ok. Everyone has a different threshold for risk.

Lately, the #1 obstacle that people write to me about is the dilemma of how to get started on the pool design. They have no idea where to begin. They don't know what or how to research their pool design, how to learn about the different options and materials available to them, etc. For those of you who feel are in this situation and feel like you are stuck under a rock, there's some good news for you.

I sat down and had lunch today with David, who is a Pool Design consultant and has been in the Arizona pool industry for about 10 years now. He got his start back in 1984 working at a mid-tier pool company owned by his cousin. He became professionally certified as an AutoCAD engineer and brought CAD technology to the company in 1994. He left to go work for California Pools in 1995 where he did drafting/design work for them. He later returned to the company where he began his career. He learned all aspects of the pool industry including cost estimation, city codes/regulations, etc. Gradually, as his experience grew, he started to venture out and do freelance consulting for a handful of different pool companies.

In March of this year, he decided to go out on his own and he started his own Design/Drafting services company. He currently does the bulk of the pool design/drafting work for 4-5 pool companies and does owner/builder work on the side. During the busy season, his load is about 4-5 designs a day. David told me that he loves working with Owner/Builders - "it gives me a chance to go out and meet my clients to find out exactly how they want their pool. I can then use my creative design skills to visualize what they want." During his lengthy career, he estimates that he has designed/drawn roughly 1200-1500 pools for various pool builders and owner/builders throughout the valley. Unfortunately, for those of you outside the state of Arizona, David does not currently supply designs for out-of-state clients.

For those of you in Arizona who think you might benefit from David's services, I've included a summary of what he does as a part of his design consulting service.

The process typically goes like this:

  • He meets the client at their home and goes over their wish list and listens to any special requests that they have. During the on-site visit, he then takes measurements of the client's lot. This visit typically takes 2-3 hours and at the end of the night, he'll have a rough sketch of the pool to start fleshing out the design.

  • He then takes all the raw measurements and ideas back to the office and puts it into AutoCAD and prints out a complete architectural design drawing that is suitable for all the subcontracting work. This includes use for the bidding process and as a construction guide. This drawing includes:

    • Pertinent project information - location/address, subdivision, major cross-roads, and owner information.

    • A precise design layout of the pool on the site plot with accurate dimensions and measurements to significant boundaries (i.e. house and property lines).

    • A complete layout diagram showing all radius distances to circular pool edges and triangulation points.

    • Full pool specifications including the perimeter, surface area, internal area, and gallonage. All pertinent pool symbols are also drawn in, including skimmer locations, pool/spa lights, returns, bleeds, water levelers, main drains, split suctions, aerators, and all sleeves (v-ball, b-ball, umbrella).

    • Full pool features including steps, benches, accent boulders, rolled beams, raised beams, waterfall pads, water features, tables, excavation access, plumbing runs, electrical runs, extra masonry work, hardscapes, decking area, decking type, drainage runs, equipment location, interior finish, color, tile, type and other miscellaneous items.

    • Full specification of pool equipment (e.g. pool pumps, cleaning system, filtration system, pipe sizes, valves, direction flow, timers) and plumbing schematic.

    • A pool cross-section / depth diagram showing the sloping of the pool bottom along the length of the pool.

  • In addition, he will also draw up an accurate plot plan that will be needed for the permit application at your city's department of developmental services. This drawing is used by the city to determine if there are any PUE (Public Utility Easement) areas on your site that might conflict with the area you are planning to locate your pool. For liability reasons, some cities require that these areas be identified up front during the permit application.

  • Optionally, he will also provide a set of standard structural engineering plans that will be used by your steel sub when they set the rebar in place. These standard engineering plans do not include any special engineering that might arise if you have any unusually high loads that will act on the pool or unusual site conditions that may force more steel to be specified into your pool.

Here is an itemized breakdown of David's services and his fees:
  • $450 - Pool-only Drawing - this includes the pool design with the plot plan
  • $550 - Pool/Spa Drawing - this includes the pool/spa design with the plot plan
  • $550 - Pool-only Drawing w/ Permit Package - the permit package includes a standard set of wet-seal engineering plans needed to apply for your permit from the city.
  • $650 - Pool/Spa Drawing w/ Permit Package - the permit package includes a standard set of wet-seal engineering plans needed to apply for your permit from the city.
These are well worth the money for someone who is still wanting to save money by going the owner/builder route but has no idea where to start. Keep in mind that the $100 for the permit package gives only the raw paperwork you need to apply for your city permit. You still need to submit it yourself and you need to pay for the application fee and the plan review fee. For more information about the city submittal process and the details of what you need to be prepared for before you go in, head over to the City Information area of the website for more info.

For many of you, the service that David provides might be the missing ingredient to help you get started on your project. If that's the case, by all means, give David a call. His number is listed in the Other Subcontractor's list on this site.

For the rest of you, somehow you might feel that you need slightly more help than this. Fear not, there is yet another alternative. I know of another design consultant who provides almost the same set of services as David. In fact, they used to work together at California Pools for a time where she got started doing Permits. Later she helped out with cost estimation and eventually picked up a lot of the CAD skills on the job and is now doing pool designs full time. Her name is Tish and she does the same type of drafting/design work as David with the following additional items:

  • She will provide a full-color rendering of your pool design against your plot plan using the colors and materials that you've selected for your pool (e.g. interior color, decking material and color, etc.)

  • She will as a part of the package run down to your city's department of developmental services to pick up your permit for you. Not only does she supply the necessary paperwork, she'll also take care of the legwork as well. Note: remember that there are application fees associated with applying for the permit. You will have to take care of this yourself.

  • She will provide a full list of subs for you to start bidding with. Instead of having to research your own subs, she'll provide a list of subs that she feels are battle-tested and have proved their mettle out on the field. She will have whittled down the list to a core set of subs that she is in constant contact with and that she trusts.

So what does all this extra information and service cost? The standard charge for the above package starts at $700 for a pool design only. A Pool/Spa combination goes to $750. To add additional features like negative edges, gazebo's, the price will go up to anywhere from $800-$1000.

You can find David or Tish's contact information in the Other Subcontractors List area of this website.

One thing you might have noticed like I did was how similar their design drawings are. I guess this is not unexpected as they worked side by side for many years and learned the same system of design and drafting using the same software CAD tools.

So there you have it - a couple of additional options for those of you who feel like you need a jump-start. Of course, the more help that you need, the more you can expect to pay. Regardless, I still feel that by going the owner/builder route, your cost savings is going to be so substantial that even if you end up needing extra help, you will still come out way ahead of the game in the end. Don't be afraid to use these design consultants if you feel you are spinning in circles.

The nice thing about going the owner/builder route is that there are so many ways to go about it and you can get as little or as much help as you need and pay for only those things that you don't feel comfortable doing yourself. And of course, you'll remember that Mike (my layout guy) is still available to do on-site inspections for each phase of your pool construction. I spoke to him last week and he said that he has upped his price to $50 per visit (which is still a great deal!). For $500, he will do a complete set of 10 visits for whatever 10 subs you want him to inspect.

Building your own pool has never been easier so relax a little and take some time to consider all of your options. And as always, feel free to contact me with any questions that you have. I may not always have the answer, but I'm sure I can put you in touch with the people who do.

Pool on!

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