Some products are difficult to visualize from a photo or small sample board.

Case in point: specialty finishes.

First-time pool buyers in particular should be able to inspect these materials on a larger scale. Dave Brandenburg brings nearly one-quarter of his new clients to visit existing pools, allowing them to see the finished product firsthand.

“Most customers already have an opinion on what they want,” says the president of Brandenburg Pool, Remodeling and Repair Inc. in Phoenix. “Our job is to educate them [and expose them to the various options] so they know what to expect out of different surfaces.”

But it’s not always convenient to visit a former client, so consider the next best thing: a life-like replica.

Many pool professionals display their finishes on the showroom floor. But for this concept to really fly, it’s important to make sure these products are presented properly.

The wet look

Because the final product sits underwater, Kirk Chapman wanted his customers to see a moist sample. But toting a water bottle and constantly spraying his manufacturer’s sample proved cumbersome.

So he created a 7-by-4-foot fountain to display the various finishes.

“People say, ‘Look at this. It’s beautiful.’ They gravitate toward it,” says Chapman, president of Poolscape Unlimited Inc. in Lakeside, Calif.

The waterfeature is made of a foam core cut with fiber mesh. It’s inlaid with 35 finishes, each an 8-inch square panel.

The trough at the base of the fountain and outline of the panels contain iridescent glass tile, which draws viewers’ attention and provides a strong accent to each finish. Fluorescent cabinet lights illuminate the surface.

The water wall at Alan Smith Pool Plastering provides a striking display as well. The Orange, Calif.-based firm erected a wall with plaster siding, then applied the 10-inch square finish samples. Water cascades in a thin sheet down the wall’s surface.

Smith’s display contains 60 samples ranging from quartz to pebble to glass beads.

“We want to have a large enough sample to maintain and keep wet at all times,” says Stephen Scherer, the firm’s president/CEO.

In addition, a vertical wall — rather than a trough — better enables customers to feel and compare styles, Scherer notes.

Dry wall

Still, not everyone’s willing to spend the dollars to achieve the wet look.

Pat Aherns, owner of Pinch-A-Penny Pool, Patio & Spa in Merritt Island, Fla., opted to show his wares on a dry display.

But rather than making do with individual sample boards, Aherns designed a wall unit with 30 types of finishes. The display board is 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and is covered with a dark gray, carpet-like material. Velcro is affixed to the back of each of the 6-inch square samples, which are then attached to the carpet in several uniform rows.

Beneath the board is a custom-built cabinet that houses tile samples. Customers can flip through cards that hold the tiles, or place the tiles against the various finishes. The cabinet is decorated in tile as well.

“We wanted it to be as eye-catching and attractive as possible,” Aherns says of the exhibit.

A nearby table displays special main-drain covers that can be filled with pebble to match the finish.

Pay a visit

Of course, there’s no substitute for the genuine article.

If possible, take your customers to see at least one or two completed projects.

Brandenburg regularly visits 10 to 15 backyards of past customers. While most new clients opt for the popular blue finishes, some are drawn to less conventional colors such as plum, Bordeaux and black.

He typically hits three to four pools in a span of two hours, taking clients to see a mixture of surfaces, waterfeatures and decking styles.

“We try to give them well-rounded exposure [to different projects],” he explains.

Indeed, each yard is unique. A finish color may vary if it’s in a shaded area, or if the pool is on the north or south side of the house. Even landscaping can affect the appearance.

What’s more, colors that look alike in photos may appear quite dissimilar once installed, especially in shallow areas.

Most customers appreciate the service, Brandenburg reports. They tend to be completely agreeable when, after their pool is completed, he asks to give a tour of their project on behalf of a new customer.

“We give them a high-quality product, whether it’s a big or small job, and we try to follow up with the customer,” he notes. “The only time we lose access to a property is if the [original] homeowners sell it.”

More Information

  • Four steps to take before setting up an on-site visit

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