a pool in chak angre

There are many challenges to building a pool in the western world, let alone adding in nuisances of the Cambodia market and its unique challenges. I am going to write about 4 challenges facing any pool builder in Cambodia.

Weather

The weather in Cambodia has two distinct seasons: Dry and hot, and Rainy and hot. Dealing with the extreme heat effects the construction process a lot. First we have less time to work with concrete as the material will harden faster due to the extreme temperature, and lack of additives that developed markets would have to help slow down the curing process. Next, When we plaster the pool wall or use an all tile finish, will need a different set of materials to place due to the extreme temperature versus a location where the temperatures are not so hot.  The heat is also dangerous for human health, and we have to dedicate time and labor to set up tents, fans, and always make sure our workers are staying well hydrated.

In the rainy season, we have challenges with torrential rainfall and the usual flooding that will occur. Sometimes in the rainy season, we will “flash” the dig site and will shoot a thin layer (2″) of concrete onto the soil to help prevent cave ins. A lot of builders dont do this step and the walls will cave in. It’s not necessarily bad to have a cave in, but the dirt and silt has to be meticulously hand dug out of the hole, which rarely happens in the west, and id venture to guess non existent in Phnom Penh.  We will also install a sump pit at the bottom of the dig site, so when accumulates in the bottom of the hole, the pump switches on and starts pumping out the water that has accumulated. Finally sometimes we just have to have a dead day where no work gets done and lose some time and money versus trying to force the next step, even through the rain will degrade the concrete, tile, coping work, etc that needs to be done next.

Local Subs

Some general contractors here in Cambodia will essentially hire 5 different trades to build the pool, while they “supervise”. In the perfect world, this can work, however most subs will not fix mistakes that the previous sub made. When the pool’s concrete shell is made, the height could be off by 1/16″ which is well within tolerance, however the coping sub might think well i am hired to just lay the coping and he will not take the time to correct the small 1/16″ difference and maybe will even error again 1/16″ which is now 1/8″ for the top of the pool wall. When the company is doing both, more time and care is taken as the responsibility for everything falls into one companies lap instead of easily blaming another sub. Also the timeline of the construction will go faster with no subs, as scheduling different subs is a step that is not needed.

No Permitting

In most of the world, pools have to have plan submitted and for a gunite pool plans submitted and stamped by a structural engineer. Then during the process an inspector comes out 3 or 4 times to check the work is passing certain codes. While permitting adds cost, and time (sometimes a lot of extra time) it does however provide a safety net to catch some contractors that try to skip out on certain steps. One step I have not seen in Cambodia is pool bonding. Pool bonding is very complicated, but generally it is important for a variety of reasons like safety and preventing metals around the pool from disintegrating. The step is not cheap as #8 awg copper bare wire is expensive, along with all of the connections and also it takes about an hour to properly bond the pool.

Material Quality

The types of material selected for your project is extremely paramount. Certain tiles are made for being submerged in water, while others are not. Certain tiles need one type of material to set, while another tile will need a complete different material to bond with the wall. Waterproofing a pool shell has different products, and again depending on the situation one product is a lot better then the other( but any waterproofing material is better then none). What kind of concrete is your pool being made out of? What is the PSI, any air entrained? Was it vibrated if poured? What size and which country is the steel rebar from? It is very frustrating for me to look a pool bid to another company because of cost when the cost of a couple thousand dollars will mean building the pool the proper way with proper materials versus saving a couple dollars at every stop in order to make a profit.

So in conclusion, those are some of the different types of challenges facing the local Cambodian pool market.

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