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Important Steps

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WaterShapes LogotypeEric Herman

Sometimes the simple things make all the difference between success and failure.

For all of the high-flown conceptualizing that drives much of what so many watershapers do these days, there’s no escaping the need for attention to detail at every stage of design, engineering and construction: Great ideas and best intentions mean little if the work itself falls short and problems arise as a result.

Consider, for example, the seemingly trivial matter of steps and benches in swimming pools and spas: Just about every body of water designed for human immersion has them in one form or another, yet these structures seldom rise to the top of anyone’s list of important, attention-focusing features, probably because they’re just so commonplace.

In this issue, however, we have a pair of pieces that dig into steps and benches in two entirely different contexts that dispel any sense of step- or bench-wise triviality.

First up is David Tisherman’s sixty-fifth “Detail,” this one mostly about his approach to designing step systems that run in graduated levels along the entire lengths of pools (click here). It’s a strategy we’re seeing in use more and more frequently these days – one that adds tremendously to the functionality of a vessel by easing entry and egress and expanding areas in which bathers can sit and relax.

At root, it’s a simple idea, but it has a profound influence on the way a pool is used and enjoyed. I know from my own experience that steps are a gathering place for talking or relaxing, and I clearly and fondly remember using these areas as a stage for introducing my children to the water in safety and comfort.

In his column, David argues that when we take a serious look at the way most people use steps, it becomes obvious that the standard approach of treating them as an afterthought and tucking them up in some corner may be a serious design flaw. It may seem a smallish detail, but it’s one that can affect client satisfaction in a big way.

In a completely different vein, we have “Bad Benchmarks,” a feature by engineer Ron Lacher in which he tackles a nettlesome cluster of structural failures that are occurring these days, most frequently in spa steps and benches (click here). In this incisive article, he (literally) digs into the practice of using gunite rebound to form these step and bench structures and examines the problems it can cause.

On the face of it, cracked spa benches may not seem an issue of earth-shattering importance, but when you scratch below the surface, you find scores of companies – often plastering firms – who are forced to take big financial losses in fixing problems with which they most likely had no involvement at all.

I’ll leave Ron to get down to the nitty-gritty, but I’ll throw in my two cents here and observe that workmanship standards exist for good reasons and that an apparent failure to follow them is hurting businesses in the watershaping industry, sometimes in a big way.

Again, the proper design and installation of steps may not ever be a make-or-break issue on its own, but it is precisely the sort of basic detail that, taken as part of the Big Picture, speaks to the question of whether our industry is ready to advance to a higher level or will continue to endure easily avoided inadequacies such as these.

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