When it comes to installing a swimming pool, one of the most important stages happens before construction even begins: excavation.

What many people sometimes don’t initially think about is that construction of an in-ground pool requires excavating the ground beforehand to make space for the pool, and that process has its own unique set of considerations.

If you’re currently interviewing pool builders, make sure you ask them these five questions not only to see if they can give you satisfactory answers but also to establish expectations and create a productive working relationship.

1. What Can I Do to Prepare My Yard for Excavation?

Start by removing or relocating outdoor furniture and grills, potted plants, play structures or trampolines, gardening tools, debris, and anything else moveable that could interfere with excavation and construction. You want your yard to be as clear as possible to accommodate workers and the heavy equipment that is required for the job.

If you have immoveable backyard features such as planters or an outdoor kitchen, a competent pool builder will take precautions to ensure these areas or objects are protected from damage. Also, in order to access your yard and remove dirt, it may be necessary to temporarily remove gates or fencing. They should also take precautions to avoid damaging underground utilities such as gas or water mains, irrigation systems, and septic tanks or sewer lines, but it’s a good idea to ask about these concerns.

2. How Long Will the Excavation Process Take?

Excavations can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Time is affected by the size of the hole that you are digging — the bigger the pool, the bigger the hole. With any outdoor building project, keep in mind that the weather and soil conditions can delay the process.

Depending on your yard’s current layout, demolition may also be necessary. For example, if cement or other masonry exists in the space you plan on installing your pool, it will have to be broken up and removed, which can be slightly more time-consuming than digging alone.

In a small percentage of excavations, particularly in rocky areas, excavation crews encounter large rocks and standard digging equipment is not enough to remove them. In these cases, the rocks will need to be hammered or blasted, and this can add extra time and expense to the process. Keep in mind, however, that while the vast majority of excavations do not require this additional work, it is something you should be prepared for.

3. What Do You Do With All of the Excess Dirt?

To create the hole in which your pool will sit, a pool builder uses a machine called an excavator. Some excavators are quite large, but compact excavators such as a Bobcat are especially useful for maneuvering through side yards and in the oftentimes tight confines of a backyard.

Once the excavator removes the dirt, sod, soil, rocks, or gravel from the space in which your pool will be built, some of that dirt could be replaced around the finished pool in a process called backfilling. Since not all dirt can be used for backfilling, excess dirt is removed from your yard by dump trucks and hauled away for disposal or uses at other locations.

Either way, you won’t have to worry about getting rid of the dirt. A reputable pool builder will take care of removal as a standard part of the excavation process.

4. How Will the Excavation Process Affect My Neighbors?

There’s no sugar-coating it: Pool excavation is a messy and noisy job. By moving tons of dirt with large machinery, a fair amount of dust and racket will be generated. Luckily, as discussed above, excavation does not take long, so the impact to your neighbors is not drawn out.

It’s a good idea to speak with your neighbors ahead of time and inform them when the excavation and construction of your pool will be happening.

5. Can I Save Money by Digging the Hole Myself?

With a lot of research and know-how, it might be possible to save some money by excavating yourself, but the cost of excavation relative to the other parts of the process is fairly minor. Also, keep in mind that a pool excavation is a big job and usually involves obtaining permits from local agencies.

We generally recommend to our customers leaving the excavation process up to the builder. An experienced pool builder will know the safest and most time- and cost-effective ways to complete an excavation.

Nobody wants to think about splashing around in a green pool — ew, algae! But that’s not the kind of green we’re talking about here. Instead, green means eco-friendly and energy efficient. And that’s music to most homeowners’ ears when it comes to ongoing costs of a maintaining a swimming pool. Be sure to ask your pool company about the following options if you’d like to save the planet and your wallet:

Solar Covers

Solar covers come with many benefits, including minimizing evaporation, keeping out debris, and reducing chemical consumption. But they also help heat your pool water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar pool covers can reduce pool heating costs by 50% to 70% and reduce the amount of water that needs to be added to a pool by 30% to 50%. Furthermore, they can reduce the pool’s chemical use by 35% to 60%.

Pool Placement

If you’re building a new pool, talk with your pool company about the best location in your backyard for it. Keep in mind the path of the sun changes by season. The more sun it receives, the warmer it will stay; the more shade it receives, the cooler it will be. Shade often comes from nearby trees, which will shed debris into your pool and require more frequent cleanings certain times of the year.

Pump Smart

If your pump has seen better days, now is the right time to ask your pool company to recommend an energy-efficient pump that is rated for the size of your pool (hint: you want the smallest size pump you can get away with for your pool). Some states also offer homeowners rebates and tax incentives for purchasing energy-efficient pool appliances. Combining a new, energy-efficient pump with variable speed operation  can save pool owners as much as 75% of their original pumping bill.

Heaters

If you’ve decided to install a heater to extend your pool season, there are three options to discuss with your pool company to determine which best meets your needs: solar, gas and heat pump. Solar typically lasts longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters but will cost more upfront. Gas is most efficient when heating a pool for short periods of time and can maintain your desired temperature regardless of the weather. Heat pumps use electricity to capture heat and move it around, but do not actually generate heat. They often cost more than gas, but typically last longer and have lower annual operating costs. Heat pumps and solar will not offer year round swimming but rather extend the swim season.

Timers

Automatic timers, which your pool company can install, can help ensure your pumps and heaters are running efficiently without requiring you to spend all day turning on and off equipment. And if your electric company offers savings for off-peak-hours usage, set the timer to run during that time period for additional savings.

Water Temperature

Comfortable pool water temperatures typically range from 78°F to 82°F. Keeping in mind that the energy consumption for each degree rise in temperature will cost 10% to 30% more in energy costs will help you decide where you want that thermometer to read. If you won’t be using the pool for several days or longer, be sure to turn the temperature down or the heater the heater off entirely — it’s a myth that it takes more energy to heat a pool back up than you save by lowering the temperature or turning off the heater.

It’s one thing to install a functional swimming pool to help get you through the long, hot summer. It’s another thing entirely to build a true backyard oasis — one where you can experience tranquility, refreshment and luxury to replenish your mind, body and soul. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the basics when planning the design of your new pool and inquire about the bells and whistles that can transform your space into a resort-style retreat.

Here are 8 fun water features that pool builders offer:

1) Scuppers

A scupper — an opening in the pool wall through which water drains — can be made from a variety of stone or metal materials, depending on the aesthetic you want, and incorporated in many different ways. Try this versatile option in stone for a classic look and feel or copper for a modern expression that incorporates the colors of the desert environment.

2) Vanishing Edges

Also referred to as a disappearing edge or an infinity edge, this feature is where the edge merges into the next body of water and creates a visual effect of “vanishing.” This common element found at many luxury resorts can create a dramatic atmosphere right in your own backyard. This feature is excellent for yards that have elevation changes.

3) Water Spout and Column

Similar to a faucet, water spouts offer an adjustable flow depending on the amount of water you want running into your pool. Whether you would like a quiet trickle to add ambiance to an intimate evening or a roaring gush of water for the kids to play in, the choice is yours. Ask your pool builder about adding accompanying columns to provide an elegant Roman feel.

4) Fountains

Another way to add visual and auditory interest to your pool area is with flowing water. Just listening to or watching water trickle from a fountain provides a calming effect reminiscent of your favorite spa. Fountains are fully customizable, from stone fish or copper dolphins that send a sparkling arc of water into the pool to less whimsical options, such as tiered designs.

5) Natural Rock Waterfall

Natural rock waterfalls are popular water features because they can fit into almost any landscape and pool size and are a seamless way to incorporate the natural rocks of the desert landscape into your pool environment. This feature can be placed as a focal point for your swimming pool or created more modestly to simply blend into the background, and its soothing sounds will make your hectic day seem far away. 

6) Waterfall Grotto

Looking to create a little romance and intrigue in your backyard? Consider building a grotto hidden behind a sheet of refreshing water. It’s the perfect choice for adding a shady reprieve from the sun, or a nook of privacy and solitude reminiscent of being on your own little island in the Caribbean.

7) Stone Spillway

Long chutes that provide a controlled release of water from a larger body of water, spillways are typically found on a levee or dam. However, placed in your pool area, a spillway makes for a stunning surprise. For instance, your spa could double as a water feature, with the stacked side of the spa forming a dazzling spillway. Be sure to ask your pool builder about creative ways to design spillways between your spa and swimming pool.

8) Sheer Descent

When water falls vertically or almost vertically down a straight wall, that feature is called a sheer descent. The resulting effect can be created to happen in a subtle fashion, or in an incredibly dramatic way. The walls can be made from a variety of stone or other materials, and can be designed straight or curved to fit geometric or custom pool shapes — the options are endless.

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As you enter the planning and design phase of creating your dream backyard, make sure to discuss your wish list with your pool builder or ask for their suggestions. Choosing a few of these special design elements will elevate your environment and create the true backyard paradise you desire.

Additional Resources:

5 Signs Of A Good Pool Builder

Backyard Designs: Fire Pit vs Fireplace

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