Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

6 Outdoor Art Pieces for Your Backyard

6 Unique Garden Art Pieces




By Patti Plummer

Garden art is designed to enhance a home and outdoor setting’s overall appearance. Yard art primarily includes items that are placed around outdoor spaces and swimming pools. Statuary and fountains are primary examples of garden art, but it can also include other beautiful items that serve a more functional purpose like outdoor rugs, bird baths, ceiling fans, and planters. Keep that in mind when doing yard work: take every opportunity to beautify your home and property!

Here are a few products to consider for your backyard:

Recycled Bottle Seahorse hanging ornament garden artGlass Confetti Hummingbird Bird Feeder garden art

1. Recycled Bottle Seahorse

(Left:) Made from recycled glass bottles and used wire and tin, this hanging seahorse figurine is the perfect accent for decks, patios, or anywhere an at-the-beach theme is desired. Not only beautiful, the hanging ornament is durable and is able to handle all types of weather and conditions. $24.95

Photo courtesy of Wind and Weather

2. Glass Confetti Hummingbird Feeder

(Right:) A kaleidoscope of color attracts hummingbirds and humans alike! Made of recycled glass, each hand-blown bird feeder varies in hue and tone. Includes a dripless stopper in antique brass and a hook for hanging. 12 inches long. $40

Photo courtesy of Uncommon Goods



Wind Spinner antique copper garden artSoundscapes Decorative Wind Harp garden art

3. Spoon Wind Spinner with Glowing Solar Glass Globe

(Left:) This grown-up version of the childhood pinwheel is designed to capture the wind and use that energy to gently rock and rotate for a delightful display. Crafted of metal with a weather-resistant antique copper finish, the spinner also features a solar-powered globe that glows after dark. 45 inches high. $49.95

Photo courtesy of Wind and Weather

4. Decorative Wind Harp - Klarion Call II

(Right:) Custom-made, this elegant wind harp creates celestial music at the touch of every passing breeze. Composed of aluminum and steel, it features nine strings, a hard-wearing base for easy installation, and is finished in a powder coating for durability. With base, 9.5 feet tall. Call for pricing

Photo courtesy of Ross Barrable, Soundscapes International



Campania Water Garden Frog Statue garden artUncommon Goods Wall Sundial

5. Longwood Italian Water Garden Frog

(Left:) Ideal for backyard ponds as well as flower gardens and other outdoor spaces, this garden art is based on an original found at the renowned Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Made of cast stone with a Greystone finish, this piece stands 12 inches by 17 inches. Visit Campania's retailer locator to discover which nationwide garden centers carry it.

Photo courtesy of Campania International

6. Wall Sundial

(Right:) As the sun moves over the sky, this handmade and weatherproof sundial reports each passing hour. Hand-fashioned from stoneware and finished with a lead-free glaze and copper, it is not only functional but it is also a charming accessory to any outdoor décor—even on a cloudy day! 11 inches long. $50

Photo courtesy of Uncommon Goods



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Summer Grilling Recipes: 5 Delicious Desserts on the Grill

5 Delicious Grilled Dessert Recipes for Memorial Day







By Patti Plummer

Memorial Day: the unofficial start of summer—which means it is also the unofficial start of the backyard grilling season and pool parties. We all know that grills are perfect for creating all types of entrées, from tender ribs to juicy steaks. But, have you have ever considered using your grill to make dessert?

From grilled fruit kabobs to a grilled banana split, here are a few grilled dessert recipes to tempt your taste buds…one bite, and you will wonder what took you so long!


Grilled Banana Splits with Hot Fudge and Rum Caramel Sauce


Grilled banana split recipe summer dessertServings: 6

Ingredients
6 firm-ripe unpeeled bananas, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons honey
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) packed light brown sugar
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Hot Fudge Sauce, for serving
Rum Caramel Sauce, for serving
2 cups lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
Finely chopped roasted lightly salted peanuts, for serving
6 maraschino cherries, for serving

Directions

Preheat a grill to high, and lightly oil the grill grate.

Place the banana halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and drizzle the honey evenly over them. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Place the bananas, cut side up, directly on the grill, arranging them so they are perpendicular to the grill grate. Close the grill cover and cook until the bananas are caramelized around the edges and the fruit is beginning to pull away from the peel, 3 to 5 minutes.

Carefully transfer the grilled banana halves (still in their skins) to a small baking sheet. Using two small forks or a long, thin spatula, carefully remove the banana halves from their skins and place 2 pieces of banana on each dessert plate. (This is a little tricky because the bananas are now very soft.) Top each banana with 1 or 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Drizzle with the Hot Fudge Sauce and Rum Caramel Sauce. Top with dollops of whipped cream and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Garnish each banana split with a maraschino cherry, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, from Emeril at the Grill, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009, copyright MSLO, Inc., all rights reserved; www.emerils.com. Photo courtesy of Steven Freeman



Grilled Fruit Kabobs with Tropical Yogurt Sauce


Grilled fruit kabob recipe strawberry pineapple dessertServings: 6

Ingredients
6 bamboo skewers, 8 to 10 inches long
6 ounces key lime pie yogurt
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoons imitation coconut extract (optional)
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons butter, melted
1 small pineapple, peeled and cored
1 pound large, firm, fresh strawberries
2 large firm nectarines or peaches, fresh, pitted and cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium heat.
Soak skewers in warm water for several minutes; drain and set aside.
In a food processor or blender, process yogurt, Cream cheese, sugar and coconut extract. Cover and chill.

In a small bowl, combine lime juice and melted butter. Set aside. Cut pineapple into 1-inch wide slices; quarter slices. Remove hulls (leaves) from strawberries. Alternately, thread strawberries, pineapple and nectarine or peach wedges on skewers. Brush with butter mixture.

Grill kabobs, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through, turning once or twice. Do not allow strawberries to overcook.

Remove grilled fruit from skewers; serve with yogurt dipping sauce.

Recipe and photo courtesy of © 2013 Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Inc.



Grilled Chocolate


Grilled chocolate recipe with grilled pound cake summer dessertServings: 4 dozen pieces, about 16 servings


Cake
Prepared batter for Golden Vanilla Pound Cake (found on www.kingarthurflour.com), or your favorite pound cake recipe using about 2 cups of flour.

Filling
Softened butter
Three 6.8-ounce chocolate bars, the kind that break into small rectangles; we prefer Hershey's Special Dark chocolate

Directions


Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan; line it with parchment and grease the parchment, if you don't trust your pan to release the cake nicely.

Pour the prepared pound cake batter into the pan. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, till a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out without any clinging crumbs. Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

When you're ready to make grilled chocolate sandwiches, slice the cake in long strips, about 3/8" thick. Butter one side of each strip. Space three chocolate rectangles along the unbuttered side of half the strips. Top with the remaining cake strips, buttered-side up. Cut each strip in thirds crosswise, cutting between the pieces of chocolate.

Cook the cake sandwiches on a griddle preheated to about 325°F to 350°F; or in a frying pan set over medium heat. Cook till the cake is golden and the chocolate melted, about 2 minutes per side. Hint: Cook one sandwich first, to test the temperature/timing. Serve as is, or with a scoop of ice cream.

Recipe and photo courtesy of King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com





Fire-Roasted Strawberries


Fire roasted strawberries recipe summer dessertServes: 6 to 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Way to grill: direct high heat (450° to 550°F) for gas grills only
Grilling time: 8 to 12 minutes
Special equipment: 8x8-inch baking pan suitable for the grill

Ingredients
2 pints (20 to 24) fresh, large strawberries, washed and blotted dry
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, or 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon lemon  juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Vanilla ice cream

Directions

Hull and trim the stem end of the strawberries so that they are flat. In a medium bowl combine the berries, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur, and toss to coat.

Use the soft butter to generously coat the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch ovenproof pan or disposable aluminum pan. The pan should be just large enough to hold the berries in a single layer with their sides almost touching (this allows the berries to gently support one another as they begin to soften). Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat.

Remove the berries from the bowl and line them up so that they fit snuggly, pointing up, in the prepared pan. Pour the contents from the bowl over the berries and cook over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until they’re bubbling and beginning to slump, 8 to 12 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the variety, size, and ripeness of the strawberries. Watch closely to catch them before they collapse.

Spoon the pan juices over the berries to moisten them, let cool for 5 minutes, and then carefully cut them into quarters or leave whole. Ladle berries over ice cream.

©2008 Weber-Stephen Products LLC Recipe from Weber’s Way to Grill™ by Jamie Purviance. Used with permission.



Grilled Pineapple with Raspberries and Rum Sabayon



Grilled Pineapple with Raspberries and Rum Sabayon recipe summer dessertServes: 4

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Grilling Time: 5 to 7 minutes

Special equipment: 10- to 12-cup stainless steel bowl or double boiler, instant-read thermometer


Sabayon
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup pineapple juice, preferably refrigerated instead of canned
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup amber rum
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

6 slices fresh pineapple, each about 1/2 inch thick, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup fresh raspberries

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring 1-1/2 inches of water to a simmer over medium heat. In a 10- to 12-cup stainless steel bowl whisk the sabayon ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the bowl on the saucepan over, not in, the simmering water (this can also be done in a double boiler). Whisk the sabayon constantly until it thickens, foams up to double or triple in volume, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160° to 170°F, 6 to 7 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep the water at a bare simmer. Be careful not to let the eggs begin to set. Remove the sabayon from over the water and whisk gently for 30 to 40 seconds to begin cooling. Set aside to serve warm, or cool completely and chill up to one day. (The cold sauce will be somewhat deflated, but thicker and creamier. Whisk to blend before serving.) If a few curds accidentally form, pour the sabayon through a fine mesh strainer.

Sprinkle the pineapple slices evenly on both sides with the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the pineapple slices over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until well marked, 5 to 7 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and cut into 1/2-inch wedges. Divide the pineapple and raspberries evenly among six dessert glasses. Spoon warm or cold sabayon over the top and serve immediately.

©2012 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Recipe by Jamie Purviance. Used with permission.



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6 Tools That Make Pool Care Easy

Automatic Pool Equipment for Easy Maintenance



Routine maintenance is a necessary part of pool ownership—and it’s easier than you think. Thanks to technological advances in swimming pool equipment, pool care has become more simple, convenient, and efficient than ever. Here are six pool tools that will make taking care of your pool a quick and easy process.

1. Automatic Pool Cleaner


Automatic pool cleaners automate the otherwise manual task of removing dirt, leaves, and other debris from the pool. There are different types of automatic pool cleaners and most manufacturers offer a variety of models to fit any swimming pool, budget, or lifestyle.


Sandshark Suction-side Pool Cleaner from Pentair

Suction-side pool cleaners are the least expensive option, ranging in price from $200 to $500. These cleaners attach to the suction (input) side of the pool’s filter system and suck up dirt and other fine particles and transfer them to the skimmer.


Some models come with a separate filter bag to keep large debris from building up in the skimmer basket while others contain features that remove algae. For instance, the foot pad on the Kreepy Krauly® SandShark™ (pictured at right) has rows of squeegee-like fins that wipe away dirt and debris from vinyl, gunite, or fiberglass surfaces as the unit moves across the pool’s floor.


Click to see more automatic pool cleaners from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>


Pentair Pressure-side Pool CleanerPressure-side pool cleaners use either the return (output) side of the pool’s circulation system or a separate booster pump with a dedicated water pressure line to move around the pool and draw up dirt and debris into its attached filter bag.


Pressure-side cleaners have a larger intake than suction-side cleaners and can handle both small and large debris. Most models have a tail that stirs up the pool water and helps filter out finer particles to the main drain. Models typically cost around $425 without a booster pump and approximately $900 with a booster pump.


Robotic pool cleaners contain their own filtering systems and are self-powered by solar energy, a rechargeable battery, or a water-safe cord plugged into a standard GFCI-protected outlet. Because they have two intake ports, robotic cleaners are efficient at sucking up small and large debris, from pollen and sand to leaves and small twigs.

Many cleaners will also dislodge dirt and grime from the pool’s floor, walls, stairs, and waterline tile using built-in rotating brushes or powerwashing jets.


Robotic pool cleaners cost more than other automatic cleaners, with basic models starting at $1,190 and higher-end versions running as high as $3,350; however, they offer the most convenient and efficient cleaning process.


How to choose the right automatic pool cleaner model for your pool >>





2. Automatic Pool Covers


Automatic Pool Cover Installed on Freeform PoolThe simple addition of an automatic pool cover provides major maintenance benefits: Covering your pool between swim sessions not only keeps your pool cleaner longer by blocking out dirt and debris; it also prolongs the need to replenish water and chemicals by stopping the evaporation process.


Most automatic pool cover systems consist of a rectangular vinyl cover that fits into tracks permanently installed along the sides of the pool.


These cover systems can be installed in a variety of ways to fit any type and shape pool or design aesthetic: the tracks can be mounted into the pool deck, installed under the pool coping or in the pool wall for a seamless look, or mounted under a slightly raised rectangular or cantilevered deck to accommodate freeform pool shapes and vinyl-liner or fiberglass pools.


Above: This automatic cover by Cover-Pools, Inc., is able to accommodate a freeform pool with a built-in spa and water feature. View more automatic pool cover installations by Cover-Pools, Inc. >>


HydraLux White Slat Automatic Pool Cover

Right: The HydraLux cover from Aquamatic Cover Systems (right) is a trackless automatic pool cover system composed of interlocking PVC slats that float on the water’s surface. The cover deploys from a flooded vault installed behind the pool wall or in the pool floor and each slat is individually cut to fit the exact length and contour of the pool. The trackless design allows for installation on the most complex or limited pool shapes.


See more photos and watch a video of the HydraLux pool cover in action >>




3. Chlorine Feeders


Chlorine feeders, also called erosion feeders and chlorinators, hold several chlorine sticks or tablets (trichlor) and continuously dispense a stream of chlorine as the pool water passes through the feeder and slowly dissolves the tablets.


Chlorine feeders are available as a floating dispenser or an automatic chemical feeder that is plumbed into the pool’s filter system. Most automatic chemical feeders feature a regulation valve or dial that lets you adjust the feed rate to meet your pool’s specific needs.



Salt Chlorinator for Pool from Pentair Aquatic Systems
4. Salt Chlorinators


While saltwater pools still contain chlorine, they produce and disperse the chlorine automatically via a salt chlorinator or salt chlorine generator. Instead of using sticks or tablets of chlorine, salt chlorinators use pounds of sodium chloride (salt) to indirectly chlorinate the pool water. At startup, and typically a few more times throughout the season, several bags of salt are added to the pool. As the salt-infused pool water passes through the chlorinator, an electrolytic cell inside the device converts the salt in the water to chlorine before it re-enters the pool. Once the pool is effectively sanitized, the chlorine converts back to salt and the process starts over.


Check out automatic chlorine feeders and salt chlorinators from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>




5. Digital Test Strip Reader

AquaChek Digital Test Strip Reader

Digital test strip kits make maintaining balanced water chemistry an easy and straightforward task.


After a test strip has been placed in a water sample, a digital test strip reader will automatically compare the reacted color blocks on the test strip against the color chart pre-loaded inside the device and translate the reading into numerical results, displaying the current levels of sanitizer, pH, and total alkalinity in the water on an LCD screen.


Photo courtesy of Hach Company/ETS Business Unit AquaChek




6. Floating Pool Sensors

GAME ePool Floating Pool SensorFloating pool sensors take digital water chemistry a step further. These wireless systems consist of a floating pool sensor that analyzes the water’s chemistry and transmits the results to an indoor display unit. This makes it simple and convenient to check the pool’s chemistry levels at any time without walking outside to the pool.

GAME ePool Water Chemistry MonitorThe floating sensor continuously monitors the water’s chemical levels, and if they become unbalanced, the indoor unit will register the exact chemicals and dosage that the water needs. In addition, the indoor unit monitors the temperature of the pool so you’ll know when it’s time to turn up the heater.


Photos courtesy of Great American Merchandise and Events



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2013 Master Pools Guild Award-Winning Pools Photos

Gallery of 150 Beautiful Pool Photos







Master Pools Guild 2013 Awards Claffey Pools freeform pool fountains fire featuresEvery year the Master Pools Guild honors some of the most spectacular pools in the U.S. and around the world with the International Awards of Excellence. These awards recognize the talents of top-notch swimming pool builders and designers and showcase a wide variety of pool styles and special features.

The winning designs include pools from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Australia, Guatemala, and Dubai.

 

Check out the award-winning pools photo gallery to see over 150 beautiful swimming pools and get ideas for your own backyard paradise. Explore options like glass tile, built-in spas, fountains, dramatic lighting effects and more.

See 150 pool photos >>

 

Photo courtesy of Master Pools Guild; Claffey Pools, Southlake, Texas

Top 6 Swimming Pool Design Features

Top Pool Designs: Infinity Pools, Lap Pools, Beach Entries, and More!




By Patti Plummer


There are a wide variety of swimming pool designs, and by discussing your options and preferences with a professional pool designer, you can choose the best one for you based on your property’s surroundings, your home’s architecture, and how you plan to use the pool. Once these questions have been answered, the designer will determine the ideal pool design for you, along with the best swimming pool shape and size to meet your needs.

Here are the top six pool design features to get your ideas flowing:

Pools by John Clarkson splash pool swim up bar sunken seating1. Splash Pools


Also known as play pools, splash pools contain a shallow area for recreation or lounging, making them fun for kids and adults alike. Many splash pools are shallow enough to accommodate lounge chairs, enjoyable for children to splash and play, and just deep enough to host an in-pool volleyball or basketball game.

Splash pools can be attached to multi-depth pools and cordoned off for privacy, although some homeowners prefer to build just the splash pool. For numerous homeowners, a play or splash pool is the perfect solution for settings that are too small and cannot accommodate deeper pools.

Above: This elegant splash pool is perfect for relaxation and entertaining: It features multiple shallow tanning ledges (also called sunshelves), a swim-up bar, a sunken seating area with a fire pit, and a path to a separate portable spa. The shape of the pool, along with the wall of features and design accents on the tanning shelves, make this pool visually stunning.

To see more beautiful pools by Aquatech pool builders, check the photo gallery of award-winning pools >>


Designed by Krent Wieland Design; photographed by Ben Brewer for Aquatech Pools by John Clarkson, Jacksonville, Florida


A & G Concrete Pools infinity pool lake view2. Infinity Pools


Known by a variety of names, including vanishing edge pools, negative edge, disappearing edge, and flooded edge, the infinity pool is ideal for properties overlooking spectacular scenery like the ocean, a lake, or a mountain.

How do infinity pools create the amazing effect of disappearing into the horizon? The water flows over a weir wall and into a waiting catch basin that re-circulates the water back into the pool; the water acts as a blurring agent, blending the line between the pool and the adjacent view.

Many designers finish the pool to match the adjoining scene. A skilled pool professional can capture the hue and tone of the surrounding environment and determine the perfect color that unifies the pool and its setting into one harmonious unit.

See more photos by members of Master Pools Guild in the award-winning pools gallery >>


Photo courtesy of A & G Concrete Pools, Inc., Fort Pierce, Florida, member of Master Pools Guild


Lewis Aquatech perimeter overflow pool mirror effect night3. Perimeter Overflow Pools



A perimeter overflow pool creates another interesting effect in which the pool resembles a sheet of glass. It produces a reflective surface by circulating water over the pool’s sides, into a container or holding tank, and then back into the pool in a constant motion that creates a smooth surface with no discernible ripples to destroy the illusion.

Many perimeter overflow pools are set at ground level, with the water flowing into a slot or grate, producing a mirror-like surface while others are elevated and formed into a preferred shape.

Either way, the ebb and flow that results in traditional pools as water hits the sides is not a factor. Perimeter overflow pools always retain their glass-like qualities—that is, until someone jumps in!

See more pools by Aquatech pool builders and designers in the photo gallery of award-winning pools >>


Photo courtesy of Lewis Aquatech Pools


Advanced Pools beach entry pool tropical pool4. Beach Entry Pools


Ideal for lagoon-style or tropical themed settings, a beach entry pool features a gradual sloping from the pool deck into the depths of the water—just like a natural beach.

Also called a zero-entry pool, the beach entry pool does not usually include stairs or ladders and can be finished in a variety of colors and textures to mimic sand or other organic materials.

Right: This tropical style pool features a beach entry that gives the effect of wading right into the ocean of a tropical Caribbean island. The Pebble Tec interior finish and natural rock waterfalls recreate the look and feel of a private beach resort without ever having to step foot outside your backyard.

Photographed by Rick Legnon for Advanced Pools, Rancho Cordova, California


Anthony & Sylvan Pools lap pool swimming stone wall5. Lap Pools


A lap pool is built to provide a straight-away for swimmers training for a sporting event or for those who swim for exercise. Usually long, narrow, and rectangular in shape, a lap pool can be any length, although most average between 50 and 60 feet.

Although usually built for athletic pursuits, lap pools do not have to be sterile in style or finish. Many pool builders surround a lap pool with attractive backdrops like stack-stone walls or they include water features that can be activated when no one is using the swim lanes.

See more swimming pool photos by Anthony & Sylvan Pools >>


Photo courtesy of Anthony & Sylvan Pools


Galloway Pool infinity pool connected spa6. Pools with Connected Spas


The best of two worlds, a pool with a connected spa is designed to provide homeowners with a place to swim and enjoy warm therapeutic benefits. In fact, swimmers can easily slip into the bubbling spa after physical activity in the pool.

Based on the pool’s shape, a connected spa can be placed anywhere along the pool’s framework or depths: on the pool’s edge, elevated and doubling as a water feature, or within the pool itself.

Additionally, by including a spa during the planning stages, a homeowner can guarantee that the spa and the pool will integrate completely with each other as well as the setting.

See more photos of beautiful swimming pools by Master Pools Guild members in the award-winning pools gallery >>

Photo courtesy of Galloway Pools, Corpus Christi, Texas, a member of Master Pools Guild

Q+A: What to Look for in a Safety Pool Cover

Safety Pool Covers: Types, Materials, and Installation








Loop-Loc Mesh Safety Pool Cover

The month of May marks the start of pool season for many homeowners across the country. It also marks National Water Safety Month, a joint effort by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), the American Red Cross, the National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) and the World Waterpark Association (WWA) to educate the public on safe water practices in all types of swimming environments.

In honor of National Water Safety Month, we spoke with LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta, President and CEO of Loop-Loc, Ltd., to learn what to look for in a safety pool cover to ensure ultimate protection.

PoolSpaOutdoor.com: How long have you been working in the pool industry and how did you get started?

LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta, Loop-Loc, Ltd.: I’ve been working in the swimming pool industry for 20 years. My father, Bill Donaton, was the co-inventor of the safety swimming pool cover and started Loop-Loc in 1978 with five employees. He was instrumental in bringing safety to the forefront for consumers and dedicated his entire career to making the highest quality safety cover on the market. In 1993 my father asked me to join the Loop-Loc team, and I have been proudly serving as President and C.E.O. since 2001.


PSO: What makes a pool cover a safety cover?

LDP: There is a big difference between a standard pool cover and a safety pool cover. A typical solid vinyl pool cover is little more than a tarp to put over your pool—it does not prevent children or pets from gaining access to the pool. For a pool cover to be a safety cover, it must conform to the Standard Performance Specification [F1346 – 91] set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). According to the ASTM, a safety cover must be able to support 485 pounds, not permit gaps that a child or pet could squeeze through, and remove standing water.


PSO: What types of safety covers are available?

LDP: Safety covers are available in mesh material and in solid material. It is important to note that different manufacturers use different grades and types of mesh and solid material in their manufacturing. LOOP-LOC utilizes a superior super dense mesh fabric which allows water to drain through while blocking virtually all sunlight. Our mesh fabric also has 87 percent black yarns for better U.V. stability. Our exclusive solid material is proprietary to Loop-Loc and is made of 100 percent polypropylene solid material; this fabric allows for ease of use, is recyclable, and ultra-sturdy. Other types of solid covers available in the market are manufactured using a vinyl type fabric which tends to stretch out and become brittle over time.


See photos and learn more about Loop-Loc safety swimming pool covers >>


PSO: What should pool owners consider when deciding between a mesh cover and a solid cover?

LDP: Mesh covers do have one safety advantage: they do not permit water to collect. In order to meet safety cover performance standards, solid covers must provide for the elimination of standing water.

Solid safety covers are usually available in two versions: one with mesh panels that allow water to drain through, and an all-solid version that should always be sold with an automatic cover pump. The pump must be used at all times in order to maintain the safety of the cover and meet the ASTM standards. Ultimately, though, the choice between a mesh or solid safety cover is up to the preference of the user.


PSO: There are a variety of pool safety covers on the market. How can a homeowner be sure they’re buying a quality safety cover?

LDP: The safety of the cover entirely depends on the quality of its manufacturing and materials, which include the threading on the cover as well as the straps and springs. At Loop-Loc, we live by and are motivated by the banners my dad hung in the building the day Loop-Loc opened, which read, “The quality of the cover you make today can save a life tomorrow.”

We pride ourselves on using some of the highest quality materials available to ensure safe, long-lasting covers. We use double perimeter webbing and double-thick straps, along with extremely high-strength 302/304 stainless steel springs.

Loop-Loc also uses a multi-passed white bonded polyester sewing thread that is 30 percent stronger than what is typically used throughout the industry. This thread produces a higher margin of safety in all seams and ensures durability. As we hand inspect ever pool cover, the contrasting white thread also allows our inspectors to instantly see if a single stitch was missed in the manufacturing process.

It’s also important that safety cover manufacturers not only meet the ASTM standard F1346-91 for manual safety covers, but also follow up with the outside testing agencies that perform all of the actual tests listed in the ASTM guideline, such as Underwriters Laboratories (known as U.L.).

At Loop-Loc, we are so proud of the safe, high-quality cover that we manufacture that we went the extra step to confirm that we not only meet, but also exceed the guidelines set forth for safety swimming pool covers, earning Loop-Loc the U.L. seal of approval.

Safety pool covers must be measured to exact specifications to ensure proper fitPSO: What are the installation requirements for safety pool covers?

LDP: Safety covers must be measured to exact specifications in order to ensure proper fit. Rectangular pools are usually measured by overall width and length, while formfit [freeform] pools and pools with raised wall areas and special treatments need to be AB measured, which is a form of triangulation.

Swimming pool professionals are trained to take exact measurements of your swimming pool to ensure that the cover you receive meets all of the ASTM safety standards. For example, you would never put a rectangle safety cover over a formfit type swimming pool. This scenario would create too much material lying directly on the deck around the swimming pool which can cause excess and extreme wear over a matter of months. A rectangle cover over a formfit pool will also not get the proper tensioning required to maintain safety standards.

Once the pool is measured properly, the second most important requirement for safety covers is the actual installation of the cover. Swimming pool professionals are trained as to how far back and between the anchors must be placed in order to ensure proper tensioning.

PSO: How can a pool owner tell if their safety cover is properly installed?

LDP: When a cover is installed properly it should lie flat across the swimming pool, like a trampoline. It is important for the safety cover to have proper overlap, which is the distance the cover extends past the swimming pool coping and onto the deck. The general rule for overlap is 12 inches to 15 inches, but that can vary on larger or commercial type swimming pools. Too little overlap will not give the cover the proper stability, and excessive overlap can cause premature wear. Also, when a cover is reinstalled after the summer it is important to remember to re-adjust all springs so that there is proper tensioning during the winter months.

PSO: Are there any steps or precautions homeowners should take to ensure the quality and longevity of their safety cover?

LDP: It’s important to do a lot of research. Not all safety covers are the same, and the safety of the cover entirely depends on the quality of its materials and manufacturing. It is also important to remember that proper tensioning of the cover, along with keeping your water levels at the manufacturer’s recommended level at all times will ensure a longer lasting cover. When storing the cover in the summer, be sure to use the storage bag provided and to hang it high up and off of the ground, in a shed or other storage area. (Leaving the cover on the ground can allow for small rodents to crawl inside the cover and start eating away at the material of the cover.)

PSO: How long should a safety pool cover last?

LDP: In general, a safety cover will last an average of 10 to 15 years.

View more photos and watch videos of Loop-Loc safety covers >>

Click here for more Swimming Pool Safety Tips >>

Photos courtesy of Loop-Loc, Ltd.


About the Expert: LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta has held management positions at LOOP-LOC, Ltd., since 1993 and has proudly served as president/CEO since 2001. Over this time, she has continued her company’s leadership in pool safety, overseeing major product line expansions, including Loop-Loc Luxury in-ground liners, and the introduction of new, patented technology. Under her leadership, LOOP-LOC has sold safety pool covers on every continent except Antarctica.Today Loop-Loc has close to 300 employees who are dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality safety swimming pool covers and in-ground luxury liners. All of Loop-Loc's products are made in the U.S.A. at the company's headquarters in Hauppauge, New York.




Waterproof Music Players, Speakers, and Phone Cases

Waterproof Speakers, Phone Cases, and music players for Your Pool







Sony Walkman Waterproof mp3 player sports portable music swimmingNormally electronics and water don’t mix—which can be a real bummer if you want to listen to music while lounging in the pool or swimming laps. Luckily manufacturers have developed waterproof music players, phone cases, and speaker systems that are ideal for swimmers, pool-goers, and pool owners who like to entertain.

With summer just around the corner, a waterproof phone case or audio system can come in handy and add to your enjoyment when spending time at the pool. Check out these waterproof devices to see which option is best for you.


Compact Waterproof Music Player for Swimmers

Sony Walkman Waterproof mp3 player sports portable music black

At first glance, you may mistake the Sony Walkman® Sports MP3 Player for just a pair of headphones… but look closer and you’ll see the music player is built right into the headphones!

This portable music player has a lightweight, compact design that’s not only sweatproof but waterproof up to depths of 6 feet, making it a great option for gym-goers, runners, and swimmers.

Whether you’re doing a moderate or intense workout indoors, outdoors, or in the pool, this waterproof music player has a new tension band for a supportive fit to keep it securely in place during all activities. With 4GB of built-in memory, users can easily drag and drop MP3s from iTunes® for Mac or PC, Windows® Media Player, or Windows Explorer.

The Walkman Sports MP3 Player delivers up to eight hours of audio playback on a full charge and is available in four colors: white, black, blue, and pink.


Photos courtesy of Sony


Waterproof Phone Case with Built-In Speaker


EcoExtreme waterproof phone case music speaker
EcoExtreme waterproof phone case music speaker redIf you’re like most people, you don’t go anywhere without your smartphone—including the pool and the beach. If you are looking for a waterproof case for your phone/portable music player, the EcoExtreme not only keeps your device safe in and around water, but also allows you to play music through its built-in speaker.

Place your phone or media device into the durable waterproof case and take it with you for any kind of outdoor activity. It also has an internal compartment to fit small items like keys, credit cards, cash, and other items you want to keep dry.

Designed to fit mp3 players and smartphones--including iPhone 4/4S & 5, Samsung S3, Android, Windows, and Blackberry--this waterproof phone case is ideal for swimming, hiking, going to the beach, and other outdoor activities.

The EcoExtreme speaker case is powered by 3 AA batteries and has a 30-hour battery life. It comes in seven colors: black, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, and red.

Photos courtesy of Grace Digital


Floating Waterproof Speaker for Your Pool



EcoXGear ECOXBT waterproof portable audio speaker poolsideAnother option for playing tunes in and around your pool is a waterproof speaker. The EcoXGear ECOXBT by Grace Digital Audio is a portable waterproof speaker system that streams music via Bluetooth from your smartphone or Bluetooth-enabled audio device.

You can take the ECOXBT speaker right into the pool with you while keeping your phone safely away from the water. The ECOXBT streams audio from up to 33 feet away, providing a convenient wireless way to play music at your next pool party.

The ECOXBT is powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium battery and provides 10 hours of audio playback. It is available in three colors: black, orange, and red.

Photo courtesy of Grace Digital

Video: See the ECOXBT Floating Waterproof Speaker in Action



Q&A: Shapes, Design Options, and Benefits of a Custom Spa

Spa Design: Best Features and Design Options for Custom Spas and hot tubs







Diamond Spas flower-shaped custom spa

For those looking for a hot tub or spa, custom-designed spas allow you to get the exact look, size, and features you want. We spoke to Charlie Snider, PMP, AFO, vice president of pool and spa sales at Diamond Spas, to learn about hot tub and spa design, including the materials, shapes, options, and advantages of owning a custom spa.

PoolSpaOutdoor.com: What are some the most requested features on a custom spa and hot tub? How do they enhance the user’s experience?

Charlie Snider, Diamond Spas: The most common customizations are seating options designed specifically for the primary users. We arrange the jets and seating options to suit special requests. We create loungers and arm rests, unique curves, decorative coping on the exterior, and work with the customers to place the jets exactly where they want them to be.

Automatic covers are also popular. Another common request is integrating our controls with a home automation system for convenient and multiple points of control. We provide any type of heating system, offer choices for high efficiency VFD drive pumps, and a variety of sanitation systems to meet any special requirements.

For more custom hot tub and spa design photos, check out Diamond Spas photo gallery >>

PSO: What are the benefits of a custom spa made of stainless steel and copper? How does it compare to a concrete spa (typically built in conjunction with a swimming pool) and a portable hot tub, which usually has an acrylic shell?

CS: The purpose of using copper and stainless steel materials is they don't require faux or add-on finishes. They’re a natural, recycled, and beautiful material that can be shaped to suit custom applications of high-end clients. Additionally, they both are highly durable.

The metals produce a smooth, comfortable finish surface demanding very little maintenance, never has to be replaced, and maintains its natural beauty for the life of the spa.

We build the spa shells entirely of copper or stainless steel. Sometimes we’ll provide copper trim on a stainless steel spa to combine the elements for stunning look and pronounced wow factor.

Copper does patina. It is a true "living metal.” The natural protective patina coating protects the copper from corrosion. Typically this is a dark brown coloration. We use a 316L grade, low carbon content stainless steel produced for marine environments. It’s extremely durable. We produce a unique, hand-buffed finish to tone down shiny reflections and provide a surface that can be cleaned without affecting the finish.

In addition, we eliminate corrosive chemical treatments that don’t work well for either metals or humans in order to deliver a rich and comfortable experience.

PSO: What types of hydrotherapy jets are available on custom hot tubs and spas? How can jets be configured to suit each customer’s needs?

CS: We use a custom manufactured jet to meet our specification of durability and standardized installation for quality control. There are a few options for discerning customers. The primary desire for most spa customers is location, strength of jet, and options for how to control the jets.

PSO: Users may want the ability to adjust the intensity of the hot tub jets. Does Diamond Spas offer jets that can be adjusted individually?

CS: We do provide this availability using programmable VFD drive pumps and control systems to operate multiple speeds.

PSO: What are some of the uniquely-shaped hot tubs and spas Diamond Spas has built? Even with unique options available, are squares and rectangles still the most popular?

CS:
Most often unique shapes are defined by available space, efficiency, aesthetics, and functionality. We work with designers, builders, and owners to create the best user experience for each project. This includes a variety of curves, ellipses, trapezoids, triangles, circles, ovals, squares, and rectangles.

The most popular spa shapes are the most efficient in terms of seating capacity and budget. Since there’s no functional purpose to build a spa greater than 7 feet across, most customers elect square, rectangle, and elliptical shapes to provide efficiency within their available space. There truly is no commonality.

We have to search hard through years of designs to find an example that any particular customer might request as something typical, standard, or simple. While the initial request often begins here, the end product morphs to something quite unique by the time the final design is approved.

See more custom hot tub and spa photos and videos from Diamond Spas >>


Photo courtesy of Diamond Spas


Top 5 Pool Products for 2013

Must-Have Pool Products for Fun, Fitness, and Faster Maintenance






Today’s high-tech pool equipment and accessories can boost your pool’s fun factor, improve your fitness level, and make pool care a breeze. Enjoy a great swim season this summer with the help of these top 5 pool products.

1. Swim Current Generators


Stream by Swim Ex Portable Swim Current GeneratorA swim current generator can maximize your pool’s fitness factor. This portable, self-contained unit sits at the edge of your pool and produces a smooth adjustable current that you can swim in place against for a low-impact, high calorie-burning workout.

With a swim current generator you can enjoy continuous swimming without the interruption of flip turns or risk of injury. They can be used in aboveground and inground pools of any shape, size, and depth and are especially great for small or oddly shaped pools that are not conducive for swimming laps.

Variable speed settings offer a range of current paces to suit swimmers of any age or fitness ability. You can also swim laps, jog, or walk in place while the rest of your family relaxes and enjoys the pool.

The new Stream by SwimEx is a convenient swim current generator that operates via a rechargeable battery and requires no installation or setup.

Check out swim generator photos and videos of Stream by SwimEx >>


Photo courtesy of SwimEx


2. Automatic Pool Covers


Cover-Pools Automatic Cover on Freeform PoolAn automatic pool cover retracts open and slides closed over your pool via a motor-driven track system that is permanently mounted along the length of your pool. Most automatic pool covers operate at the push of a button or turn of a key and can be installed on any type or shape pool, old or new, and indoors or out. Additionally, the track system can be mounted on top of your pool’s existing deck, under the coping, or seamlessly built into your pool’s design during construction for an aesthetically pleasing look.

Using a pool cover can significantly reduce your pool’s energy consumption and operating cost by minimizing the evaporation of heat, water, and chemicals. A pool cover also helps prevent dirt and debris from entering the water so your pool stays cleaner longer and requires less frequent skimming and vacuuming. This also reduces the workload on your pool’s circulation system and equipment.

In order to reap all the energy, money, and time savings, however, you need to keep your pool covered between uses. Automatic pool covers make it quick and easy to cover your pool when it’s not in use.

View more automatic pool cover photos and videos from Cover-Pools, Inc. >>


Photo courtesy of Cover-Pools, Inc.


3. Control Systems


Easy Touch Automatic Pool Control System

Swimming pool control systems allow you to manage all of your pool and/or spa equipment with the push of a button. Daily pool operations such as filtration, sanitation, and cleaning cycles are programmed or activated from a wireless, easy-to-use control panel located outdoors or inside your home. Most pool control systems can manage an unlimited number of pool equipment and features, including pumps, heaters, waterfalls, pool and landscape lighting, fountains, and more.

Additionally, some manufacturers offer optional remote controls, such as a spa-side remote or handheld wireless remote so you can operate equipment from anywhere in your yard. Automated pool control systems are available in various configurations, including pool only, spa only, pools and spas with shared equipment, and custom pools and spas with separate equipment.

With everyday pool operations on autopilot, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your pool. In addition, having automated control over your filter pump’s run time can help you save energy and money. For instance, when manually operating your pool, you’re probably running your filter during the day (between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.) when demand for electricity is at its highest. What’s more, chances are you’ve forgotten to turn off the filter on more than one occasion.

With an automated control system, you can set your filter pump to run during off-peak hours (before 1 p.m. or after 9 p.m.) and for the minimum duration. (Note: Time requirements for filtering depend on pool size, bather load, equipment, and amount of debris. Generally, filter operation should be no less than 4 – 5 hours.)

Learn about automatic pool control systems from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>


Photo courtesy of Pentair Aquatic Systems


4. Pool Waterslides


Fiberglass Pool Waterslide by Dolphin WaterslidesThere’s no doubt your swimming pool provides countless hours of fun and excitement for you and your family, but there’s nothing quite like the thrill of zipping down a pool slide and splashing into the water. From stand-alone units with a straight or corkscrew runway to custom built-ins that zig and zag around landscaping or take riders through a cave waterfall, there are a variety of waterslide options to fit every swimming pool.

Fiberglass pool waterslides have become a common choice among homeowners due to their durability, low maintenance, and customization. Pre-designed models are available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes and can typically accommodate any pool design or decking allocations. If you can’t find the exact waterslide you’re looking for, the majority of fiberglass waterslide manufacturers will work with you and your pool builder to create a custom slide that’s just right for your pool, family, and thrill-seeking needs.

See more photos and videos of fiberglass waterslides from Dolphin Waterslides >>


Photo courtesy of Dolphin Waterslides/Creative Rock Formations


5. Robotic Pool Cleaners


Spend more time enjoying your pool with a robotic cleanerWant to spend more time enjoying your pool and less time cleaning? Replace your manual pool vacuum with a robotic pool cleaner. A robotic pool cleaner is a type of automatic pool cleaner that is driven by an electric motor, which can be powered by batteries, solar energy, or a low voltage water-safe cord plugged into a GFCI-protected outlet. The self-contained unit roves around the pool, sucking up dirt, leaves, and finer particles and transferring them into an attached filter bag; some models feature rotating brushes or rollers that scrub surfaces.

Pentair Automatic Pool CleanerThe majority of robotic pool cleaners contain a microchip that allows you to program the cleaner’s route for effective and efficient cleaning, though most pools can be cleaned in about one to two hours. Some models come with a remote control for easy spot cleaning.

The perks of a robotic pool cleaner go beyond not having to manually clean your swimming pool: Because a robotic pool cleaner does not hook up to your pool pump or filter, it reduces the use of your pool’s circulation systems, which lowers energy costs and extends the life your pump and filter.

Check out automatic pool cleaners from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>


Photo courtesy of Pentair Aquatic Systems

You May Also Like…
6 Tools That Make Pool Care Easy >>
Q+A: What to Look for in a Safety Pool Cover >>
2013 Pool & Spa Outdoor Buyers' Guide >>

What Makes a Coral Stone Deck Beautiful? Coralina!

HOW Coral stone decking adds beauty to your swimming pool and backyard









Coral Stone coralina decking poolPool builders, landscape architects, and interior decorators around the country are starting to utilize a building material that their counterparts in the Caribbean and Florida already use to create a number of exquisite indoor and outdoor spaces: coralina.

Coralina, also known as coral stone, coralina fossil stone, and keystone, consists of coral and shell fossils, coral, sand, as well as limestone. This unique product is strengthened by nature to withstand a variety of weather extremes, saltwater, pool chemicals, heavy foot traffic, and the occasional mishap with a falling object—making it ideal for pool decking and coping. Virtually non-slip, coralina also absorbs only a minimum of heat and is easily maintained.

“Coralina can transform any outdoor setting into a comfortable and safe environment that swimmers will enjoy no matter how hot and slick it gets,” says Jorge Larrauri, president of Coral Stone USA.

This durable yet beautiful material provides a tropical elegance to all types of settings and is ideal for constructing everything from grand staircases, columns, and indoor flooring to magnificent fountains and pool decking.

“Coral stone, a material that takes thousands of years to develop, is finding its way into today’s contemporary designs,” says Larrauri. “More and more, professionals are discovering that this product adds a refinement to a variety of home interior and exterior styles.”

Harvested from top quarries in the tropics—especially from the high quality ones found in the Dominican Republic—coralina products have a distinctive splendor that appears during processing. One-of-a-kind fossil patterns are revealed, giving the coral stone a fabulous texture that varies from product to product. Depending on what type of surface is desired, a homeowner can choose smooth finishes with a fine grain to more open textures that showcase the encased fossils.

See more beautiful photos of coral stone pool decks >>

Coral Stone coralina stone decking poolAvailable is a wide range of stunning colors from red and gold to white coral, coralina’s richness consistently passes the test of time, rarely losing any of its brilliance and beauty. “When you enhance your pool's deck with keystone stone, you don't just get stylish pool coping along with a cool deck, you also obtain sophistication, added security, and superior quality,” states Larrauri.

In addition to being luxuriantly beautiful, coralina is also easy to install. It requires very little modification once it is cut for a project; in fact, skilled craftsmen are readily able to position the stone in a desired pattern for any number of outdoor projects besides pool decking and coping, including fences, walkways, steppingstones, planters, and other garden accents where an island ambiance is wanted.

By finishing with a quality sealant, the material can handle all types of harsh weather conditions—and survive to be enjoyed during the warm swimming season! “Normally, those homes in warm, sunny states gravitate to coralina’s alluring elegance,” explains Larrauri. “But homeowners from other types of climates are discovering the material’s durability and exquisite good looks, and it is becoming the product of choice for homes everywhere.

To see more photos and videos of coral stone decks, check out Coral Stone USA>>

 

Photos courtesy of CoralStoneUSA.com


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