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YOU’VE PICKED THE SPOT where the pool goes, now it’s time to dig the hole for it. This seems pretty obvious even to the uninitiated, but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.

Most every pool has a shallow end and a deep end, the deep end usually being around six and a half or seven feet deep. Below this is a thin layer of plaster, then the reinforced gunite, then some pool plumbing, and possibly some sand or fill. You can see then, that the depth of the hole required for the pool can be as much as eight or nine feet deep by the time the dust settles. How exactly is this dug, anyways?

The answer is, it depends. There are many factors that go into pool excavations. Chief of them is what size equipment can be brought into the yard. Modern homes are built on increasingly smaller lots because land is so precious. While the backyard may have plenty of room to fit the actual pool, the side yards may not be wide enough to fit a machine big enough to dig the hole within. The bigger the machine you can get, the faster and easier it is to undertake the pool excavation.

Assuming a decent size side yard, the general procedure is thus: the prospective spot for the pool is cordoned off and marked with stakes and flags so everyone knows where to dig. A backhoe will begin the excavation, removing the bulk of the material from the spot where the pool will go. Obviously, as the backhoe digs, the waste material will be carted off to a waiting dumpster – and the method for removing this waste dirt depends on the width of the side yard once again. In the best case, a dump truck or dumpster can be backed in and filled directly from the backhoe, in the worst, a chain gang of wheelbarrow toting workers or a bobcat is required to dispose of the material.

As the pool excavation becomes deeper, the walls of the pool may be shored up to prevent a cave in. Shoring the walls depends mostly on the soil analysis done before hand to get a feel for the conditions beneath. Some pool excavations are performed in clay and hard pack soils which need little if any shoring, others, in sandy or high water table conditions, which need their entire perimeters shored.

Once the main hole is dug, your pool contractor will most likely manually excavate the corners to make sure the hole is square and appropriately shaped to the contour of the pool. At this stage, the pool excavation is most vulnerable, and you want to quickly move onto the actual construction of the pool in order to ensure that the hole doesn’t deform or collapse. The hole itself is larger than the finished pool to accommodate the rebar, gunite, and plaster as well as the pool plumbing, and it is at this stage where the base of the pool will be leveled, and gravel or sand fill placed on the bottom to make an even, structural base for the pool. Compaction of the earth on the bottom and a reliable fill is key, since even the smallest of pools can exert tons of pressure on the ground beneath.

Once the pool excavation is complete and the bottom is leveled, the plumbing may be laid and the pool constructed. Pool excavation is a critical job but one your pool contractor does all the time. The ease of the dig will largely depend on access to the yard for machinery, equipment, and personnel, and to some degree the type of soil being excavated – if this process gives you pause, then fast forward to the part where you’re lying on a recliner in front of your crystal clear pool with a drink in your hand!

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