Of the three kinds of structures for pools such as fiberglass, vinyl liner and gunite/shotcrete, the vinyl liner has been the most mobile upward. Since the time when liner pools were often referred to in the past as “baggies,” manufacturers and builders have continuously extended the range of possibilities for vinyl in order to cater to an elite customers.
“Liner pools were an alternative to the Honda Civic or Toyota Camry of the business,” says Randy Budd of Budd’s Pools located in Deptford, N.J. “There was no shame in having one. Package pools were a great deal to a particular segment of customers. However,” he quickly adds, “the gunite customer would not have thought of purchasing one.”
The shape of the pool was once limited to dimensions and liner patterns and lacking nearly all the characteristics of custom concrete pools, the features of package pools have advanced to the point that in the majority of cases, it is difficult to differentiate from liner pool designs and concrete counterparts. The advancements in liner manufacturing, specifically , the utilization of CAD-driven design and manufacturing, have been recognized as the most significant development.
With the capability to design lines of any shape or size, as well as an enormous array of patterns and colors builders who were restricted in the options they could offer home owners can now offer stunning designs.
The broader appearance of liners has led many builders to think more creatively about the other materials. “We put blue stone decks and coping around the pools, and they looked fantastic, and people were awed,” Budd says. “Then when the manufacturers began to introduce benches and other designs for steps We got to a point where we could say that you could get almost anything in your liner pool. We can make it.”
The constantly expanding designs for liners is just the beginning. The advancements in the structure itself have made it much easier for the evolution of vinyl liner.
It could be galvanized steel construction or composite panel systems, or concrete poured-in-place, the capability to extend beyond lazy L’s and rectangles has allowed builders to make the connection between custom concrete and vinyl.
“When manufacturers began to explore various shapes and radiuses this was a game changer” Budd says. “No no longer were you required to choose between three basic designs — you could create any shape you like. The industry began to evolve to find freeforms, cantilevered decking as well as stamped concrete, among other features. Builders began to tell customers that they could have an imitation of the gunite pool.”
Additionally, Fox Pools, has created an array that is a hybrid pool dubbed Ultimate Pool. Ultimate Pool, that can be built in ground, partially or completely above ground.
“It offers potential customers the feature to build an inground or semi-inround pool that is constructed well as a fully-fledged inground pool however, at a lower cost,” explains Eric Johnson of Johnson Pools in Owego, N.Y. “In the past, the only affordable feature for those who wanted to buy an aboveground pool. However, the majority of customers are looking for something more expensive and more expensive than this. Aboveground pools don’t fare so well in our part of the country.”
“We have doubled sales for this pool compared to the previous year. It’s our fourth year and this product is taking off like an explosion,” says Dean Rice of Rice Pools located in Hermitage, Penn. “Our area has been little depressed, but this feature is attractive to those who are looking for an expensive and beautiful inground pool but don’t have the budget to spend the same amount as they would for an existing gunite in ground pool.”
“It’s also created a completely new market opportunity for the ones with sloped backyards,” adds Johnson. “In previous times these people did not have an ideal opportunity to have an above-ground swimming pool. But since it’s possible to install the Ultimate Pool can be installed semi-inground, the pool is able to be set up perfectly in a backyard that is sloped.”
While panel systems have greatly increased the options for consumers and have made it easier for builders to broaden their customer base, consolidation between manufacturers has, compatible to certain, “homogenized” the market and the competing lines of products have become more like one another than they previously were.
This is why some builders have shifted to only competing on price this has led to the more discerning builders to consider panels in order to differentiate their products from their low-cost rivals.
“That’s the moment we started exploring the construction of concrete walls,” Budd says. The company is now building liner pools using concrete walls poured and most recently has shifted to building the entire concrete pool. “It’s all about differentiating. Now , there’s a completely different approach to talking regarding liner pools. They’re constructed with 10-inches thick reinforced walls made of vermiculite floors, 4,000-psi of concrete. The only difference from the liner pool and gunite pool is the fact that it makes them waterproof.”
One of the professionals who has helped drive the popularity of the concrete-wall choice is builder-turned-manufacturer Frank Wall, founder of Frank Wall Enterprises in Columbus, Miss. A brilliant innovator and creator, Wall has developed a method of making concrete forms which can be used to make virtually any shape for a pool.
“We started making radius forms around 10 years ago and they gave us the possibility of designing pools that were outside the box,” Wall says. “Now we’ve developed forms to pour various styles of benches, steps sun ledges, elevated walls, spill-over spas, disappearing edges and automatic cover boxes for entry points to beaches and the capability to build an all-concrete pool using the aluminum forms, thereby replacing the expensive and skilled laborers and equipment required to shoot the gunite pool.”
Wall’s system, also known as AquaForms is able to design geometric and freeform swimming shells with templates designed by the manufacturer or using the templates or together these forms in order to design new designs. The aluminum forms are built in 36-inch pairs to create outside and inside shapes. Walls are built as freestanding structures which can be backfilled to suit inground applications, or to create raised wall designs.
“Once an owner purchases an entire set of AquaForms and he is now the producer for his pool.” Wall explains. “He is no longer required to rely on someone else to make pools for him. There is no more cost for shipping kits to his place of residence. The builder has full control over the quality of the pool he’s creating. The cost of building the pool’s steps, wall and benches is now just half of the price of a factory-made kit.”
“That degree of control is essential for me since as an architect, I have an expectation that I won’t go below,” Budd says. “It’s an enduring construction that’s better as compared to what’s being built into the ground now adequate to me. Concrete walls allow me to stand out in order to make sure that when a client is at my office, I’m offering something distinct from the competition.”
CONFIDENCE IN CREATIVE
As per Wall and Budd, both Wall and Budd homeowners who like the strength of concrete walls, but love the convenience, ease of service and cost-effectiveness of liners can now enjoy an feature that offers the accurate combination of the two. From the standpoint of the builder this system allows the construction of traditional shapes to more imaginative designs.
“What I’ve observed is that in the first year that a builder’s forms are in place He’ll use the basic shapes, the drawings he’s got,” explains Wall. “Then in the second and third years, they’ll begin to make modifications to the forms. It’s entertaining to watch the builders develop their knowledge and become more imaginative. I would like to say that the only limit is the amount of shapes you can create as well as your own imagination.”
This ingenuity has led builders to utilize the form to build retaining walls and other masonry structures that go beyond the water’s edge. This has been a catalyst for some builders to move towards projects that incorporate the landscape.
“If you look at the liner pools that we’re creating in the present,” Budd adds, “it’s difficult to discern if it’s a pool made of vinyl. About three quarters of people who view them will assume they’re gunite pools.”