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re: in-ground pool design

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This topic has been discussed a lot on this list, and most of us agree with Dave Fischer that there is a bit of art and perhaps voodoo to pool design….


Every set of pool drawings I have seen in Florida (sandy soil, brg pressure @ 2000psf) is about 5” thick with one layer of #4s or #5s at 12” o.c. each way. If it is a kidney or curved shaped pool, then it more or less acts like a big tensile structure once it is filled with water, and the bars in my opinion are in a little bit of tension but mainly there for crack control. Rectangular pools have some similar behavior, but act more like basement walls with some cantilever retaining wall type action, as well as moment resistance at the corners with the walls doing some horizontal spanning. All in all there is a lot of redundancy and overdesign, if you want to call it that.


My main concern would be during construction that the backfilled soil, if it was compacted prior to the pool being filled with water, would be laterally overloading the wall.


But in my forensic work, almost all the pool problems I have seen are when the owners pump the pool down during our rainy season, or worse during a Tropical Storm, and the pool literally floats and pops out of the pool. I have seen pools come out of the ground more than two feet and take the pool deck with them. So I would suggest having some geotech info like soil types and water table and put CYA notes.


Interesting enough, a friend of a friend is a bit time pool contractor, doing pools that cost more than most people’s houses. He somehow has some generic sets of drawings and details on file at the County and does not have to pull a different structural permit for each job. Now I don’t know what sucker engineer he got to do that but it would not be me.



Andrew Kester, PE

Orlando, FL