I was brought on to a project to help make sure their 6 figure pool renovation went well. The pool was going to get new bluestone coping, a new automatic cover, nice tiles, updated to salt water, and new plaster.

It should be a relatively quick and easy rehabilitation project, but everything that could go wrong, went wrong. This is what is wrong with a lot of pool contractors, very pool craftmanship, now owning up to mistakes, and unnecessary delays.

First up for the rehab project was going to be remove the old coping, prep the top of the wall, put down the automatic cover tracks and then lay the coping on top of the tracks.


First mistake, which was a huge mistake, was that the automatic cover tracks were supposed to be encapsulated, ie attached to the top of the wall. This is the stronger option and slightly better aesthetically. On a rehab if you are not replacing the coping, you can attach the cover underneath the coping ledge. However it is not optimal, so if you are replacing the coping (which this project was!) you attached the cover track to the top of the wall

Second mistake was absolutely horrendous craftsmanship. The coping looked as if my 7 year old nephew attempted the project.

  • The coping mortar joints were missing mortar.
  • The coping stones were unlevel by a wide margin
  • One coping stone that was laid, had a huge chunk missing from its’ face.
coping missing mortar

Pool Tile

Next mistake is the atrocity of the tile job. This is the worst “work” I have ever seen. First big mistake was when installing the tile, the tile needs to stick out at least an 1/8″ in order to have room for the new plaster.

After that, not installing tile in the skimmer throats, not square (not in a straight line) on the hot tub benches and the the swim-out. Trying to make a cut out of a safety rope anchor, instead of hammer drilling the anchor.  Inadequate tile setting on the autocover track lid edge.

pool anchor incorrectly installed

Salt Cell Plumbing Mistakes

Adding a salt system to an existing pool is one of the easiest additions. First you need to add the salt cell  to the plumbing section. The salt cell needs to go after the heater. The salt cell is doing a chemical reaction with concentrated chemical levels where that process is occurring, and you do not want those highly concentrated chemicals to get “stuck” in the heater where they will corrode the heater. That is why the salt cell goes AFTER the heater, and then a check valve is installed to make sure water can not flow backwards (which is rare, but possible.)

The second mistake is there is a protective clear cover of the salt cell. Somehow whoever managed to install it, broke the screen. Mistakes happen, but I dont understand why the broken cover sat installed for multiple days. Take the damaged screen, go buy whatever part you need and put the new cover on the next day. Not too hard.

salt cell cover that is cracked

Lazy Mistakes

Here are two more incredibly lazy, and important mistakes.

The first, is the head scratching case of where the keypad was installed. The keypad controls the automatic cover and code states the keypad has to be installed at least 54″ above grade. This prevents a child from accidentally opening or closing the cover. Also, just as important the “project manager” met with the home owner to go over the location of the keypad. The home owner set an appointment up with his interior designer, paid that person to come the next day to meet with the home owner. The interior designer decided on a location for the keypad and explained in detailed the location (which was above 54″).

With the code being in place, and the meeting to decide on the location, the keypad was still installed in the wrong place. Sloppy work…

Next up, the pool gets sprayed with a substrate before the plaster. Before the application, and ideally during the whole rehab project, the main drains need to be covered to prevent anything getting stuck in the pipes underground. A mistake that is possibly impossible to repair without incredibly expensive and hard repairs. Yet the main drains were left uncovered for at least 24 hours.