April 19, 2018
By Jason Mitchell
When this author’s company (Pool Craft) was initially contacted by a homeowner in King City, Ont., for a pool and landscape project in the fall of 2016, it seemed as though it was going to be a typical installation where the company would be responsible for the entire backyard, including all landscaping, services, and the permit(s). However, it was quickly discovered this project was going to be quite different from others the company has completed in the past.
On this job, Pool Craft was responsible for the pool installation, gas and electrical services to the cabana, and the water feature. The homeowner had pre-arranged to have all of the landscaping and the cabana built by a few other contractors. This was unusual for Pool Craft, as most of their clients contact them because they are a turnkey company capable of handling all aspects of a backyard project, including the design phase.
In this case, however, the homeowner had been in contact with a manufacturer and supplier of concrete paver and masonry products about doing some work in their backyard and was seeking advice on the various landscape items the company offers. This particular hardscape materials supplier offers a wide selection of precast stone products that are appealing to homeowners and landscape contractors alike, so it is common for them to get inquires such as this project.
During the homeowner’s conversation with the hardscape materials supplier, a representative said he was going to have someone in marketing contact them to discuss the project in more detail. As it turned out, the marketing department was looking to co-ordinate a feature project for the 2017 season where the company could showcase a number of its products, including a some new items it was about to launch. The company was also interested in using this project as a training platform, as the design and its multiple features offered the perfect opportunity.
The author later learned the program was called ‘Jobsite Crashers’ and was going to be used at the manufacturer’s North American trade shows, as well as in its instructional videos and seminars. Despite the different role Pool Craft was going to have, in comparison to its other full-service projects, the author was excited about the opportunity and challenges this venture presented.
The first meeting with a potential client can be likened to a job interview. Essentially, the homeowner tries to learn about the pool builder and get a feel for the company, while the pool builder tries to assess the homeowner’s needs and style. In certain situations, this process can take a long time, as homeowners do their due diligence interviewing multiple contractors. This meeting, however, was extremely different. The homeowners were familiar with Pool Craft, as the company had installed pools for a number of their friends, so they felt Pool Craft was well-suited for this project.
The author was surprised when the homeowner shared the plans for their backyard (13 pages in total) along with the materials list, a number of contacts from the hardscaping manufacturer’s team, and, of course, the timeline (it had to be completed by Labour Day). At first, it was a little overwhelming for the author to have to deal with so many new faces on such a large project and, of course, the timelines were very aggressive considering they still had to apply for the pool enclosure permit. It is rare a project goes smoothly when there are so many new faces. That said, the opportunity to partake in this project was well worth the extra work.
To ensure the project operated smoothly, the author contacted the hardscaping manufacturer’s marketing director to discuss the installation, as well as to outline the expectations of each crew. A meeting was held so each team could identify various responsibilities and start planning the project. Naturally, this meeting was not like any other Pool Craft had been involved in, as the crew had never met, worked with, or even heard of any of the people they were about to be working side-by-side with on this job.
The pre-construction meeting was held on-site, which included the hardscaping team’s supervisor and director of education. Much of the discussion was based on the design and co-ordination of the various trades. As the images show, the backyard was fully equipped with a number of features, including a pool with a fire and water feature, firepit, cabana, and outdoor kitchen. A few suggestions were given to the designers on how to enhance the entertaining area and improve traffic flow. Based on the suggestions from all parties involved, updated landscape plans were required and arranged to be completed within the week. Thankfully, permit drawings were generated quickly and the excavation of the cabana footings were scheduled for early April with the pool excavation to follow.
Given all of the different components in this backyard, and the different materials being used throughout the entertaining areas, there was additional planning involved at each stage. Two to four stone options are typically used in a standard backyard project; however, seven different stones (with the colour selection in brackets) were incorporated into this backyard for the following components:
The excavation of the pool is commonly the first item scheduled, however, in this situation the footings for the cabana, as well as all of the utility services, had to be installed prior to commencing any other work. There was a great deal of excavation work required and the fill had to be completely removed from the site so it did not impede any future work that was to be completed by other contractors.
Typically, multiple trades can work simultaneously, however, due the utility services being on the access side of the house, the cabana crew had to get their work finished first. Once the footings were poured, the excavation of the pool was next. The pool installation went smoothly, as the weather co-operated and excavation conditions were ideal. Pool Craft was given full access and had free reign of the backyard. During the pool construction phase, the cabana crew was able to start the framing process without interfering with the pool installation schedule.
This is not always the case, as some yards are larger than others and, therefore, more conducive to having multiple trades on-site at one time. Conversely, smaller properties usually do not permit multiple trades to work simultaneously. It takes a great deal of organization and co-operation from all of the trades for a project to run smoothly and on schedule. It is also crucial for each trade to respect each other’s wishes and work in harmony to ensure a problem-free operation. That said, everyone involved on this project was extremely respectful of each other, which created a great atmosphere on the jobsite.
This 6.1- x 12.2-m (20- x 40-ft) vinyl-lined pool is loaded with special features. It includes a 1.8-m (6-ft) fibreglass corner step, a 1.2-m (4-ft) custom steel bench in the deep end, and three light-emitting diode (LED) colour lights positioned evenly on the wall adjacent to the cabana. Two, 1.2-m (4-ft) sheer descents were also installed, each running off a dedicated 51-mm (2-in.) line.
In terms of equipment, the pool has two variable-speed pumps (VSPs), a 40-m2 (420-sf) cartridge filter, a 400,000 British thermal unit (Btu)-gas heater, a salt chlorine generator, and an automation system with a wireless control interface to enable the homeowner to operate the pool remotely or off-site.
The VSPs selected for this pool not only operate quietly, but also conserve energy. Another advantage of these pumps is they can run at full capacity to operate the water feature at its maximum output, or at a lower speed (i.e. revolutions per minute [RPM]) if a more subtle, gentle flow is preferred. For these pumps, it is estimated the return on investment (ROI), with respect to energy savings, is 14 months of use or, in most cases, two pool seasons.
The cartridge filtration system specified for this pool will filter down to a finer micron, allowing water to travel through the filter at higher rates (which is ideal for pools with water features) and does not require water to be discharged from the pool to clean the filter. The homeowner can expect to save approximately $500 in water each year, as opposed to installing a sand filter.
The bullnose coping is 60.3 mm (2.375 in.) thick by 355 mm (14 in.) deep by 762 mm (30 in.) long and has a rounded, smooth edge, which is ideal for rectangle pools. In certain applications, caulking or an expansion joint would be required between the pool coping and the patio; however, in this case, an underground drainage system and permeable stone was used, which eliminated the need for a caulking joint.
A foam rod was inserted in place of the traditional caulking joint in preparation for a self-levelling caulking product. This is designed to seal the area so any unwanted water can travel freely to the patio and drain. This style of joint is not designed for freeze-thaw susceptibility.
Due to the size of the patio, located adjacent to the pool, and the limited area to manage surface water, a permeable patio system and stone was determined to be the best option. This system allows water to run through the patio to a subsurface where excess water can drain into the ground without any puddles on the patio.
A considerable amount of preparation was involved to install the permeable patio system and various materials were required for the sub-base. A drainage pipe was also needed to prevent water from pooling under the patio.
The raised wall, built using a 90-mm (3.5-in.) stone, has a sleek polished look. The stone’s modern design enhances the visual appeal of the fire feature and custom sheer descents located in the deep end, along the pool’s rear wall. Both features are automated and can be turned on remotely using the system’s app.
This outdoor kitchen, which is attached to the cabana, is conveniently located poolside and has a variety of amenities, including a built-in barbecue station, pizza oven, keg fridge and tap, and a large serving and eating area under a covered roof.
The structure was built using a stone that captures the esthetics of wood with the practicality and durability of concrete. This stone is ideally suited for this feature item, as it suited the backyard’s sophisticated look and co-ordinates well with the landscape’s modern design.
The same stone was used to build bench seating around a wood-burning fireplace to create a cozy social area located behind the fire and water feature wall.
The custom cabana, which is approximately 74 m2 (800 sf), is designed to be the hub of the backyard. It is equipped with a wood-burning fireplace, outdoor shower, custom cabinetry, and a two-piece washroom, while the folding glass doors provide a more open feeling between the interior and exterior spaces.
With more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, Jason Mitchell is the president of Pool Craft, a full-service pool company that specializes in all aspects of pool planning, installation, and backyard design, in Richmond Hill, Ont. He is also the co-owner of Stone Craft Inc., a landscape company. Mitchell can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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