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DIY In-Ground Pool: Here's How I Did It

Updated on October 16, 2017
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Leonard does not recommend you take on this project unless you are fairly capable and handy.

Before the project started.
Before the project started.

A do-it-yourself in-ground pool is really possible... if you have the guts and skill you'll need.

Buying a Pool Kit

I was worried about the idea of spending $6000+ on the internet, so I did a lot of research into the various companies out there, and they generally seemed decent. There were some complaints about response time and things of that nature, but they were all basically the same.

What I found out was they mostly all are nothing more than distributors of pools, just a replacement for brick-and-mortars. There are few pool manufacturers in the U.S, but the brand I ended up going with was Hydra. Pool Warehouse sells them, and I went with them mostly because their website was the most user-friendly for me.

As a store (or distributor), I think they did a fine job. I have no complaints. This article is not a promotion for Pool Warehouse, it's just who I used, so I will not say anything more about them.

The hole has been dug!
The hole has been dug!

Don't Forget the Permits

I don't know about the building requirements for your area, but I had to pull a mechanical pool permit (which was excessively expensive) and a electrical permit (which was also expensive, but not nearly to the extent of the mechanical permit).

The process here in Michigan is to submit your plans, which should include drawings, setbacks, and detailed information about the pool's fencing and other safety requirements, which they review and and approve or ask for changes. The approval process is an extra fee, of course.

Electrical was way easier. I just went in and asked for an electrical permit for a pool, paid my money, and was sent on my way.

The Kit Has Arrived
The Kit Has Arrived

To Dig or to Have Dug: That Is the Question

I pondered this for a minute or two. I was going to dig my own hole, but common sense got the better of me. Considering I have never in my life operated a back hoe, I really didn't think the first time should be on a project where accuracy is very important.

That is the key here: the closer the rough dig is, the less work you will have to do manually. And you don't really want to over-dig the hole, because packing the dirt back in is not fun, and you don't really want the pool to sink.

Needless to say, I recommend that you pay someone to dig the hole. I am not sure if I got a deal, but it cost less than $1000. It probably would have cost nearly that much if I had rented the equipment to do it myself.

On top of that, I rented a Bobcat, and they are tricky. I think it would have taken me a week to dig the hole and it would have probably been all messed up.

The steel walls are up.
The steel walls are up.

Installing the Pool

Building the pool is fairly straightforward:

  1. You erect the walls first, whether they are steel or polymer.
  2. You then will want to make sure it is as level as you can get it.
  3. After that I recommend squaring the pool and staking the corners.
  4. We then put the braces on, staked them and the walls completely, then adjusted the walls again for plumb and level.
  5. After that, you can have your concrete bond beam poured. It needs to be somewhere between 6-10 inches around the outside of the pool, up to the overdig wall. That's a hard day.
  6. We next did the pool floor with a Portland cement/mason sand mix. We put the mix in dry, but you might want slightly moist sand to give the mix a little body and workability. After you get it all in and smooth, you can mist it well to speed up the curing process.
  7. After the floor was done, we then put on the coping, the skimmers, the light housing, and the input port. These all cannot be 100% complete until after the liner is in.

Cement floor is in.
Cement floor is in.

Electrical???

Seriously, if you are not comfortable with electrical work, hire this out. It isn't cheap to have someone do it, so you either should budget this as a priority or be prepared to learn a lot in a very short time.

I wired my pool myself, but had a electrician friend look it over before I let my kids swim in it. Electricity is not something that should be taken lightly. I have done a bit of electrical work in the past, and felt I had enough ability to do this project.

Stairs and coping are done.
Stairs and coping are done.

Let's Go Swimming!

Getting the padding and liner in basically signified to the kids that it was time to go swimming. The padding was actually more difficult than the liner. I am glad I added the padding. We used spray adhesive to stick it to the steel walls, and we used the same adhesive and duct tape to do the floors. You should not do the tapered parts of the floors because over time, it will bunch up and cause issues.

I still have landscaping and all the area around the pool to finish, but it can be used now.

It was a lot of work. I am only 41 years old, and this was about the biggest project I could handle at this age. My back hurts! But it was a very interesting experience, and I am happy that I was able to do it for my family.

Water is in the pool!
Water is in the pool!

© 2017 Leonard L Sampson

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