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Designing Your Dream Swimming Pool: An Interview with Robert L. Rose of Pelican Pools LLC

By Robert L. Rose

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I am Robert Rose, president and owner of Pelican Pools LLC, the son of an artist and an Air Force officer. As a military brat I spent many of my summers in pools all around the country. I loved swimming and I loved diving. I became a lifeguard at 15, pool cleaner at 17 and a gunite nozzleman at 20. Having a working artist mother, I also grew up learning about colors, shading and creative design. I started Pelican Pools LLC in 2007 to be able to combine my experience with construction techniques and passion for artistic creativity.

Pelican Pools LLC is a licensed NM contracting company (GB98), with the full compliment of builder's liability insurance and worker's compensation. Our company offers personalized design and construction of custom concrete pools and spas, remodeling of existing pools and other services for pool equipment and automatic covers. Along with residential pool construction we also build some light commercial (i.e., hotel, resort and condominium pools). We do not sell pool supplies or do weekly servicing. I believe in supporting local service companies by building more pools and have no plans of competing in the service category. Many of these service companies are our best references.

What are some of the most popular pool and backyard features for homes in New Mexico?

The pool industry offers potential clients a wide variety of accessories to enhance the dream backyard experience. I have listed many of them here.

1. Pool covers that offer family safety, solar heat gain, water conservation and convenience are a top request among New Mexico buyers.
2. Cleaning systems that do the work of vacuuming the pool are very popular. a) In-floor pop-up systems deliver the heated water through pop-up heads in the floor and work whenever the filter system is operational. It does not require any attention by the homeowner' b) Robotic-style cleaners work off either electrical cord power or suction line cleaners have a hose that plugs into either a vacuum line in the wall or into a skimmer. These cleaners work off the suction from the filter pump and are reasonably effective. They do require a customer to monitor, adjust and remove the cleaner when not in use.
3. Disinfection systems that reduce or eliminate the residual chlorine needed to protect the pool from bacteria are also trending. Ultraviolet sanitizers, mineral sanitizers, salt chlorine generators and copper-ion systems offer a variety of ways to create comfortable water conditions for even the most chemically sensitive clients.
4. Toys: At the top of the fun list there are diving boards, slides, volleyball games, basketball games and watersports games of all kinds. The pool design must take these items into consideration at the very start of the design process. A diving pool is deeper than a sports or recreation pool and dictates the pool shape and dimensions. Water Slides also have a "slide path" with dimensional and depth minimums as well. There are a great many water slide options, some rival waterpark slides. Volleyball pole anchors should be built in the deck as well as basketball goal anchors.
5. Water features are in high demand here in the desert. The peaceful sounds of moving water, the visual attraction of shimmering splash and the playful interaction that children enjoy enhance the pool experience greatly. All types of features are available, stacked rock falls, spitter spouts, pre-cast fountains and LED lighted geyser jets are just a few options available.
6. Spas are often an integral part of the pool design. Some spas built inside the pool, others attached to the pool with spillover designs and yet others set apart from the pool. These spas offer the hot water soaking and jet action to provide therapy and relaxation. Portable self contained spas are also a very convenient and energy efficient option. With their high number of jets, pop-up stereo systems and under-cabinet equipment, portable spas can be a better fit for those who wish to use their spas year round.
7. Infinity pools offer dramatic visual appeal. These pools have a separate reservoir of water at the base of the spillover wall that is pumped into the pool to "lift" the surface of the pool which then spills into the basin continuously.
8. Lighting options give as great deal of punch to the night time pool experience. Color changing LED lights, LED white lights, mini LEDs and fiber-optic lighting have a strong impact on the feel of the pool at night. Peaceful blues, vibrant reds and bold greens make a big splash when entertaining. Landscape lighting has the same effect on the whole yard.
9. Decking and patios are the hard surface walk areas surrounding the pool and extending out to patio spaces. Decorative concrete, kool krete texture coatings, modular pavers and flagstone are some of the most sought after deck surfaces. Keeping a slip resistant surface for wet feet is the most important characteristic of any deck apron. Maintaining a comfortable temperature on hot days is also a must. The cost considerations for each of these mediums range from $6 per square foot for gray broom finish concrete to $8-$10 per foot for stamped colored concrete and even up to $30 per foot for some paver and flagstone options.
10. Decorative tile at the waterline and on the edges of the steps add a dimension to the design that strikes a theme. The 6" of tile at the waterline makes the transition between the pool deck above and the pool plaster below. Choosing a tile that drives the color and texture lines for the pool is critical. Glossy and bold or soft and subdued. Let your personality come through with added deco-tiles, mosaics and 1x1 step edge markers.
11. Color upgraded pool plaster as well as color quartz and pebble finishes allow the designer to create resort style water colors. Deep sea reflections, beachside earth tones and caribbean blues make for stimulating water environments. If you imagine the pool is a puzzle, the color of the water is the most important puzzle piece. It drives the tile and deck choices. The standard pool plaster is a mixture of white portland cement and crushed white marble dust. This makes a water color that is light blue when the sun is out but looks a bit colorless when it's overcast.

Can you briefly explain what typically happens at an initial meeting for a new swimming pool?

The process of formulating a new pool/spa design begins with a visit to the building site to make a series of observations and meet with the owners. Here are some of the considerations:

1. Ask the owners for a copy of the property survey plan. This survey document shows important design dimensions (i.e., setbacks from house to property lines, utility or drainage easements).
2. Talk with the clients about their backyard plans, i.e. pool shape and size, diving or non-diving, slides or boards, spas, water features and decking. How do they wish to use their pool and backyard. Are they thinking of shade structures, grass areas, BBQ islands, play sets, basketball courts, patio areas, fire features, etc. We will discuss access for equipment, utility line rough-ins, wall height requirements, safety concerns, covers and cleaning systems. After this site visit and discussion a detailed proposal and specifications list are created and forwarded to the clients.
3. Site plan drawing is created to give the new pool owners a look at the pool positioning, relative elevation and deck apron layout. When the proposal is accepted a complete set of drawings for permitting purposes is created. Clients give their input and changes are made to adjust the plan to suit the owners.

What are some of the most important considerations that a homeowner should communicate with a contractor?

Interviewing potential pool builders is a challenge. Everyone has bright ideas and opinions they wish to put forward. You as the customer must have done some research on what you want so you are communicating the same information to each bidder. A prepared specifications list is a great way to keep the bidding on a level field. You can't compare if they are not all working from the same requirements. Pool size, depth and shape, type of decking and how much decking, spa or no spa, water play toys, features and aesthetics, covers and cleaners. With all that info listed the bidders have to shine not shine-ola.

Have your survey plat copies ready. Don't give anyone your only copy. Keep the meetings concise and consistent. Back ground check anyone you are thinking of contracting with. Get the license numbers and tax ID numbers or anyone you have chosen and check them out before you sign a contract. Read the contract completely! Even have a contract attorney read and review it. Once you sign it you are limited by the terms of the contract.

Pay close attention to the payment schedule. Deposits should be no more than 20% and should be paid when the contract is signed. Each phase payment should be at a substantial point of completion (i.e., excavation, rebar in place, shotcrete, decking, equipment and final payment of no less than 10% when all inspections are completed. If they can't agree to that then they may have difficulty finishing your project. A pool construction company's history is usually well known. Consistent complaints or license suspensions are red flags you should not ignore. A cheap price upfront can have bad consequences later on.

Will homeowners get to preview and approve the new pool design before construction begins?

Our pool customers are very involved in the design and planning process. Throughout the plan development time we are emailing, discussing changes and options so that their final plan is what they really want. Pay close attention to all plan details to ensure that what is on the contract is reflected accurately in the plans. Including a drawing as a contract document is a good way to keep the project on track. Change orders after the project is underway are costly and time consuming. Low ball construction bidders often use change orders as a way of making up for money they chopped of the original estimate to get the job. If you agree to a change get it in writing and approve it before allowing it to go into production.

What tips can you give people to make sure they end up with a swimming pool that they'll love?

Anyone seriously considering installing a pool should jump on the Internet and learn about the nuts and bolts. Many items to upgrade pools later (slides, covers, cleaners and color lights, etc.) can be planned for even if they are not included in the initial pool build. Put your budget together with all the backyard components included (BBQs, spas, landscaping, etc.), even if they are built in different phases at different times. A complete plan and a complete budget set a course for a smooth build.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Pelican Pools LLC is an Albuquerque-based company that does work in many areas of the state. We can be reached by phone at 505-296-2555, fax at 505-296-2997 and email at bob@pelicanpoolsnm.com. Contact us for a consultation at your convenience.

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