Mezzanine Magazine speaks to Landforms Principal Julien Roy on the design, planning and construction timeline of a swimming pool from concept to completion.

Autumn might be an odd time to think about swimming but it is the perfect time to plan for a summer in the water. Winner of the Master Builders Association Excellence Award for Pool Construction, Julien Roy, advises.

SITE ASSESSMENT – 2 to 4 weeks

The first step in a successful project is to think about how you and your family and friends will use the space.

Consider the existing pools you like and how these relate to the existing or proposed architecture. Meetings with designers should happen onsite and you should be looking to see who you feel most comfortable working with. Design ideas can be discussed, however, it is best to keep an open mind at this stage and allow the designer to respond to the site and individual needs. Engaging a company you feel comfortable with and trust results in a good working relationship and ultimately a pool you are happy with.

It is a good idea to check the designer’s references once you have decided their style and level of detail is suited to your project. In requesting a fee proposal for the design process you should ask for a breakdown of:

– concept design
– detailed design
– council submission
– proposed builders

Some contractors offer design and construction services, whereas some firms offer just design services. Often the design firms are aligned with construction companies who they like to refer work. It is good to have some level of collaboration through the entire process, the design will evolve and adapt to unknown site conditions in order to get the best result.

DESIGN – 4 to 6 weeks
4% of budget

Once you have decided on the designer it is time to provide a detailed brief, which ideally you have prepared prior to meeting but, if not, the designer can help you create a brief. You also need to provide the designer with a budget, so they understand the parameters of the project. It is important that the designer considers the entire site and how the pool will work within the landscaping and its connection to your home.

At this stage, Landform’s design team prepares image boards, which are added to by the client. We also provide a basic questionnaire to define requirements and what features are desired. The design team prepare a design concept, including pool placement, hard surface areas and evocative planting, which is ideally presented as 3D renderings, image boards and sections, to help convey the design intent to the client.

DOCUMENTATION – 4 to 6 weeks
4% of budget

After agreeing on the concept, your designer develops the plan to include details for council submission. Every submission varies, depending on the property and the concept. Some may be submitted as a complying development, but in some cases, a full DA submission may be required. Council requires plans and associated documentation and it is best to have the designer/ contractor do this work, making the submission on your behalf, as it can be a hard process to navigate.

If a full DA is needed then the construction certificate stage will also be required to produce further documentation, engineering and construction drawings, as well as revisions to drawings to reflect any conditions of council approval. Council requirements may mean you also need to engage additional consultants, such as:

– arborist
– stormwater
– heritage etc

It is good to select all materials and finishes at this stage. Select tiles or pool interior surface, walls materials and cladding or natural stone, decking timber type, lighting and irrigation and so on. There is a real range in the quality and cost of different materials, so it is good to ensure you have selected the type suitable for your project and spend the budget where it is most important to you and to complement the design.

PLANNING – 6 to 8 weeks
2% of budget

Your designer should be familiar with council regulations and which controls can be stretched to achieve the best result and maximise the potential of the site and still achieve a timely approval. Once approved, it is time to get full detailed quotations and inclusions/scope of works for the project. You should obtain a contract for the works and ensure a fixed timeline (i.e. before Christmas) for construction works. Make sure you are clear on what allowances and exclusions have been made.

You will be required to obtain a construction certificate from council once the DA submission is approved and you have selected and agreed on the contractor to complete the building works. Have the designer take care of this for you. It is easy if you know what you are doing but can otherwise be a confusing paper trail. Your selected contractor will need to provide you with a home owner’s warranty certificate for the job.

EARTHWORKS – 2 weeks
15% of budget

If ground conditions and access are good, a pool can be excavated in a day. However with tight access or challenging geotechnical conditions like rock or sandy soils, the dig can take much longer. It is important your designer has considered the placement/water level of the pool to minimise fill removal. You can use the height of the pool to minimise the visual impact of pool fencing and create transitions between levels of the yard. Ensure the contractor has included the excavation costs or reasonable rates for unknown quantities as part of the overall contract price.

The benefits of building the surrounding landscape at the same time as the pool are realised at this stage. Excess fill can be used for raised terraced gardens and the excavation for structural landscape components, such as retaining walls etc., can be performed at the same time.

40% of budget

The concrete shell of a swimming pool is generally quick to construct, though concrete does have a curing time, which means surrounding works cannot begin until it has fully set. This may be affected by adverse weather conditions. Coordination of the remaining works takes considerable time, as the processes need to be done in a sequential order.

Now is a good time to start surrounding landscape works. There is usually more construction involved in the surrounding detailed landscape works to create a pool that sits well with the landscape.

LANDSCAPING – 6 weeks after pool
35% of budget

It is beneficial to consider the landscape around the pool right from the start of the design process and the benefits of building the pool and landscaping at the same time continue throughout construction works. If the landscaping is considered from the start it will be constructed at the same time as the pool, providing benefits and synergies for the construction by completing all excavation at once, concreting works at the same time, tiling etc. This saves on cost and time.

The landscape around the pool will likely get used as much as or more than the pool itself. Consider an outdoor kitchen, entertaining and dining areas, fire pits or pizza ovens to extend the usage of outdoor space into the winter months.

COMPLETION – 2 weeks

Allow a few weeks to tidy up loose ends, rectify any issues and clean up. This also gives you time for finishing touches, such as pots, furniture and features or sculptures. Remember to allocate funds in your budget for this or include it in your brief to the designer.

The most crucial thing, before your first swim, is to ensure your contractor and or designer has compiled all the necessary documentation, reports and certificates to obtain final sign-off and an occupancy certificate from council.