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Off the Deep End

10-year logoBy David Tisherman

‘A big part of properly designing watershapes to meet specific client needs has to do with understanding how they’ll be using the body of water,’ wrote David Tisherman at the start of his Details column in January 2006.  

‘I always explore this issue with my clients, which is why, for the most part, I don’t do many pools with traditional deep ends – despite the fact that, for decades, most pools have been built with them.  To me, in fact, the whole concept of deep water in residential swimming pools is basically misguided and largely obsolete.’  He continued:

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‘Consider exactly what it is that bathers can do in the deep end of a pool:  They might dive, tread water or swim to the bottom to retrieve coins or pool toys – and, unfortunately, they can drown there, too.  Yes, people also drown in shallow water, but there’s no doubt that deeper waters provide greater levels of risk and hazard for non-swimmers, inexperienced swimmers or small children.’

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‘On a less dramatic but still-significant level, deep ends require a bit more effort to clean and, because they expand the overall volume of water in a given pool, increase the cost of both heating and chemical treatment.  In many cases, deep water also comes with dramatic temperature variations that can make exploring the depths an unpleasant experience.’

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‘By contrast, shallow ends provide a far greater variety of recreational opportunities, from playing with small children to games of volleyball or basketball.  Even a classic game like Marco Polo is facilitated by shallower water.  Shallow water is also perfectly adequate for lap swimming and ideal for swimming instruction.’

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‘Assuming that the majority of aquatic play, exercise and relaxation take place in shallow water, it’s also a given that large percentages of children and adults will, given a choice, spend most if not all of their time in the shallows or on beach entries, steps, benches or thermal ledges.  Even the big commercial and institutional watershapes get this:  Most of recent vintage include big shallow areas because designers and managers all know that the presence of these waters increases the utility of almost any watershape.’

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‘I do occasionally build a deep end into a pool when the client wants one – in about one out of ten projects (and probably less) these days.  It’s usually a family with teenage kids or grandkids that wants an area with diving rocks, for example – a situation that requires deeper water for safe diving.’  

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‘[M]ost of my projects for new vessels are now for what I’d call “play pools” with depths between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half feet.  I’ve also seen in my remodeling work that many of my clients want to see their pools brought up to nearly uniform shallow depths.  . . .   In all cases, my floor-raising projects involve the pouring of new concrete into the entire void – and I do so in full consultation with my structural engineer.  

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‘I seldom view raising a pool’s floor as a single task:  In most cases, such a project will enable us to upgrade a variety of plumbing details as well.  This floor-raising procedure, for example, generally provides enough room for installation of a new, split main drain that will minimize the risk of suction-entrapment incidents.  And if raising the bottom is accompanied (as it often is) by the addition of new benches or steps, the new space in those structures allows for a complete system overhaul.’  

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‘If you use those new benches or steps to carry new plumbing behind their steel,’ David concluded, ‘you have a golden (and comparatively affordable) opportunity to upsize smaller plumbing, redo the lighting, add new steps or benches and create a new circulation system that will have much greater efficiency – all encased in steel and concrete per industry standards and all accomplished without compromising the structural integrity of the original shell.’

Do you agree with David that deep pools were passé in 2006 and still are – and that remodeling them offers the watershaper an opportunity to do a great deal to bring older pools up to current expectations and standards?  Share your experience with the shallow-water experience he defined ten years ago by commenting below.

 

David Tisherman is the principal in two design/construction firms: David Tisherman’s Visuals of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Liquid Design of Cherry Hill, N.J. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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