Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™
Pools as an art form - the way it should be!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Swimming pool designer builder Paolo Benedetti discusses U-Tunes, Underwater swimming pool speakers Santa Barbara, Montecito, Santa Ynez

Internationally acclaimed swimming pool designer and builder Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa discusses U- Tunes! Under water swimming pool speakers & sound.

Ancient Technology

Socially there has been a marked increase in the desire to have one's personal music collection available anywhere one might be. While underwater music has always been available, the quality of the speakers had left something to be desired.

Early speaker designs were mechanical, and though these ancient designs are still available, they are prone to constant failure. They oftentimes also require the use of a proprietary niche (a speaker manufacturer supplied plastic or metal pocket that is cast into the pool wall to house the speaker fixture). This requirement trapped the owner into keeping these deficient design speakers, so when they fail nothing else will fit into the niche.

Additionally, the physical design of the speakers are hideous. They are bulbous and protrude from the pool wall, drawing attention to themselves. Add to that, the fact that they are only available in white or blue, not harmonious with every designer finish. Absolutely no thought went into the aesthetics of the speaker itself.

But, they are inexpensive, so these are what most designers and pool builder specify or install. Remember what my grandpa used to say (translated from Italian)? "Cheap isn't good and good isn't cheap" Basically, You get what you pay for! With underwater speakers, this could not be any truer!

Those antiquated designs contained metallic components that require electrical bonding, magnets that rust, parts that promoted galvanic corrosion, are not of a sealed design (the plastic bulb housing eventually cracks and leaks), or do not have the ability to handle the high wattage input from modern music systems (they are usually limited to 35 - 200 watts @ 8 ohms).

And the biggest complaint... their sound fidelity is rotten! Rule of thumb: "If they sound like crap out of the water, they will sound like a truck load of crap underwater!"


With the decades of advancements in electronic technology, so has the technology of underwater speakers, as I call them "U-Tunes!"

Gone are the days of expensive and potentially corrosive stainless steel niches. Metallic components have been removed. The advent of piezo speaker technology has eliminated the need for moving parts.

The best underwater speakers utilize any readily available standard sized swimming pool light niche, making swapping out to another brand at a later date feasible. I personally specify the full sized American Products PVC light niche, as it reduces the potential for leaks where a threaded conduit would thread into a stainless steel niche. The niche is still required to be bonded to the pool's bonding grid, as it contains a bonding straps & a stainless steel mounting rim (the speaker retention screws tie into this stainless steel ring). And, if anyone ever removes the speaker & desires to place a light in it's place, it is already properly prepared for the conversion.

The modern speakers sit flat in the niche, protruding only 1/2-1" from the wall. Most are black in color, but a few manufacturer's offer custom epoxy painting to match the pool finish color.

The sound fidelity? It is remarkable. High quality speakers can handle upwards of 400 watts @ 8 ohms! Be sure that your speaker is protected by an isolation transformer! It'll keep the speaker from being over powered. Some manufacturers will even build custom configured systems.

How many speakers?

Most residential swimming pools will only require one speaker. Because water molecules are touching each other, sound travels better underwater than in the ambient air. Also, all of the background noise in the backyard is muffled when you are underwater. Most pools up to 800 square feet can get away with a single speaker.


Everyone always asks... so here is my personal preference: OCEANEARS SP-8 SONIC BULB SPEAKER ( Yes, they are expensive, but you get what you pay for.

The customer service alone is worth the extra money. I have had customers blow out a Oceanears speaker & they sent a replacement transformer at no cost. When the customer blew it out a second time, they sent a more powerful replacement transformer at no charge! Even when they determined that the client was over powering the speaker, they took care of business! My kind of folks!

I have never used or specified anything except Oceanears Speakers. I even have one in my personal pool (and I paid full price for it too!). I have a dozen of them in use dating back 10+ years.

The only problem that we've ever had what that one client who over amp'd the transformer. That client has been told do it again & be prepared to open your wallet, WIDE!

U-Tunes - excellent for parties, daily exercise, or recreational swimming.

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Water in Transit" Edge Details... Choices, choices...

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

Infinity edge pool, vanishing edge pool, knife edge pool, perimeter overflow pool, wet edge, zero edge, flooded deck pool, slot overflow pool, elevated perimeter overflow pool, disappearing edge pool... what ever you call them, they all have something in common - water flows over the top of at least one wall of the pool.

Imagine a bowl of water overflowing it's rim, or if the top is not exactly level - the water overflows in the lower area. This brings us to the various types of edge details available.

The "hottest" detail and most difficult to construct is a perimeter overflow detail called a "knife edge." The knife edge perimeter overflow pool has the water raised right up to the level of the coping. But instead of any water flowing over the coping, the water drops into a diagonal slot that meets the top inside edge of the coping. The water is right at the top edge of the coping, but then it falls into the slot that is under the coping. This is the most complex design, due to the difficulty in constructing the gutter & "knife edge." The edge must be dead-on level. Additionally, because the coping covers the entire gutter, there is no opportunity to go back & rework or waterproof the gutter, without breaking out coping stones.

The second most popular edge detail, goes by many names: "wet deck," "flooded deck," & "slot overflow." As it's name implies, the water flows over the top of a portion of the coping stones, before dropping into a gutter or slot. Amateurish designers & builders rely on garish plastic or metal grating atop an open gutter. This is a very industrial and archaic method of building this style of pool. These plastic grate gutter systems are still very popular in Europe & some developing countries, due to their ease of installation.

A more refined appearance for a perimeter overflow pool, can be achieved by overlapping the coping & decking stones over the gutter, leaving no more than a 1/2" gap - thus the "slot overflow" name. A gap wider than 1/2" is in violation of the ADA. It just asking for a toe/high heel to get stuck or torn off. This method also requires that the portion of stone that is to be underwater be durable, submersible, and installed absolutely level.

One of the most striking designs is one of my personal favorites, the elevated perimeter overflow pool. As the name implies, the walls of the pool are elevated above the grade & the water flows over the top of the wall. The raised portion can vary from a few inches in height to as high as 18". Any higher than 18" and the pool becomes difficult to enter. It also poses a safety issue for those standing on top of the wall, if it is any higher than 18".

Though I will never publish it, my personal pool is of this elevated overflow style. The face of the 18" elevated walls are clad with polished absolute black granite. The top surface (that spans the thickness of the wall), was treated to provide slip resistance. The surface of the granite was "flamed," resulting in a natural sanded type of texture. The interior is lined with a custom blend of black, gray, and deep purple mosaic glass tiles from Bisazza Mosaico, Vicenza, Italy.

The most familiar and common edge detail is the "vanishing edge," "infinity edge," or "disappearing edge" pool. These pools usually have one side of the pool lowered to meet the operating elevation of the water. The water spills over this wall(s) and into either a catch basin, or a gutter. Where a gutter is used, the water is transported to a remote holding tank, from where the edge effects pump draws it's water.

Adding to the complexity of all of these choices, is the myriad of combinations of the various effects. The most complex pool that my firm has ever designed & constructed (though not the most expensive), combined a staggered vanishing edge, knife edge, perimeter overflow, and collection gutters. Executed flawlessly, the final results are absolutely breathtaking. To review an in depth article about this project, visit the following link:

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Salt Water Pools - Chemical Free, Hardly!

Salt Chlorine Generator, Salt Water Pool, Salt Free Pool, wet edge, zero edge, Chemical Free Pool - whatever lie they perpetrate, the consumers are being scammed!

A few years ago, I stopped installing salt water pools and salt chlorine generators. Salt water in the pools were the direct cause of damage to the masonry and equipment. The lost credibility issue, the financial exposure for the warranty repairs, & call-backs from these negative effects were the primary reasons. Additionally, the manufacturer's of these salt chlorine units & the swimming pool industry in general, have misrepresented the facts about these vessels & salt-chlorine generation. The manufacturer's do not even provide disclaimers that these issues exist.

News flash - there is chlorine in your pool! First and foremost, these pool have salt in them for only ONE PURPOSE - that is to generate chlorine! A salt water pool is not a "chlorine free pool," as the swimming pool industry and the manufacturer's promote them. It is just that no one is required to pour it in the pool, from external sources. The only person who benefits is your pool service technician. They save money because they do not have to supply chlorine any longer. Now he can sell you salt instead - and it has to be a special type of finely ground salt, as regular water softener salt will not work (it contains anti-caking agents)!

Salt-chlorine generators CREATE CHLORINE, when the salt water passed through some electrolytic plates (cathode & anode) which separate the salt (sodium chloride) into sodium & chlorine... so see there is chlorine in the pool (you just do not see anyone pouring it in).

Though some people say that the water has a "silkier feel," I argue that this is subjective. A properly sanitized pool also feels smooth.

There are just too many negatives to using salt in a swimming pool. Even at low levels, salt dissolves masonry. Simple analogy: ever see the sidewalks in the Northeast where they throw salt on the cement to dissolve the winter ice? The concrete is rough & the aggregate is exposed - eaten away by the ravages of the salt. In a swimming pool the same is occurring to the plaster, concrete, stonework & grout.

I know of a pool builder on the SF Peninsula who had to replace an entire pool deck that was set using Durango stone. It seems that the soft marble from Mexico is not very resistant to the aggressive effects of the salt. It literally ate the deck in a period of months!

Another issue is the electroplating of metallic components within the pool. By placing salt into a pool, you are in effect creating a weak battery. The water is now the electrolyte, similar to that in a car battery. Due to the very nature of a pool, electrical energy from the grounding system of the property flows to the pool's structural steel. This causes the steel & all of the metal components to become energized by a weak electrical current (an electrode).

Guess what? If there is the slightest trace of metals in the water, you are in for some interesting phenomenons.
And what water does not have SOME traces of metals in it (iron, copper, manganese, etc)?

The metals in the water become electrically attracted to the metal components... it is called electroplating. The metal parts start turning weird colors, iron starts collecting on the SS light rings, and the steel pattern becomes highlighted on the surface of the plaster.

If the pool does not have a sufficient quantity of metals naturally occurring in the water to supply the demands of this phenomenon, physics will begin to dissolve the softest metals present in contact with the water. This can be copper pipes (if it is a pre-circa 1960's pool), the copper heat exchanger in the heater, the copper solar panels, motor shaft seals, temperature sensors, anything metal in contact with the water.

If there is a copper heat exchanger in the pool heater, the softer metal (copper) will sacrifice itself in an effort to maintain the proper balance in the water. The heater literally gets eaten alive from the inside! This has absolutely nothing to do with poor water chemistry! It is all merely due to the presence of salt, water & electricity. Ocean moored boat owners have experienced this very phenomenon for decades. Brass & SS props literally dissolve in the ocean, as the small currents from their electrical systems mildly energize their props.

Some swimming pool contractors think that if they provide a sacrificial anode, like in the typical tank water heater or connected to a boat, they have solved the problem. Wrong! They have merely provided a softer metal to sacrifice itself first. Usually made of magnesium or zinc, these metals will cause dark gray, black or blue deposits on the pool walls or other metal components.

Another myth is that there is no need to add ANY chemicals to the pool. But, this could not be further from the truth! The chlorine generated by the equipment is referred to as "unstabilized chlorine." This means that it is easily degraded by the UV from the sun. Surprise... MOST POOLS ARE OUTDOORS!!! Without the addition of a UV stabilizer (AKA: cyanuric acid), what the salt chlorine generator makes is gone very quickly. SEE, there is just another chemical that they forgot to tell you about! It's not that cyanuric acid is bad... in fact it is a component in most powdered forms of chlorine, it is just that they tout their salt water pools as a "healthy chemical free pool."

Additionally, the production of chlorine from salt through the electrolytic process produces chlorine with a pH of around 13! There is a slight amount of sodium hydroxide (lye) created in the process, with a pH of around 2. But, there is not a sufficient quantity to buffer the high pH of the chlorine. Any pool service company will tell you that these pools frequently have high pH's each week. In order to control the high pH they must add significant quantities of muriatic acid (sometimes a whole gallon each week!).

The biggest drawback of these systems, is that they generate the chlorine at an even & consistent rate. They do not vary their output based upon the demands in the pool. The fact that these systems do not monitor or test the water chemistry, results in spikes & drops in the dosage of chlorine. Set too low you have too little chlorine & you get algae & biological contaminants. Have a birthday party with 30 kids & forgot to turn it up, and the pool turns brown & people get sick. Turned it up after the birthday party to eliminate the brown water, but forgot to turn it back down? Guess what? - you just bleached your wife's new Prada bikini when she uses the spa!

Sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite, muriatic acid, cyanuric acid...
and you thought that you were swimming in a chemical free & hassle free pool!? With all of that stuff in there, it should feel thick & chunky!

The solution.... save the money you would have spent on the salt chlorine generator & install an ORP/pH controller ($2,500 + (2) peristaltic pumps @ $350 each). These systems monitor the water while the pumps are running. They sense changes in the water chemistry, and micro-dose the water with liquid chlorine and a diluted solution of muriatic acid (for pH control). Hot 100ºF day with 30 kids over? The controller senses the drop below the settings & starts dosing the chemicals to maintain a balanced pool. Experience an unusually cool overcast period? Not to worry, the controller does not feed when there is no demand.

An alternative to storing the muriatic acid solution, is to install a CO2 system. A cylinder of CO2 gas (similar to a welding cylinder) is secured to a wall or wooden post. An electronic solenoid valve attached to the cylinder, opens as needed to inject CO2 into the plumbing at the equipment pad. The CO2 turns into carbonic acid, thereby buffering the pH. This is a simple solution which is inexpensive safe method - except for the periodic requirement of exchanging cylinders. If you do not chose to drive to the local gas supplier or carbonic beverage distributor, there are some commercial gas cylinder exchange services which will provide cylinders on an exchange basis.

Used in conjunction with an ozone generator, these settings can be set at a minimum level. The ozone takes over the responsibilities of oxidizing the bather waste, leaving the chlorine to sanitize the pool. This is called a "synergistic relationship," as they exist for each other's benefit, providing an exponentially larger contribution to safe & clear water, than if used alone.

The water is maintained crystal clear, free of contaminates that burn the eyes. FYI: it is bather waste (sweat, urine, make-up, deodorants, sunscreens, etc.) combined with chlorine, that creates ammonia compounds that burn the eyes! It is not "too much chlorine" as everyone has been led to believe for years! The smell of chlorine on your skin when you get out of the pool, is actually these very ammonia compounds that have formed on your skin from your perspiration & sunscreens! Again, it is not from there being too much chlorine in the pool!

Commercial pools are required to maintain a minimum of 2 ppm of chlorine. I have personally swam in pools with levels as high as 6 ppm. While it will bleach swim suits faster (not noticeable in one swim), it is totally safe!

It is the LACK of chlorine and improperly balanced pH that causes burning eyes and the smell of chlorine around the pool (off gassing of these ammonia compounds). This is why the problem is so prevalent at low end commercial pools (motels, hotels, apartment & condo complexes). They usually have just a chlorine feed pump that is set at one feed rate - one that is easily overwhelmed on a hot day with 500 people - just like a salt chlorine generator would be!

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa

Friday, May 8, 2009

Are they REALLY saving you money? Warning, hacks abound!

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

Though I design high-end custom luxury swimming pools & spas, we are also a design-build firm. Subscribing to the absolute highest imaginable standards, I can only build a few creations each year. When a design client says, "We just want your plans, because we're going to put this out to bid. We know that we can get it built for a lot less." I know that this is not the client for me. The lowest cost and receiving a quality built project are diametrically opposed.

They are telling me that they are merely focused on the price... not the quality. I have had many of my designs eventually built by the "low bidder." The clients are so proud of themselves because they were able to obtain the project for 1/2 the price of what I would have charged. I often hear (initially), "we just cannot justify spending twice the money for the same thing."

But the purpose of my complete plan set, is to provide potential bidders with a set of plans & standards that they will be expected to build to - these are called specifications.

The "same thing" assumption is where they go wrong. First the low bidder decides that the structural engineering that has already been defined (the engineering that everyone else bid off of), is "over engineered." They disregard the original structural engineering & proceed to purchase some generic mail order plans. Mistake #1!

Next, they decide that the plumbing is "too big!" There is a cut-rate builder on the S.F. peninsula who went so far as to tell one of my design clients, "Paolo always is about over kill. Who ever heard of a 4" suction pipe on a spa jet pump?" He proceeded to downsize the pipe to a 2.5" pipe, almost tripling the line velocity! Can you say "suck an elephant through a garden hose!" The resulting noise at the pump from cavitation, was enough to wake the dead! But what the hell, the pool builder can't hear it from his house!

The site was beautiful & clean immediately after the shotcrete was applied. The design clients say, "Just look at the yard, it is so clean. See, they really care about my property." This could not be further from the truth... the property should have had yards and yards of concrete trimmings & rebound piled up - WASTE from the shotcrete (gunite) process. Where did it all go, you ask? They shoveled it into the beach entry, and into the floor of the pool, and into the spa benches, and into anywhere else they could. Why? Because they not only save themselves the hassle and expense of having to haul away 5-10 yards of hardened concrete in a few days, they also save themselves even more money in not having to place structurally sound & virgin material into the pool shell. And, hell, who wants to have to shovel all of that crap out of the pool? But, the finished pool "looks the same..." - maybe, on the surface all is well, but there is cancer inside!

This same hack, deleted some unique design details as "unneeded" (read that as: too complicated, time consuming, and beyond my capabilities). But remember, all of the competitors bids were based upon these details being included. He is remarkable at degrading a project to fit his low-ball bids & construction methods. Next he changed the shape of the beach entry, effectively making it shorter. By doing this, the results were an increase in the slope of the beach entry. The results were in excess of the industry standard of a 7-1 slope. After shotcrete the client saw that the beach was "still too big" for their tastes. So, they call the builder, who sent out a laborer to saw cut off the amount the client desired. No concern for the structural steel that was removed, no concern for the integrity of the bondbeam bars - just get in there & bust it out.

The plans specified an underwater anti-drowning sonar system. The system was custom designed by the manufacturer, SonarGuard, based upon the original shape & depths of the pool. The original plans were sent to SonarGuard, who ran computer models to validate proper detection & coverage in the pool. SonarGuard specifies the placement & depth of each underwater sensor. Deviations from the plans in the pool's shape or depth, or installing the sensor conduits in the incorrect location, results in a system that does not perform to it's designed potential. This same builder, decided that he could put the conduits where he pleased, installing them at the wrong depth, incorrect angles, and even omitting sensors. This system, when properly installed is supposed to prevent drowning of the homeowner's toddler children. Yet, the builder chose to totally disregard the specifications for this "life safety" system. Again, the design clients thought they received a comparable bid... but, it's not quite the same thing so far, is it?

Special stainless steel rebar was specified for use in securing some large boulders to the beach entry & in fabricating a poured in place concrete bench. Of course this was not done, and in a short period of time, the rebar will begin to corrode & rust through the concrete & bleed out from under the boulders. But it "looks like the same thing..." - not quite!

The glass mosaic tiles were installed without any regard to the specified installation practices, which called for a waterproof membrane, waterproofed leveling bed, special thinsets, fortified grouts and expansion joints. Instead, the tile was installed without regard to any cure times, membranes, or expansion joints. But the clients say "it looks the same..." - until it begins to fall off!

On another project, a $1,000,000+ pool had developed cracks in the shell prior to completion. This builder's solution was to inject epoxy into the cracks, so that the pool could be tiled. The wheels were falling off even before the pool was completed! Shouldn't someone say, "Whoa, something is wrong here. The pool is cracking - we need to find out WHY before anyone proceeds!" Instead, he is out to save you money ...just a little wood putty here, duct tape there, a little chewing gum over there, and some bailing wire, and she's good to go! Please - don't do me any favors! But in the end it still looks the same... - Yeah, right!

How does someone get away with this you ask? Well oftentimes these very same pool builders often work for general contractors (GC) & developers who build "spec homes" or custom homes. Since the GC is always about staying within budget & saving a buck (thus making more for themselves), these low-ball pool builders "have a home." The quality of the swimming pool rarely matches that of the home. The pool builder justifies their practices with comments like, "I do this all the time," this is standard in our industry," "you didn't pay for that," "it's okay, I've done this before."

People actually buy into this line, and the myth is perpetuated. These are the same hacks also do repair work for commercial properties - you know, apartment complexes!!! Have you EVER seen a beautiful apartment complex pool?? Do it fast & do it cheap! Look out Tim Allen there's competition!

Over the life of the the property, the client will end up paying for a lot of unwarranted repairs to correct rusting reinforcing steel, failing masonry, structural cracking, burned out pumps & motors, reset faulty tile work, listen to loud pumps and pay for excessive energy costs (noise & extra energy consumption are due to small pipes with big pumps). They'll never be able to remove the rebound & trimmings, correct structural deficiencies, or replace the undersized pipes that run under & through the concrete pool shell.

If only it had been done correctly in the beginning! That few thousand dollars that they saved by deleting the deputy (special) inspectors & laboratory testing during construction, seems like it might have been worth it now, doesn't it?! There is a reason that these hacks do not want special inspectors around their jobsites! This is why I specify them and relish their presence. They keep everyone honest and guarantee the client that things are being done according to the specifications (remember those?!).

CalTrans (CA State Dept of transportation) would never accept a bridge that was cracking before completion, let alone epoxy inject the cracks! You couldn't accept a cracked foundation on your house, nor would you let someone just fill the cracks with epoxy! You wouldn't let an electrician put undersized wiring in your home, lest you have a fire. Your wouldn't let the plumber install undersized sewer lines, so that you can experience sewage back-ups. But property owners allow the low bidder pool builders to "justify their own modifications to the defined plans." It's like placing the fox in charge of the hen house!

But, like the design clients said when they insisted on putting the project out to bid...

All pools are the same
, and mine looks just like your plans - WRONG AGAIN!

My Italian Grandpa always used to say, "Buon non è poco costoso ed a buon mercato non è buono" (translated from Italian: "Good isn't cheap, and cheap isn't good.").

Grandpa, I could not have said it any better!

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What sets projects apart...

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

Whether you are building a basic free form swimming pool or one of the cutting edge technologically advanced infinity edge pools, vanishing edge pools, wet edge, zero edge, perimeter overflow pools, knife edge pools, slot over flow pools, disappearing edge pools, or waveless pools... there is one thing that sets them apart...

...the construction details, planning, and supervision.

The soils on a given site will dictate the structural engineering and strength of the structure that will be required to build your vessel.

There is only ONE correct way to plumb and hydraulically design a swimming pool.... and leaving it to the plumbing sub-contractor to decide the pipe diameters, placement on the site, and methodologies is absolutely WRONG. The salesman should not specify the pipe sizes at your kitchen table... Every fitting, foot of pipe, piece of equipment, valve and turn causes friction... know as "head loss." Without determining the flow rate, turnover rate, and calculating the head loss in the system, no one can specify the proper pump size. Pump HP & sizing is the VERY LAST thing that is determined, after all of the other components are determined. Yet, everyday across America, swimming pools are being sold by untrained & uneducated pool salesmen by specifying the pumps first then pipe sized are selected arbitrarily.

The gunite or shotcrete application process is not a neat and tidy affair. Yet almost every jobsite that I have ever observed immediately after the concrete placement, is as clean as an operating room. Where did the trimmings, rebound, and waste material go??? It was allowed to drop into the floor, it was shoveled into the coves, it was thrown into the benches & steps, or it was tossed into the ramp area & plumbing trenches. Why, you ask? Because it saves the contractor from having to haul it away AND he saved on material costs by using it in YOUR POOL!

The equipment pad layout is critical for serviceability and maintenance. Pump baskets will need to be emptied, motors will need to be replaced, & filters will need to be cleaned & serviced. Yet, the equipment pads are often installed in as compact a space as possible, with no regard for the need to EVER work on them again!

Are the pool light junction boxes, where the hard wiring from the equipment pad is connected to the cord from the underwater lamp, placed in unobtrusive locations? Or are they placed directly behind the light 20 feet away from the pool... the shortest path for the electrician to trench & run conduit? Or are they placed where they can be hidden by shrubbery, hardscape, or other landscape features?

Are the bright metallic stainless steel lens rings on the pool lights, left as gleaming reminders of of a 1950's era Route 66 fleabag motel? Or did the builder / designer have them colored to match the finish materials inside the pool, so that they fall into the background?

Were the cheap plastic lids that came with the skimmers used to cover the skimmer wells? Are these ugly discs visually marring and detracting from the overall scene? Or did the builder create custom stone lids or form lids out of concrete to match the surrounding decking materials?

Was the spaside remote control simply siliconed to the waterline tile, or affixed to the top of the coping - where it is degraded by the intense UV radiation of the sun, where little fingers are attracted to the buttons, and where the glowing LED indicating lights are left to shine at night, a distraction from the pleasant scene? Or did the builder create a custom niche to recess the remote controls, covering them with a stone lid or cap - thus concealing them from sight?

Were the skimmers on the pool placed down wind (from the prevailing wind) to maximize their skimming effectiveness? Or was their placement dictated by the plumbing subcontractor on the side of the pool closest to the equipment pad (where they would use less pipe & dig fewer trenches)?

Was the pool provided with an overflow line & an auto-fill device? Or is the homeowner expected to go outside during a storm to drain water? Is the homeowner expected to turn on the fill line to maintain the water level during heat spells? Or was the builder smart enough to install an auto-fill device so that the pumps are guaranteed never to run dry due to a low water level condition?

Were multiple pool lights placed so that they shine AWAY from the primary vantage point? Were they orientated to reduce shadowing and to create an even consistent source of light? Or was one monstrous light placed in the deep end of the pool to light the pool like a cheap motel?

Was the tile & coping set in a few days? Or were the surfaces floated, allowed to cure, crack control membranes or waterproofing barriers installed? Were all of the joints between the coping stones filled with mortar, or were allowances made for expansion & contraction?

Were plastic "pimples" placed all over the interior of the pool (main drain covers, wall returns, floor cleaners, etc.)? Or were special color match fittings used? Were custom drain covers that accept plaster, pebble or tile finishes used to complete the look - blending these components into the background?

Were you limited to the few precast concrete copings, safety grip bricks, or stones carried at the local masonry yard? Or did the designer expose you to the myriad of available materials from around the world? Was the durability & lifespan (and therefor payback/ROI) of the various materials discussed? Was the maintenance of the materials & surfaces discussed? Were these all figured into the overall "cost" of ownership?

Were the drains in the pool deck left as 3" round plastic drain grates or plastic linear trench drains - the ones every concrete contractor buys at Home Depot & Lowe's? Or were the drains detailed with stone covers or concrete trays, so that they become invisible against the expanse of the deck?

Are you left to drag heavy weighted bases around the patio, every spring & fall, and whenever you want to move a table or umbrella? Or did the designer plan for the installation of umbrella sleeves in the deck, so that you can simply slide the pole into the deck? Are these holes concealed with pieces of stone or concrete when they are not in use, to prevent the breakage of an errant high-heel?

Were conduits installed for the installation of landscape lighting and outdoor speakers? After all, they had trenches ran all over the place... why wouldn't they??

Were gas lines supplied for the future fireplace, fire feature or outdoor barbecue? Were electrical conduits, water, and gray water drainage installed for the outdoor kitchen?? The yard was all ripped up & trenched, so why didn't they???

Were sleeves installed into the deck for volleyball & basketball games? Or are you forced to use the cheap looking plastic K-Mart sit on the deck apparatus?

Is the air for the spa jets stubbed up next to or nearby the spa - subjecting the users to a vortex sucking sound? Or was the airline terminated at the equipment pad & equipped with a quite fan driven air blower - for that initial burst to clear water from the airline? Left to draw air from the outdoors area, cold environments find the spa water is chilled by the freezing jets air. But taken to the equipment room, the air is warmer than the outside air, keeping the spa toasty warm. Are the returns in the spa situated low, so that the heat can rise? Or are they placed next to the jets, resulting in a cold foot well?

In the spa, were the benches placed to provide the owners with the seating that offers them the views & vantage points that they desired? Are the benches set to elevations that fit the clients ergonomics? Are the bench elevations set to establish the water level where the clients want it on their body? Is the spaside remote placed to the correct side of a right or left handed person?

Was a well installed by the spa for use as a ice-chest? To store cold sodas, chilled wine, beer or champagne? Was the coping on the spas, set back from the clients head, affording a relaxing head rest, instead of the coping hitting them in the back of the head?

Was the waterline tile installed to minimize cuts? Are the cuts concealed in the corners? Or are they in the expanse of the field? Did the builder plan for the use of whole tiles? Are the edges of unglazed tiles exposed? Or did the builder create curved corners to eliminate sharp angles & exposed edges or maybe they utilized SBN & DBN tiles?

Was the plaster installed in a few hours, or was it applied & left to set on it's own? A few hours means that an accellerant was used, which can cause durability problems in the future. Are the corners under the tile finished cleanly? Are the inside corners trowel evenly? Are there areas of exposed aggregate and roughness? Are there visible footprints and spike marks?

Were the skimmers lowered in a pool with a pool cover, so that the operating level of the water is BELOW the cover dam? Or were they set at the standard elevation for a pool without a pool cover, so that hundreds of gallons of water are lost every time someone swims in the pool?

Was a dedicated overflow line installed in the sidewall of the pool? Or is the excess rainwater expected to flow into the pool cover box to drain - corroding & prematurely aging the pool cover mechanism, gears, ropes & motor? Is the pool cover vault covered with a cheap plastic or sheet metal lid - preventing pedestrian traffic from using that end of the pool? Or were stainless steel trays installed & covered with materials to match the pool deck?

Was a dedicated vacuum line installed into the vanishing edge catch basin to facilitate cleaning? How about a vacuum port inside the detached spa? If the pool has multiple skimmers, is there a vacuum port in the pool to speed the servicing of the pool? All of these, while inexpensive upfront, will cost a property owner with higher maintenance fees. A service company figures their services based upon time spent.... time saved is money saved!

Was a booster pump driven & pressurized pool cleaner line installed? Even if the client does not desire a robotic pool cleaner - such an attachment in the wall of the pool will allow service personnel to quickly remove bulk debris (leaves, etc.) through the use of a Leafmaster. But to operate effectively, it requires pressures that a standard garden hose simply cannot deliver!

These details simply cannot be delivered by a firm who builds pools from behind a desk. A parade of subcontractors in your backyard is not what you hired.... Even casual supervision will result in workmanship issues and disagreements with your contractor.

Like I've said before - it's all in the details!

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa