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This Pool Contractor Is Taking Her Skills To The Next Level



Pool Contractor Holly Waldhauer Is Taking Her Skills To The Next Level

Holly Waldhauer is a talented tile installer and the owner of Mermaid Lagoons, a pool contracting firm located in Bunnell, FL. Recently her company was named Trade Member Company of the Year by the Florida Swimming Pool Association, a testament to the quality of her work and the high regard in which she is held by her peers.

In fact, one of Holly’s most impressive recent accomplishments was installing a complete glass tile interior in a pool, a project that showcased her skills and attention to detail. She recently shared a photo of the finished product in Master Techs, a Facebook group for pool contractors. The project received a flood of positive comments from other professionals in the industry.

“I was actually at a state board meeting for the Florida Swimming Pool Association. I’m Vice President of the East Central Chapter right now and I was talking to another board member and he asked me if I was interested in doing his pool,” explained Waldhauer. “I told him that I’d done an entire spa in glass, but that I’d never done a pool. So I accepted the challenge. I just dove in head first and I took my time.”

Holly has been involved in the pool industry since 1997 when she started working with her first husband, who did plumbing, decking, and tile for pools. She quickly discovered that setting tile was her favorite part of the job, and she started doing it exclusively. As word of mouth spread, she began getting offers to work from other builders and eventually started her own company specializing in setting tile.

Holly Waldhauer - Vice President of the East Central Chapter of FSPA
Holly Waldhauer – Vice President of the East Central Chapter of FSPA

Over time, Holly expanded her expertise and obtained the necessary licenses that allow her to specialize as a swimming pool trim specialty contractor. Today she subcontracts for her husband’s pool construction firm Waldhauer & Son Custom Pools & Spas as well as other builders in the Palm Coast area.

While working with a spouse might be a challenge for some, Holly says she doesn’t encounter the same difficulties, “We have a rule that we do not talk any business or shop at night. So with that rule, we’re solid,” explained Waldhauer.

On Being a Female Pool Contractor

In a primarily male-dominated industry, stepping outside of her comfort zone to post photos of her work was something Waldhauer worked up the nerve to do. “There are so many trolls on the internet. To get to read all those nice comments from the project I posted really made me feel good inside,” said Waldhauer who explained that being a female who is proficient in pool tile hasn’t come without its challenges.

“When I first started working for other builders, I would tell them that I do tile, and they really wouldn’t believe me, but then I’d show them pictures of my work, and then they’d give me a shot. All those companies I’ve been working with pretty much ever since,” said Waldhauer.

Holly Waldhauer says being a female pool contractor comes with a unique set of challenges.
Holly Waldhauer says being a female pool contractor comes with a unique set of challenges.

As a woman working alongside men, Holly says that it helps to keep a tough exterior, “You can’t let anyone push you around or make you feel uneasy, which does happen out in the field,” explained Waldhauer, “I’m on a lot of construction sites with 20 men and just me. I’m going to tell women if you’re going to get in this field, trust your intuition. Don’t overdo it. You don’t have to prove to yourself that you’re a man, because we’re not men.”

“If you can’t carry an entire bag of Pool Brite do what I do, cut it in half, because an 80-pound bag of Pool Brite is heavy. Don’t do what I did. I overdid it and I’ve had rotator cuff surgery. Just go easy on yourself and go easy on your body,” said Waldhauer.

Waldhauer has certainly begun establishing a name for herself in the right circles for the quality of her work and sees a bright future for herself in glass tile which she says is one of the hottest pool trends right now. “If you can afford it, everyone is doing glass. It’s the hottest trend, but it’s also more expensive and it’s more time-consuming,” explained Waldhauer, “I miss out on a lot of the easy jobs because I’m stuck doing these big glass tile jobs with vanishing edges and glass on the steps but I would say that is just the hottest thing right now, and it’s not going away.”

Waldhauer is turning heads with tile installations like this one.
Waldhauer is turning heads with tile installations like this one.

It’s clear women like Waldhauer are not only claiming their place in the pool industry, but they are also changing perceptions in the minds of consumers. “When I pull up to a job and homeowners see a woman come out of my work truck, they’re very happy to see me,” confided Waldhauer, “I feel like I’m a little more detailed in what I do. I take my time, and I think that people know that women are a little more patient. One comment I hear all the time, especially when I did that entire pool in glass is that I have a lot of patience but it’s because I’m not in a hurry. I take my time and I do it right.”

With her skillset and sensibility, Waldhauer is demonstrating that women like her are more than capable of tackling physically onerous jobs such as tile setting and says she hopes folks like her prove women have a place in all aspects of the industry.

Listen to our entire conversation with Holly Waldhauer on the Pool Magazine podcast.

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Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email [email protected] or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to [email protected]

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Contractors and Builders

Jimmy Reed on Preventing Pool Tile Failures



Jimmy Reed on Preventing Tile Failures

When it comes to the installation of pool tile, few others in the industry have the wealth of experience and know-how that Jimmy Reed of Rock Solid Tile possesses. His innate ability to create stunningly beautiful tile interiors has helped propel him as one of the leading installers working today. As a recognized expert on the subject, he also knows a few things about adhering to the proper methods and best practices. Consequently, a recent video he posted on social media has generated quite a stir among other contractors and highlights why certain pool tile failures occur.

To get a better understanding of exactly what went wrong in the video, we caught up with Jimmy Reed at the Western Pool & Spa Show in Long Beach to get the full story as well as pick his brain about how to prevent failures like the one he demonstrates in this video.

“This particular project we actually originally bid to perform the installation on several years earlier. It was for a completely different general contractor and pool builder at the time,” explained Reed.

“I was called onto the project by the newer owner, and therefore, a new general contractor and owners rep and so forth. It was a completely different team by the time I was revisiting the project. What happened with the project though was it was failing throughout. The short little clip in the video really only showed a small portion of the spa, but that was consistent throughout the entire pool not just the spa,” said Reed.

Analyzing a Catastrophic Pool Tile Failure

In the video, you can see him pulling large chunks of tile off with his fingers with a minimal amount of effort. This was a disastrous failure where the pool tile had not properly bonded and was absorbing and retaining water.

“The thin-set is soft and gooey. It’s a modified thin-set,” said Reed in the video explaining why this particular failure occurred. “It probably wasn’t cured right. There are ridge marks everywhere. They didn’t knock down the ridges in the thin-set so they probably didn’t get 100% coverage. There’s only probably 50-60% coverage on the back of the tile. The thin-set didn’t bond to the concrete. That’s the bottom line,” explained Reed, “I don’t even see a waterproofing membrane. It looks like they applied thin-set directly to the float.”

Disastrous Pool Tile Failures Can Be a Costly Lesson

Failures of this nature can be enormously costly. “This was a fairly large free-form pool up in Beverly Hills, a little bit above Sunset, so it was in a hilly area. This pool had probably between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet of tile material that, of course, had to be completely removed. Let’s say it’s 2,500 sqft. That would be close to between $50,000 and $75,000, just for materials; and then labor for doing something like that would depend on the installer.” said Reed.

No matter what the client ultimately paid, it would appear from the catastrophic failure witnessed in the video, that it was too much. “The mortar bed was completely saturated and delaminating from the shell as you can see in the video which was just the tile layer peeling right off. There was literally no bonding between the thin-set and the substrate,” explained Reed, “all I had to do was use a screwdriver that the contractor that was there provided me with. It just opened right up and gushed out water that it was holding behind all the tile.”

Identifying The Source of The Problem

“Visually they saw bubbles. When you pushed on the bubbles, air would come out of these big lumps in the tile surface. All you had to do was push on it and things would start flying around. It was pretty bad,” remarked Reed.

“As I recall, there was no evidence of any waterproof membrane. That also tells me that there definitely wasn’t any type of colloidal silicate sprayed on the surface. The float that was applied looked to me to be very uneven and not laid out properly and it was just a very sloppy installation process from what I saw. There were grooves throughout and a lot of trail notch marks below the surface of the pool tile itself. You want to avoid that type of thing,” said Reed.

Learning The Proper Installation Technique

Because Reed sees so many failures in his line of work, we asked him where pool tile contractors could learn the proper methods of installation. “As far as the correct process, I mean, there’s a whole list of steps that goes into that type of installation from the shell out. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t a lot of places that I know of that specifically that train and walk contractors through the proper steps to do a full application,” said Reed.

“I believe Watershape University is working on something at the moment, and I may be participating with them in the near future. Also, Ask The Masters is a really good forum for professionals to inquire and share. But like any other learned trade, mentorship and experience is critical.” said Reed.

Want to take a deeper dive? Listen to our entire conversation with master tile installer, Jimmy Reed on the Pool Magazine podcast.

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Contractors and Builders

Deckorators Deck Designer Lets You Start Dream Building Immediately



Deckorators, a leading manufacturer of outdoor living products, has recently launched a new deck designer software that allows users to quickly and easily design their dream deck.

With this cutting-edge tool, users can start designing their ideal deck within seconds. The software features a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for anyone to use, regardless of their design experience.

To get a better understanding of the full capabilities of the software, Pool Magazine spoke with Michelle Hendrick of UFP Industries and Jason Varney of Dock and Deck.

“It’s a consumer tool, but contractors can also utilize it as well to really plan out the project that they’re working on and work with a homeowner on ways to look at different colors and how that pairs well with the siding of their house,” explained Michelle Hendrick.

One of the standout features of the Deckorators design software is the ability to choose from a wide range of customizable options. Users can select from a variety of decking materials, including traditional wood and composite options, as well as different colors, styles, and patterns. They can also add railings, stairs, and other features to their design, allowing them to create a truly personalized outdoor space.

Another helpful feature of the software is the ability to visualize your design in 3D. This allows users to get a realistic idea of what their finished deck will look like, making it easier to make design decisions and ensure that their deck meets their needs and preferences.

“You can even pull in a photo of your home into the software as well,” explained Hendrick, this really gives you a good feel for what that deck could look like.” Hendrick claims the software gives users the “design flexibility to really look at different pairings and ways to really accentuate the backyard”.

In addition to the design capabilities, the Deckorators design software also includes a project cost calculator which is exciting to contractors like Jason Varney. The software allows users to see how much their dream deck will cost, making it easier to plan and budget for their project.

“I think it is a tool that a contractor can use too,” said Varney, “DIYer’s will definitely use this to get a basis of an idea or a plan and almost kind of see where their cost price points are going to be before they contact a general contractor to come out and either give them a full rendering.”

“It’s a great start of letting a customer kind of figure out where they want to start out price-wise and get a budget in mind of where they think they need to be as far as materials,” said Varney.

We had the opportunity to experiment with the Deck Designer software ourselves and can see the potential in software that allows homeowners to dream build right there on the spot. We rated the Deck Designer one of our top pool products of 2022. Ease of use, easy-to-apply options, and a simple-to-navigate interface are guaranteed to make the platform a winner for homeowners and professionals alike.

Pool Magazine had the opportunity to experiment with the Deck Designer software, watch our fly-through video.

Overall, the Deckorators design software is a powerful and convenient tool for anyone looking to design and build a new deck. Its customizable options, 3D visualization capabilities, and project cost calculator make it easy to create the perfect outdoor space for any backyard. So, it can be a great help for homeowners, contractors and designers to create their dream deck.

To take a deeper dive into what the new software is all about, listen to the Pool Magazine podcast and our interview with Michelle Hendrick and Jason Varney. During our discussion, we talked about the new Deckorator design software as well as some other exciting new additions that you’re bound to see while making the rounds at this year’s trade shows.

Ready to try Deckorator’s new Deck Designer? Visit

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Contractors and Builders

Avoiding The Negative Spiral

Avoid the negative spiral by adhering to 4 fundamental principles.



Avoiding The Negative Spiral

A lot of builders compete on price and operate on narrow margins. This leaves little revenue to perform warranty repairs or to correct errors made during construction.

These builders oftentimes rely on the profit from the next job to fix mistakes from the last project. As the economy slips into a recession, these revenues shrink even more and the pool of funds available to remediate mistakes dries up.

Delays in performing repairs increases and customer frustration grows. As customer complaints intensify, the quantity of lawsuits rise.

The solution is simple, but multi-fold:

  1. Fix your errors and warranty call backs promptly.
  2. Maintain open lines of communication – don’t ghost clients or feed them BS.
  3. Increase the contingencies built into a project. Set them aside into a separate account, and don’t spend them upon each project completion.
  4. Improve quality control and reduce errors & mistakes.

Now, more than ever, as the economy constricts, clients will become more frugal and conscience of what is occurring in their yard. They will be less tolerant of delays and excuses.

Avoid the vortex.

This was a post originally published on Facebook that received an enormous response from peers within the industry.

Thoughts from some of my followers:

I don’t play the race to the bottom game to get the job. I have my margins and if someone goes cheap, they can have the job. If I don’t make what I need to, I walk away.

Michael Koenig

Another way to remediate this is to ensure that your profit margins are adequate enough that you don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul. If you’re actually performing quality work, the customer should be charged accordingly. Quality work costs money; most reasonable customers understand that. Michael Calore

Great advice. As a a 40+ year pool builder I wish just one of ex employees that decided to go into business for themselves would take the time to learn the business. I wouldn’t have made a career of repairing (and being paid well) for repairing others mistakes. JA GROW

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