Miami, FL is home to some of the most affluent people in America. The Magic City is known for some of the most elaborate and over the top resort style pools in the country. Consequently, the standards locals have on their inground pool designers are incredibly high. For discerning homeowners in Miami, an inground pool is much more than just a place to cool off. In many Miami homes, the swimming pool is the entire focal point of the backyard.
With homes selling well north of $20,000,000 in Miami, it’s no secret that a luxury inground pool has pretty much become standard. It’s a high end area of the country where some of the top pool design trends seem to originate from.
The following is a list of the Top Pool Designers in Miami. These companies have a long and consistent track record as some of the leading pool builders in Miami, FL. If you’re thinking of building an inground pool this year, there really is only a short list of potential candidates you need to review.
List of Top Miami Pool Designers
#1 – Custom Pools Miami
A veteran pool builder and pool designer of custom luxury inground pools in South Florida. Custom Pools is known throughout the Miami / Dade metro area for constructing high quality inground pools and designs. Seen below is a sample of one of their 3D pool designs. They are one of the top pool contractors in Miami. Their pool designers encompass the entire essence of the Miami lifestyle and translate accurately in the finished product they produce for homeowners.
#2 – Van Kirk Pools
Consistently voted by Pool & Spa News as one of the best pool contractors in America. Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas also has a well established track record in the Miami area. They are a family owned business that have been in the pool business for over 40 years and are very well known in the pool industry. A builder of Commercial & Residential pools, Van Kirk is also a popular choice throughout South Florida.
#3 – Dream Pools of South Florida
With over 20 years experience as a pool builder in South Florida, Dream Pools has established a reputation as a top local pool contractor. Highly rated on websites like HomeAdvisor, Angies List, they specialize in new pool construction. A builder of shotcrete pools, Dream Pools is another well known pool construction company in Miami.
Infinity Edge Pools – The HOT Pool Design Trend in Miami
Some of the must have features that homeowners are adding to their swimming pools this year seem to incorporate the fantastic ocean views Miami has to offer. We asked Dago Cabral, Owner of Custom Pools in Miami what is one over the top pool feature he gets the most inquiries about. In Miami, Dago explained, Infinity Pools are currently the rage this year.
An Infinity Edge pool is definitely a popular request in Miami. Particularly for homeowners with beach front property.Custom pools – dago cabral | Owner
“The overflow edge of the pool creates a breathtaking look. It’s architecturally dramatic and gives that resort vibe from inside the pool.” continues Cabral. “Knife edge pools are a similar request we get. They are similar to Infinity Edge pools, but overflow from multiple edges instead of one”
It’s certainly easy to see why Miami homeowners opt for such high end features in their swimming pool. With competent and reliable pool builders like these companies in their market, they have their pick of qualified pool designers.
There are certainly many qualified pool companies that didn’t make our list today. These elite pool builders represent the crème de la crème in the pool industry. They are respected as pool designers and expert construction companies.
One on One With Rick Chafey of Ask The Masters
Rick Chafey is one of the top pool designers in the country and the co-owner of two design / build firms – Red Rock Pools & Spas & Red Rock Contractors, out of Chandler, AZ. He’s also an instructor at Watershape University as well as the co-host of Ask The Masters, a popular podcast that focuses on education and the more technical aspects of what folks who build and design pools for a living, really want to learn about.
When it comes to swimming pools, Chafey is a fountain of knowledge. We had the opportunity to sit and talk shop with one of the top designers in the industry. Chafey first got his start around 25 years ago as a general contractor and around 5 years in, got into the realm of pool design and construction. “Early on we weren’t a design firm much at all,” said Chafey, “We pretended to be designers like a lot of pool builders do early on, without any real knowledge or education about what we were doing. We made pretty pictures and hoped and got our subcontractors to help us stumble through being a builder.”
The Path Towards Becoming a Leading Design / Build Firm
As Chafey progressed in his career, he began acquiring an education and expanding his acumen eventually gaining an in-depth understanding of the way pools are designed and built. Chafey began building a team that would eventually comprise 40 employees that handle design / build construction projects throughout Arizona as well as the rest of the country and overseas. His design team consisting of 2 licensed architects, a civil engineer, and 3 drafters comprise the consulting arm of Red Rock Pools & Spas. This forward-thinking expansion has allowed him to provide services throughout the industry for other builders both locally and abroad and has helped propel him as one of the leading design consultants in the swimming pool industry.
As one of the top design / build firms in the country, his firm is frequently brought in to consult on some of the most over the top and elaborate pool construction projects in the world. A frequent collaborator with some of the elite names in the pool industry, Chafey has developed a wide network of experts whom he can call on to help assist with various aspects of a given project.
An $8 Million Dollar Resort Style Pool Is Par For The Course
Currently, Chafey and company are working on an $8 million dollar backyard resort style luxury pool complete with its very own shark tank. “Structurally and cosmetically, we can figure that part out,” said Chafey, “but then we need to get involved in safety, and life support for the fish, and access and all those parts.”
“It’s got a flowrider surf machine, full size commercial 1,000 hp surfing machine. This one’s, unique because it’s the second one they built that’s designed on the same platform as an inflatable paddle board or a rigid inflatable boat.” said Chafey.
In describing the unique complexity of the project, Chafey explained how the system will work. “We can actually deflate the system and then we’ve got a transversing hydraulic deck system that closes it off from view and UV rays. When it’s not in use – it won’t look like a giant inflatable jump toy in the backyard.” Twinscape USA will provide the expertise for that application, said Chafey
“It’s also got a lazy river tied to it,” Chafey explained, “The main pool section has big grottos and underground water features. To top it off, its got a go-cart track tunnel that goes all the way underneath part of that river for a few hundred feet, then comes back out and back to grade. Soup to nuts, that project adds up to 50 different small design projects and we’ve got 6 different consultants to try and put all that together.”
Did Someone Say Shark Tank?
This over the top resort style luxury pool has an incredible amount of moving parts and degree of difficulty rarely found in most residential pools. Swimmers can splash around in the swimming pool while viewing through a shared acrylic wall at a 30,000 gallon shark tank on the other side. To add to the complexity, the shark tank has to be load bearing and support several portions of the home. The remarkably intricate project has been years in the making and has included the collaboration of a different teams of individual consultants. Chafey was brought in by the general contractor early in the game before there was even a budget allocated to the project.
Putting The Best Team Out On The Field
Ultimately, Chafey explained that it’s his ability to organize teams and orchestrate the various moving parts of a given project that help differentiate his firm as an elite design / build firm in the pool world. Chafey’s project portfolio has grown substantially over the last two decades, helping him achieve recognition with both some of the most discerning homeowners as well as his peers within the industry.
Chafey had some advice for aspiring pool builders looking to get into the realm of high end custom luxury pools, “Part of it is you have to start building a body of work to where you start making those connections and getting the requests,” said Chafey, “That’s just something you have to build up over time. As long as your concepts and creativity are getting peoples admiration and you’re able to pull them off, you can slowly build that body of work to where those projects are getting bigger.”
Trying to advance to higher end pool projects before going through the learning process is a recipe for disaster insisted Chafey who said, “It takes time, no matter how much you try to accelerate your capacity, it takes time and opportunity and then you have to be able to pull them all off throughout that process.” Rick’s own path took him a while to begin to receive the notoriety and recognition as an elite design / build firm. “For us, over the last 25 years, we’ve built a lot of relationships with design teams and general contractors.” said Chafey.
When it comes to being one of the elite pool design firms in the country, Chafey said that lately he finds himself in a small field of competition when it comes to the firms that are able to tackle projects of the size, scope and complexity his firm takes on. His ability to scale Red Rock’s consulting services to other builders has dramatically increased the number of projects they find themselves involved in.
Co-Owner — Brett Blauvelt
Lead Designer – Jake Lupe
Field Superintendents – Jordan Walker and Ken Kauffmann
Project GC Regal American Homes
Aquatic Glazing International
Aquatic Exhibits International
This certainly isn’t the first large scale project that Chafey has been involved with. Widely regarded in the pool industry for his expertise, he’s a full time functioning contractor not just an educator. Given his role on Ask The Masters, it’s only natural that his own work is often critiqued and analyzed. Having that kind of visibility comes with a price which means that all of his projects are under the microscope and scrutiny of the rest of the industry. As a leading consultant Chafey is often closely studied by his peers and as an educator even more so by folks looking to benefit from his wealth of knowledge.
Rick Chafey on his move to Watershape University
Early on, Chafey placed a premium on education, becoming a staff member at Genesis where he was an instructor and Chaired the Advisory Board for several years before eventually joining Watershape University. Chafey is now an instructor and is helping to shape the curriculum for the new education program with Dave Penton, Dave Peterson, Michael Nance, and Bill Drakeley along with other well-known previous Genesis faculty.
“When it comes to education, the main thing is to get involved, regardless if it’s Genesis, Watershape University, PHTA or whatever program you choose.” said Chafey, who said that he feels that Watershape University gives him to opportunity to adapt the new program towards more high end pools rather than production pools.
Chafey explained that the new program will provide a complete textbook level class that features distance learning options as an alternative to the costly in-person events that attendees typically spend thousands of dollars to attend in addition to the courses they are taking.
“Everyone learns better face to face. However that’s also what has been holding us back as a group because we were only teaching at certain locations at certain times a year, it made it very difficult and much more expensive for people to travel.” said Chafey, “If you’re on the east coast and have to travel to Las Vegas and spend 4 or 5 nights in a hotel and spend money on airfare and meals and pay for education… it’s not always practical. What Watershape University is currently doing is putting as much online as possible, hour by hour – each segment can be done online on your own time.”
“The intensity and requirement of doing our hydraulics class is pretty thorough. Dave Petersons class on hydraulics is the best class any pool builder in the entire country can ever take. If you’re a guy like me that wants to do higher level work, once you start taking a class like that you will get sucked in and realize how much you didn’t know and how much you have to learn.” said Chafey as he was describing what Watershape University brings to the table in terms of it’s offering.
After a long hiatus due to Covid-19, the program plans to have a big presence at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Dallas in November. Chafey who co-hosts the Ask The Masters Podcast with Dave Penton, says he plans close integration between the two online platforms.
Get to know Rick & Dave on the Ask The Masters Podcast. We feature their content in the Pool Magazine app and you can also find them on Facebook where they host one of the most active groups in the pool industry consisting of thousands of members.
Listen to our entire interview with Rick Chafey on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Dave Penton – Builder, Mentor, Professor
We’re chatting with Dave Penton, Co-Host of Ask The Masters and Professor for Watershape University
Dave Penton is probably one of the most recognizable voices in the pool industry. As a Co-Host of the Ask The Masters Podcast, and Professor at Watershape University, Dave has been a mentor to countless builders in the field of pool construction.
A certified PhD in Pool Construction, if there was such a thing – David Penton is pretty much omnipresent in the pool industry. Here is a man who is involved at such a high level in this field and has given back so much to the industry over the past few years. It’s tough to discern exactly how he finds time for it all.
Penton has been involved in a number of high profile pools over the years. His construction projects have been featured in The Robb Report, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Luxury Pools, and now we are privileged to be able to highlight and profile his incredible story and body of work in Pool Magazine.
Penton first got started in the pool industry back in 1992. His company at the time Krystal Klear Pools, originally focused on pool & spa maintenance and repair services. Receiving his state contractors license, the company continued to work on bigger and bigger projects. Dave began developing a reputation as one of the leading service providers in Orange County for his residential and commercial work. His company, Krystal Klear Pools continued to grow until he received his C-53 pool construction license in 2003. Penton decided to sell his service business to focus on pool construction full time and re-branded the company as Fluid Dynamics.
His first major project was a $100,000 remodel. A pool builder friend of his guided him through his initial forray into the industry and helped him learn the ropes. Penton committed himself to learning as much as he could, as quickly as he could and became a voracious student. Penton credits studying with organizations like Genesis with providing the stepping stones he needed to becoming one of the industries high-end builders.
Fast forward to 2021, his company Fluid Dynamics has been responsible on numerous high end pool construction projects all over Los Angeles and Orange County. Dave’s body of work includes the type of high end restoration projects that only the leaders in the industry at the pinnacle of their career get to work on. Penton recently worked an incredible restoration project at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades and another restoration of the fountain at the historic Century Towers property.
Projects like an over-the-top 26 by 100 foot pool in Bel Air are all in a days work for this master pool builder. With a laundry list of high profile inground pool projects, Penton has worked with a veritable who’s who in the pool industry including top names in construction and design like Jimmy Reed, Shane LeBlanc, and many others.
As one of the leading experts in the country, Dave has found time to give back to the pool industry in so many ways over the years. His transition now to Mentor has seen him function as an instructor for both the Genesis program, and now Watershape University where he teaches today.
We asked Dave how he finds time for it all, and what the transition has been like to becoming a mentor for other builders “I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without people doing the same thing for me.” said Penton who claims to find it immensely rewarding to be able to give back in the form of imparting his expertise on other builders. “That rhythm has always been established since the beginning of my career for learning or being able to carve out time for giving back” said Penton.
Prior to joining Watershape University, Dave was an instructor for Genesis – one of the leading training programs in the pool industry. His split from the organization is now common knowledge. We asked him some pointed questions about his separation from Genesis. We also asked him to clear up a few ambiguities that come from questions we have seen posed again and again in social media groups.
The pool industry itself is huge but in the ecosystem we live in, everyone talks to one another so it’s kind of like a small town the way word travels so fast. Dave was already familiar with the topic at hand and replied “Bill Drakely and David Peterson had a different vision for education and decided they could do a great job on their own.” said Penton “I love Dave and Bills vision for the industry and I’m just happy to be a part and be a contributing professor and continue to give back to the industry”.
Penton summarized one of the distinctions between the two programs being the pace of which matriculation occurs from one level to the next.
“What I like about Watershape University is that you can move from your Associates, to your Bachelors, to your Masters quickly” said Penton “There’s also recognition at various levels of your education as opposed to having to wait until you’ve completed the entire course”.
We inquired as to whether the course curriculum is the same. “As far as the program goes there are some overlaps,” he replied. “There are instructors that teach for both organizations.” Penton advised anyone interested in either of the two programs to compare course descriptions and teacher bios in order to make an assumption as to which program best suits their educational pursuits.
Penton, who regularly consults with a dream team including Paolo Benedetti (Swimming Pool Expert Witness), Randy Beard, Rick Chafey and many others is probably one of the most knowledgeable folks in the pool industry. He says programs like Genesis and Watershape University have given him the foundation and vernacular to be able to communicate at various levels in the industry with expert knowledge.
“It creates a more well rounded individual” said Penton “Understanding both sides of it makes pool builders better understand the design side, and conversely it makes pool designers better understand the construction side.”
You cannot discount the fact that Penton has taken the opportunity to reinvest back into his education. He has done so at every stage in his career. Education is something Penton encourages professionals pursuing a career in the industry to consider very strongly. The program he teaches today at Watershape University is an excellent pathway towards continuing ones training in the field of pool construction.
You can follow the Ask The Masters Podcast where they speak with expert knowledge on a variety of different topics associated with the pool industry. We subscribe to it and you should too. Listen to our complete interview with Dave Penton on the Pool Magazine Podcast.
All Photos Courtesy of Fluid Dynamics
Olympus Pools Responds To Allegations
Olympus Pools says that a shortage of materials has led to a series of unexpected delays.
Olympus Pools reputation in the Tampa area has certainly seen better days. Owners James & Alexis Staten currently face a firestorm of customer complaints and unwanted media attention from consumer advocates. Allegations of unfinished pools and unpaid subcontractors have tarnished the once sterling reputation of the Lutz, FL based company.
In a previous article we wrote about Olympus Pools, we reported how locals in Tampa were beginning to express frustration that their inground pool projects had not been completed in a timely fashion. At the time of publication, owners James and Alexis Staten were unavailable for comment. Shortly after the publication of our original article, owner James Staten reached out to us to convey his side of story. Sadly, it resembles many similar stories we’ve heard lately. Staten explained that a lack of materials is causing a series of delays in the construction of his companies projects.
“We are simply staring at a perfect storm of too many projects and a lack of parts and equipment to finish everyone’s projects in a timely fashion.” said Staten on a phone call with Pool Magazine Editor Joe Trusty, last week.
When we inquired as to how Staten responds to allegations that he has not paid subcontractors like Aaron Allen, Staten said this was emphatically false.
“I wasn’t even aware of who this guy was until all this happened in the media to be honest with you.” Staten suggested that a list of former clients, employees and subcontractors were picking this as the opportune time to kick Olympus Pools while they were down. “They are piggybacking off the notoriety this issue is getting” said Staten “Plain and simple, that’s all that is”.
When we asked how Staten intends to alleviate consumer concerns that his company will fold, Staten responded “We aren’t going anywhere. We want our customers to know that above all else, completing their projects is our number one priority. We have been a part of this community for years and are committed to finishing their pools.”
Olympus Pools has posted a message on their website that there is currently a 5 month wait to even begin a construction project. When we mentioned the fact that customers on social media seemed frustrated that Olympus Pools continues to take on new work while their pools remain unfinished, Staten responded “We are not selling anymore pools this year – period. We fully intend to complete the pool projects we’ve started as quickly as possible”.
Staten whose business Olympus Pools has become well known in the pool industry, expressed concern that his companies reputation had come under such a barrage of bad publicity as of late. When we discussed the root cause and underlying issues generating customer complaints Staten replied “We did not anticipate the incredible difficulties we’ve had this year being able to meet deadlines because of ongoing delays.”
Staten cited shortages as the primary culprit causing delays and consequently so many customer complaints as of late. He suggested that Olympus Pools was experiencing the fallout of the recent Texas freeze taking many essential components off the market. “Valves are impossible to find right now” said Staten “The problem is not unique, there are alot of pool companies experiencing the same customer complaints due to all of these shortages.”
Staten, who sounded exhausted on the phone expressed gratitude at being able to tell his companies side of the story, if only to fellow contractors in the pool industry. “I’m certain that there are other companies out there like us that are going through the same thing right now. All I can tell you is that we are building these pools as quickly as we possibly can. We are not taking on any new business until we can catch up.”
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