Blue Haven Pools – USA: Tips & Ideas for Buyers/Owners

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3 backyard features to add with your new swimming pool

When putting in a new pool, don’t miss out on the opportunity it affords to improve your entire backyard.

By including other features and amenities with the pool project, you will gain a more unified, more functional outdoor space.

Before you finalize your pool plan, discuss complimentary backyard options with your builder. Some key design elements and amenities that are great to add at the same time as a pool include:

Hardscape:

Make your entire outdoors more usable, accessible, and multidimensional with a variety of hardscape structures.

Along with a pool deck, you may want to think about a patio, stairway, decorative walls and columns, benches and seating nooks, pathways to the house or side yard, and integrated planters.

You can have built-in seating or even a cozy, sunken “conversation pits” with a fire pit in the center.

Island Grills: 

Unique benefits come from coordinating installation of your grill and your pool. Since your pool builder’s gas, electric, and plumbing specialists are already on-site for pool construction, manpower costs will be lower for these trades that are needed for an island BBQ installation.

Hiding utility hook ups is easier too, since lines can be laid before pool decking goes in. You can also match your pool tile or stone with what you select for your grill’s façade and countertops.

Outdoor Kitchens: 

Today’s outdoor kitchen rivals those of their indoor counterparts.  Popular features include sinks, grills, ice chests, drink chillers, rotisseries, stovetop burners, and refrigerators.  Entire pizza ovens are also increasingly in demand as well.

Designs can incorporate seating areas, a variety of task and overhead lighting, bars & countertops, and outdoor TVs and stereos.  Integrating canopies or shade structures over the kitchen will keep everyone cool while they prep and enjoy food and drinks by the pool.

Create backyard drama with an infinity swimming pool

 

No longer limited to high-end hotels and exclusive properties, an infinity swimming pool has become an option available to private homeowners who desire an extra level of “wow factor” in their backyards.

Also known as a zero-, vanishing-, or negative-edge pool, an infinity pool features one or more sides over which the water cascades—virtually merging with the horizon beyond.  Even spas can be built in this fashion.

Infinity pools provide an even bigger visual impact when they are built in a yard overlooking a body of water such as a bay, lake, or ocean.  Locations on a hill or cliff above a valley or canyon also deliver incredible views.

Depending on the setting, an infinity pool may provide an additional benefit: Its “horizon effect” can create the illusion that the backyard is larger than it actually is.

What lies beyond…

So just where does the overflowing pool water go?  And how does the pool remain full even though it appears to be constantly “losing” water over its edge?

The pool water spills over a specially designed wall into a catch basin below.  There, water collects, and a carefully designed plumbing system circulates the water back to the pool.

In some situations, this wall and catch basin will be situated on terrain—such as a cliff or hill—where no one will ever see them.  In other installations, they will face a section of accessible backyard that is used by people and therefore be visible.

In these cases, the appearance of the wall and basin should factor into the design approach.  Along with functionality, they should be aesthetically pleasing.  For example, they can be covered in attractive tile or stone fascia.

Done the right way, the wall and basin area will appear like a distinctive water feature that stands on its own, enhancing backyard beauty.

To see examples of a variety of infinity pools from around the country, as well as images of the “backside” walls and catch basins, visit http://bluehaven.com/pool-photo-galleries/infinity-pools-vanishing-edges

For more information about building an infinity pool at your residence, consult with your pool builder.

 

Color-changing LEDs Outshine Other Pool Lights

 

When the sun goes down in your backyard, a good lighting system will illuminate your pool & spa and create dazzling evening scenery. 

Today, the lighting system of choice for swimming pools is LED (Light Emitting Diodes).  LED illumination will bath your pool, spa, water features, and other decorative elements in stunning jewel-tone colors.

The revolutionary technology controls intensity to deliver sensational lighting results.  The colors can remain fixed, or you can set them to rotate for even greater visual drama.

A good LED system will also provide the ability to alternate or synchronize two or more colors.  This way, you can change the spa—say to magenta—while the pool is set to blue.  Or, you can match the spa to the pool; for example, they could both be set to white.

LED systems are also easy to operate, and they really deliver on performance.  With semiconductor technology, they achieve a lifespan that eclipses traditional incandescent bulbs—tens of thousands of hours of radiant colors before the LEDs burn out.  And with no bulbs (or moving parts) to change, you virtually eliminate the need for related service calls.

Yet another LED benefit:  They can save money.  They boast superb energy efficiency—particularly when compared to other pool lighting systems such as halogens, metal halides, and incandescent bulbs.

Due to the strength of the light, LEDs also do a much better job than fiber-optic lights when it comes to illuminating pools that are large, have 8-foot depths, or have black or deep blue interior finish.

Best of all, LEDs take backyard entertainment to a whole new level with breathtaking, color-changing light shows.

These exciting displays instantly set the mood and entertain your senses with a continuously changing kaleidoscope of flashing lights at various speeds.  Fixed LED colors will blend and transition to create hundreds of “dancing” colors—and lots of fun!

Each vivid show is different.  For example, one version may slowly transition whites and blues for a tranquil effect that’s well-suited to an intimate cocktail party. Another might cycle through red, white, and blue—perfect for a July Fourth BBQ.  For a large backyard bash, you might choose a high-energy show with hundreds of quickly flashing festive hues.

With all of their terrific benefits, LED is by far the best choice for lighting your new pool or remodel.  When choosing your builder, be sure they offer LEDs.  In addition, remember to ask what options—such as the number of fixed colors and the number of light shows—the particular system offers for your backyard beauty and entertainment.

Paying for your new gunite pool

 

Part 2 of 2: What happens when payments are late?

What happens when payments are not made per the contract schedule?

The bottom line is this: Regardless of who builds your gunite pool, payment delays can prolong the time until your project is completed.

The reason why is that—like most home-improvement contractors—virtually all pool builders will stop work if payments are not received according to schedule.

For example, on excavation day, a payment is due.  However, if the scheduled payment is not available when the crew shows up, most builders will pull the crew off the job.

Even if payment is made the next day, and your builder resumes work, that initial delay may have a lasting impact. The one-day delay can easily create a domino effect.  Now the excavation work has to be rescheduled around other projects.  In some cases, this could be quick; in other cases it could take longer and throw off the completion timeline by a number of days. 

The time lost may not ever be recouped during the construction process.  And even if your contract specifies a completion date, your builder will not be responsible for meeting the target.  The reason for this is because construction industry practice—as included in most contracts—is that building time lost due to missed payments does not count toward the total working days allowed for completion.

Another impact of a late payment is that it can trigger additional charges during some construction phases.  For example, a gunite crew and truck arrive. But since you do not have a check ready, your builder pulls them off the job.  Your contract may contain a provision that allows your builder to recoup some of his losses by charging a “pull off” fee.

The Good News

For pool buyers, the upside to all of this is that a quality pool contract will include a payment schedule that safeguards customers. A reputable builder will not seek money from you without delivering.

Unfortunately, some homeowners have been burned by pool companies that try to grind most of the contract amount from them in advance. (Builders may resort to this kind of tactic if their business is desperate for quick cash flow.)

However, a financially stable pool builder will have no reason to do this. And their contract should illustrate a commitment to fair, appropriate payment schedules.

When you follow the payment schedule, your builder is legally obligated to complete work as outlined the contract.  Then, with both parties holding up their end of the bargain, you will soon be enjoying your new backyard resort!

Paying for your new gunite pool

 

Part 1 of 2

When it comes to building a new pool, it’s the subject that can be a bit touchy:  Money.

However, it’s a topic that’s better dealt with up front so everyone knows what to expect.

The good news is that if you are signing a contract with a reputable pool builder, the cost of your pool and your payment schedule should be clearly outlined—in writing—for you.

These written terms should include phased payments that dovetail with key construction phases such as excavation, gunite application, and plaster.

Typically, there will be a down payment, and several additional payments throughout the construction process. The total number of payments will vary in accordance with any applicable state regulations.

You should also receive details on acceptable methods of payment, to whom checks should be made out, and to which individuals you should give the payments.

Be wary of anyone from your pool company or of any subcontractor who asks for a cash payment. Sometimes, they will use a ploy, such as telling you a cash payment will enable them to give you a discount.

If your pool is financed, be sure you understand how the payments will work.  If the checks are from a lender, be sure all required parties endorse the check.

Prompt payments are vital to your construction timeline. They will help your builder achieve smooth scheduling and coordination of related logistics, such as ordering materials.  And when everything goes as planned, it’s a win-win for everyone.

NEXT:  Part 2 of 2 What happens when payments are late

5 Healthy Reasons for a Backyard Pool

 

Along with adding beauty to your backyard and value to your home, a residential pool can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

Swimming pools can help enhance your family’s overall fitness and recreation levels.   Here are five reasons why:

Swimming is a unique, smart form of exercise. 

What distinguishes swimming from many other forms of exercises is how a full-body work out is achieved in a buoyant environment.  This means exercising muscles without the typical levels of stress on the joints.  Swimming can be a particularly good fitness option for those with injuries or ailments like arthritis or obesity. 

A pool’s shallow end is an excellent place to gently stretch and increase your range of motion.  Or, you can swim laps to raise your heart rate—but do so without breaking out in a sweat.  And if you do engage in other forms of land-based exercise, a dip in the pool when you’re done is a great way to wind down.

Water provides several forms of hydrotherapy. 

Indulge in liquid therapy to unwind from the stresses of daily life.  Simply lounging on a tanning ledge  or swimming a quick lap can do the trick.  Some people find they sleep better by ending their evening with a quick dip in the pool.  If you have a spa, there are even more relaxation benefits from its warm water and massaging spa jets.

Another dimension of hydrotherapy is available to enjoy without ever getting wet:  Listening to the gentle sounds of water splashing from a pool’s waterfalls or fountains can create a sense of tranquility and well-being.

Public pools can carry potential health risks. 

Aquatic facilities in gyms, clubs, schools, and community centers are used by numerous swimmers.  Among them are individuals with open sores, contagious illnesses, and irresponsible personal hygiene.  Proper pool maintenance—which involves high chemical loads—is designed to keep hazards at bay. 

However, mistakes do happen in these public facilities.  When they do, any pool user can be exposed to harmful contaminants and become ill. 

A pool can help bring family closer. 

By creating a backyard entertainment center, a pool is perfect setting where parents and children can interact more and build stronger relationships. 

A private aquatic playground can also help keep the kids at home more frequently.  It may even entice their friends to spend time at your home with your supervision—vs. the other way around.  And of course, a pool is the perfect backdrop for socializing like barbecues and pool parties.

A pool is provides an ultra-convenient staycation right outside your door! 

Travel vacations are costlier and more burdensome than ever.  There’s the traffic, parking, crowds, and other hassles.  Even taking the family for local outings can be pricey.  But your home pool is always open—and there’s never a line or entrance fee to get in!

The sound & beauty of cascade water features in your pool

 

Because it enhances both the sights and sounds of a swimming pool, one of today’s biggest design trends in backyard resorts is a type of waterfall known as a cascade feature.

One kind of cascade comes from a specially designed overflow from an attached spa.  However, an independent cascade feature is possible in any pool with a raised section of wall or other structure—no spa required.

The stand-alone feature comes as a manufactured vessel.  Available in several models, straight and arched, it can be installed on either straight or curved pool walls.

Another model option is the pattern of water flow.  The original style flows as a sleek, smooth sheet.  A newer style has the water falling in broken drops to mimic the look of rain.

Elevated above the surface of the water, these features are typically built into a section of pool wall known as raised bondbeam that extends 12” or higher than the waterline.

 A favorite approach is to build the bondbeam as a distinct structure and shape—often with a special tile design or stone facing.  The free-standing structure brings additional dimension to the poolscape while showcasing one or more cascade features.

The feature can also be integrated into other structures that sit high along the pool perimeter, such as a bridge, planter, or pot-style vessel.

From its high position, the cascade feature delivers a continuous sheet of water—one-foot or wider—that falls into the pool surface below.  For greater drama, standard cascades are available up to six-feet wide.

Another way to achieve a wider cascade span is to use multiple features in a row of two, three, or more.  They can be installed directly next to one another—creating a single span that is several feet wide or longer.

A related approach is to create a series of cascades.  Each feature is installed with some space—commonly 6” to  24”—left open in between to spread them out in an array.  To create greater visual interest, they can also be placed at various or alternating heights.

Do keep in mind that based on the size and number of cascade features, a greater volume of water will need to be circulated.  Therefore, your builder may recommend that your pool plan include a larger pump and/or a booster pump.

Whichever style, quantity, and placement of cascades chosen, you will be sure to enjoy how the moving water glistens in the sun. You will also enjoy hearing the accompanying relaxing sounds.

If you would like the maximum “wow” factor, be sure to have your builder light your cascade features.  By including a color-changing LED system, your illuminated cascades will provide many evenings of dazzling scenery.

To view photographs of a variety of cascade water features, click here:  http://bluehaven.com/pool-photo-galleries/cascade-waterfalls

The Awful Truth: Weather and Pool-Construction Delays

 

When it comes to building pools, it’s an understatement to say that weather delays are not a popular topic. 

However, it’s important to know that before Mother Nature brings you days of sunny poolside fun—she could rain on your construction parade: Unfortunately, weather delays are something that all pool contractors and some of their clients will have to face.

What can be confusing and particularly frustrating for pool buyers everywhere is how delays can be longer than the duration of the inclement weather.  In other words: one day of rain does not equal a one-day delay in construction.  There are several reasons why.  

One is that the ground needs to dry before crews can proceed with certain construction phases; this process of soil drying out usually takes several days or longer. 

In cases where rain was unexpected, an excavated pool hole that was awaiting gunite may fully or partially cave in, or it may fill with rainwater.  Sometimes, water in a hole like this must be pumped out before the soil can even begin to dry out. 

There is also the dreaded domino effect.  Typically, pool builders have several or more jobs that are simultaneously under construction.  When it showers on multiple pool sites, even a modest downpour can throw a wrench into construction schedules for everyone.

This domino effect even can occur when you would never expect it—it’s the phenomenon known as a “sunshine delay”:  Even if a single drop does not fall at your house, a downpour in another part of town may delay crews from finishing work on another pool.  This in turn holds up their arrival to work on your pool!

In addition to rain, other weather conditions can sideline progress.  For example, pool plaster cannot be applied during gusty winds that could blow sand, leaves, or other debris into the smooth, freshly applied material. 

Naturally, weather delays can be trying for anyone waiting for their new pool to be completed.  Do keep in mind that you and your builder will be on the same page regarding your pool’s completion:  Like you, they want to finish as soon as possible.  

A good builder will also want to ensure the integrity of the pool structure—even if it means taking longer.  Maintaining quality requires they not take risks during construction that could adversely impact the end result. 

For example, you would not want your builder to gamble on your new pool by installing ceramic tile in freezing temperatures, which could result in mortar failing to properly bond to the tile and pool beam—eventually causing them to separate.

A pool is a major backyard addition.  Ultimately, a well-built one will add beauty to your home and give your family years of enjoyment—all making any extra wait well worth it!

Custom In-ground Spas

 

Part 2 of 2: Popular design ideas for your new spa

From simple to elaborate, a spa provides a terrific opportunity to accentuate the style of your new backyard pool. 

Decorative features can range from a basic mosaic—such as a sea creature or sports-team logo—in the spa bench, to a high-end infinity design with a 360-degree perimeter overflow. 

One design consideration is the spa shape.  A full circle is the most popular, but you can also have a related form like an oval, horseshoe, or semi-circle. 

For a contemporary look, go for a square, rectangle, triangle, or hexagon.  To create a softer, swimmer-friendly shape, pool designers will often modify these shapes—rounding or cutting off corners to reduce sharp angles.  

Want to venture further outside the box?  Ask for a custom design, such as a kidney, cloverleaf, miniature Roman pool, or curvy, abstract free-form design.

In addition to shape, a spa’s elevation can boost its visual impact.  The spa can be built level with the pool, but for a bolder appearance, increasing the height above the pool is a favorite approach.  

When building a raised spa, the elevation should be at least 6”, although 12” to 18” are most popular.  An 18″ height—the same as a chair—has an added benefit: the spa edge serves as a nice seating area for anyone on the deck.   To achieve a bigger wow factor, a spa can be raised several feet or higher.

Along with their good looks, elevated spas provide the opportunity for water features.  One or more sections at the top of spa walls are built with open space to serve as spillways. 

Through these spillways, water cascades into the pool surface below.  The moving waters result in a lovely design feature and a relaxing sound.  A related approach uses round, funnel-like slots to create concentrated passages for the spa water to pour through.

Other water-feature options include spraying or bubbling fountains that rise up from the floor when the spa is not in use.  A “weeping” spa with a tiered façade offers another kind of fluid effect: Several steps in the spa front allow water to flow over them into the pool below.

Illuminating a spa and its water features adds more liquid drama.  Color-changing LED lighting can be installed for a dazzling nighttime scene. Most LED systems enable you to alternate or synchronize the colors of your spa lights with those in the pool.

Your spa can also be dressed up with special material along its facade or along several sides.  For example, part or all of a spa exterior can be covered in ornamental tile or stone. For a more tropical look, rocks and boulders can be used to surround some or most of the exterior.  Depending on local climate, a spa wall can even incorporate glass blocks. 

For more ideas and design inspiration for your new spa, view custom spa photos here:  http://bluehaven.com/pool-photo-galleries/gunite-spas

Custom In-ground Spas

 

Part 1 of 2: Get more value from your new pool by including a spa

When planning a new swimming pool, it’s smart to make an attached custom spa part of the design.

Providing a setting unique from the one inside the pool, a spa is a smart, versatile addition that will pay off in a variety of ways. While inclusion of a spa with your new pool will increase the amount of your initial purchase, your family’s health and enjoyment will go up even more!

Relaxation is one reason why. With swooshing water, hydrotherapy jets, and a setting separated from the pool, a spa offers the perfect respite after a long day at the office or running errands.

Surrounded in heated water, you can escape in your own backyard with a sigh of relief as the stress seemingly washes away. You may also find that a dip in the comforting spa environment before bedtime helps you get to sleep faster.

Beyond relaxation, many find that a spa offers true therapeutic benefits.  The “liquid massage” on aching muscles can help relieve tightness and pressure on the nerves.

Studies have shown that heated water and hydrotherapy enhances circulation, accelerates the body’s natural healing process, and even supports improved skin tone, digestion, and blood sugar levels.

The spa can also be terrific for aquatic fitness.  With warm water and convenient benches, the spa setting is comfortable for stretching and aerobic-type exercises.

Along with supporting better health, a spa supports more FUN. You can use it in the evening for a romantic escape in the backyard.  Your kids will enjoy the spa too; in some cases, they will be able to play and move about in the water in ways that they may be unable to enjoy in your pool—particularly if the pool has a small shallow end.

In many regions of the country, a spa can extend use of your backyard investment. When it’s too cool outside to use your swimming pool, you can still take advantage of a heated spa.

A good pool builder will provide an energy-efficient heating system and configure your equipment so that you can fire up your spa without having to heat the entire pool.  This makes it economical to enjoy your spa even after pool season is over.

Yet another advantage is aesthetics.  With its contrasting shape, a spa introduces a whole other dimension to your pool’s design and creates an attractive focal point in your backyard setting. In our next post, learn about some stylish features to consider for your new spa.

Next: Part 2 of 2: Popular design ideas for your new spa

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