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Annual Buyers’ Guide


10 Pool

Buying Tips

Outdoor Furniture that Rocks! Choosing Your

Perfect Hot Tub

Michael Phelps Trains for the London Olympics

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C o n On the Cover

Departments & Features

14 Michael Phelps Trains for the London Olympics

12 Revolutionizing Water Filtration

Cover photo courtesy of Caviness Landscape Design; Photograph by K.O. Rinearson Inset cover photo of Michael Phelps courtesy of Master Spas, Inc.

As the U.S. swimming Olympic gold medalist prepares for the Summer Games, he has also teamed up with Master Spas on a signature line of swim spas.

Advanced filter cartridges keep pool and spa water clearer than ever, while saving you money.

90 Fun Finds 26 10 Pool Buying Tips The best tips for planning your pool

50 Choosing Your Perfect Hot Tub Wondering how to decide? Don’t sweat it! We’ve got your options covered.

Fabulous outdoor fans

92 Backyard Gourmet Fresh fruits and vegetables give these Thai recipes their bright color and bold flavor.

95 Advertisers Index 96 Finishing Touch

80 Outdoor Furniture that Rocks! Rocking chairs, gliders, and patio swings for your backyard.

Breathtaking waterfalls from two award-winning pools

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t e n t s

Volume 16 Number 1

Buyers’ Guide: Where to Buy

Explore your options in the world of pools, hot tubs, cleaners, covers, decks, and other backyard products. Learn everything you need to know, plus, see over 200 listings on where to buy

18 Inground Pools

64 Enclosures & Gazebos

32 Pool Covers

68 Pool Houses

36 Pool Cleaners

72 Decks

40 Water Features

74 Outdoor Kitchens & Grills

44 Waterslides

78 Outdoor Furniture

48 Safety

82 Weatherproof TVs & Speakers

50 Hot Tubs & Spas 84 Lighting 54 Swim Spas 58 Water Care & Technology

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Inground Pools

Swimming Pool Options Essential information for homeowners ready to build a swimming pool By Patti Plummer

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nce you make the decision to build a swimming pool, you need to know the basics of pool construction to know what your options are. There are a number of factors, and quite a few questions, that must be taken into consideration before construction begins. Many elements—from what type of pool you want to how you will maintain the finished poolscape—should be investigated before you hire a professional to manage your project. As the project progresses, you may have additional requests for custom design elements, but as the old saying goes, “You have to know the rules in order to break them.” Inground pools come in three basic types: concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl-lined. Deciding which material is best for you is determined by variables like budget, location, the desired style, size, and shape, and how the pool will be used.

Concrete: Customization Concrete is the best option for a homeowner seeking a completely custom pool. If you can envision the pool of your dreams, a designer and builder can usually translate the idea into reality. However, there is a caveat: a good designer will advise that you harmonize your new pool with your property’s architecture and natural setting. For instance, if you have a view of a beautiful vista, an elegant vanishing-edge pool may be suitable while a contemporary pool would be more fitting in an urban setting. Once the design is approved, it’s time for construction. After the hole is dug, the next step is to install the plumbing and line the excavated hole with a framework grid of steel reinforcing rods, or rebar. Secured together with wire, the rebar is then covered with a thick layer of concrete that is sprayed onto the grid and

Photo courtesy of Elite Pools by Scott


Photo courtesy of Shawn Talbot Photography; Designed by Skip Phillips, Questar Pools and Spas, Inc.; Built by Valley Pool and Spa, Kelowna, B.C., Canada

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Pool Covers

Take Cover From solar blankets to safety barriers, pool covers serve a variety of functions. Discover which type suits your needs. By Nicole Janda swimming pool cover is an essential purchase that can help keep your pool clean, warm, and safe, as well as save you money. There are many different types of pool covers to choose from and each is designed to serve different purposes. Consider your needs in order to select the best option for your pool.


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If you want… To keep leaves and twigs out of the pool Then buy… A leaf net Leaf nets, ideal for swimming pools surrounded by trees, are lightweight covers made of a finely woven polyethylene. Used alone or placed over a solar or vinyl/winter cover, leaf nets catch leaves, twigs, and other debris before they enter the pool or accumulate on top of a cover. This facilitates

the removal of messy leaves and helps prolong the life of a solar or vinyl cover by preventing sharp twigs and decaying leaves from causing damage. Leaf nets come in a range of shapes and sizes for both aboveground and inground pools and cost $50 – $300.


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Photo courtesy of All Safe Pool Barriers

Photo courtesy of Aquamatic Cover Systems

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If you want… Warm water and lower operating costs Then buy… A solar cover For pool owners looking for a way to save on their energy bill, a solar cover (also called a solar blanket) is a good choice. This type of pool cover resembles a large sheet of bubble wrap and floats on top of the water to prevent heat, water, and chemicals from escaping. In addition, the translucent air bubbles absorb heat from the sun and transfer it to the water in the pool. A solar cover can increase the pool’s water temperature as much as 10 degrees, which can eliminate the need—and cost—to run a heater. Solar covers are available for aboveground

and inground pools and are great for daily use during the season (they can easily be moved on and off in seconds); however, they are not designed for winter protection, safety, or keeping debris out of the water. Depending on the type and size of your pool, a solar blanket can cost $25 – $300 for aboveground pools and $40 – $500 for inground pools. If the thought of removing and replacing a solar cover every time you use the pool sounds tedious, there is an alternative. Liquid pool covers, made of a mixture of Isopropyl alcohol and a proprietary ingredient, float on

top of the water’s surface and create a thin invisible barrier that traps heat and prevents evaporation. The liquid chemical is biodegradable, safe to swim in, and even works while swimmers are in the pool. Liquid covers cost around $200 for a few gallons and many come with an automatic injector that continually adds the proper amount of liquid cover to your pool (generally four ounces per 1,500 square feet of pool surface per day). Though not as effective as traditional solar covers, liquid pool covers take up less storage space and require less manual labor.


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Swim Spas

Swim Spas: The Perfect Combo Learn the benefits of a swim spa and how to find the best model to fit your needs. By Rachel Harper

f you’re unfamiliar with the term “swim spa,” but think it sounds like a spa you can swim in or a pool you can soak in, you are correct! These hybrid products combine the relaxing massage jets of a hot tub with the ability to swim laps in a pool. A swim spa features an adjustable-speed swim current at one end so users can swim in place. That’s why these units are sometimes called “swim-in-place pools” or “exercise/fitness pools.” Beyond lap swimming and hydrotherapy,


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swim spas also have plenty of room for aquatic exercise. With so many benefits and functions, swim spas are gaining popularity among homeowners. Learn more about the types of swim spas and available options so you can choose the best one to fit your needs and lifestyle.

Types of Currents One of the biggest differences among swim spa units is the system creating the current. It’s always good to test out one of the models

at your local dealer so you can make sure you are happy with the motion of the current. The three different types of currents are jet propulsion, paddlewheel, and propeller. Jet propulsion systems, or pressure-driven systems, force water through one or more jets to create a current. They are typically powered with a 4-HP motor and can be adjusted to speeds up to 8 mph. Some jets permit users to adjust the direction of the current for a more customized water flow. Paddlewheel systems are powered by a


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Photo courtesy of Master Spas, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Diamond Spas; Photography by Cameron Neilson

Photo courtesy of SwimEx, Inc.

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rotating paddlewheel at one end of the swim spa. The wheel produces a smooth current across the entire width of the spa, moving in a layered, sheet-like flow that can reach as deep as 2 feet. The water is then circulated under the swim current and returned back to the paddlewheel. Propeller-powered systems create a wide, deep, smooth current. A propeller forces water through a grate in the spa wall; the water continues toward a second grate on the rear wall, which keeps the water circulating.

The water typically travels back to the propeller through recessed channels, which are sometimes concealed in bench seats or beyond the walls on either side

install them inground and build a stone, wood, or brick deck around it. This creates a finished look and an attractive area to spend time relaxing when using its therapy jets.

How/Where to Install

How Much Does It Cost?

Like hot tubs, swim spas are premanufactured self-contained units that can be installed indoors or outdoors. You may choose to place them on a deck, in a particular section of your yard, in a sunroom, or an exercise room. Some owners choose to

Swim spas range in price based on size/depth, style, current type, number of jets, and optional features. Compact models start at $18,000. They may include therapy jets and bench seat at the non-current end of the swim spa. These basic models are ideal for


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Water Care & Technology

Keeping It Balanced Discover your options in pool and spa water care. By Rachel Harper

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o get the most enjoyment out of your pool or spa, you must keep the water clear and balanced. Sanitizers, testing kits/monitoring systems, filters, and pumps are all necessary for maintaining healthy water and proper filtration. There are many different types of each so it’s best to explore all of your options, then select the best water care system to fit your needs.

Chlorine Chlorine is both a sanitizer that kills algae and bacteria, and an oxidizer that removes unwanted organic matter, such as oil and sweat. It is the most popular and affordable sanitizer used in pools, where its levels should be kept at 1 – 4 ppm. (Though not commonly used in hot tubs, the ideal chlorine level in hot tubs is 3 – 5 ppm.) When used in large doses of 10 ppm, chlorine functions as a shock; shocking or superchlorinating is necessary when the stabilizer level drops considerably or if algae begin to appear. To prevent chlorine from burning off in sunlight, cyanuric acid (a stabilizer) must be added to the water. Stabilized chlorine already contains cyanuric acid. It comes in granular forms, as well as sticks or tablets used for floating chemical feeders or filter baskets. When using unstabilized chlorine, cyanuric acid must be added separately and should be kept at 25 – 50 ppm in pools.

Saltwater Chlorinators

Photo courtesy of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping; Photograph by Ed Pirone


Photo courtesy of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping

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Saltwater chlorinators are another option; they still use chlorine—just in a different form. Instead of adding chlorine tablets or granules, you will add several 50pound bags of salt a few times a year. The water is sanitized via a saltwater chlorinator (chlorine generator) that produces chlorine as salt passes over the electrolytic cell. Since salt is a natural conditioner, saltwater pools leave your skin feeling smoother and do not irritate swimmers’ eyes. The green or eco-friendly aspect of saltwater pools is that you don’t have to handle or store the chlorine; it is produced automatically by the generator. Because the chlorine produced in saltwater pools is unstabilized, you must add cyanuric acid to maintain a chlorine residual (unless the pool is indoors where it won’t be affected by sunlight). While you still need to check sanitizer, total alkalinity, and pH levels about once a week, the ideal chlorine level of 1 – 4 ppm is easier to maintain in saltwater


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Enclosures & Gazebos

Outdoor Pool, Indoor Comfort Explore the benefits of pool enclosures and discover the best option for your pool. By Kimberlee Courtney


pool enclosure enhances the amount of time you can spend enjoying your pool, often expanding your swim season year-round. It also helps keep debris out of the pool and minimizes water evaporation and heat loss, reducing the amount of time and money you spend on pool maintenance. Some pool enclosures can even increase your indoor living space and raise the value of your home. Take a look at the different types of

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enclosures to find the best fit for your pool, lifestyle, and location.

Pool Domes Inflatable pool domes are made of vinyl and are anchored to the ground with steel cables. They are kept up by a small air blower system (often included) that creates a small pressure difference between the inside and outside air to maintain inflation. Framed pool domes consist of clear vinyl or mesh screens attached to aluminum frames

that are mounted at intervals around the perimeter of the pool. Pool domes can be used year-round in warm regions to help keep leaves and other debris out of the pool and protect swimmers from insects and rain. In cold-climate regions, these enclosures can be used to extend the pool season from early spring to late fall. They must be dismantled and stored during the winter because they cannot withstand high winds or heavy snow. Both inflatable and portable pool domes


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Photo courtesy of Pool & Spa Enclosures, LLC

Photo courtesy of Garden Prairie Pool & Spa Enclosures, manufactured by CCSI International, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Covers in Play

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can be custom designed to fit any size or shape aboveground or inground pool. They cost around $800 for aboveground versions and $2,500 for inground models.

Telescopic Enclosures Telescopic pool enclosures are semipermanent structures made of safety glass or polycarbonate glazed panels that slide on a track or use a rolling mechanism to open and close. One by one the panels glide neatly inside each other—like a telescope—and

can be opened all the way or just partially. Low-profile (or low-height) telescopic enclosures lie low to the ground and typically need to be retracted when swimmers are present in the pool. They function more like a pool cover, helping block dirt and debris from entering the pool and preventing heat from escaping when the pool is not in use. Medium-height telescopic pool enclosures allow for swimming inside the pool when the enclosure is fully closed. Their taller height

and wider frame also permit free movement around the perimeter of the enclosed pool, so you can walk around, dry off after a swim or comfortably throw on a cover-up or jacket before heading back in the house— especially on chilly or rainy days. High telescopic enclosures can encompass both the pool and surrounding patio—including the furniture, waterslide, and Tiki hut— permitting use of the entire outdoor living space when inclement weather strikes. Telescopic enclosures can be installed


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Guide to Buying Outdoor Furniture

What to consider when choosing outdoor furniture for your backyard By Kimberlee Courtney


utdoor furniture allows you to extend your living space to your backyard, creating a comfortable and attractive place to entertain, relax, or dine with family and friends. Today there is an array of outdoor furniture types, styles, materials, and colors to choose from, which can make buying outdoor furniture an overwhelming task. Assess the following factors to help you choose the best outdoor furniture for your lifestyle, space, and personal taste.

Consider Your Climate & Maintenance Outdoor furniture comes in many different types of materials. Certain materials require more care than others and may 78 Pool & Spa Outdoor

be better suited for the weather conditions in your region. Metal is durable, low-maintenance, and can withstand various environmental factors. Wrought-iron is a heavy type of metal, which makes it a good choice for areas that experience strong winds. Wrought-iron furniture can easily rust and requires a powder-coat finish to protect it from exposure to rain and air. Covering the furniture during periods of rain and repainting any worn or chipped areas will help maintain its appearance. Aluminum offers the look and feel of wrought-iron but is lighter in weight (making it easier to move around) and generally less expensive. Aluminum will not

rust and can be exposed to rain and easily dried off; however, it is subject to staining and pitting, which can dull the surface. Regular maintenance may involve applying a coat of liquid wax at the start of every season. Both wrought-iron and aluminum furniture will absorb heat and cold, so you may want to purchase cushions or keep it in a shady area. Wicker is admired for its comfort, durability, and low cost. Natural wicker (made of rattan) requires regular upkeep as the material’s fibers fade in direct sunlight and are not resistant to moisture. It can also dry out and split in areas with low humidity. Synthetic wicker (made of resin) is a better choice for humid climates or areas with


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direct exposure to sunlight because it can withstand water and heat. A periodic spray with a hose or brushing with mild detergent is necessary to remove any dirt that accumulated in the crevices of the weave and help keep the furniture in good shape. Wood is durable, doesn’t absorb heat, and is resistant to insects and decay. Woods commonly used for outdoor furniture include cedar, cypress, redwood, and teak. Regular maintenance varies with each type, though most require an annual application of an oil-based stain with water sealer and preservative to protect against moisture and maintain the wood’s natural color. Teak is the most durable option—and the most expensive. It is the only type of wooden

Photo courtesy of New River Casual Furniture; Photography by Wayne Donelsen, Deanne & Wayne Co.

Photo courtesy of Whitecraft, Inc.; Photography by CKM Photographics, Inc.; Designed by William Herren

Photo courtesy of Crimson Casual, Inc.

Photo courtesy of © Jensen Leisure Furniture

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outdoor furniture that can endure all weather conditions without the need of a protective varnish. It is also the best option to place around pools. Plastic is waterproof, easy to care for, and can be left out during inclement weather (though it may blow over in windy conditions). Plastic furniture can also be moved around easily and is usually stackable. It is not as long-lasting as other outdoor furniture and the color can fade over time, but it is the least expensive option.

Define Your Space Identifying the amount of open space in your backyard and how you intend to use it

will help determine the size, type, and amount of outdoor furniture you’ll need. For instance, maybe you would like to use your backyard for dining and entertainment. Or perhaps you envision it being a relaxing place to unwind at the end of the day. Adding the right pieces will ensure your aspirations for the space become a reality. Outdoor dining sets are a mainstay for any backyard affair and come in a range of sizes and shapes. Tables can be round, oval, square, or rectangular and accommodate anywhere from four to 12 people. Most outdoor dining sets include an umbrella to keep diners cool and comfortable. Bistro sets consists of a small round table with two to four chairs. Some sets include


Pool and Spa Outdoors  

Experts issue 2012