Sunday, March 12, 2017

My Pool Remodel: To DIY or Not to DIY

As an avid DIYer, I like to take on any project around the house. If it's something that I am not familiar with, I will read up on the process, talk to pros, and estimate the cost savings of doing it myself versus hiring somebody to do it. So as our pool surface began to slowly crumble over the past two years, I looked into what I could do to make the repairs myself.

How did I know the pool needed to be repaired?

The plaster in pools is extremely porous. Over time, it becomes more and more porous, and the chemicals have a difficult time killing algae that attaches to the plaster. We had some black algae that I could not get rid of, and as I asked several experts, they stated that it was time to resurface. Additionally, there were areas where the plaster was falling off, especially around the stairs. And finally, our waterfall had developed some large cracks and holes, rendering it completely unusable, and in the final days, somewhat dangerous. It was time to do something.

To DIY, or Not to DIY? That's the question

Old rocks, old tile, old surface
I started looking at ways to DIY the surface of my pool. The process would have been to drain the pool, clean the surface, and use a multiple step epoxy to coat the pool. At first glance it seemed quite doable. In fact, I started staging myself for the project, going so far as to purchase a pressure washer for the surface prep (like I needed an excuse). But then as I looked at the cost of a surface coat, and as I read reviews of people who had used them, I started to realize that this process was quite finicky and rather expensive. It would have cost more than $2000 to DIY the pool surface, and I read enough reviews from people who ended up having to surface again after only a couple of years because of an epoxy coat that did not adhere. I realized that this was probably a Not DIY project.

Not to DIY. What next?

Chipped out pools are fun to run in!
Whenever I look to hire a professional, I turn to the most trusted source that I have found in the state for home improvement - Rosie on the House. Rosie is a local contractor, but he has a contractor network with vetted professionals that cover every area of the home. Going through the network, I found a veteran-owned local company that I decided to call.

Above and Beyond

I figured it wouldn't hurt to get a free quote, so I called Above and Beyond Pool Remodeling. I was fully expecting an astronomical cost for a pool resurface, based on the size of our pool, but I was pleasantly surprised at what it would cost to resurface our pool. In fact, we ended up upgrading to a mini pebble surface compared with our plaster surface, which bumped our surface warranty from 5 years to 15 years (interesting tidbit - plaster pools don't last as long nowadays as they used to because they no longer have asbestos in the plaster. I can only imagine what I absorbed through my feet all those years playing in the pool as a kid). A second company that I had previously contacted was working on our waterfall, but Above and Beyond (AB) was the company that we felt most comfortable with for our remodel.
The slide added to the waterfall

The Process

I expected the pool remodel to be a several month long process. I was extremely surprised at how quickly our pool went from run down and broken to pristine and new. The short of it is that the pool was worked on for a total of 7 days. This doesn't take into account the rain delays (yes, we do occasionally get rain in Arizona), or the time that work wasn't happening because we were out of town.

Preparing to spray in the surface
Days 1 and 2 - Drain and chipout. Little E loved this day. He thought it was awesome watching the plaster and tile being broken out. In fact, he asked the AB crew for a piece of plaster, which they gladly shared with him. He was so happy with how sparkly it was. And then I threw it away when he wasn't looking (because, asbestos).

Days 3, 4, and 5 - Waterfall repair, addition, and painting. Our waterfall was in bad shape. It was hollow and falling apart. As we looked to repair it, we saw some pictures of waterfalls that had built-in slides. As we figured out how we could add this, we were able to cut costs by utilizing the waterfall itself as the steps to the slide. The forms were built, the concrete poured, the texture and outlines added, and the stain applied. This was also the day that the kids saw that they were getting a slide. Big excitement in the house!
Surface cured - filling it up!

Day 6 - Tile. Our old faded tile was replaced. This went in rather quickly, and I couldn't stop looking at the pool, anticipating many wonderful family gatherings (and hoping that Cousin Eddie realized he couldn't swim and didn't come).

Day 7 - Mini Pebble. This day blew me away. I was so intrigued by the process that I worked from home this morning. Watching the guys spray in the surface, smooth it out, and spray on the pebbles was absolutely enthralling. It was truly like watching artists at work. Within a couple of hours, the entire pool was coated and left to dry. Yet again, when I came home I continually went to the door to look at the pool, amazed at how quickly everything had transformed.
Look at that beautiful new tile and surface!

Day 8 - Acid wash and filling. So I initially didn't count this as one of the days, but it was an important one to make sure that everything was clean before we started filling the pool. The hose was turned on, and by the next day the kids were already in the pool (it happened to be 55 degrees that day, but the kids didn't care. They had a new pool that needed to be christened, and they were up for the challenge).

While the water has still been quite cold, I did make it in the pool once, just out of sheer stubbornness of wanting to enjoy the new pool. The kids, on the other hand, have been in daily. I can't wait to join them when the weather warms up a bit. And I can't recommend Above and Beyond enough. I am always amazed when I have an experience with a contractor that ends up being so positive that I want to refer everybody I know to them. Wonderful company, wonderful owner, wonderful process.
Looks inviting!

In the end, this was a costly repair, but because of the avenue we took, we will have a pool that will not have to be resurfaced again for close to 20 years or more. Our backyard is back to its enjoyable self, and we don't have to worry about inviting the family over to swim in algae water with possible asbestos chunks at the bottom. Not to DIY was a great choice, and Above and Beyond is a highly recommended company for those in the Phoenix area. 

But now I'm ready for some kind of DIY... This itch needs to be scratched.

And it is inviting...
...but cold.


  1. How much did you end up spending? was there any pool lighting involved?

    1. The mini pebble and new tile was just under $7000, which includes the 15 year warranty. It would have been slightly less for plaster with a 5 year warranty. We opted for the mini pebble for its longevity and durability.