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Owner Builder #1 - KF from Gilbert, AZ

Owner/Builder #1 - KF from Gilbert, AZ


Pool Builder Cost     : $44,000
(Presidential Pools)           
Owner/Builder Cost  : $30,154

Total Savings: 31% : $13,846

Planning Duration: 1 month
(design, bids, permits, layout)
Construction Duration: 1-1/2 months
(excavation -> fill)

KF was one of the first people who got excited about going the owner/builder route after initially thinking about going with a professional pool builder.  Someone showed him this website, and after reading through my story, he told an acquaintance (regarding me), "If this guy can do it, so can I." (Hehe.  I don't know quite what he was referring to when he made that comment, but I'm going to force myself to take that as a compliment. :-)

CONTINUED BELOW

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He had visited Presidential Pools one weekend, and after telling them the features he wanted in a pool, was quoted $44,000.  He said, "I told them to fly a kite."  After getting some initial ballpark estimates from subs, he figured that he was going to save around $15K (wasn't too far off) and was going to get a much better product.  That motivated him.  He decided to take the plunge and started to design his own pool stating, "thanks to the website from Ben Choi."  Here's a picture of his pool design (he did it with TurboCAD):

His pool is similar to mine in that its a Lagoon-style pebble interior play pool (3.5 x 5 x 4 depths) with a natural rock waterfall and a oversized raised-spa.  Some additional fun things that he added was an in-pool table w/ bench seating around, and some  coolers built into some of the accent rock structures around the spa/deck area.  The overall dimensions, surface area, and perimeter are slightly larger the pool I built, but it has many of the same features.  Its a 33' x 20' 100 ft perimeter, 500 sq ft surface area pool with 16,000 gal capacity.  The spa is a 10' x 8' spa with 1100 gals, 6 therapy jets heated with a 400K BTU heater.

Unlike me, KF powered through his pool construction project, wasting little time.  He was done in about 2-1/2 months.  This includes the month long planning stage of design, collecting bids, deciding on subs, obtaining the permits, getting bluestake in, and doing the layout.  The actual construction from dig to swim was another 1-1/2 months.  He got off to a relatively late start (Feb) and was motivated to finish before the start of that swim season (summer).  He started his endeavors around the end of February and was filling his pool by mid-May.  This is the more typical schedule scenario that you can expect as an owner/builder, and maybe even a little aggressive.  I took my time as I started my pool project in the Fall, since I couldn't use the pool until the following summer.  I took off during the winter and let the pool sit until the spring.  It was a 7 month long project for me, but I could have easily done it in 3-4 months.

Below, you'll see a picture of his yard prior to starting his project.  One thing to note about his situation is that he had an additional component to his construction that I didn't have: the necessity of clearing the existing landscaping prior to excavation.  Fortunately, the excavation company also handles any type of pre-grade work that is necessary when you have a situation like KF's.   

       

For an average sized lot, the typical cost for pre-grade work varies from $300-$500 depending also on how much hard-scape needs to be torn up.  You can see his yard below after the pre-grade was done but prior to excavation.  The orange spray-paint on the ground is the work of the Layout sub after marking the outline of the shape of the pool on the cleared ground.  Here are a few more shots of his pool during various phases of his project.

       

One thing about KF's situation that made things more interesting was that he wasn't home most of the time when the subs were at his house working.  This situation is probably of interest to many of you, as you may not have the flexibility of working from home or even being home on days when the subs show up.  This made things definitely more interesting for him as he only had the mornings to go over things with them, then had to trust that he had communicated with them well enough to get what he wanted.  He mentioned to me that there were some mistakes that his subs made, and that he had to call them back to fix, but generally, they did what he wanted.  

       

Having to correct mistakes and taking the time to re-schedule them to come back in is going to be par for the course if you don't have the flexibility to baby-sit the subs as they are working on your pool.  Its best that you are home when they are working so that you can periodically check on their work.  If you can't do that, just remember that the better you communicate with them (which includes having a solid drawing that leaves no room for interpretation), the less potential there is for screw-ups.  Still, no matter how well you nail the pool design drawing, no matter how well you can articulate your intentions to them, there will be times when mistakes are made.  You just have to accept that upfront and be ready to roll with the punches.  If you don't go in with that mentality, you will experience major frustration and headaches.

       

Here's another shot of KF's finished pool.

One of the things that I've mentioned frequently on the website is that if you are serious about going the owner/builder route, you need to come to the table with the right mindset.  Understand that subs are busy people too and being in a state where construction is still going bananas,  probably much more busy than you or me.  Understand that subs will many times not show up when they say they will.  EXPECT THIS.  They will also not do what they promised to do.  Again, expect this - especially if you are starting your pool project during the start of the pool building season like KF did.  At times, it got a little overwhelming for him.  Here are some of the comments that he made:

  • "If anyone is going to build a pool, I recommend doing it yourself (in other words, be your own builder).  It is a bit cumbersome trying to coordinate all your subcontractors, but I probably am going to save $18,000 or so and am going to get a better finished product in the long run."

  • "I figured I saved about $18K overall. I am pleased with the outcome, but the subs drove me crazy. You really have to stay on top of them. They tell you what you want to hear & it is seldom what is really going to happen."

  • "One thing when designing YOUR pool, design it the way YOU want it.  I put in a waterfall, table and bench seat in the pool and a cooler rock by the spa.  These little things are fun to add and really don't cost that much more (contrary to what the pool companies say!)

  • "I probably saved $4K alone with the pool equip on-line - look for the best deals, make sure if they are going to charge tax or shipping charges before you make your selection. I bought some stuff from a website from Canada & the shipping costs were more, but their costs beat anything in the US."

  • "If you have the time, I recommend being your own builder.  But you have to stay on top of those subs."

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