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One on One With Lucas Congdon of Lucas Lagoons

Lucas Lagoons has rapidly become a household name when it comes to resort style pools. We go one on one with owner / founder, Lucas Congdon.

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Recently, Pool Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons, a company that specializes in the design and construction of luxury pools and outdoor living spaces. Congdon is also known for his role as the star of the hit TV show Insane Pools, airing on Animal Planet, the DIY Network, and Discovery+.

About Lucas Congdon & Lucas Lagoons

Congdon started Lucas Lagoons in 2002, with the goal of creating one-of-a-kind outdoor living spaces for his clients. Over the years, the company has grown in size and reputation, with Congdon and his team designing and building some of the most extravagant and unique swimming pools and outdoor spaces in the country.

Lucas Congdon - Owner and Founder of Lucas Lagoons and start of the hit TV show Insane Pools
Lucas Congdon – Owner and Founder of Lucas Lagoons and start of the hit TV show Insane Pools

In 2015, Congdon was approached by the Animal Planet network about starring in a new TV show that would showcase his work at Lucas Lagoons. The show, titled “Insane Pools: Off The Deep End”, quickly became a hit, with Congdon and his team traveling all over the country to design and build some of the most amazing and over-the-top swimming pools imaginable.

What sets Insane Pools apart from other home improvement shows is the sheer scale and creativity of the projects that Congdon and his team Lucas Lagoons got to take on. From pools with waterfalls and slides to outdoor kitchens and living spaces, there is no limit to what Congdon and his team can do. Take a deeper dive with us as we go one on one with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons.

Interview: One on One With Lucas Congdon

PM (Pool Magazine): Is it safe to say that Lucas Lagoons has become kind of a household name by now?

LC (Lucas Congdon): “Yeah, that’s how it feels. Wherever I go, there are always people excited to see me or sometimes I get, where do I know you from? And then I know right away, like. I don’t know them. They’re a fan of the show and it’s flattering. It’s pretty cool. “

“Sometimes it’s one of those awkward moments where you’re like running to catch a flight you’re late for and someone stops you. You don’t want to be rude, so you try to make the time. But yeah, it’s pretty cool to just be able to share my passion and have people recognize that. And it’s obviously really hard to kind of start a company and let people know what you’re about and Insane Pools really helps show people what we’re about and that’s quality and fun and building one-of-a-kind pieces of art you can swim in.”

Lucas Lagoons is known for its incredible resort-style backyards that feature all the bells and whistles.
Lucas Lagoons is known for its incredible resort-style backyards that feature all the bells and whistles.

PM: Did you ever have the thought (I’m going to be a pool celebrity one day), did that ever dawn on you when you first started down this path?

LC: “Well, it’s kind of funny when you’re younger. It’s hard to know what you want to do when you grow up. I always loved the video camera. My aunt and uncle were the first in the family to have a video camera and every time they had it on and jump in front of it and act goofy and do silly stuff. When I started to college, I didn’t know whether I wanted to do like, landscape architecture or film. I got bored with school and just jumped into creating things. It’s cool because both passions ended up coming together. It wasn’t like I had this all planned out. One thing led to another. I just always made videos and loved sharing what I was up to and through YouTube. That’s how it kind of all got kicked off.”

Congdon has become famous for capturing people's imaginations with his backyard lagoon and waterfall creations.
Congdon has become famous for capturing people’s imaginations with his backyard lagoon and waterfall creations.

PM: How did you get started in the industry and what was that path like for you from developing Lucas lagoons to becoming one of the most well-known pool builders in the world?

LC: “Well, I remember back to there was one winter there in Vermont where I was working for my mom doing stone work, and every morning it was like an hour drive to this beautiful home on Lake Champlain, but it was the winter, so we’d have to brush all the snow off the rocks before we started working. My fingers were so cold, and I remember right then and there thinking, I got to find another place to work. Shortly after that, I did a tour around the US with my girlfriend at the time and tried to find a place to move to so I could work year-round. We were kind of torn between California and Florida, but I was a young kid without any money, and California is pretty expensive. So I decided, you know what? Seems like there are the same opportunities in Florida, and it’s a lot cheaper to live there. So we chose Florida. After that kind of one thing led to another, I started doing tree work and some landscaping and then got into some water features. Finally, I had a client that said they wanted to remodel their pool.”

LC: “I knew nothing about pools, but I knew if I did some beautiful rock work like I did growing up in Vermont, around the swimming pool, it would look beautiful. I also had met Crash, who has been on the TV show and with me from the beginning. He had done some pool tile coping, and some remodels. He knew a little bit about it, and I knew about the rock work. So we did our first pool remodel and it came out beautiful. The rest is history. I realized that’s what I love to do and I found my passion. I changed my business name from Earthworks to Lucas Lagoons and said, ‘This is what I want to do’.” I want to build lagoon-style pools, and just kind of took off from there in 2003.”

PM: Congratulations on some of your recent awards. We had a chance to check out some of these projects, and they’re really breathtaking.

LC: “Yeah, it’s hard to keep them all straight. I have a list of some of the most recent awards, but they’re all just so unique and different. And when I first started out, we took the time to submit for a lot of awards. We won within the first couple of years almost 40 awards. Then I got so busy with the show, I didn’t submit Lucas Lagoons for awards for years. Just recently we’ve had some time to start submitting again and it was just awesome to get such great feedback from FSPA and then we also won a Pinnacle Award. It’s just been awesome.”

“Each job is just so uniquely different. We’ve been doing some modern designs, just to show that we’re well rounded and getting awards for those as well. Lucas Lagoons isn’t a one-trick pony. Not only can we do beautiful designs with a lagoon-style pool, but also if someone wants a more fine modern look. We’ve been having fun exploring that style as well and just really enjoy it. We’re always reinventing the wheel and that’s what keeps me interested in doing what we do.”

Congdon and company are known for their over-the-top tropical fantasy pools, waterfalls, and grottos.
Congdon and company are known for their over-the-top tropical fantasy pools, waterfalls, and grottos.

PM: How did you get first involved with doing the show Insane Pools and make the leap from YouTube to TV?

LC: “We got really, really, lucky. We had our YouTube channel and people were finding us through that. Then we had, I guess for lack of better words, just kind of like a talent scout who was looking on YouTube for ideas for a new show and saw what we were doing. He made a sizzle reel and pitched it to a few different networks. The first round nothing happened. The second round was drawn out and was like this multi-year process. So it was really like gut wrenching. You think you’re going to have a show, then you don’t have a show. That kind of back and forth. After a while, I stopped telling people Lucas Lagoons was going to have a show because it was just taking so long, they thought I was just making it up.”

“I just figured I’d just put it out of my mind and whatever was meant to be, was meant to be. Luckily ‘Insane Pools’ all came together and it was definitely a much bigger and harder challenge to do the show than I ever thought it would be. In the end though, well worth it. It really got our name out there and we’re obviously very proud of the show and the pools we did. I can say one thing, it was definitely a huge challenge to try to film the show and still be able to run a business at the same time. Yeah, lots of challenges.”

PM: Can you share that with us? What are some of the challenges of building a pool for a customer that’s going to be on a TV show?

LC: “Everyone thinks that just because you’re on TV, you’re just rich and made of money. That’s the thing with reality TV, they don’t pay you hardly anything because they know that it’s an opportunity for you. So you don’t really get paid much from the show. The clients know you’re going to get advertising for it, so they want a discount and they want something special. A lot of people have seen Extreme Home Makeover where they do things for free. There’s kind of that mentality that maybe they’ll get something for free if they reach out to the show.”

“Here I am, just a small pool business – Lucas Lagoons. I’m a self-started guy, and everyone’s kind of trying to get a deal and I’m just trying to make a living and stay afloat. Back then, I wasn’t famous, so we had small budgets. I knew this was my one shot to show the world what we could do. No matter what budget I got from my clients, I pushed it as far as I could. We gave it all we had and we put our own money and efforts and tried to get deals where we could and tried to make a million dollar look for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It was definitely very difficult.”

“The first season was really tough because they put low budgets on the pool. I built something worth five times what I was paid. That was season one, I think that was seven years ago now. Obviously with inflation things have gone up. So people see that first season, they think for $150,000, I can build them the pool they saw on TV. Now, that’s our average design fee just to develop these types of massive projects we’re doing. So a lot has changed.”

The price of a luxury lagoon style swimming pool has gone up with inflation, according to Lucas Congdon
The price of a luxury lagoon style swimming pool has gone up with inflation, according to Lucas Congdon

PM: What’s been your favorite part about doing the show?

LC: “I think just being able to connect with so many people that I wouldn’t have connected with before the show, whether it’s homeowners or other people in the industry or kids that have been inspired to be creative and want to work with their hands. These days so many kids are just kind of stuck on devices and disconnected from this kind of hard work and art. So it’s been really cool. Kids have sent me videos of them building their own little ponds in the backyard, or making Lego pools or hand drawings of pools. Just so much fan mail. It’s really cool. I love that I’m inspiring the next generation to be creative and work hard, that’s really rewarding.”

PM: What would your advice be for any homeowner that’s looking to build a luxury resort-style pool like the ones that your firm builds? What’s a good starting point budget-wise?

LC: “On our projects these days, a smaller project starts at around half a million, our average jobs are around a million. We have jobs approaching 10 million. It’s very expensive these days with inflation and just the labor force to build. If someone doesn’t have a huge budget, I would recommend looking into some other options.”

“There are so many different ways of building a pool, right? I mean, if they’re looking for amenities around a pool, you could do a vinyl liner pool or a fiberglass pool and then just do like a nice covered outdoor kitchen hangout area just to have water to jump in and swim in. My first pool experience was an above-ground circular pool my aunt and uncle had, and we used to love playing Marco Polo in that thing as a kid.”

“It’s so easy for people to reach for the moon, but really it doesn’t take something huge and elaborate to be fun. For example, in the beginning, before we had the big budgets, we’d take an old pool and instead of building these massive footers and using pilings to hold up the weight of massive rocks, we would just add use a pond liner and lip it over the edge of the pool and use smaller rocks and build a beautiful waterfall. We’d cut out some planters in the deck, add some lighting. There’s lots of things you can do if you have the ability or the willpower, whether you can do it yourself or find some people to help you.

“My first pool remodel was $35,000, and it was beautiful. Our most expensive project to date is 10 million. So I built everything from $35,000 to $10 million, and no matter what the budget was, in the end, everyone was always just like, this is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I think putting as much care and passion into it, that’s really all it takes. Take whatever budget you have and make it as beautiful as you can make it.”

PM: We were listening to your episode on Pool Chasers, and you were talking a little bit about that. You got your feet wet, so to speak, with remodels. Are you all self-taught?

LC: “Yeah, there was nobody doing what I wanted to do and I mean nobody. I tried to find people to learn from, and there was just really no one in my area doing it. I had to get little bits and pieces of information from whoever I could ask. Really, kind of the one thing for me is I can visualize what I want to do and figure out how to make it, I guess that’s my gift. That part always came easy to me. I didn’t think it was really that big a deal. Then again, I guess there are things that I think are just so hard that are easy for other people. I guess if it’s your gift, it just kind of comes naturally. “

“I was always creative, though. I grew up without TV and living off the land and would always just make things. My dad was a furniture maker, so he worked and had a shop at home. I had access to all of that so as a kid, I’d play in the shop and build things.”

“I didn’t imagine I’d be this successful. It definitely wasn’t overnight. I mean, I started in 2003. It’s 2023 here. So 20 years of just, you know, a lot of stress and hard work and ups and downs. You know something though, at the end of the day, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

PM: That’s awesome. We have to ask you a question that we’re sure you keep getting asked. When is the next season of Insane Pools? Are you going to do another one?

LC: “We’ve been trying to figure out how we can pull that off. Right now, we just have so many projects in so many different states. And Florida is a massive state. I mean, if you go from Key West to Tallahassee, it’s almost 12 hours of driving. So we have a huge area to cover. I’d love to find a way to do it. As of right now, we don’t have anything in the works but we are self-producing some episodes on YouTube again, because that’s manageable and are compiling lots of footage of all our projects. We’re saving that up and trying to find a formula or format where we can actually have a couple of full-length episodes ready to release. We’re just trying to figure out whether we can get that on Insane Pools as maybe like a special they want to run.”

PM: We’ve seen you been delving into a couple of other new things. One of them was shipping container pools. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

LC: “So I went out to Vegas and met the company and they have a cool product. I’ve been trying to find other more affordable options for people. I thought, put a shipping container pool in the backyard and maybe do like a little pool house or cabana. It’s a nice backyard for a reasonable price and they’re pretty cool. It’s just hard to permit them. In areas where you want to fit one, you have to crane it back there. So not as big of a success with that as I was hoping. Definitely some challenges. I still think it could be a cool option for some people.”

PM: Your firm is known for over-the-top resort-style lagoon pools. Is this going to be like a whole side of his business that we haven’t seen before?

LC: “I think what I’d like to do is kind of get my construction company really ironed out, doing the big projects I really love, and I do a lot of consulting and traveling. As we iron out the business, that’s kind of what I want to go after, coming up with not only the multimillion-dollar pools, but really cool, affordable backyards as well. I feel like no matter what people’s income is, they all deserve a beautiful backyard. Everyone wants the same thing. They want a place to make memories with their friends and their family. It’d be really cool to help people find a path, no matter what their budget, to get a backyard they can enjoy.”

PM: What’s next on the horizon for your team over at Lucas Lagoons?

LC: “We’re doing like 15 big jobs right now. It’s pretty nuts. I do a lot of traveling and consulting. I’ve been training and building other teams for the travel work. So my team is able to keep working here in Florida. Every day is different.”

“Some days I’m traveling or flying or driving. Right now I’m assembling a big team to do a massive pool in Texas. They’re on 7,500 acres. It’s going to be the biggest pool of our career.

“It’s going to be a huge, massive pool that goes over a lower pool and between the two is a 3,000-square-foot grotto with a huge lazy river and just pretty much any feature you can imagine is on this pool. It’s going to be pretty intense to build.”

“Then we’re also designing and going to build our first full-on commercial pool for a resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s the Inn at Christmas Place and that’s going to be a Christmas-themed pool. We’re going to try to do a grotto-like an Igloo. We’re going to have some ice sculptures that are made out of acrylic.”

“We’re going to have a lazy river island with like an old truck with a Christmas tree in it. But, you know without making it look cheesy because Christmas can be hard to design for but it’s such a fun, awesome holiday. How do you do a Christmas pool that’s not just super cheesy? It’s been a challenge but it’s looking super cool. So yeah we’ve got some fun things going on.”

Listen to our entire interview with Lucas Congdon on the Pool Magazine podcast.

Featured Photo Credits: Kevin

4.7/5 - (57 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, 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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Swimming Pool Fire Hose a Miss With Pool Pros

A swimming pool fire hose recently featured on the hit TV show Shark Tank looks like a big miss with pool and fire safety professionals.

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The FireFighter1 swimming pool fire hose is a product that made its way onto the popular TV show Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of investors in hopes of securing a deal. The FireFighter1 swimming pool fire hose was a hit on the show and ended up winning over the Sharks, resulting in a successful investment. Whether or not the product will become a hit with consumers, however, remains to be seen.

About FireFighter1 Swimming Pool Fire Hose

The FireFighter1 system is ostensibly a fire hose designed for swimming pools. The average residential swimming pool has around 25,000 gallons of water and the FireFighter1 claims that it can deploy more than a gallon of water per second, in a controlled spray that can reach up to 40 feet.

The product claims to offer homeowners the ability to quickly extinguish small fires that may occur around the pool area. The kit comes with a hose available in 50 and 100-ft lengths as well a 3-way diverter.

Firefighter1 Swimming Pool Fire Hose System – Photo Credit: Shark Tank Recap

One of the primary features touted in the pitch for the FireFighter1 System is its high-pressure nozzle. Manufacturers claim the nozzle is able to produce a powerful stream of water that can effectively extinguish small fires. The hose also comes with a built-in shut-off valve, allowing users to easily control the flow of water.

Another key selling feature of the FireFighter1 swimming pool fire hose is its compact size. The hose can be easily stored in a pool shed or other small space, making it readily available in the event of a fire.

On the surface, the system seems like a no-brainer for pool owners who live in areas prone to wildfires. So why are pool industry professionals saying that they’re ready to give this product a hard pass?

Experts Warn Against Trying To Put Out a Wild Fire With Your Swimming Pool

Swimming pools and ponds are frequently utilized by fire departments. Typically helicopters are deployed to use the water to combat wildfires. One could argue, doesn’t a product like FireFighter1 make sense for consumers to have in their homes?

Firefighters using water from a swimming pool. Photo Credit: Firefighter Insider

Clearly, the product is targeting homeowners who live in rural areas with fewer available resources to respond to house fires and potential wildfires. This was the premise of the value proposition on Shark Tank. The product however is raising alarms both with pool industry professionals and fire safety experts who feel that the equipment being pitched to the public is inadequate in the face of real-world wildfires.

“I think it will sell. People will buy into it, especially in drought-stricken areas prone to fires. I do think it will work to a certain point if installed correctly – not as in the demo. It needs to be on the discharge of the pump. I don’t think most homeowners will know to change the suction to draw from the main drain versus the skimmer and they will run out of water. I do think it will provide a false sense of security and keep people from evacuating as early as they should. All in all, I’m not a fan.” – CPO Instructor & Best-Selling Author, Rudy Stankowitz.

“There’s not enough water volume. We have a detail/spec for a fire department standpipe off of a dedicated pool main drain for firefighting. It’s a 6” main line to a 4” vertical pipe for a wharf hydrant. It’s a detail that we’ve had approved by the CDF, LA, Santa Barbara & Monterey County Fire Marshals,” Paolo Benedetti – Swimming Pool Expert Witness.

Did Shark Tank Take a Bite on The Wrong Product?

Wildfire prevention and mitigation expert, James Rappuhn feels this product may actually be dangerous in the long run. “I do not feel this is a good solution for homeowners. It creates a false sense of security (“I don’t need to perform necessary home hardening or clearance because I have this pool pump system”). Additionally, wildfires move faster than people know. They should be evacuating to safety not staying home and fighting a fire with inferior equipment. To me, this is a dangerous product. I base this on 20 years of wildfire experience.”

There are numerous threads on social media dedicated to whether or not this is a viable product for consumers. The general consensus among pool professionals and fire safety experts we spoke with is that consumers may have difficulty engaging the system in an emergency and that the flow rate may not be suited to the task of fighting an actual wildfire.

Bianca Wittenberg won over the sharks but has yet to win over pool and fire safety experts.
Bianca Wittenberg won over the sharks but has yet to win over pool and fire safety experts.

Bianca Wittenberg is the founder of FireFighter1 and current CEO and Lead Product Developer. On the surface, it does not appear that she has much pool or fire safety experience. She owns a residential real estate company called Own It Real Estate and is an operations manager and broker at IBMC Lending. Prior to starting FireFighter1, she owned a synthetic lawn and landscaping business.

Experts we spoke to would like to see more involvement from independent sources both in the pool industry as well as fire safety to ascertain whether or not this product is actually a safer alternative to simply evacuating.

Shark Tank has a history of finding great new products, especially when it comes to pool-related items. One such product that was a big hit was Magic 5, which made a splash with its innovative custom-tailored swim goggles. Sometimes the sharks hit, and sometimes they miss. This certainly wouldn’t be the first fire safety product that went awry for the sharks. For now, however, it’s safe to say that FireFighter1 appears to be a big miss with pool pros.

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Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge Winner – Rance Schindler

Pool Magazine takes a deep dive into the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge winning entry by Rance Schindler.

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Congratulations Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge Winner - Rance Schindler

Pool Magazine is proud to have been one of the sponsors of this 2022’s Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge at the PSP Deck Expo in Las Vegas. The winning design was done by up-and-coming designer Rance Schindler who blew away the judges with his $10,000 winning entry, courtesy of Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems.

The annual competition is the brainchild of renowned designers Mike Farley and Reid Schindler, and it seeks to promote cutting-edge ideas for backyards by doing away with financial restraints. Designers are invited to enter the competition and create the ultimate outdoor oasis for hypothetical clients on a million-dollar budget.

Entrants in the 2022 competition were tasked with creating an outdoor living oasis for a husband-and-wife pair of lawyers in Chicago, Illinois. Designing the ultimate backyard for these dream clients meant planning a seasonal space that would prioritize health, wellness, and self-care.

Some prerequisites for submissions were that the design should incorporate a few wish list items:

The Wishlist

The site that was chosen for the million-dollar pool challenge.

The Site

  • Home has a lower terrace area, front approach, and rooftop terrace.
  • Seasonal usage of space, designer should consider wind, sun direction, shade, and the Chicago climate.
  • Clients goal for the space is a space to unwind.


Aesthetics & View

  • Keep the view open if possible, but they also want privacy.
  • Preferred to have natual elements, but they love structured design.


Pool & Spa

  • The pool is for health, wellness, and self care.
  • They are looking for a complete setting, not just a swimming pool.
  • A hot tub and cold plunge are needed, possibly a sauna.


Elements to Include

  • A fire element to gather around.
  • Cool lighting.
  • The use of a Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems product (lazy river or swim jet system).
  • A real or synthetic lawn space.
  • The use of Ledge Lounger furniture.
  • An outdoor kitchen.


Other Considerations

  • The couple will entertain/host six to 12 guests maximum.
  • The wife teaches yoga and barre as a hobby, and wants a space to exercise and cool off.

A large number of entrants tried out for the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge, but only a select few were invited to Las Vegas to show off their skills. PoolHaus’s Brent Dutton, Old State Landscape’s Whitney Morris and Stephanie Carnahan, Complete Exterior Solutions’ Rance Schindler, Randy Angell Designs’ Brad Holley, and AquaTerra Outdoors’ Minsung Kim, Karishma Karki, Paola Hidalgo, and Sameepa Modi were also finalists.

Congratulations to all of the finalists in the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge
Congratulations to all of the finalists in the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge

Entries were evaluated by an expert panel of judges based on the following factors:

1. Aesthetic Quality – Is the concept’s form pleasant to look at?           
2. Differentiation – Is the concept “fresh” & unique?    ​           
3. Functionality -Does the concept meet the criteria of the families needs?  Does it consider all elements site analysis? 
4. Realization Possibility – Is the concept buildable if the client decided to move forward with construction? ie. topographically, features, function​

Rance Schindler was the winner of this year's Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge
Rance Schindler was the winner of the 2022 Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge

Let’s take a look at this year’s winning design by Rance Schindler of Complete Exterior Solutions. One of the prerequisites of the client was shade.

This design answers that request with a large tree that shades the outdoor living space and becomes a central focal point of the backyard.

The design plan also features a lovely rooftop dining and conversation area as well as an outdoor kitchen.

A gorgeous glass deck overhangs the entire outdoor living space and looks down on a smartly appointed pool, fire pit, and lounging area below.

Think you’ve got what it takes to enter next year’s Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge? Learn more about this contest and how to enter.

https://www.themilliondollarpoolchallenge.com/

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What Were The Builders Thinking With This Movable Pool Floor?

A pool builder experimenting with movable pool floors was a costly lesson. Learn how this moving pool floor project was saved.

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What Were The Builders Thinking With This Movable Pool Floor?

It started with a phone call from the owner’s personal assistant.  They had movable pool floors in the pool and spa that didn’t operate properly.  They wondered if I’d fly up to Whitefish, MT, and have a look-see at their problems.

A Failing Movable Pool Floor System

Upon my arrival, I was met with an odd home-brew moving floor system. In an attempt to reinvent the wheel, the pool builder attempted to create his own moving floor systems.  The premise was that ballast tanks would be filled with water to lower the floor and be filled with air to raise it. 

In theory, it may have worked, but as with any unproved and untested design, there are always kinks.  Testing theories on a wealthy client and working out the kinks on a multi-million dollar pool project, is never the place to learn.

A Poor Choice of Materials

To begin with, the structure was fabricated out of aluminum.  Anyone who’s spent time around chlorinated swimming pools knows that aluminum rapidly decays in salt or chlorinated water.  The ballast tanks did not have any bulkheads, so the water sloshed from end to end.  This caused the floor to list to one side or end, binding it within the pool walls.  You can imagine a multi-ton structure wedged within the pool walls. The deck of the floors were finished in Ipe, a hard exotic hardwood.  However, after submersion in water, the wood becomes gray, slimy, and slippery.

To make matters worse, the builder failed to recess the incandescent lights and wall fittings.  So the shifting floor structure would sheer off the glass lenses and fittings.  In a futile attempt to keep the multi-ton structure aligned, the builder cut guide tracks into the walls and installed roller wheels.  Again, the forces at play here grossly exceeded the bolt-on wheel assemblies.

A Laundry List of Problems Unfolds

The moving floor in the spa was another disaster.  The mechanism was a scissors lift, driven by a hydraulic ram.  The builder sourced his hydraulic ram from a local tractor supply store.  Over a few quick months, the leaking ram created an oil slick atop the spa.  Needless to say, the cast iron ram began to corrode within the chlorinated water.

Once I began to evaluate the hydraulics, electrical, and moving floor systems, it became apparent that the entire project would require a substantial renovation in order to be safe, functional, and code compliant.

Out With Old Pool Floor & In With The New

I partnered with a local contractor, Shawn Hossack of Panorama Builders.  Together we came up with a plan to remove the dangerous floor system and install a new fully proven and engineered system.  Though we obtained bids from a number of manufacturers, we settled on systems from HydrofloorsTwinscape Group. Their technical support and proven track record made the client’s choice simple.

The Scope of Work

The interior of the pool & spa was determined to be not completely plumb and true.  The only means to correct these deviations would be to render them with mortar and tile them.  First, the failing Eco-Finish would have to be removed from the walls, the walls roughened, and prepared for waterproofing.

Since winter was approaching, the decision was made to tent the project under a 100-foot by 50-foot tent and pump in 2,000,000 BTU of heated air 24/7.  Over the winter months, the exterior temperature dropped to below -18ÂşF with the wind chill.  Meanwhile, the interior temperature remained a comfortable 60ÂşF!  The cost to operate the diesel heat exchanger and blowers averaged $10,000 a month.

To get the exact contours from which Twinscape could begin fabrication, the crews at Panorama tiled the top 3 feet of the pool in order to generate a 3-D model of the interior. 

Since the walls are supposed to be perfectly vertical, these 3 feet would be a representation of the entire pool depth.  From this model, Twinscape was able to begin fabrication, while progress was being made on tiling the pool.

The spa wasn’t quite deep enough to accommodate a properly designed scissors lift.  We remedied this by raising the spa walls 18 inches and replumbing the jets.  Once the concrete had cured, the tiling of the spa began in parallel with the pool.

Additional Observations

The clients chose a beautiful blue tile from Interstyle.  The hydraulics and mechanical systems were corrected to the best possible conditions without demolishing the decking and totally re-piping the pool and spa.  Some pumps were eliminated and their pipes were re-purposed in order to reduce the line velocities on the remaining pumps.  Some drains were converted to returns and unblockable drains and sump were installed. The ineffective skimmers in the catch basin were removed and their suction pipes were connected to the basin floor drains.  Water chemistry management systems were installed to eliminate corrosion of the new floor systems. 

During demolition, we discovered many electrical and bonding deficiencies.  The incandescent lighting was converted to strip lights from Hydrolume and proper j-boxes and conduits were installed. 

To eliminate the fall hazard over the vanishing edge, we partnered with Reynolds Polymers to fabricate and install an acrylic railing system.  The panels were set into a channel within the floor.  So, regardless of the height of the floor within the pool, there will always be a railing of sufficient height to protect pedestrians and bathers.

In Conclusion

All in all, the repairs to the project took almost 20 months.  The ensuing lawsuit resulted in a jury trial and a judgment of $4,750,000 – to date, the nation’s largest judgment in a residential pool construction defect case.

View the completed project. – Credit: Twinscape Group | Panorama Builders
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