August 1, 2010
By Paolo Benedetti
A swimming pool cover, when properly installed, can provide owners with energy savings and added security. However, while many clients want to reap these benefits, they also want the cover to be seamlessly integrated into the pool’s overall design. In short, they do not want any visual indication the pool has a cover system at all.
In 2008, a client, who was working as a consultant to design a unique pool with an integrated automatic pool cover, contacted me for help. Adding to the complexity of the cover installation was that the pool was one of the most complex designs imaginable, a knife-edge perimeter overflow. As such, the pool’s water level would operate even with the top of the deck—there would be no sidewalls on which to affix cover tracks or guide the cover itself.
However, the client’s desires did not end there. They also wanted an automatic cover on their attached perimeter overflow spa, in which the water actually spilled over the top of the wall. Again, this meant that there were no walls or coping materials on which to affix tracks or guides.
Faced with this challenging set of requests, I turned to Tom Dankel of Aquamatic Cover Systems, with whom I’ve worked exclusively for more than 15 years, installing several of the company’s HydraLux pool covers. This project, however, would push our collective ingenuity.
The HydraLux pool cover chosen for the project comprises rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) profiles, which float on the water. Opening and closing is fully automatic, controlled with the simple push of a button. The cover is powered by a patented hydraulic cover drive mechanism.
After completing the design of the knife-edge pool and attached perimeter overflow spa, attention was turned to incorporating the automatic covers into the structures. After conferring with Dankel, it was decided the pool cover vault could be concealed in the pool floor, since the floating design of the cover lends itself well to an in-floor vault.
The design incorporated a recess within the floor, where the cover rolls up when not in use. The box is covered with a stainless steel, hydraulically actuated lid, which is refined with a polished pebble finish to match the rest of the swimming pool, offering virtually seamless integration.
The hydraulic drive mechanisms are housed in vertical shafts that were installed outside of the pool structure. These shafts, which are only a meter deeper than the depth of the pool and spa, are accessed through concealed stone ‘manhole’ covers in the pool’s decks.
Having resolved the issue of concealing the cover within the pool, we were free to concentrate on the spa. Utilizing a vault in the spa floor, similar to that in the pool floor, would require the spa’s benches to end 1 m (3 ft) from the spa wall. Such a large gap was deemed unacceptable, as it consumed a large portion of the spa and greatly reduced the available seating area. The clients agreed, directing the team to explore different design options.
A concept was devised that involved recessing the cover vault into the spa floor, but offset into and under the sidewall. This approach required the spa benches to end a mere 76 mm (3 in.) before the spa wall, a much more manageable gap, which met with everyone’s approval. The next challenge was concealing the vault while still allowing complete access to it in the event service was required. The small clearance from the concrete benches on each end made matters even more complex.
I struck on the concept of bevelling the spa wall, to create a ‘back cut’ to the end of the spa wall. To hide the bevelled cut in the wall, a series of vertical stainless-steel pans were devised to function as a curtain. Hooks on the back of the panels would allow them to hang on two parallel rods. This would ease the installation of the cover drum by allowing the panels to be added after installation.
Stainless steel mesh would be affixed to the surface of the pans, so the stone that was to line the interior of the spa could be epoxied to the panels. Then, we would simply reverse the direction in which the cover rolled up, so it would align with the 76-mm (3-in.) slot in the spa floor.
Though this approach had never been attempted before, the clients signed off on the idea. After delivering the computer-aided design (CAD) shop drawings, Aquamatic began the fabrication and installation of the necessary components.
The finished installation exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations, pleasing both the client and the design team. As in many situations, the solution to most cover issues requires little more than teamwork, willing clients and a dash of ingenuity.
Paolo Benedetti is an internationally renowned aquatic designer, swimming pool builder and consultant at Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, based in Morgan Hill, Calif. He can be reached via the company’s website www.aquatictechnology.com or by phone at (408) 776-8220. Tom Dankel is the vice-president of Aquamatic Cover Systems, based in Gilroy, Calif. For more information, visit www.aquamatic.com.
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