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Now that I am starting to reflect over my past 69 years of active duty as a pool guy. Many of my friends have told me that I have seen a lot of history in our industry and that I need to start writing them down. With this in mind, Joe & Marianne Trusty and Carol Gigliotti of Pool Magazine have asked me to put down some of my pool history that I experienced over my career.
In 1955, my father decided to move his family from Oakland, California to the rich open spaces of Contra Costa County just a few miles away. At this time, there was starting to become a migration from the inter cities to the new suburbs in the country. Much of this was driven by the Post War GI Bill that all of our returning soldiers received after fighting in WWII. The GI Bill basically gave a serviceman low interest government loans to buy a new home.
This migration and the hopes for home ownership created a huge building boom as America started to get back on her feet, post-war. My dad was one of those returning soldiers after fighting in the Pacific Theater and being discharged in Oakland, California. My dad wanted something better for his family and the attraction of moving to the fast-growing suburbs along with being part of the building boom of those suburbs, had an important attraction for my father.
He moved us to a little town that was 15 miles east of Oakland and what seemed like a whole new world. The weather was warm during the summer and a perfect place to not only raise a family in the country but also to start a new business in an almost unheard of industry, the swimming pool industry. Up to this point, only the very wealthy could afford a swimming pool. However, all this was starting to change as young families started to move to the suburbs and they realized that the weather was perfect for a fast-growing family of Baby Boomers. Now with a new home that the GI Bill allowed these young families to buy, there began the development of the front and backyard.
My father was one of the early pioneers who had the vision and the ability to do something about it. He started his pool company just prior to us moving to the little town of Lafayette, California. Little did he know that this little town of 2,500 people at the time was going to become the center of growth of our industry. Now I’m not saying that the pool business started in Lafayette, however, it was at this time in the 50’s that American families all across the country were starting to experience the same revolution of young boomer families wanting to seek a better life by moving to the suburbs and all the lifestyle that came with it. These young families had a lot in common with each other besides many returning from WWII, taking advantage of the GI bill, having several young kids or Baby Boomers along with wanting a better way of life.
As the new neighborhoods or track developments started to spring up everywhere in our area, we started to see more and more families wanting to enjoy their backyards with their growing families and friends. It was at this time the weekend BBQ with your Weber BBQ became one of the most essential tools of anyones backyard. This outdoor California Lifestyle then found itself wanting more as people could afford more.
Enter the backyard swimming pool and all the enjoyment and entertainment that it brought to our families. My dad was on the ground floor of this movement. Back in those days, his swimming pools cost $2,000 all in. Of course it’s all relative when you realize what a gallon of gas costs ($.26) or what those first track homes in the suburbs cost under $10,000 for a 3 and 2 with a garage. The beauty of those starter homes is that the lot size was big enough for a modest 15×30’ pool with a little decking.
Landscape design and construction was very modest. There weren’t too many landscape architects and most were busy designing those large estates that could afford their designs. So the early years of the industry were very modest and builders such as the Anthony Brothers in Southern California catered to those fast-growing suburb homes by selling pools based on the financing more than the ability to build a pool. As Anthony Pools was taking a commanding lead out west, other markets around the country started to boom. Arizona had the Ghiz Family with Paddock of Arizona along with the Asti Family and Shasta Pools. On the East Coast we also saw the Sullivan Pools that all of these building families started to spawn other spin-off pool builders as the demand for owning a backyard swimming pool started to grow.
Prior to the boom in the 1950’s, here in California, there were two major high-end pool builders that were building pools for the rich and famous, Paddock Pools and Landon Pools. These two builders were instrumental in the engineering and mechanical development of swimming pools. Be it the sand and gravel filters that they used or the skim filter that Landon and Paddock used to try and simplify and reduce cost in their pools.
As more and more pools were being built by new pool builders, there became this demand to help invent more and more components to help make the backyard swimming pool more accessible and user-friendly. It was about this time in the 50’s that Anthony Pools helped create the early precast skimmer with a built-in basket outside of the pool. Prior to that there was the lily pad skimmer that was a floating basket that was attached to the lily pad suction plate that bobbed up and down with the water level as water was drawn from a separate suction line. These pools also had a separate main drain suction line as well. The real custom pools that Paddock built had an 1.5” flange fitting mid way on the pool about 12” below the surface for a home owner to actually vacuums their pools using a portable vacuum hose and head. At this same time we also have the Pool Master Jet Vac pool cleaner that hooked on the end of your garden hose and blew water into a large bag that could pick up leaves and not plug up the pump basket. The bag were designed to filter the water jetting up into the bag along with some dirt.
These types of cleaning systems were designed to help keep the pool somewhat clean. The reality was that once you built a pool, you had to contend with the drudgery of cleaning your pool every weekend or be rich enough to afford a pool maintenance company. This need for keeping the pool clean has spawned an entire section of our industry and it came about more by chance then anything else.
It was the late 50’s and early 60’s that one of the Pillars of our industry, Andy Pansini was just finishing up cleaning his pool using his vacuum cleaner on his pool in San Rafael area in the SF Bay Area. Andy was cleaning his decks after cleaning his pool and was using his garden hose to hose things down. The phone rang and Andy dropped his hose in the pool and answered the phone. When he returned, the hose had been snaking back and forth on the bottom of the pool and the pool was spotless where the hose was whipping back and forth.
It is said that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. Andy realized at that moment that if he could manage the whipping hose in his pool then he could chase the dirt down to the bottom of the pool and without ever vacuuming his pool again, he could always have a spotless pool. Andy solicited the help of a fellow inventor, Howard Arneson, that lived across the bay. Howard was a creator, inventor and part showman. The two of them came up with some interesting variations of these first prototypes. I was fortunate in the mid 60’s to actually work on one of the very first of these prototypes that looked nothing of what we see today of the robotic pool cleaner.
As time went on Andy and Howard both started their own manufacturing companies. Andy and his wife Jan had started Jandy and Howard started Pool Sweep. Both were here in the San Francisco Marin County area. As more and more backyard swimming pools were being built, there became more and more need to keep them clean so you could enjoy swimming in a nice clean pool. This need for a clean pool created a new part of our industry called pool service and maintenance companies. It was at this time I started my first pool company. After years of working for my Dad’s pool company, at 16 years old, I had my driver’s license and a truck to put my maintenance cleaning equipment and chemicals in.
I was one of the first pool service companies in our area and was fortunate enough to acquire some very high profile pools that I cleaned each week. Back in those days you didn’t have a self-cleaning pool like today, that you mostly test the water and add chemicals to, once a week. Back then every pool was on twice a week service with the first visit as a brush and skim the pool along with cleaning the basket and filter visit. The second cleaning was dedicated to vacuuming the pool so it was ready for the weekend entertaining.
It was at this time I learned a lot about the drudgery of cleaning and maintaining the backyard pool. Cleaning swimming pools gave me a great appreciation for what it took in the building end of a swimming pool to make it easier on our clients. Let’s face it, the reason people build a swimming pool is to relax, enjoy their leisure time in the backyard with family and friends. It is not to become a slave to the maintenance of your pool.
As the Jandy cleaner and the Arneson cleaner became more and more popular to adapt to a pool, I was seeing more and more builders first install a dedicated return line for the robotic sweep and eventually those same builders realized that upselling a client on the advantages of installing a robotic cleaner made owning a swimming more enjoyable for the homeowner. As the Jandy Porpoise and Arneson Pool Sweep was taking the industry by storm, an inventor/businessman, Jim Edmundson was creating his version of the pressure pool cleaner called the Polaris. The uniqueness of the Polaris was that it lived on the bottom of the pool and did both sweeping and vacuuming of the pool. It had a leaf bag much like the early Pool Master Jet Vac manual cleaner except that it was part of the robotic cleaner and only needed to be cleaned once a week. There was one more entrance into the robotic cleaners on the West coast and that was from Sandy Campbell, who was in the Bay Area as well but soon moved his manufacturing to Redding, California. Sandy’s cleaner was called “The Letro Jet Vac”, it had some of the similar characteristic as the Polaris but it did a better job in high leaf areas.
While all these robotic cleaner wars were going on in California, over in Arizona, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, they were creating their very own cleaning systems to help battle the high sand content and debris that was plaguing swimming pools in that market. As I stated earlier, “Necessity was the Mother of Invention”. The Ghiz Family (Paddock Pools, The Paramount System) and the Ast Family (Shasta Pools, The A&A System) both created their proprietary in-floor cleaners for their own pools in that market. They along with a friend of mine, Les Mathews (Creator of the Caretaker System). All of these three inventor families helped usher in the next generation of pool cleaning. There was one other little-known infloor cleaner called the “Turbo Clean” that I recall seeing on some of the Geremia Pools out of Sacramento, Ca. Within a few short years, these manufacturers were selling their cleaners all across the country and internationally.
For the past 40 years, I personally have designed and worked with all three cleaners. For the past 25 years, my favorite in-floor cleaner is the PCC-2000 cleaner. What is it that makes this cleaner so special to me is it’s ability to clean the entire pool as Paramount and our team design the location of the cleaner heads. PCC-2000 also has it’s patented water curtain and the MDX that is it’s debris collection system. The robotic cleaners have their advantages in that they are a low cost compared to the Paramount in-floor system. In addition, as the design of our pools have come a long way from my dad’s pioneering days of simple, functional designs with simple filtration and no cleaners, to the designs that my son, Nicco and I are creating today with baja entries, ledges and seats throughout the pool.
We are all seeing the acceptance of engineered pools hanging off slopes with vanishing edges and “O” edge designs. These pools are so artistic that a robotic cleaner with its umbilical cord running around pool will surely take away from the beauty and artistry of the pools we are designing and building today.
What the in-floor cleaner is to me and even more specifically the Paramount PCC-2000 in-floor cleaner, is the beauty of the pool is not interrupted with the visual of the robotic cleaner. The additional circulation on the bottom of the pool that takes water from the skimmer level of the water and injects it back into the floor heads. This action creates not only bottom circulation better then any other way to circulate water in your pool, but it also takes surfaced solar heated water and injects it to the bottom of the pool so the entire pool becomes a heat storage battery for the solar heat that is collected at the surface.
More and more today our pools here in the Bay Area are safety cover pools with the spa under the cover to help keep the pool safe from small children, clean from dirt falling in the pool and energy efficient because of the passive solar heat that the cover generates at the top of the water that is pumped to the bottom of the pool through the in-floor cleaning system. Not only are we delivering a very clean pool to our clients, but a very efficient pool that cleans itself and a very artistic pool that is exciting to look at.
Our industry has come a long way since I joined in with my dad and now with Nicco, my son as the 3rd generation of our family to build well-engineered, unique designed and very efficient works of art for our clients backyard enjoyment and entertainment. It has taken 3 generations for our family to build the “State of the Art” custom pools that Nicco is now building for our company. As I stood on my father’s shoulder, now Nicco stands on mine, our family tradition has continued to advance the pool industry with our knowledge and forward thinking. It has been a wonderful journey as we all get to enjoy the rich history of our industry that has taken us to where we are today. Those early pioneers helped pave the way for the next generation of pool builders.
I will continue to add to the rich history of the swimming pool industry with my personal stories that all of us will enjoy as we discover where our roots come from.
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The Farrel’s of Placerville, California, were searching to add nostalgia to their backyard by
recreating the caves of the California foothills they had explored in college. This sounds
daunting, but when crafting the perfect pool design, the choices are as abundant as the
waters. The options are seemingly limitless, from creating clean, modern pools with
geometric precision to fashioning an idyllic oasis with water features and natural
embellishments. However, one constant challenge in pool design remains the choice
between genuine rock and its faux counterpart. In this ever-evolving arena, pool-
building professionals often grapple with deciding whether to incorporate natural or
imitation stone into their designs. The selection between the two is far from
straightforward and hinges on several crucial factors, each with unique advantages and
Pool designs have included rock creations in them for decades. Bringing a seamless
blend of natural surroundings to the manufactured yard addition. How does a designer
or builder know which method to use in this age-old conundrum when producing these
There are various methods to install natural rock and faux rock. Naturally made stones
are carefully placed to give an authentic look to walls, fountains, and grottos.
Just like natural rock, faux rock creations have multiple methods. Some are made with
manipulated rebar into desired shapes, filled with gunite or shotcrete, and then painted
to that ‘just dug out of the earth’ look. Then, some are made with carefully cut foam into
perfectly shaped boulders of beauty, mortar product with fibers, then layered with a
mixture of mortar, Portland cement, thin set, fibers for carving and/or stamping and painted.
Rebar can be used with this method when needing to secure structure.
Genuine and faux rock take many hours of rock study to give the most natural look
possible. It is not unheard of for rock masons or sculptures to go out into nature to study
the rocks’ natural form and placements.
When looking at the design, if you are trying to utilize the natural stone in your yard as
inspiration, this could lead you to build your water features and ascents from genuine
stones. Places like Northern California have many varieties and a supply of stone
boulders at affordable prices. “You are using rocks native to your surrounding area to
blend in with your area. It will look like something more natural there,” said Steve
Spencer of Spencer Masonry. However, suppose you are looking to use a stone that is
not easily accessible to your area. In that case, this can become expensive when
This would be an excellent opportunity to use faux rock instead. This is what happened
with Mrs. Farrell’s pool. Mrs. Farrell initially explained that they would use natural
sandstone for their cave. Unfortunately, they could not locate a large enough stone to
create their dream grotto locally. The next best thing was faux rock. Searching for a
large enough stone is not an issue with fake rock. You can create on-site whatever size or type you need. This also solves yard logistic issues, such as yards on cliffs with
narrow access points.
When creating rock designs for a pool and spa, asking your customers for images that
represent what they want is best. The Farrell family changed the whole look of the
cavern and slid from sandstone to granite, which looked like their favorite yearly
vacation spot in Lake Tahoe. Before finding granite boulders matching the image, they
were expensive and hard to find locally. With faux rock, the sculpture could add every
little detail, from shape, texture, moss, and even the waterline on the rock.
You can do some cool stuff with real rock. Real rock is amazing. It cannot be
manipulated like we can manipulate mortar,” Anthony Miranda with Poseidon Pools
The time it takes to create these rock wonders depends on how intricate the design is.
Natural rock takes time to transport, place, and secure, but a complete grotto with a
water feature could sometimes take a week. Faux stone can take up to three times
longer than natural rock because of the person-hours to cut, bend, mold, crave, and
If you are looking for rock material that can last. Really, stone is the better choice. Since
it is naturally made, the chances of weakness in the wall are not there. Also, the
concern is that waterproofing is not required. Steve Spencer mentions, “I have seen real
rock structures last 20 years” Unlike natural stone, faux rock does need to have
waterproofing considered. Anthony Miranda found applying Mircoglass to the simulated
rock structure extends the life of his creations. Microglass is a deep penetrating water-
based product. It “chemically converts and displaces the soft, vulnerable calcium hydroxide with small but significantly harder glass-like silicates.” It fills the voids in concrete-based material to give a more durable and lasting surface.
Regarding the oldest question in human existence, how much does it cost? Natural rock
can be more cost-effective. As was mentioned, faux stone takes time. Because of that
time, it is not always an economical option. But that is when you need to outweigh the
cost of what is best for the customer’s pool build.
Photo Credits: Anthony Miranda – Poseidon Pools – Sacramento, CA | Steve Spencer – Spencers Masonry – Sacramento, CA
Acid washing freshly placed plaster is one of the most destructive things you can possibly do to the surface of a swimming pool. Meaning that the difference between a pH of 13 and a pH of 0 is 1,000,000,000,000. Yes, you read that right, one trillion. In this white paper that I wrote with Jon Temple of Tempool Inc. we’ll explore why acid washing fresh pool plaster can be so disastrous.
Freshly placed concrete has a high pH of 12.5-13. The high pH originates from the alkaline cement binder that creates concrete. The dissolved cement spreads this high pH throughout the matrix of the concrete. The same chemistry occurs within cement-based pool plaster.
Fresh concrete’s high pH makes it more volatile in response to chemical exposure. It is so sensitive to acidic conditions, that it even reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air, a process called carbonation. This process will eventually affect the concrete at deeper levels.
Washing virgin plaster or cement surfaces with an acid solution of 0, will be extremely detrimental to the lifespan of the concrete. The thinner veneer of plaster is even more susceptible to long-term damage by acid exposure.
When the pH of concrete drops below 9, the chemical nature of the cement has been altered so much that it begins to lose its ability to bind. This is most evident on the surface of the concrete, as it begins to chalk, flake, spall or release aggregates (etching). As these layers decay, they further expose the underlying layers to degradation.
To expose aggregates, a high pH solution should be utilized to minimize the damage to the cement. Even a rinse solution with a pH of 7.5 is better than one of 0, since the pH scale is logarithmic – that is each 1.0 change on the scale is a 10 fold change in the intensity. A final rinse with a pH solution of 13, will restore the surface of the cement to its natural pH state of 13.
Exposing and rinsing the cement surface with solutions that are closer to the 13 pH of cement will ensure that the plaster company does not prematurely damage or etch the cement surface.
Swimming Pool Expert Witness
Let’s face it… quality help is hard to find. You cannot have quality pool construction without quality people, either direct reports or sub-contractors.
More than having specialists, the correct employee must be assigned to the tasks at hand. The job site supervisor must understand the project expectations and make sure that the right talent is assigned to the proper task.
The supervisor must have the knowledge of how to perform the tasks. They must have the ability and authority to train subcontractors and employees on the company’s expectations and methodologies. On-the-job training cannot occur if the supervisor themselves does not possess the requisite knowledge. You must invest in your employee’s professional development, in order to create a better product.
Employees with specialized skills and interests should be encouraged to further develop those skills. Employers should embrace industry seminars and manufacturer training to further hone these skills. After all, you cannot deliver quality projects without quality people.
Nothing dovetails together more than effective communication and quality control. You must develop a consistent means for everyone on a project to communicate expectations, project specifics & details, project progress and scheduling, job site safety & compliance, policies and procedures. A lack of communication often results in costly change orders of corrective measures.
Quality control needs to be included in every team meeting with employees and sub-contractors, to ensure it remains on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Communications should occur on a regular schedule via a digital platform that records the messages, tasks and assignments. These construction messaging platforms ensure that there are no misinterpretations and that the collaboration is smooth and efficient.
These platforms standardize the communications channels, document the decisions and approvals, and ensure that the follow-through occurs.
Inadequate planning almost always results in poor quality, delays, defects, re-work, and cost overruns. On a fixed-price contract, these will affect the bottom line. Each year, billions of dollars are spent by US construction firms, simply because of inadequate project documentation.
I could drone on for months about the importance of detailed plans, sections, scaled drawings, written specifications, MEP schematics and material lists.
One of the most common causes of errors and losses beyond having inadequate plans, are the slow response to RFI’s and change orders. Work often must cease or efforts shifted, while the approvals or clarifications are received. Sometimes the work proceeds without approvals or clarification, which may not eventually be a correct decision.
Even the simplest project will incur deviations from the original project plans or intent. Short delays in change order approvals or RFI responses often result in scheduling delays, deficient quality, or remediation.
Implementing a document management program is critical for the success of any construction project:
1. The centralized document database must be word-searchable. It should identify each document in which a word/phrase appears.
2. Hierarchical access should be provided to all stakeholders.
3. All project documents should be archived (proposals, plans, revisions, RFI’s, change orders, shop drawings, punch lists, etc.).
4. Archive access should remain available throughout the project.
Document management through a digital archive will result in better quality control, swifter communication, fewer miscommunications and improved project quality.
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