Pool Shell – Design & Construction

Weight of pool and equipment: The weight of water alone is about 62 pounds per cubic foot.  If a pool is 4 feet deep, the load for the water will be close to 250 pounds per square foot.  The additional structure necessary to support this load can easily add another 100 pounds per square foot, for a total of 350 pound per square foot or more, depending upon the structure and the actual water depth.  A careful structural analysis will be required.


Double shell pool/water feature construction: There are two generally accepted approaches to the construction of elevated pools and water features.  Both entail the construction of a waterproofed structural well within which will be constructed the pool shell or liner, the first approach of which would be cast-in-place concrete (CIP) or shotcrete and the second of which is stainless steel.  Although it is theoretically possible to construct the support structure neat to pool dimensions, the high level of coordination that would be required of the structural concrete sub-contractor to insure that all allowances for finishes, piping sleeves, lights and equipment make this approach very difficult to accomplish, and for this reason it is not recommended.


Rooftop pools are often made of stainless steel and occasionally aluminum because the weight of the structure is much less. The side walls of heated, above-ground pools should be insulated and protected from wind exposure.


The use of stainless steel seems an obvious choice for elevated pools and water features because of its durability and, if properly constructed, water tightness. It may also save close to 50 pounds per square foot or more of weight.  The stainless can either be left unfinished and bare or provided with an applied finish.  It is Counsilman-Hunsaker’s recommendation however, that stainless steel should not be left unfinished.  Maintenance of the polished surface of the stainless can be an issue, and several health departments require that it be finished for reasons ranging from both color to slip resistance.


Tile is an obvious choice, and very popular for this application, and although plaster cannot be directly adhered to the surface of the stainless, there is a system available that uses a mechanical bond to an epoxy substrate that may be considered, although this approach is not commonly used and may not be recommended as a consequence.


Several stainless manufacturers also offer an adhered sheet vinyl or PVC finish that may have applicability depending upon budget. The advantages and disadvantages of these finishes in relation to project design, budgets and objectives should be carefully reviewed and considered.  Stainless is often nominally more expensive than a concrete solution, although regional preferences may make it the only viable choice.  Also, some creative design solutions may find translation with stainless difficult to achieve.  Further, if stainless is being used above occupied or in otherwise acoustically sensitive applications, it is recommended that an acoustical engineer be consulted; there is an increased potential for the transmission of noise through stainless.


CIP or shotcrete provides a durable, adaptable, and conventional structure upon which a broad range of tile, plaster or paint finishes may be applied. Although slightly heavier than stainless, its durability, ease and flexibility of meeting design requirements, and its acceptance of a broad range of finishes make concrete an attractive and recommended solution.

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