Building a pool in Destin Florida

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Building a Pool in Destin Florida


Let me share my pool experience with you.  Hopefully after reviewing some of my thoughts and experiences, you will be one step closer to taking on the huge project.

Before we jump in the pool building project, let me start with just how important a pool is in this area. If you are going to be renting your home as an investment, you are going to find not having a pool will be much harder to rent. My wife and I started self-managing our Destin Vacation Rental back in 2009.  We spend a lot of time during off season at them and have spoken with many of our neighbors about their experience.  Everybody who didn’t have a pool stated it was very challenging, and those that went from no pool to having a pool, said it was like night and day how people would book their place. I can also tell you first-hand that having a private pool is much better than a community pool, and a heated pool better than relying on the weather.  The pool project is in the heart of the Crystal Beach area, just across the street from our private deeded beach entrance. Every March and October we would get the short inquiries, “Is the pool heated?” We would respond, “No, it will depend on the weather which is often nice that time of the year”.  We would always lose those bookings We also have a large estate in Destiny East with a Grand Community pool. For that house we get about 6 inquiries a year asking if the pool is private.  This shows that people are much more comfortable with a non-shared private pool.

Now it seems strange to us that people come for the white sand beaches with the clear emerald water, why would they need a pool?  You likely wonder this too.  Consider this, nothing beats a day at the beach.  When you come back from a hot day in the sun, playing in the sand, cooling off in the clean pool is sooo nice.  It adds that cherry on the top to the experience.  When it comes to the little ones who absolutely love playing in the water, we would notice that roughly half the rented days we would see youngsters in the pool most of the day.  They just love playing in the water and perhaps it is the parents who realize it’s easier and cleaner than going to the beach every day with them.  Renters want a pool, ideally a private pool, and heated guarantees the viability of temps during March and October school breaks.

Finding a pool builder for your project

A pool is a big project with a serious cost associated as well as a big chunk of time that your Destin Beach House Rental will not be available to make you money. I reached out to as many pool builders as I could find in the area to get an idea of what the costs were going to be, how long it would take and try to learn something about the process. I think I reached out to 6 vendors that first year, but I only heard back from three. I found them from search Google, Houzz, and tried to validate with my go to app for trusted opinions, NextDoor.  I started a spreadsheet to document the things each stated and needed and important, along with the costs. It was challenging to even understand all that was listed, but hearing it from multiple vendors, why this is better and so forth, you start to build a picture. You start bouncing some things off your friends that work in engineering and own various companies to piece together the puzzle.  In my search for pool builders, I did run across some horror stories of halfway done work, then the vendor disappears.  Of the three that first year, only Watermark Pool and Spa made me feel comfortable with some good feedback. I knew they did two pools at the front of my block for the huge new houses recently built and I saw a few more saying they were good.  That said, they were out of my price range, and I decided to wait.

Fast forward two years and I’m looking again.  Real estate prices have gone up a lot making the expense feel smaller in the grand scheme of what these Destin Vacation Rentals are now worth.  Compiled a new list and went at it again in early 2023 with the idea of doing it in the fourth quarter as 3 months was the period I was hearing from my previous outreach.

Cox, Tamtek, Watermark, Premier, Payne, Blue Pool, and a couple others highly recommended on NextDoor, but again only a handful took the time to call and meet with me.  After weighing the options, I went with Watermark as I continue to see some more recommendations and no complaints.  I felt it would be worth it to make sure it was done right, so I gave them a deposit to get on the calendar and waited till the off-season. This is one of the artistic markups they gave me.

Site Demolition

Watermark handled all the permits and coordinated any sub work needed. This was important to me not have conflicting vendors pointing the finger at the other vendor because something wasn’t done the way they felt it needed to be. October 16 was the start data, although I think they cracked the first ground a week later. I had an existing smaller pool that needed to be removed, hence the hole where the old pool was.  I tried to cover as much as I could think of with each vendor as they all seemed to have different approaches. Aside from the pool itself and its equipment, there are palm trees, fences, decking or paver stones.  Most of the other vendors didn’t want to handle one thing or the other, whereas Watermark handles it all. Once the various crews would get out there with the equipment and materials, they would get it done.  Demo was only two days.

Framing up the new pool

Now one can see how much bigger this pool is really going to be. Ya, that’s a mountain of dirt!  The old pool was 12x20, whereas the new pool is 14x34 with a 6’ tanning ledge. I wanted to make sure the actual pool area was bigger as it was quite crowded with 10+ people in the old pool. Most pools in Destin or 30a are fairly small wading pools.  Kraig with Watermark assessed my original survey and considered the city setback lines to make sure we could get this done.  In addition to getting as much pool as we could, we worked out a solution to get more decking area for people to layout or sit around the pool.

The main reason I had to replace the old pool was due to the shell being cracked right across the middle. There was much discussion about shell strength and as you can see here, Watermark uses a lot of rebar! Again, it was amazing to watch how efficient the crews were on each phase. Just a couple days to frame it up.  A couple more days to plumb it. A couple more to put the rebar in. There would be some time in between, but when they were working, they got it done!

Pouring the pool shell

I think they had to time some good weather to do the actual shell, and then one day they came out and boom, a pool is formed.

Deck Prep, dirt removal.

They let that shell sit a bit.  About a month until they removed the dirt and got ready to bring in the paver stone deck. I did have to hire a plumber to tap into the city water supply for the pool autofill, and also had to make some adjustments to the sewer lines to make sure they would not obstruct the beautiful decking that was coming in.

Coping and Decking

My wife is an artist and I’ve always relied on her to take care of making the aesthetic looks.  She sees things in her mind, I need to see pictures.  I googled every pool I could find, narrowing it down to the look we wanted.  We went with a multi-color multi-size grays paver stone pattern.  But in showing my wife so many pics, she picked up on some that had a border between the coping and the pavers.  Kraig was flexible enough to work with us if we paid for that extra border material. The decking took the most time of all, about two weeks to get it all done.  First the white coping, then the waterline tile on the inside.  We could pick anything we wanted for the waterline tile if we covered extra materials.  We went with a more modern look like many use for kitchen backsplashes using small glass rectangles.  After the coping and waterline tile, some time went by and they showed up with palettes of pavers, lots of base sand, and they started on the border as seen below. 

Paver Stone Decking

They then started in on the decking.  It took at least 5 days, but they did a good job.  The pavers were solidly packed into that sand and they finished the outside row with alternating bricks and some mortar to lock it into place.

Pool security fence

I didn’t know how important this pretty black aluminum fence was, but it seems the city has a lot of regulations around it and they want it just so before you can get to final permitting. 

Pool Plaster (Pebbletec)

This was another area I decided to upgrade to. Kraig left it totally up to us how we wanted it done.  I had drained, cleaned, etched, and painted my previous pool several times.  This was an area I do not want to deal with in 3-5 years.  The Pebbletec comes with a 15-year warranty and gets its color from the stones or pebbles that are used within the mix. No painting involved.  Now maybe you are thinking, why did you go white Ken?  Ya, I kind of freaked out when I saw this too.  Fear not, there is like a grout glaze over the pebbles.  When you get to the very last images in this write up you will see a shot that shows the bottom of the pool with the Peblletec showing through!

To fill the pool, they used the old garden hose as it pumps much more water than the little autofill line.  It took many days to fill.  Now you can see the color we were shooting for.  We went with the emerald green of the ocean instead of the typical blue.

Landscaping and Lounge Chairs

Sod was another thing that the city was very particular about.  They are very big on stormwater retention.  They want to make sure any rainwater that hits your land, stays on your land.  So, we have some sod with irrigation, and lorapedalum shrubs that will grow up alongside the fence to add some privacy for the pool, while being beautiful purple with pinkish blooms.  Since we have that new tanning ledge, you’ve got to have some in water ledge loungers to enjoy as well as the chaises on the decking.

All the above pics were taken with my blink security camera.  We took a few more with our old Nikon as shown below.  Not professional by any means.  Let’s wait for that Zeon sod to turn green and the shrubs to grow a bit.  We can’t wait to enjoy this relaxing area while at the beach house!

This pic really shows the Pebbletec plaster.  You can see the stones in there that give the water the color.  The pool also has 3 bubblers and 6 lights that aren’t hooked up yet. The lights and bubblers should add to the beauty and enjoyment.

Being able to manage the pool equipment remotely is very important.  I don’t know yet, how expensive heating the pool is.  That said, the pool only gets heated if the renter pays for it and stays turned off when a paid renter isn’t using the pool.  Watermark is setting up the Harward Aqua system to put the lights on a timer from 5pm to 11pm, the bubblers can be controlled by the renter, but they will time off in an hour.  The pool heater can only be controlled remotely or from the main controller, not the remote buttons where they can turn on the bubblers. I’ve been through the controlling process of all the features now.  First the wife and I enjoyed an evening swim with the night lights on and steam rising off the water.  For sure it was warmer for parts under the water than the parts above the water. Feedback from the first renters is they are enjoying it greatly!  The ocean is still going to be a bit nippy for most, so a heated pool will be a welcome activity for all who rent DoctorsOrdersDestin #2!

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