by Athena McKenzie
Jim Brown and Dustin Wiffen of Kilo Pools have seen a surge in demand over the past year. The concrete pool specialists share their insights into building a backyard oasis.
Between cancelled beach vacations, increased time at home and the fact that many people are looking for ways to stay physically active, the appeal of owning a pool has never been more clear.
“Our customers are staying home — like they’re supposed to — and they’re saying they typically would take their families on two or three vacations a year, so they’re putting that spending into their property,” Brown says. “People are basically creating a resort in their yards. With the high-end finishes you can put into a pool — the deck work, the beautiful tile work, the inside finish of the pool — it looks even better than a resort.”
Brown and Wiffen have, combined, more than 40-plus years in the pool industry. They both initially worked for other local pool companies, and Brown also ran his own business for 11 years. Three years ago, they joined their expertise to form KiloPools. The company specializes in concrete pools and hot tubs and does everything from new builds and renovations to retrofits. They also offer maintenance services, scheduling regular visits to clean and balance chemicals.
“We have a crew that does weekly maintenance for clients with every kind of pool, including concrete, fiber glass and vinyl liner,” Brown says.
The pair believe that a pool can add value — and wow factor — to one’s property at any time, regardless of travel restrictions. Add-ons, such as lighting, water features and fire pits, increase its visual sophistication and add to its enjoyment factor.
“A pool is a fantastic feature to have,” Wiffen says. “The type of weather and the seasons we have here are very conducive to using it year-round. It’s also a great respite for a family. So don’t be afraid to put one in.”
What are the questions a homeowner should ask themselves before they embark on a pool project?
Brown: The biggest things are your budget and the type of pool you want, which can be difficult, given the varieties of pools — concrete, fiber glass or vinyl liner — because they do vary so greatly in cost. But having an idea of what you would like is a good starting place. Most of the clients we deal with have already done some research. It’s not a feat you jump into without looking at the cost.
Are there advantages to a concrete pool?
Whiffen: Absolutely. You basically can make any shape you want and you can do a freeform pool. The sky’s the limit on the details and things you can add. With a few of our projects currently underway, we’re incorporating spas into the pool with Baja ledges. You can make custom steps into the pool and put them where you like. One we’re working on right now has a water feature in the deck with lighted streams of water. Now you can do some of that with other styles of pools, but the nice thing with concrete is that sometimes as you’re building, you decide you want to add a bench or a deep-end feature, and you can do that.
Can you explain the Baja ledge?
Brown: A Baja ledge is an area in the pool that has only a few inches of water on it to allow a lounge chair to be put on it— such as what you would see in resorts. These areas in the pool can have anywhere from a few inches of water on it up to 14 inches of water.
Say someone is building a custom home. Is there an ideal time to plan the pool?
Whiffen: We deal with this all the time. If you’re considering building a house and putting in a pool, that’s when we want to get in and have a chat. We go over options and placement, and try to make a rough budget and timeline. Especially over COVID, we’ve had calls where they want us to start building them a pool tomorrow. That’s not realistic and a lot of people don’t understand that. There’s a lot of planning involved on both ends. Even if you’re just considering it, it’s never too early. We have a customer who thinks they may want a pool and a hot tub, but they’re not quite sure. We went in and we did all the plumbing and the mechanical room, just in case. It may or may not happen, but at least we’ve done all the prep work for it.
What does the planning process look like?
Brown: We create a plan with the customer. Then we take that and we have somebody who assists us with design. We then need to submit that to our structural engineer, who gives us stamped plans that we need to submit for permit. So, the timing of all that can take months. Once you get that ball rolling, it generally leads to a smooth transition. You can dig the hole, but there’s a whole lot that goes into it before that.
What other costs should a homeowner factor into their budget? Are there ongoing maintenance costs?
Whiffen: Chemical costs can be significant over a year. You’d want to look at that as well. A lot of people don’t really understand that. If you don’t have a pool cover on your pool, it’s getting rained on, it’s getting diluted and there’s evaporation happening. So you’re adding more chemicals and that can increase the cost.
What are the advantages of using a pool cover?
Whiffen: We install these incredible covers that come from California. It’s not just a pool cover, it’s a safety cover. It’s on tracks and it automatically opens and closes. It prevents debris from falling in your pool, which helps the chemistry, and you’re not losing any water from evaporation.
Brown: When you’re talking about budget, the safety covers initially have a higher set-up cost. But over time, when you look at how much effort you want to put into cleaning and maintaining the pool, the safety covers decrease that tremendously, versus having a bubble cover. And most customers are good with that initial cost, because the safety aspect sells them on it: you can have children walk on it and not go through.