West Palm Pool
Jefferson Kolle
West Palm pool after shot.

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Elegant simplicity is a phrase that could be used to describe the pool Rob Thompson is installing in the back yard of his West Palm Beach house. He asked us to build it narrow and long, and at 12 by 38 feet, Rob's new pool will certainly be just that-ideal for what he says is his favorite everyday water-based pastime: swimming laps.

Originally Rob had wanted the pool in front of the garage, which he envisioned transforming into a cabana with French doors opening out towards the sun and water. Around that time though he found out for certain that zoning restrictions governing use of the existing garage would prevent those plans. Undaunted, he decided instead to tuck the pool in the back yard alongside the garage. And as Rob says, this was a good turn of events in the end, because the sloping, extremely narrow back yard was hardly useable at all as it was-a great spot to nestle a lap pool. Except for the trees.

Actually, in order to prepare his back yard for the pool, Rob removed three trees in all. Among those that had to go was a mango, which was an easy call to make as it's a messy tree and can be found virtually everywhere throughout the area. A little harder to part with, Rob says, was the avocado tree. Not only was it nice-looking, but he apparently happens to be very fond of avocados. Nevertheless, it sat squarely in the middle of his pool-to-be and so it also had to go. The third tree to come down didn't directly interfere with the pool, but was a large one that stood next to the garage and had become a safety concern during heavy weather.

That task accomplished, my team came in to dig the hole. As is often the case when excavating for a pool in an old neighborhood, you never know what you might find. In this case we uncovered a live natural gas pipe, a sewer line, a water line, two separate sprinkler systems, two old sprinkler wells and of course a couple of large tree stumps. A new sprinkler system was already in the plans for installation throughout the entire yard, so the old systems could just be removed, but the gas, sewer, and water lines all had to be rerouted around the new pool.

The main house and the garage are connected by the pool deck, which is laid down using a sand-set paver material. To accommodate the elevation change between the two buildings, the far end of Rob's pool is elevated 18 inches-a feature which will also allow the two water supply lines that shoot from the raised section to provide the pleasant sound of splashing water. A few specifics regarding construction materials and equipment for Rob's pool:

The interior of the pool — which ranges in depth from three to six feet — will have an exposed aggregate finish, a very durable material that carries a life-time warranty
The pool coping — the place where the pool meets the deck — will be 12-inch-wide acid-washed cast stone
Just below the coping, the tile around the pool's water line is somewhat unusual for its size. Typically, it would consist of a six-inch-tall band of ceramic tiles, but Rob has opted for a full foot of 1" x 1" glass tiles-a feature that will be attractive but considerably more expensive both for the material and installation.
As for the pump and filter system, it consists of a 1-horse-power pump, quite a powerful 405,000-BTU natural gas heater, and a diatomaceous earth (D.E.) filter — a fancy-sounding name for a system that uses as its filtering agent the shells of tiny algae called diatoms.

At 38 feet in length, the pool itself will actually be just a bit shorter than the tidy, round 40 that Rob had originally hoped for. With such a tight back yard though, he really needed those two feet to help make the surrounding environment a little more roomy. From the house end, Rob will be able to come out to the pool by way of two steps leading from his newly expanded kitchen nook down onto a raised terrace where a table and chairs will create a perfect space for relaxed drinking and dining. Along the right side of the pool, three steps lead down to the lower level, which goes all the way out to the sun trap at the back of the property.

When everything is said and done — when the water's in, the landscaping finished, the lounge chairs angled toward the rays — Rob will have an outdoor oasis that should delight him and his guests — not to mention keep him in shape — for many years to come.
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