Owner Builder #1 - KF from Gilbert, AZ
Owner/Builder #1 - KF from Gilbert, AZ
Pool Builder Cost : $44,000
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. :-)
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."