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10-year logoBy David Tisherman

‘If there’s one thing about the watershaping world that continuously drives me crazy,’ wrote David Tisherman in his Details column in March 2006, ‘it’s the existence and persistence of a sub-professional mindset that says creative designs and affluent clients deserve one set of standards, while projects with more affordable designs can acceptably be built to another, less stringent set of standards.

‘To me, middle-class clients who’ve commissioned modest projects deserve watershapes built to standards every bit as reliable and effective as affluent clients who are looking to impress their wealthy neighbors.’  He continued:


‘I feel so strongly about this because I’ve encountered absolutely jaw-dropping construction misadventures over and over again.  I’m not talking about a state of affairs of years gone by, not by a long shot.  No, I’m talking about projects that are being built right now.’


‘Let’s begin with concrete itself, the most fundamental of the materials we use.  I’ve been stunned time and again when I’ve been involved in cases where core samples of existing failed structures indicate that concrete that has been applied to 1,500 psi or less.  These shells, of course, should be built with concrete at a minimum of 2,500 psi.’  


‘It doesn’t take a detective to know that these weak structures are out there because some contractors deliberately fail to put enough cement in the gunite or shotcrete mix in order to save money and boost the bottom line.  They hope, of course, to elude detection.  After all, the concrete structure is invisible once the work is finished, and if it doesn’t fail, who will be the wiser?’


‘And what about structural engineering?  . . .  No builder in this business determines the structural design or the ultimate cost of a shell or its supporting substructure.  The soil conditions do!  This is why it is dangerous to build any concrete structure without the input of a geologist, soils engineer and structural engineer.  Even so, I know at this very moment that a huge number of projects are being built without this crucial information and engineering support.’


‘How about structural steel?  I’m amazed at those who, lacking a structural design, will more or less “eyeball” a steel structure, maybe using #3 rebar on 18-inch centers with no idea whether or not that is what the situation requires.  Then there are those who don’t use dobies to provide necessary clearances between the steel and the soil.  This one blows my mind!  If the steel isn’t encased in the concrete, the structure is not properly reinforced.  Yet we see it all the time:  Rebar lying right against the soil as the concrete crew begins shooting.’


‘We as an industry [also] know that larger plumbing and smaller pumps make for more efficient circulation and thus more energy efficiency and longer service lives for the components.  Still, under the guise of “doing the client a favor,” there are those who stick to a false and antiquated way of designing circulation systems.  Is it really that hard to follow manufacturer recommendations for pump, filter and plumbing sizing?’  


‘My point is, you can look at just about any aspect of watershape construction and find scores of examples of how people in our industry, working right now in backyards all across the country, are completely ignoring what mostly boils down to commonsense construction practice.’

‘I’m not saying you have to bring freeway-type, A+ engineering and construction to basic pool projects.  What I am saying,’ David concluded, ‘is that we as an industry need to face up to our responsibilities, raise the bar and be aware at all times that cutting costs with basic construction is a foolish way to scratch precious little more out of a project.  

What are your observations of the current state of the art with watershaping’s construction practices?  Do David’s descriptions of the state of the art still ring as true today as they did in 2006?  Please share your perspectives on these fundamental issues 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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