Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cracked Swimming Pool Los Gatos Mountains

Owner Knows Best...  NOT!

This was one of those cases, where the owner's wife was a "bossy know-it-all."  She had the where-with-all to hire me as a consultant, yet did not want to hear the advice that I was being paid to provide.

Solution to everything

Just because she was married to a rich and wealthy silicon valley executive, she had a solution to everything.  The pool was originally built on top of a hill, without the benefit of any soils reports (that she could remember).

Her memory was conveniently foggy about the engineering and construction of the pool.  However, she remembered the exact vendor that replacement coping and deck stones could be procured from.  She could not even recall the pool builder, yet knew the gunite and plaster sub-contractors.  Something just "didn't seem right" about her selective memory.  I was already beginning to speculate that this was a very manipulative woman.

Poor planning and execution

By her own admissions, the pool was built atop fill from the excavation of the mansion.  Since then, the fill obviously began sliding down the hill.  

The hill was visibly creeping and slipping, and the pool was moving with it.   Yet, she could not remember if the hillside benefited from being properly compacted under an engineer's supervision.
 (Click on any picture to enlarge it)

Homebrew solution

Without the benefit of a geologist or structural engineer, she figured that if she threw enough of her husband's money at the problem, it would go away.  She concocted a scheme to build a 12 foot tall retaining wall below the pool, to stabilize the hill and pool.  Yet, she was building the wall with geo-blocks without any deepened foundation.  

The surcharges and loads upon the new wall were completely unknown.  And no concern was given to the setbacks from the slope.

Humpty Dumpty

Her pool was what I call a "Humpty Dumpty Pool"- it had fallen, cracked into pieces, and all of the king's horses and all of the king's men could not put it back together again.

Yet, the she had already spoken to a local "epoxy injector" who was willing to inject the cracks.  He was then going to install glass tile mosaics throughout the interior of the pool.

She wanted me to provide a bid for the same scope of work.  I refused.  The pool had structural cracks, the pool was losing water, was out of level and it was built atop questionable soil conditions.

Patient refuses the doctors advice

Even when provided all of the facts, the "patient" (owner) refused to admit that the pool was terminal.  Her retaining wall "fix" was not approved by any engineer to stabilize the hillside, and work was already underway... all without permits.

You cannot save people from themselves

The owner's wife kept pressuring me to concur with her solutions.  I told her that the facts were the facts.  Regardless what the "epoxy charlatan" was advising her, the pool was beyond repair.  Not what she wanted to hear, but the truth.

I decided that regardless of what I told her, she would go off and do what she wanted.  She really hired me in an attempt to validate her erroneous foregone conclusions.  However, I refused to bow to her pressure.

After the remodel project, as the pool continued to move, the cracks returned, new tile mosaics popped loose, her retaining wall began to fail and the vessel began to leak - she would have returned.  Only this time it would be with a lawsuit for providing faulty advice.

Walking away from such clients is the smartest thing you can do.   These people are used to always "having their way."  And when their schemes do not work out, they're always going to seek someone else to blame.

Not me.  Not this time.

At least the doctor got paid.  

And I'll be ready to provide expert witness or inspection services to anyone involved in future litigation over this pool's structural failure.

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. 
 Visit his website at: 
All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
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To contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology pool and Spa, email him at: or call 408-776-8220.
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