Vinyl-liner Pool Shares Top Honor
Written By: Rebecca Robledo
The complex combination aquascape built by The Deck and Patio Co. in Huntington Station, N.Y., shared the designation with a gunite pool built by high-end firm J. Tortorella Swimming Pools in Southampton, N.Y., a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.
Unlike other categories, builders don’t nominate their work for Best in Competition. The award is given to the project or projects that garner the highest number of overall points while being judged in the other categories.
This project, which has a concrete shell, was originally submitted for two categories: free-form residential vinyl-liner pool and outstanding achievement in design – vinyl-liner and fiberglass. It won medals for both.
With this first-ever designation, vinyl-liner projects have broken through another barrier, said Bill Renter, president of the firm. “This may finally let the world know that vinyl-liner pools are high-end swimming pools.”
“It was very dramatic that a vinyl-liner pool won,” said Joel Caesar, a former executive director of and now-consultant for the association who helped judge the contest. “But the changes that have been taking place over the last few years [in vinyl-liner pools] have been even more dramatic.”
Renter attributes the award to the project’s complexity. A heated waterfall spills into a spa, raised 5-1/2 feet above the main pool. “If you’re sitting in the spa, you actually have the hot water hitting you on your neck,” he said. From the spa, water spills over large moss-rock boulders and into the pool. An additional waterfeature cascades directly into the pool. A stream with waterfalls can run during winter, when the pool and spa are covered. The streams end in a gravel reservoir, rather than a pond.
The pool includes a vinyl liner, while the waterfeatures are covered with rubber liners made specifically for ponds. Where the waterfeatures meet the pool, face plates seamlessy connect the vinyl to the rubber.
The whole project contains 120 tons of moss rock, with some boulders weighing between 2,000- and 4,000- pounds. Five propane fire pits and several embedded umbrellas were placed throughout.
Troubleshooting in Pond Paradise
By: Christina DiMartino
The water garden of your dreams is complete and provides the utmost enjoyment. Its meticulously chosen setting serves as the visual centerpiece of your landscape. Lush foliage lines its borders, and waterlilies supporting open blossoms float on its surface. Frolicking fish periodically poke their noses through the mirrored exterior breaing the water’s stillness. Currents run gently down a raised waterfall positioned at one end of the pond, splashing gracefully against a rock placed in its center. Perhaps a fountain spurts from its interior – arms spread tall and wide – offering wildlife a refreshing shower on warm days. The gentle sound of chirping birds quenching their thirst brightens your day. A welcoming cherub sits pondside, next to the charming park bench that has become your favorite reading spot.
Ahh…serenity, sweet bliss.
In contrast, if something occurs to blemish this scene, stay calm. It is best not to overreact to an unexpected problems; instead, exercise caution. Experts suggest that left unattended, and incidental pond dilemma can escalate into a nightmare, but do not start tearing your pond apart right away. A quick online search can help identify common quandaries and offer instant remedial help, but talking to your pond care professional is essential. He or she will provide reassurance, make suggestions and give direction. It is important to keep in mind that a water garden is a natural ecosystem, and it is now supposed to look as sterile and pristine as a swimming pool or spa.
A sampling of common problems (and solutions!) experienced by new pond owners follows.
What causes algae growth and how can I fix the problem?
This is usually the result of the ponds being over stocked with fish or having too few plants; sometimes it is a combination of these factors.
Not having enough plants results in algae gobbling up all the oxygen and nutrients. A lack of surface plants allows too much sunlight to reach beneath the water, which promotes algae blossoms. Plant fertilizers, even those that are harmless to fish, can also cause algae growth.
Overfeeding fish can aggravate an already present algae condition. Fish generally thrive on naturally occurring foods. If you add feed, either reduce that amount or stop completely.
If the problem persists, flush the pond and add new water and more aquatic plants (allowing as much as 50 percent of the water’s surface to be covered). Add a biological or mechanical filter, and, if necessary, reduce the number of fish in the pond.
How can I control leaves and debris in my water garden?
These are coming from nearby trees and shrubs. Skim the pond often with a net on a large pole. Trim branches in the pond’s vicinity to prevent shedding.
Some people feel that netting takes away from the aesthetic quality of the pond, but you many have no choice, at least during shedding periods. Stretch basic garden netting across the pond’s surface and anchor it securely on all sides.
What causes the water in my newly established pond to be green and slimy?
Some green water conditions are common, especially for three or four weeks after the pond is first filled. Water clears as it equalizes the combined nutrients from plants and fish.
My pond water is cloudy and brown. How do I correct this?
This is most likely due to a dirty filter. From filters must be removed and washed with water and liquid detergent. Cartridge filters should be hosed with a strong stream of water.
My floating plants are turning yellow and brown, and they are not blooming. What can I do to restore them?
Excessive leaf growth above the waterline can prevent waterlilies and similar plants from getting nutrients necessary to promote blooming. Remove plants from containers, divide them and replant half in separate containers.
What causes my fish to get sick and die?
Fish can become unhealthy for several reasons, the most common is the lack of oxygen. This is often easily corrected by adding submerged plants to the environment.
An imbalance of the fish-to-pond-size ratio can also cause inadequate oxygen levels. A conservative estimate used for healthy fish capacity is to allow one inch of fish for every square foot of surface area (water depth is not considered). Remember to include the ultimate size of the fish within your calculations, i.e., a koi that is small in May might be twice its size by January.
Too much chlorine or chloramines in the water can also be deadly to fish. There are kits that test for this, and depending upon the results, use commercial treatments to balance the water to a safe level.
How can I prevent plants and fish from freezing under ice during the winter?
Most popular pond fish species do very well throughout cold months, as long as they have a oxygen supply. Pond aerators also circulate and de-ice the water. Another choice is simply place small floating ball in the pond. This will keep a portion of the surface from freezing and allow air to reach the water.
Container plants that are not winter-hardy may have to be moved to a sheltered place and replanted when the weather turns warmer. Check with your local horticulture specialist to learn how to care for plans in your growing zone.
Should I add water from the hose when the level drops?
Yes. Water evaporates, especially in hot weather. It should be added as needed, but not more often than necessary. If water loss is excessive, check for a leak in your pond liner or fiberglass form. Repair kits are available for both types of systems.
Help! Birds are diving into my pond and flying off with my koi! What can I do to stop them?
It is difficult to accept that having a natural ecosystem means that it is also susceptible to nature’s conditions, including the innate food chain. Large birds have been feeding on fish since the beginning of time, and they do not know that the rules are different in your backyard.
Some ponds owners report warding off birds with scarecrow types of structures or plastic owls. If all else fails, you many place a mesh screening over the pond, at least until your feathered friends find a new dinning hall.
Above all, remember that Mother Nature rules, so when it comes to pond care, try to leave the job to her.
How the Right Chemicals Enhance Paradise
Written By: Debra Wood
In theory, the only necessary steps to keep water clear are to ensure it stays properly balanced, with the ideal ranges for pH and total alkalinity; has adequate sanitizer to kill bacteria, algae and viruses; and has an oxidizer or shock to remove unwanted elements such as oils and organic matter.
But as anyone who has walked into a pool-supply store knows, there’s an array and equipment that allow homeowners to expect, sparkling, clear pool water with little effort. Just how – and when – should you use these products?
- Algicides: Chemicals that kill algae and prevent its proliferation. Use if you have an algae bloom, such as when the water turns green, or yellow algae cling to the walls, or for routine maintenance.
- Balancers: Products specially formulated for pools to keep pH or total alkalinity within the desired range. Every pool owner needs these to keep the water in balance. “They have the right composition, specified for trace materials, and the right dissolution rates, which is how fast or slow they dissolve,” says Scott Newton, brand manager for BioGuard.
- Chelating agents: Chemicals that help keep metals in a solution, so they don’t stain the surface. Use if stains develop or the water turns reddish brown or blue-green.
- Clarifiers: Agents that attract small particles together, so the filter can remove them. Use when the water becomes cloudy or on a regular basis.
- Cover cleaners: Products applied to solar and winter covers to remove dirt prior to storage. Unless specified on the product label, these cleaners are meant to be used while the cover is removed from the pool. You need to use these before storing the cover for the season.
- Defoamers: Products that rid the pool of foam caused by soaps, makeup, algicides or other elements. Use if water foams.
- Filter Cleaners: Agents used to clean filters. “There are alkaline and acid cleaners, and we suggest pool owners to use both – alkaline to remove the body oils, and acidic for the calcium and scale buildup,” Newton says. Use this whenever you clean a cartridge filter.
- Flocculants: Chemicals that gather smaller particles together. Often used with sand filters to help catch smaller particles. Flocculants work like clarifiers, but gather larger particles that are more easily filtered. You can use these products when the water becomes cloudy or green.
- Muriatic acid: Chemical used to decrease the pH. Pool professionals also may employ it when acid-washing pool surfaces. Many pool owners use this instead of a pH decreasing agent.
- Non-chlorine alternatives: Sanitizing chemicals that do not contain chlorine, such as PristineBlue. These products are ideal for swimmers whose skin becomes irritated by chlorine, or for pool owners who worry about the effect of pool chemicals on the environment. “PristineBlue is a safe alternative; it won’t burn your eyes or sting, and your skin and hair will feel soft with out the contaminants in the water,” says Deborah Adkins of Earth Science Laboratories, Inc., which manufactures PristineBlue. “It is also an environmentally friendly product, without any byproducts for future generations to worry about.”
- Phosphate eliminators: Agents that remove phosphates, a nutrient that algae thrive on, which enter the water through pollen, leaves and decomposing vegetation. “If you take phosphates out, it’s difficult for algae to grow,” says Rick Coffey, vice president of research and development at Zodiac Pool Care in Pompano Beach, Florida.
- Potassium monopersulfate: An oxidizer used as a non-chlorine shock and to re-energize bromine. You can use this product to oxidize the pool without adding chlorine.
- Sanitizers: Chlorine, bromine, minerals systems and biguanide products kill pathogens, Biguanide systems require special accompanying products. You cannot add chlorine to a biguanide pool. You must use a sanitizer to keep the water safe.
- Scale inhibitors: Products that prevent scale from forming. Scale develops when the pool water falls out of balance, such as when calcium levels are high. You can use this product to help prevent scale from forming on surfaces, pips and heating elements.
- Sequestering Agents: Chemicals that bind metals, allowing the filter to eliminate the metals, which can stain the surface. You need this if stains develop or the water turns reddish brown or blue-green.
- Shock: Chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, and potassium monopersulfate solutions used to oxidize the pool, removing impurities from the water. You mush shock the pool regularly with one of these products to remove unwanted elements.
- Sodium bicarbonate: Agent used to increase total alkalinity. Many pool owners use this instead of a pH increasing agent.
- Stabilizers: Products that prevent sun breakdown of free chlorine. You need to use these agents with unstabilized chlorine, such as liquid chlorine or chorine produced by a salt-water chlorine generator.
- Stain removers: Chemicals applied to help remove a stain. Select a product specific to the type of stain on the surface. Some stains may not come out or may require professional cleaning. You can try to remove a surface stain with one of these products.
- Tile and vinyl cleaners: Agents that help remove dirt and scum lines from above the water line. “These products have been tested, so they are safe for pool products and do not affect the water chemistry,” Newton says. You need to use this product if dirt and scum form at or above the water line.
Expert Advice on Deciding the
Best Pool Type for you
By: Paul Plummer
Most homeowners can tell you exactly when they decided to stop dreaming and start swimming. They also can tell you that making the decision to build was the easy part – choosing their type of pool and the specific builder required more time and consideration.
Many might agree that if they could have invited some top pool-building professionals to their homes for an information session, the process would have been smoother. With that in mind, Pool & Spa Living went to some of the country’s foremost pool experts for insight into their specialties: concrete, fiberglass and vinyl-lined pools.
Each type has distinct advantages, but all can incorporate sought-after features such as waterfalls, in-pool barstools, beach entries and accompanying spas.
Concrete pools, the most popular type, cab be formed into virtually any shape and size – even when homeowners have an atypical backyard or ask for a seemingly impossible design. “With concrete, you can build any style pool anywhere, including on the side of a hill. Concrete provides freedom of choice,” notes Thomas Brown, vice president of Aquatech, Society of Pool-Building Professionals, in Costa Mesa, Calif. “With concrete, if it can be conceived, it can be built. From all-tile to pebble finishes to built-in mosaics and spas, anything can be achieved within a customer’s budget.”
Fiberglass pools, made from fiberglass-reinforced plastic and molded into a specific shape at the factory, and now available in a wider array of shapes, sizes and colors than in the past. Because the ultra-smooth surface of fiberglass is nonporous, algae and dirt cannot penetrate it, making it very easy to clean and maintain. Fiberglass is also extremely flexible, easily adapting to freeze/thaw cycles, making it an increasingly popular choice in colder climates. “True, homeowners in the warmer climates have always chosen fiberglass pools,” says Kirk Sullivan, president of San Juan Products of Lakeland, Fla., a manufacturer of fiberglass pools. “But customers in colder climates, such as Canada, are discovering the benefits of fiberglass. In fact, the University of Winnipeg did a detailed study showing that fiberglass’s flexibility is the best product to handle the freeze/thaw cycles,” Todd Stahl, president of Composite Pools in Jane Lew, W.Va., agrees: “Fiberglass pools can be installed virtually anywhere, and they hold up well in climates with drastic freeze/thaw conditions.
Vinyl pools, long known for being the lowest-cost option, are now gaining popularity for being as customizable as their concrete counterparts: Replacing the outer liner costs about $600 – $800 plus installation, so they can get a wallet-friendly facelift for a totally new look. Vinyl pools are also very smooth, eliminating the risk of skin scrapes, and they flex with temperature drops. “We find that here in the Northeast section of the country, vinyl-liner pools perform better because of the freeze/thaw climate,” says Bill Renter, owner of Deck & Patio Company in Huntington Station, N.Y., which constructs vinyl-lined pools.
The Facts about FAQs
Once you settle on a pool type – with advice of your builder, no doubt – what can you expect?
How long will my pool take?
The answer to that is tricky. “Timing is dependent on the intricacy of the design, the season, sub-contractor scheduling and the difficulty of the terrain,” explains Brown. “Some projects can take as long as six months to complete, but generally speaking, most concrete pools can be finished in about six to twelve weeks.”
For vinyl-lined pools, expect construction to take, on average, about three to five weeks, says Renter. Meanwhile, because a fiberglass pool is delivered on-site in its “finished” shape, installation additional two weeks or so for the decking, landscaping and general cosmetic detailing.
Are repairs easy to make?
If there’s a nick, crack or tear on your pool later on, they usually can be repaired. Concrete can be fixed, but that degree of difficulty is based on the cause, says Brown. Vinyl can be easily patched or changed, says Renter, while fiberglass, because it’ white, can be seamlessly repaired. “We offer non-prorated structural 25-year warranty, but the great thing is that you should never have to use it,” says Sullivan.
What if I want a new look?
Styles are ever-evolving, and most types of pools can accommodate a homeowner’s need to update. No matter your preferred pool type, laying a new deck or freshening the surroundings landscape can magically transform a poolscape for a bold, new look, while new finishes or plastering can change the look of a concrete pool. With vinyl, a re-do is very easy: “There are numerous color choices in vinyl,” says Renter. “In fact, earth tones are becoming popular. And, we are working with a supplier to create returns, skimmers and main drains to match the pool’s vinyl. That way, they are not a distraction.
Stahl explains that one of the easiest facelifts a homeowner can do to a fiberglass pool is to replace the perimeter tile. He says, “This cab be done easily by a trained professional.”
Both Brown and Sullivan agree that sometimes just changing the peripherals can have the same effect as digging up the old pool and putting in a new one. “New pavers, replastering, new coatings, new deck, new slides, all combine to change the look of a pool,” explains Brown.
Adds Sullivan: “Even though you can’t change the shell, you can change everything around it to make it look different.”
Bottom line: Pools are deeply personal, and all homeowners, along with the pool builder, have to determine what is best for their backyards. Be it vinyl, concrete or fiberglass, the final product has a lot to live up to. But, if the homeowner makes all the correct decisions up front, then the pool will have no trouble living up to the hype. And, in the end, that is what a pool owner really wants: a no-hassle good time right outside the back door.
The Future is now
Once upon a time, when you anted a pool, you got a nice, plain rectangle in the backyard. But, as the years went by, homeowners demanded more – and pool builders stepped up to the challenge. Today, the only limits are set by the human imagination. Want an interior spa in a fiberglass pool? No problem. Like the look of barstools for you vinyl-lined pool? It can be done. Interested in solar panels to heat your concrete pool? The technology is available. “We have to be forward-thinking,” says Bill Renter, owner of Deck & Patio Company in Huntington Station, N.Y. “We have to be willing to work with a client to get a desired effect, no matter what.”
Sullivan states, “In the past, homeowners were limited to what shape they could craft from fiberglass, but today, more styles are possible, including built-in spas, vanishing edges and perimeter overflows.” Stahl adds, “With more and more people concerned about our environment, our eco-friendly pools are already the pools of tomorrow. Fiberglass pools are natural insulators. Your filter and heater will potentially run dramatically less.”
Meet the Experts
Thomas C. Brown
Vice President- Aquatech, Society of Pool-Building Professionals
Thomas Brown has been with Aquatech since 1997. Before joining the society, he was general manager of Crawford Products, a premier paints and coatings company. Prior to that, he was a project engineer for an architectural firm. Mr. Brown holds a B.S. in business management.
Owner- Deck & Patio Company
Bill Renter founded The Deck & Patio Company in 1992. In addition to his degree from CW Post, Mr. Renter has received many industry certifications. He holds memberships in a variety of professional societies, including the Association of Pool and Spa professionals. Mr. Renter and his company have won many awards over the years, including the 2007 Gold Award from NESPA for Outstanding Achievement in Design & Building Vinyl Liner/Fiberglass.
President- San Juan Products
Kirk Sullivan has 24 years of experience in fiberglass manufacturing, installation, sales and marketing. He is one the Manufactures Council of APSP and has been a judge for the organization’s numerous design awards. Mr. Sullivan obtained his master’s degree in business finance from Northeastern University.
President- Composite Pools
Todd Stahl stepped into the family pool business in 1989 as vice president to assist his father and president, Alan Stahl. In addition to managing several retail stores, Todd was directly responsible for the operation of each of the company’s manufacturing facilities. In 2005, Latham International acquired the business, and Todd was appointed president. The company has experienced incredible growth over the past few years and now includes Viking Pools, Composite Pools, Crystal Palace Pools, Liberty Composite Pools and Hydro Zone.
By: Susan Morris Novick
Water elements enhance this season’s landscape designs: Forget the traditional rectangular swimming pool and look for free-form organic pools that merge with the landscaping around them. “Almost every pool we’re building is in some sort of free-form logoon shape, with dark interior finishes,” reveals Dominic Solitario of Blue Haven Pools. “Clients are looking for a more natural look. Interior finishes of grays and blacks make the pools look more like grottoes and lakes.”
Changes in pool care technology have freed homeowners from a lot of the maintenance and management worries of the past. Wireless computerized remotes work from a handheld control panel, so you can turn on the spa or change the water temperature without having to go back inside the house or behind the shrubs, where the pool equipment is hidden. Computerized salt generator systems can monitor and maintain a healthful, bacteria-free environment without the use of chlorines and other chemicals. The new and quiet electric heat pumps are energy savers and more economical then gas or oil heaters.
A wide range of lighting and water effects can turn you pool or spa area into the life of the party. Although a vanishing-edge pool makes the water appear as thought it is going off a cliff in the distance, it actually creates a natural waterfall below that can be used as a dramatic seating area.
Hidden laminar deck jets shoot arcs of water in a solid stream into the pool and can be illuminated with LEDs and multi color fiber-optic light displays. “It looks like a glass tube of light, that’s how perfect and fine it is,” explains Solitario.
With all this style, comfort and drama in your own backyard, you may decided that this summer there really is no place like home.
Formations Build Beauty
By: Ron Derven
Editor’s Note: William Renter, owner, Deck and Patio Company, Huntington Station, New York, has won numerous awards in NESPA and APSP design competitions for his outstanding pools, spas and water features. A signature theme of many of these projects has been beautiful rock formations mixed with vegetation and water. Recently, we asked Bill about his use of rock and how he goes about designing these formations into his projects.
The Edge: Where do you get your inspiration for your rock formations?
Renter: I get my inspiration from nature. I have a ski house in the Catskill Mountains and on days when its pouring rain, I love to hike up to the waterfalls that are near my place and watch the streams, and waterfalls and the way that water flows over rocks. There is one waterfall near me named Kaaterskill Falls, which is a spectacular two-drop waterfall that cascades a total of 260 feet, making it one of the highest waterfalls in New York State and on the East Coast.
The Edge: How do you apply what you find in nature?
Renter: I like to make rock formations look like they do in a natural setting. On Long Island where I live, we do not have a great deal of rock formations because it is an island that was created mainly out of sand. We do not have rocky ledges like they do in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut, so we have to bring in stone that looks like it comes out of the forest. Our materials are from Pennsylvania. We try to make our rock formations look like rock outcroppings. We do not want to make the formation look like a necklace of boulders; it is about making the rock formation look natural.
That can be achieved by grouping boulders together and doing plantings around them. The key is grouping you boulders together to make them look like a big piece of stone. You can do this when you group smaller pieces of stone together tightly. Avoid making it look like a retaining wall–that is, similar sized boulders all in a row. That is a key. We have done this successfully.
The Edge: You don’t like retaining walls?
Renter: I have made a career out of avoiding retaining walls. I use natural elements such as plants and boulders to hold back soil and to hold back the grade. We use boulders on the edge of pools that overhang a little.
The Edge: What about using rocks to create waterfalls?
Renter: To create a beautiful waterfall, you need to use support boulders – boulders that are not part of the waterfall itself, but rather part of the landscaping, so that the project does not look like the waterfall just fell into place and there is nothing else around it that makes sense. The support boulders, or “accent boulders,” as we call them, are as important as the waterfall itself.
Renter: I want water to change direction in my waterfalls, not simply flow forward. On some of our jobs, the water does flow forward, but then it hits a rock and bounces off. When you think about a stream in nature, the water does not go straight down like a set of stairs, which is typically what we see on waterfalls that do not work well. The tricky and complicated part is when you start to build it, you must begin at the bottom and work you way up. You must identify all of the placers where the water will hit the rocks. Don’t let water simply spill forward like a set of steps.
The Edge: Besides the rocks in a waterfall, you add plants. Why?
Renter: We find that when many people build waterfalls, they do not think about the plants and the water – two critical design elements. We leave pockets for plants where we have plants almost touching the water. Planting in the rock will soften the rock, which sometimes can become overwhelming.
The Edge: What about leaks in waterfalls and water features? This is an ongoing problem in many projects, is it not?
Renter: When you put water on rocks, leaks develop. To create a leak-proof waterfall, we start with a 45 mil EPDM flexible rubber pond liner. That liner is placed on top of the wall of the pool and actually overhangs the pool by an inch. Any water that makes its way through the waterfall, the rock or the cement will hilt the liner, which is overlapped over the beam of the pool, and it returns the water back into the swimming pool or water feature. Some clients complain that they do not want to have the liner showing and we doe our best to hide it, but it does have to overhang. If you were to cute the liner flush with the edge of the pool, the water tends to cling to the liner, goes under the liner and behind the pool, which creates other problems. So letting it overhang by and inch creates a kind of drip edge where the water will roll off and into the pool, not cling to the liner.
The Edge: How do you keep your waterfalls from flowing like a water main break?
Renter: What we like to do is use something from a company called Aquascapes, our equipment supplier. The product is called Biofalls. This is almost a settling tank. It is roughly a 20-gallon container where the water from the pump goes into it and slows down. We want a heavy flow of water, but we want the velocity to slow down.
The Edge: You are an expert on rock formations, but how do you communicate it all to the client who may not know that much about them?
Renter: I take a lot of pictures of streams and waterfalls. I have thousands of pictures. I am not artistic when it comes to drawing and perspective, but I am creative when it comes to shapes and landscape design. I do a lot of my own landscape design. People hire me because I show them what I like, and hopefully they will like what I like.
I also suggest they go to our website, www.deckandpatio.com, and watch our video titled “It starts with a plan.” That is our theme when we meet with a client. We draw plans on auto CAD to show the shapes and sizes of spaces and where things will go and the viewing angles. The last thing we use to blow clients away is design software called Pool Studio. But we charge for this service. Our people will spend up to 25 hours working with this program to create a design.
The Edge: What about the hydraulics of waterfalls?
Renter: You need to understand the basics of hydraulics. The greatest failures in waterfalls and rock formations are when you are all done and you have a pile of wet rocks because the builder did not supply enough water to the waterfall.
The Edge: Where can one go to learn and understand the complexities of hydraulics?
Renter: You need to create a “weir,” a small overflow. When you have a rock and you want the water to release and spill off the rock, that is a weir. Further, you need to have thicker water run over your weir when using natural stone and boulders. The diameter of the pipe and the size of the pump or pumps need to be carefully calculated. On critical thing I have learned in this business is that big pipe is good. A builder can always change a pump if the waterfall needs more water, but if the pipe is not large enough, no matter how big a pump it its, it simply won’t work.
The Edge: How important is rock selection to the overall design success of a project?
Renter: Sometimes customers will say “Our patio is a reddish stone so why don’t we make the waterfall reddish stone?” I will suggest to them that it does not look quite natural. We found two types of stones that we typically use. One is called Long Island Boulder, a rounded stone without a lot of cragginess to it. Theses stones look like a big round bowling balls or dinosaur eggs. We do not use them all that often. We specify the shape and size of the boulders we want, and we use very simple terms to order them, such as “I want rocks that look like basketballs” or “I want rocks that look like a box that is three feet by two feet by three feet.” We also use beautiful moss rock that comes out of wooded areas in Pennsylvania. It is craggy and very interesting material. We do not go so much on color. We want rocks that came out of the woods or a stream.
The Edge: It must be quite difficult handling large boulders and placing them where they need to be on a job.
Renter: We tried a couple of different handling methods. We now use slings to lift the boulders. We can pick them up and turn them around and twist them and get them just right. We recently purchased a mini excavator that has the ability to pick up a 2,000-pound rock. When we put a sling on it, the excavator has such a good reach that we can do our work safely and correctly. You have to pay attention when positioning rocks. On small waterfalls, we pick the rocks up by hand and place them.
The Edge: How big is a 2,000 pound rock?
Renter: A 2,000 pound rock is about three feet by four feet by eighteen inches to two feet deep. We get twenty-five tons of rock in a 20-yard dumpster container and use about three containers a week on our jobs.
When it comes to creating award-winning backyard landscapes, all homeowners can learn from this Renter.
Even as a young boy, Bill Renter was interested in transforming landscapes. He built quite a few treehouses in his youth, an enterprise that has served him well in the ensuing years.
Today, Bill runs his own landscape contracting firm – The Deck and Patio Company of Long Island, New York – and still enjoys the challenge of helping a client turn his backyard into an oasis. From breathtaking waterfalls to beautiful maintenance-free decks, he has the kind of ideas that can help you create the backyard of your dream. And he has the awards to prove it.
For two years in a row, Bill and his staff have won first place in the prestigious North American Decorative and Durable Pavement Awards, which are organized by Concrete Products magazine and co-sponsored by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and the Decorative Concrete Council of the American Society of Concrete Contractors. Selected in 2004 and 2005 from dozen of leading landscapers nationwide, The Deck and patio Company’s winning entries, both in the Residential category, make extensive use of water and multi-level structures to create an idyllic outdoor environment.
If you’re like many homeowners, you many already have a landscaped backyard, possibly with a pool that’s been through a number of summers. You’ve probably considered doing something with it, but what? Take a look at the pool renovation project that helped Bill capture the #1 ranking in 2004.
“As the mason contractor on the job, we were dealing with a 20-year old pool with similarly-aged coping that was surrounded by grass, and had never had a patio,” he recounts. “There was also a concrete spa that was never used because it was uncomfortable. We began by demolishing the old spa and replacing it with a new acrylic one. Then, using Techo-Bloc Creta wall stone, we created the face between the raised acrylic spillover spa and the swimming pool. Techo-Bloc stones were also used to create the steps and retaining walls, as well as a patio around the swimming pool.”
The fact that the clients really loved the existing pool coping make Bill’s job even more interesting. After visiting several mason suppliers and finding it impossible to obtain the original coping, he turned again to Techo-Bloc to make a match. “The coping had tan and grey tones, and Techo-Bloc’s sandalwood paving stones were an extremely good complement,” Bill states. “The results were tremendous, winning our firm a national award and, more importantly, making our client very happy.”
Those contemplating a rear deck for their home should check out the design that brought Bill first-place honors again in the 2005 contest, in addition to awards from two national pool and spa associations. Like his client, you would probably shudder at the thought of maintaining a backyard deck. “This couple came to me and said ‘we don’t want to deal with any kind of maintenance. We don’t want to clean it, waterproof it, or anything.’ The answer was a raised patio.”
The challenge for Bill and his crew was the relatively steep slope in the backyard that ran away from the house. In the original design, there was a significant elevation change from where the pool was going to be to the proposed location for the sliding rear glass door. The deck was to come out of the house, with steps leading down to the pool patio.
With the change to a raised patio, it was necessary to put solid compactable materials underneath to avoid settling issues later on. Then they constructed a retaining wall and masonry steps down to the pool patio. The finished design featured a five-level patio all around the swimming pool. “It was a bit more than what a deck would have cost, but the savings in maintenance will pay for it over time,” Bill asserts. “And the end result is really beautiful.”
Bill’s early interests led him to the landscaping industry, where he learned the simple way: by doing and asking questions. Even after studying landscape design at the State University of New York at Farmingdale on Long Island, he’s never ceased his quest for knowledge. In 1980, he started his own landscape contractor business, and later opened The Deck and Patio Company in 1992. Today, he still loves going to work and coming up with new ideas.
“That’s the fun part of my job…the creativity,” he admits. “We’re always looking for exciting new and better ways to do things. For example, we’ve started using natural gas ‘firepits’ around our pools to create warm areas on the patios especially on cool evenings, as well as wireless outdoor speakers. Instead of placing a single speaker in one spot, we place as many as ten throughout the project area so our clients enjoy a subtle, consistent sound all around them. With recent advances in landscaping, swimming pools, and technology, virtually anything you can conceive of should be discussed with an experienced landscape and mason contractor. With a little imagination, the sky’s the limit.
“That’s why I use Tech-Bloc in so many projects,” Bill continues. “It’s not only cost-effective, but so flexible and adaptable. Techo-Bloc was the first paging stone that doesn’t look like one…it looks like natural stone. Just as important, they have so many different sizes and shapes, and a broad range of colors, which makes my job a lot easier. You can put them down and they look both natural and eye-catching. Instead of simply one brick that repeats throughout the entire patio or retaining wall, you get an attractive random-looking design, so you don’t just see straight lines and flat images. Then the block I use for the patio can be matched for the retaining walls, the steps, risers, coping…whatever.”
As any good businessman, what’s good for his customers is good for his home, as well. In fact, for 2006, he’s entering his backyard in the ICIP-sponsored contest in the hopes of a ‘three-peat.’ There are five different patio levels around the pool, all comprised of Techo-Bloc. The design features cascading water, a hot water fall into a new spa, then a spillover from the spa five feet above the main pool. In total, there are five waterfalls, plus a swim-up bar in the pain pool that features stunning granite countertops. From the highest waterfall to the lawn below in an elevation change of twelve feet, all with a different grades. Bill was able to integrate natural moss rock stone in with Techo-Bloc colors that blended beautifully.
Obviously, Bill’s come a long way from his days in the trees. If you’re interested in creating your own backyard paradise, whatever the size of your space, remember that a little creativity goes a long way.
APSP Quarterly Gold Awards
Deck and Patio Company
Huntington Station, NY
This large vinyl pool and spa worked well with the existing contours of the rear yard. The pool and spa feature four waterfalls: one large waterfall into the pool, two waterfalls on the spa and a large pondless waterfall near the raised patio. There are four different patio levels and lush landscaping.
Deck and Patio Company
Huntington Station, NY
This pondless stream and waterfall is a sustainable water feature. The patios are pitched toward the gravel-covered matrix so that rain runs off into this reservoir and is used to refill it. This system is a form of rainwater harvesting.
Deck and Patio Company
Huntington Station, NY
This 1800s estate was purchased with a stone bridge and tunnel that originally served as an entrance to the property. The homeowner wanted to accentuate the beautiful structure with a reflecting pond. To allow the entire stone gazebo to reflect in the water, the pond would have to be more than 250 feet long and 45 feet wide. To aid natural filtration and circulation, a bog filter was installed with the waterfall. At the other end is the weir for the pondless reservoir that holds about 5,000 gallons of water and serves as a rainwater harvester and a skimmer. This system allows the flow of water (slowly) and keeps the water crystal clear.
Hardscape Project Awards
Residential – Concrete paver, more than 5,000 ft2
Glen Cove Residence- The Deck and Patio Co. Huntington Station, N.Y.
It’s no surprise this project took more than seven months to complete, with three months devoted to site preparation. An engineered Techo-Bloc Quarry Stone retaining wall, conforming to a compaction ration of up to 99.9 percent at 36” depth with recycled concrete aggregate, provided the stabilization. More than 5,000 ft2 of Techo-Bloc Elena Sandalwood tumbled pavers cover the patios, integrated with 3,000 lbs. of moss-rock boulders and 20 step system. The final work included two bars faced with cultured stones and topped with granite; one is a swim-up adjacent to the pool and spa, and the other is a 56’ U-shaped surface integrating a number of modern appliances.
Residential – Concrete paver, 1,000 ft2 -5,000 ft2
Melville Residence- The Deck and Patio Co. Huntington Station, N.Y.
In dealing with several site challenges – a 20’ elevation change and several large Long Island stone boulders among them – the solution came with nesting patios into the slope of the property. A 20’ X 40’ free-form concrete wall provides boundary; the deck utilizes 1,400 ft2 of Techo-Bloc Elena Sandalwood tumbled pavers, combined with a 20”-high Techo-Bloc Quarry Stone seat wall and 20 irregular bluestone stepping stones. The pavers and stone captured the tones of Long Island boulders used for waterfalls and soil retention.