Swimming Pool Construction Terms

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gunite swimming pool construction diagrams drawing engineering

Pool Construction Terms

If you have never owned a swimming pool; builders may speak a language that you do not understand yet! Many of our clients are brand new pool owners and mention that they do not know all all of the terminology that pool contractors use to describe and calculate the swimming pool design. This article will help you learn exactly what we mean when referring to the technical specs.

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The swimming pool “beam” is an important part of the structure. This part of the pool is located at the top and traces the perimeter shape and will help identify the perimeter measurement of the pool structure. Usually this is where the decorative stone edge is installed just above the tile inside the pool.

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The material that sits on top of the pool “beam” and follows the shape above the waterline tiles is called “coping”. The edge of the pool before water starts. Concrete decking will butt up to the backside of this material with a “control joint”. You have your choice from brick, flagstone, or travertine included.


The measurement of the pool beam, as in tracing the shape of the pool. Also referred to as the “pool beam”. The image below is just a general guide to the terminology. The pool perimeter is especially important in free-form shape pools when calculating the interior surface area.


Specs for rebar are standard at 10″ “o/c” which stands for “on center” making a 10″ x 10″ square. We supersede this standard spec by using more steel at 8″ o/c. So, we install a tight rebar steel cage. The “boxed beam” supersedes standards by including 4 of the 5/8″ steel bars in a continuous loop inside the pool beam.


Is a form of concrete that can be “shot” through a high pressure hose, applied at a high velocity our gunite cures up to 4000psi over time after hardening. Gunite applicators MUST be certified to ensure our lifetime warranty. PSI refers to the curing strength of concrete, how much psi must be required before it cracks.

Pool Construction

Surface Area

This term refers to the square footage of area of water only inside the pool. As a 2d top down representation this is the footprint of the pool which can be understood as the size of pool, or how much space in the yard the pool will take up.

Pool Interior

The interior of a gunite pool must be sealed with a quality finish before it will hold any water or be visibly appealing. The pool interior, surface is a material that bonds to the gunite shell and keeps the pool water from leaking, but is also has a very nice appeal to the overall look and feel of the pool. There are all kinds of crazy additives and prices but we have you in 40% quartz blend, with optional blue flakes on a white base with a 7 yr warranty.


Pool decking can be done in many ways; concrete, textured concrete, pavers, wood/trex, or tile. The area surrounding the perimeter of the pool is considered decking which can be 4″ thick concrete, to include footing and piers as needed along the edges to keep from cracking or separation.


After all of the above mentioned Coping & Decking are installed and after some time the material known as “Mastic” will seal the pool perimeter control joint. An exposed flexible type sealant with a decorative finish will ensure that water from the pool or rain will not leak into the control joint gap.

Main Trench

This is where all of the pool plumbing pipes merge together varying between 9 – 14 total pipes. The main trench will go to the pool equipment and each pipe into it’s respective connection.

Filtration Pump

The filtration pump is the main pool (or spa) pump that pushes water through the system and pool equipment. For pool+spa combinations the equipment will be shared. We offer several solutions for the right pool filtration pump from single speed, 2-speed, and variable speed models. This is the pump that will come on each day and help keep the pool clear.

Control Center

Your pool equipment devices must be controlled by some device capable of reoccurring timers/schedules/run-times. We have several solutions ranging from standard analog timers to full digital automation with WIFI capabilities. Each of our digital pool controllers include the ability to control devices, set schedules, control lighting, and some models come equipped with wireless remotes and other advanced features.

Pool Cleaner

Our pools come complete with automatic poll cleaners. These are robotic type pressure-side cleaners that will catch leaves, dirt, pine needles/cones, gumballs and all the sorts of things that drop to the bottom of the pool. We install the Polaris 280/380 automatic pressure side pool cleaners into our pools. Better than any AquaBot or Dolphin brand cleaners period!

Pool Filter

Filtration is one of the key components to having a crystal clear pool. Our cartridge filters can catch debris so small in the pool water that you cannot see with your eyes! On a pool+spa combination the filter is shared between the pool and spa depending on what mode it is in. Our pools are filtered with Hayward Swim Clear cartridge with 4 elements that should only require cleaning about every 6 months.

Sanitation (Chlorine)

The means in which you will keep the pool water sanitary. Chlorine fights against bacteria in the pool water. We offer several options for keeping your pool sanitary and safe; Chlorine Tablets, Salt Chlorine Generators, UV & o3 chlorine generators to suite your preference. Some options like chlorine tablets might be irritating to some swimmers, so you know we will have the right chlorine solution for your pool.

Minimum Pool Specs

(This information should also be listed within your 6-page construction quote)

• Shape = Free form, aka custom or Geometric
• Length = Total length of pool interior at the longest point.
• Width = Total width of pool interior at the widest point.
• Surface Area = The “footprint” of pool in square feet.
• Perimeter = Trace the shape of the top level pool beam.
• Min Depth = The shallowest point of the pool.
• Max Depth = Deepest point of pool.
• Gallons = How much water the pool holds; volume.

• Decking Material = The finish material for pool decking or concrete.
• Decking Square Footage = Total amount of concrete decking in square feet.
• Decking Steps = as needed per design
• Footing, piers as needed to reinforce against shiftingGunite & Rebar: Specifications

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Umar Haladu
Umar Haladu

What is a skimmer

Everlast Pools & Spas

Amazingly well-written post. Keep up the excellent work.


If bench seating in the pool is located at -15, where is that taken from? just below the decking? or does it include the height of the decking?

Rosemary Davey-Hunt
Rosemary Davey-Hunt

Are coping stones a necessity, and would they be assumed to be included in the construction of a pool?

Precast Concrete

Thank you very much for sharing about common terms swimming pool construction here… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article. Great post I must admit, keep sharing more…

Pool cleaners

Great blog, and good information for those needing parts for their pool.

Jesse Ford

Thanks for mentioning that the beam is the part of the pool that is at the top and traces the shape of the perimeter and helps identifies the measurement of the pool. My brother is thinking of hiring contractors next month because he’s contemplating getting a pool installed with steel reason being, he speculates his kids might enjoy playing outside more. I think it’s a good investment to hire a reputable company that has the experience and knowledge of installing residential pools if he decides to get one.

alex smoulders

Very detailed and well explained parts and terms for swimming pools.

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