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From mundane to magical: Using artificial rock to turn pools into backyard resorts

Building with confidence

Builders looking to stand out from their competitors can consider installing larger, low-profile caves called cenotes which fully integrate the water feature with landscaping, both inside and outside the cave.
Builders looking to stand out from their competitors can consider installing larger, low-profile caves called cenotes which fully integrate the water feature with landscaping, both inside and outside the cave.

The appeal of these new component systems is they look like real rock because they are cast from real rock—creating the same shape, character, and texture. They are extremely natural and it is nearly impossible to tell the difference.

Unlike natural stone, these new component systems are sold as a kit. Once the customer selects the style they want, builders simply order the kit and each system is built by fitting the parts together on-site.

“We like to place the water features while we are doing the concrete deck work and add the first layer into the deck so it doesn’t look like it is was afterthought,” explained Stewart.

The best part of the design of these component kits, from the builder’s perspective, is they have been designed to ensure proper water flow and weight distribution and, therefore, are structurally stronger than natural rock systems.

These systems are steel or fibre reinforced and structurally superior to using natural stone and are also half the cost of natural stone. Further, not only is it important the finished ‘look’ of the water feature is predicable, but also it is critical to be sure the water flowing over it actually gets back into the pool. If this does not happen, the water can get underneath the pool and cause serious issues. Before these component systems, it was difficult to ensure the water would go back into the pool after flowing over a mass of natural boulders.

Creating water features with natural stone can often be unpredictable. Builders can spend all day arranging the natural boulders only for the client to decide they would like to see the stones arranged differently, which increases labour costs.

Stewart said using a component water feature eliminates this uncertainty. Most importantly, these water features can be built in a day or two, much faster than with natural stone. The labour savings alone make the component system extremely price competitive, not to mention attractive to builders to stay on schedule and maximize their building season.

The author notes, builders often comment that component water features allow them to control the costs, unlike custom rock work which could easily go beyond the original quote.

Modular slides are also designed to easily fit into their component grotto and cave systems. Even if the consumer does not specially ask for a cave, grotto, waterfall, or slide, it is a feature that should be discussed because it makes pools more esthetically pleasing, not to mention more fun.

Landscaping

The appeal of these new component systems is they look like real rock because they are cast from real rock—creating the same shape, character, and texture.
The appeal of these new component systems is they look like real rock because they are cast from real rock—creating the same shape, character, and texture.

Water features always look better and more authentic if surrounded by plants or greenery.

“Adding landscaping around the water feature gives a more finished look,” said Stewart. “Take cues from the house—builders want to work the customer’s style into the water feature, including plantings. Incorporating natural elements such as pockets of plants will soften the edges and provide more of an oasis effect.”

Builders should consider planting pockets shaped into the deck around the waterfall, using plants that complement the home and existing backyard environment. It is a good idea for builders to consult with a local nursery when selecting the softscaping so not to choose plants that ‘drop’ leaves or debris close to the pool edge.

“Water features really tie together the hardscape of the pool to the softscape of the backyard,” said Stewart. “Combining water features with lighting and landscaping makes the pools more magical.” Builders looking to stand out from their competitors can consider installing larger, low-profile caves called cenotes which fully integrate the water feature with landscaping, both inside and outside the cave. This new design trend is often found in tropical resorts and is a great option for a client that wants it all on their pool.

Resort pool at home

Remember, resort pools have everything—beauty, fun, soothing sounds, and comfortable surroundings. Builders should never try to limit the options available to turn a regular residential pool into a resort pool.

It is important to craft a backyard design that allows the builder to continue to offer options until reaching the customer’s dream resort pool.

“Be sure to offer and add multiple water features, lighting, and products like automatic pool covers and complete automation systems,” says Stewart.

Water features are a key component of a resort-style pool so now is the time to start offering artificial rock component systems—especially at a time when consumers may plan to spend their travel dollars in their backyard. Also, do not overlook any potential features because not only can builders profit more on every job, but their customers will be thrilled to have a pool that ‘has it all.’

Bruce Riley is the managing director of RicoRock Inc., makers of cast-concrete rock, including component systems for building caves/grottos, waterfalls, cenotes, and waterslide products for use in pool applications. With the company’s headquarters in Florida and its construction division based in Texas, Riley focuses on developing new products and managing commercial installations. He has built rock-type pools in southern California for more than 25 years and now uses this experience to design standard waterfall kits for the company. He can be reached via email at bruce@ricorock.com.

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