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  • Writer's pictureAlyce Lopez


Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Hopefully, you had a chance to read Part 1 of our pool saga. It has been a journey to have the pleasure of enjoying our completed backyard. But boy did this renovation have its share of twists and turns. Once we worked through the property line debacle and started digging we thought we were in the clear.

Unfortunately there was one more EXPENSIVE hurdle to get past. Believe it or not, we didn't even get past day one of the dig. By noon on dig day...they hit concrete.

Here's where it all starts to feel like a prank.

At 12PM on dig day...everything came to a halt. Guess what?! They found the original pool buried a few feet down in the exact location we wanted to build our pool. Yay us. NOT. Once again everything came to a complete stop. They packed up and left and we waited to assess the damage. We were aware that there had been a pool in the past and it had been filled in but we weren't sure where in the yard and how much of it had been removed at that time.

You can see some of the concrete around the sides of the pool. We were advised that the old pool needed to be excavated and the soil compacted. All the concrete, pool tile and rebar had to be sorted for the dump sites because it was considered contaminated. Thank you California. And then we would need to have a soil engineer come test the soil and make sure it was properly compacted to carry the weight and structure of the new pool. Of course, the original pool was in the EXACT location we wanted to build our pool. You can imagine our surprise when we discovered about 80% of the pool was still underground. We sat patiently waiting to see what the cost was going to be to have this entire thing dug up, sorted, compact and tested by a soil engineer.

Drum roll please....$19,778.00.

Can you even imagine adding an additional 20K in expenses? And it's not even bells and whistles. Trust me, we can all think of better ways to spend 20K. We immediately said no way and looked at our mess of a backyard and felt defeated. The entire sprinkler system was trashed. We had a huge hole and a bunch of soil already gone. We started to think about what the cost would be to fill the hole back up and reinstall sprinkles and that didn't look pretty either. We went back and forth and then basically said $%@* it! There's no going back now, let's do it! I think our pool builder at that point wanted to run and figured we were cursed. We started thinking what's next? At this point we wouldn't be surprised if we found dead bodies or dinosaur bones.

A month later we got back on the schedule and started digging can see below how much of the old pool was buried under there.

All of the concrete had to be jackhammered and hauled away. It took them about a week if I remember correctly. But before we knew it, the pool started to take shape.

You can't tell from this photo but we are smiling big smiles of relief because we did it, we made it through the hurdles! Once we got the okay from the soil engineer we were so happy! Things started moving...slowly...but moving.

Let's dig into some of the details of our pool...

We went with a gunite pool with mini pebble. Pebble increases the longevity of a gunite pool and it comes in a multitude of colors. So instead of resurfacing possibly every ten years, pebble lasts upwards of 20 years with proper maintenance. I knew I wanted a black bottom pool. The black pebble makes the pool water look darker, less blue, more turquoise. I also knew it would help warm the pool so it was a no-brainer for us.

We also did not want a HUGE pool. And we knew we wanted a jacuzzi. We had already laid out flags in the yard and knew exactly where we wanted the pool and the overall size. I wanted a very modern Mediterranean/Hamptons look. I wanted a very elegant, simple and timeless look. I knew I wanted 3 long steps leading into the pool. I also did not want any sort of raised waterfall feature. I wanted a subtle water feature that could be turned on and off. And I wanted the jacuzzi to be tucked without a prominent jacuzzi wall. Here is the original 3D concept provided by the pool company.


I think they captured the pool spot on and I knew I could work through the details to really make it what we wanted. We ended up with a 15x25 pool and an 8x8 jacuzzi including coping. You can see my quick mockup below. Hopefully this helps give you an idea of scale.


Honestly, I think the most difficult element to select was the pool tile. This took me FOREVER. Most pool company tile options are UGLY. And not all tile is rated for pools. You need to scroll down and sometimes call the manufacturer to make sure it can be immersed in water. I'll share a photo below (on the left) of my original tile inspo.

For the life of me, I couldn't find this tile anywhere. I also couldn't find the original source of this photo. What I loved is that the tile didn't distract from the overall design, but it did add an element of dimension and texture. I also loved how it was flush with the coping which I was advised against by our pool company. However, you'll see we ended up cheating a little and creeping the tile pretty close up to the coping (photo on the right). We ended up going with a zellige tile. I wanted the tile to seamlessly work its way into the pool design and not be a focal point. I really wanted something to feel natural and organic. I am so happy we went with this 2x6 stacked tile. And then I finished it off with a charcoal grout to mimic a shadow on the tiles. I cannot say it enough, it is soooo important to see all your finishes and textures together. Each material has a different undertone. I also viewed these outdoors to make sure they all worked well. You can see how all the elements compliment each other below.

Pool Sources:

Pebble: Stonescapes Black Mini Pebble

Coping: Top cast concrete poured in place by Davis, Color: Outback

Hardscape: Top cast concrete by Davis, Color: Outback

Grout: TEC, Color: Raven

I have to say I had zero reservations once I confirmed these finishes. I was so excited about the zellige tile and the dark mini pebble and I still have zero regrets!

It was so fun to watch the vision come to life...

We broke ground June 22nd and our pool was filled October 8th. So it did take a while to wrap up all construction. I'll share the process below.


Once everything was dug up and compacted they started forming the pool with rebar. You can see this is all done by hand.


Then came the gunite which was fascinating to watch. Gunite is essentially the concrete. See a quick video below. I had no idea this is how they did it. I can't imagine the strength it takes to control a hose pushing out concrete. And it was just the one guy spraying the entire pool. Amazing!

Once the gunite was complete we were so excited to get our landscaper out do to all the hardscape and landscape. In most instances your pool company will build the pool and pour your coping and then you hire a landscaper to handle the rest. They do have to work well together since the scheduling is important. I'll do a deep dive into the landscape portion of our project on our next post. Head to Part 3 of our blog series for the final reveal and details!

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