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When he builds custom pools for fully engaged homeowners, Randy Beard usually has no problems with setting and exceeding expectations. But here's a case where the client just couldn't absorb a key message about how to use the pool -- and therein hangs a tale.
When he builds custom pools for fully engaged homeowners, Randy Beard usually has no problems with setting and exceeding expectations.  But here's a case where the client just couldn't absorb a key message about how to use the pool -- and therein hangs a tale.
By Randy Beard

This project is wonderful in so many ways that it’s tough to believe our clients could be anything less than perfectly satisfied – but, surprisingly, they’ve had a bone to pick with me.

It’s just gorgeous:  A great shape, beautifully detailed tile, a perimeter-overflow system augmented with a vanishing edge, underwater speakers, lush landscaping – a perfect Hawaiian-style plunge for

an active family with five kids and lots of energy.

And the fun didn’t stop with the pool:  There’s a great dining/entertainment/outdoor kitchen space with a complete audiovisual system, a big glass countertop and all the features the family ever wanted.

So what was the problem?  It all boiled down to communication and my inability to persuade them – despite repeated attempts – to use the systems we set up as intended.  Here’s the story, which I humbly offer as a brief cautionary tale.

ALL PUMPED UP

Perimeter-overflow systems are about as sexy as it gets in modern swimming pool design, and the concept clearly grabs the attention of clients at a certain level of wherewithal and a clear desire for uniqueness in their outdoor environments.

The thing is, most of these clients lead relatively sedentary lives:  They may use the pool from time to time, but for the most part, it’s a grand backyard ornament, a beautiful reflective surface and, in essence, a work of art appreciated more often when the family is outside the water.  Pools of this sort are backdrops, in other words, not the “party central” these particular clients craved.

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The homeowner was committed to a tropical look long before we came on site, as the large, well-established palms testify.  Working with and around them was all part of the design process – and the installation as well.

As we moved forward, I indicated over and over again that the sort of system we were installing would become an “overflow-acceleration system” if the clients failed to turn off the edge-driving pump when the pool was in use.  This was not a rule they observed – not even close.

The upshot was that the pool was losing hundreds of gallons a day to splashing beyond the perimeter-overflow trough and way beyond the vanishing-edge trough.  This didn’t create any problems with the landscaping, thank goodness, because we used our Pure Water system and were working with basically potable water.  But it did annoy the homeowner when he paid the utility bill, and he let me know about it.

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The tile we used generously throughout the space offers a cool, variegated and colorful transition from the water to the plants that arise at almost every point around the watershapes.

I asked him if they’d done as I’d recommended and conscientiously turned off the edge pump when the pool was in use.  No, he said, they all liked having the effect turned on while they were in the water and so, he confessed, they weren’t following instructions.

I explained again that, to get the water to flow over the edge, the system had to break the meniscus effect.  This meant raising the water level to a point about an eighth of an inch above the containment level, which meant water would be exiting the pool without anyone’s help.  Add in swimmers and children at play, and the flow beyond the system’s envelope would be accelerated over the edge and well past the containment troughs – and a whole bunch of water would be lost, no doubt about it.

I don’t think anyone was particularly persuaded by the forceful logic of my explanation of what was happening, but at least I haven’t heard any further complaints about the water bills.

PICTURE PERFECT

None of this alters the fact that this is a beautiful backyard composition, perfectly suited to the site and the family’s deep desires.  And as mentioned above, it’s about more than just a pool and spa:  The watershapes are fully and seamlessly integrated into a total outdoor environment that is perfectly suited to a large, active family with a yen to entertain and have fun.

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I don’t think anyone was particularly persuaded by the forceful logic of my explanation of what was happening, but at least I haven’t heard any further complaints about the water bills.

 

 

I truly love the tile:  It’s a cool, tropical blend from Trend USA (Miramar, Fla.), and we used it generously throughout the site – on edge walls, on vertical surfaces, inside the spa and, in the case of the spa’s dam wall, with a weeping effect that reaches below the water’s surface.

The thought I keep holding in the back of my mind is that time is on my side – and the pool’s:  The kids will grow, the splashing will diminish and the backyard will transition from raucous play area into a more relaxing sort of outdoor space.  

Either way, however, it will always be a very special pool that, someday, will more closely meet the homeowners’ changing needs – especially when it comes time to write checks to the local water company.

 

Randy Beard operates Pure Water Pools, a construction/service firm based in Costa Mesa, Calif. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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People in this conversation

  • Randy, With the edge pump turned off, the basin and/or collector tank will quickly fill to overflowing when the pool is in use. If the edge pump is on, the overflow will go back into the pool, provided your basin or collector tank is set up so the draw down gives you enough capacity for the bather load. Did you maybe get it backwards?

  • Guest - Taylor

    I completely agree with the need to manage expectations regarding the homeowners or final users. Calculating free board on a catch basin is paramount to proper design.

  • Guest - Cal Stanley

    There are several factors that seem not to have been considered in this pool. 1. The overflow pump must be operating at all times when the pool is in use. 2. The catchment pond must be of a size and at a level or of a width to collect the excess water that will flow over when the pool is being used, particularly by children. 3. The collection must have adequate capacity to collect and temporarily store this excess water or the pump must be of a size to return it to the pool before the pond overflows. Vanishing edge pools must be practical as well a beautiful.

  • Guest - Cal Stanley

    This should be a lesson in both communication and construction. A vanishing edge pool should be practical as well as beautiful. Part of the communication should have been what would happen if normal boisterous behaviour of children occurred. The overflow pump should always be on when the pool is in use. How else is the water going to get back to the pool? The catchment pond should be either higher or wider such that excess water will still be collected and the pump system or the catchment size must be able to cope with the extra water from activity in the pool. Such pols must be practical as well as beautiful

    from Perth WA, Australia

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