EXPERT INSIGHT BY CRAIG BAGIN
Transforming an empty outdoor space into a custom pool design
When a homeowner decides to build the pool that has been a longtime dream, a mix of emotions occurs, including anticipation, a little bit of nervousness about the unknown, but most of all, excitement. In order to harness all of that energy into a wellspring of ideas and creativity, professional pool designers and builders resort to a seemingly innocuous trick that is really a powerful tool: they have conversations with their clients. To provide insight into how a pool design is born and then built, let me explain how I handle a typical project, from start to finish.
I begin every project the same way: by visiting the proposed setting. I want to be ready to talk and listen to my clients, so I study a variety of items around the property, including the proposed space for the poolscape, the home’s architecture, and the homeowners’ personal taste. I review my notes, and then I interview the clients. I ask a number of questions based on what I observed about the home: How do the homeowners plan to use the pool? What styles, shapes, and water features do they like? How many children will enjoy the space? What safety features would they like to incorporate into the design? And most importantly, what is the budget?
At this point I will also discuss finish materials for the pool, the decking, and the surrounding landscaping. I will ask about any desired architectural elements, such as outdoor rooms, kitchens, custom fireplaces, and dining areas. Will they want landscaping installed? How about lightscaping in and around the pool?
Another piece of the puzzle that I preplan is the type of control system that will manage the entire pool setting. There are many options for homeowners seeking to easily maintain and run their pools. At the touch of a button on a control panel from inside their home or on their tablet or smartphone (there is an app for that!), they can schedule the purification system, open or close the automatic pool cover, bring the water to a comfortable temperature, activate water features like the waterfall, fountains, or deck jets, and turn the lights off and on.
Once I get a true understanding of what is desired, I will sit with our landscape architect, go over the technical aspects of the space, plus zoning and grading issues, and then I will draw up a master plan. Sometimes, I draw up two options—one based on what the homeowner envisions and one in which I include components I think will work in the space.
I have discovered during my 40 plus years of designing and building outdoor spaces that even though a homeowner thinks they know what they want, I can offer a suggestion or two that they never considered—in today’s world we are exposed to so much information via the Internet and we see what our friends and family have already done, that we think we have seen it all. Not true. Every space is unique and every space can offer inspiration that results in something new and fresh. We just have to be open to what it suggests and allow a project to evolve into a poolscape that is perfect for that space, at that time, and for those homeowners.
The next step is to take all of the ideas and start the building phase. As we get closer to actually building the project, it is imperative that excellent, well-designed plans are created. We work off of blueprints, but I also use 3-D computer programs so clients can visualize the end result. I want them to get an accurate feel for what we have designed before we bring in the heavy equipment and start the excavation.
Additionally, once the master plan is approved by all the parties involved in the project, I will go to the space and use spray paint to outline where the pool will be, where any architectural elements will stand, and where the landscaping, retaining walls, patios, and decking will be installed. This also acts as a final reality check. For the first time, the homeowners will see the full scale of what is about to happen—and by doing this, I give them a chance to change their minds before the project is too far along.
Now the fun begins!
The site needs to be prepared: trees removed, grading done, earth moved, the pool excavated, plus boulders and rocks removed. Then our skilled craftsmen shape out the pool and install the rebar, plumbing, electrical and other utilities, as well as drains and retaining walls. Sometimes, challenges occur during this process. We discover that we may have to use dynamite to move massive boulders or we may have to shore up the ground with more fill than we planned. No matter the problems, however, we meet them head on. This is when the art of conversation is essential. A designer and builder must always keep clients up-to-date, letting them know if solutions impact the budget or theoriginal plans. Success is guaranteed as long as everyone stays on the same page.
Finally, the finish work—the beauty part—is ready to be unveiled. The master artisans--from the tile installers and concrete finishers to the landscape architects and lighting experts--add the final touches, bringing everything to magnificent life.
I have been asked how I know when to stop tweaking and reworking a design. My answer may sound trite, but it is far from that. I know I am done when clients say they love what I’ve done. When they say that our team did a fabulous job and that we created a little bit of paradise for them, then I know we have reached the pinnacle. At that instant, my job is complete.
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Photos courtesy of B&B Pool and Spa Center, Chestnut Ridge, NY; Photography by Chris Nelson
Craig Bagin is the vice president of B&B Pool and Spa Center, Chestnut Ridge, NY. He has been building award-winning gunite pools and spas since 1972—often overcoming daunting engineering requirements, difficult terrains, and hydraulic challenges. Bagin earned the respect of industry colleagues for his work and integrity, and he has maintained the loyalty of his staff—many of whom have worked with B&B Pool and Spa Center for decades. He prides himself on the quality of his workmanship, the professionalism of his construction team, and the long durability of his pools. A member of Carecraft Builders Group, Bagin is an APSP Certified Pool Builder (CPB) and Certified Service Professional (CSP).