Welcome back to Couture & Construction, an uplifting podcast dedicated to the many different aspects of the luxury building industry. In episode twenty-eight, we’re joined by Chad Christenson, Chief Designer and Founder of Watermark Pools, to talk about pools. Who doesn’t love the thought of spending the weekend on vacation in their own backyard? It is the ultimate home entertainment center. Whether wanting a pool to help maintain an active lifestyle, create a family retreat area, or to just enjoy the beauty and calming nature of design centered around water, we love pools and this episode provides us with everything we need to know to design and install a pool in our own backyards.I
Over the last three or four years, almost every house built in Nashville has included a pool. In the Covid-era we’re currently living in, people are wanting a personal pool in their backyard more than ever. What is the process of building a pool and what should clients expect from the process? First and foremost, it depends on where you are – different places have different setbacks. But from a design perspective, Christenson recommends having a master plan to begin with so you can consider all features you may want to add in the future, such as a pool house. Plan for all unforeseen circumstances or needs you’d consider in the long run.
A recurring theme we’ve heard on Couture and Construction is the land will tell you so much. Geographical factors and local codes make such an impact on what you can do with a custom build, including a pool build. For example in Brentwood, TN the pool and hardscape have to be within the building envelope, the NBSL. To start, get a survey and see where your house is in relation to the NBSL for the backyard. If your house is built on the line in the back, you cannot build a pool. Another important consideration: the more grade you have, the higher the cost will be. Think about where your pool is going to be in relation to your house as the grade will certainly affect the cost of the pool build. Finally, the HOA may have rules on putting in a pool; be sure you’re meeting their guidelines before you even request a permit.
What are the trends in pool design? In Nashville, the pools are mostly traditional style, 20×40 pools with a cover. Fire has become very popular, as well as moving water and sounds. Heaters are certainly a premium element that many people want. Heat pumps and chillers are installed frequently because they’re more efficient than gas heaters, and they allow you to extend the pool season on both sides. Lastly, spas are a favorite. Christenson encourages people to put the spa in upfront when building the pool because it is more cost effective as it becomes a remodel to build it in later.
What should a client be looking for when evaluating pool companies? The first thing is to do your research and get referrals from people you trust who have been through the process. “Not all pool companies are created equal,” Christenson says. He likes to focus on the process, the education, and the cost on the front end when communicating with clients. There’s a lot to consider beyond just the price, such as maintenance and service.
There are three different types of pools: 1) gunite/shotcrete 2) vinyl liner, and 3) fiberglass. There are pros and cons to each. Liner is the most cost effective up front, but it’s not a long term product. Fiberglass is a bit more inexpensive than gunite. Gunite is the most expensive, made out of concrete and steel, built to withstand many years. Gunite is the only option that allows for endless shapes and sizes, whereas vinyl has set sizes and fiberglass can only be as big as a truck can haul. In terms of the types of water used in pools, the luxury pool industry as a whole is trying to move away from salt water as it is a corrosive environment. A better option is a uv/ozone pool system. For a client that wants almost no chlorine, uv/ozone is the best option. It’s low maintenance, doesn’t dry you out, and you won’t have the horrible smell or “red eyes” from chlorine.
Who’s involved in the process of pool building? There are a lot of moving parts, but it starts with landscape architects. Once the design is finished, you move into permitting. Next comes the digging, the steel work, and then before the concrete is poured they’ll do a “framing walk” for the pool where they double check lighting, depths, etc to determine if there are any last minute changes – this is the time to speak up. The pool builder will work with the builder to discuss trenches and plumbing to prevent any problems down the road. Lastly, wait to do the plaster and fill the water until the house is ready for move-in.
What can go wrong? If you’re not educating yourself before taking on this big project, you can have huge problems down the road. For instance, with the shell if you don’t have the correct coverages for the rebar for the concrete it can be a disaster down the road. There are ACI, plumbing, and safety standards that must be met. Understanding hydraulics, structures, shells, damp proofing, etc. are all important in building a structurally sound pool. Small issues or mistakes in the pool build could cost upwards of $50K to repair down the road. The goal should be to build it correctly to begin with to avoid any long term issues.
A lot of people are involved in building a pool. To start with the pool builders lay out the pool and then subcontractors include: excavation, form work, steel, plumbing, electrical, concrete, shotcrete, crew, plumbing again, tile crew to damp proof and lay the tile, the coping, the decking, and fencing and landscaping. For an average size pool in Nashville, 20×40, a reasonable budget would be $130-200K for new construction. For an existing home, you’ll have other costs: create a temporary road (~$2,000) and then remove the road (~$4,000), tree removal, any demolition, rock removal, unsuitable soils create more digging, fencing, moving of utilities, etc. are additional costs to putting a pool into an existing home.
Listen to Episode 28, “Pool Party” to hear more from Chad Christenson on the process of building a pool.
Based in Nashville, Watermark Pools is the luxury pool builder of Middle Tennessee. With fourteen years of experience building and designing pools, they focus on not only the pool or spa, but also your entire outdoor living area. From water features to fire features and everything in between, Watermark Pool’s design team works one-on-one with each client to give them exactly what they want, making sure no detail goes overlooked in their dream backyard. The pool firm collaborates with area landscape architects to help shape your backyard into the oasis of your dreams. “Our client relationships are first and foremost,” says Chad Christenson, owner of Watermark Pools. “We spend time with our clients determining their needs and lifestyle and how they ultimately want to enjoy their backyard.”
Head to their website to check out their gorgeous portfolio, including lakeside infinity edge pools, spas with mosaic detailing, and gurgling water fountains. They see the poolscape as a valuable extension of the home’s living space, working with landscape architects to include touches like outdoor kitchen, unique seating areas, and dazzling flora. They’re also committed to delivering the highest-quality product possible – they create all their vessels with quality products designed to stand the test of time. And they take care to use proper construction techniques, educating their team through classes like GENESIS® and Ask the Masters. Watermark knows that no project is truly complete without proper service and maintenance. That’s why they continue their relationships with clients long after construction with their service and maintenance division, making sure their projects are always properly cared for. “Our belief is that we build a great product,” says Christenson, “and we want to take care of it for years to come.”
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