Walt Leiffer and Nai Saechao Fairfield, Calif.
Last year, Walt Leiffer and Nai Saechao installed an automatic cover on a vanishing-edge pool in Sonoma, Calif. As soon as they arrived on-site, it became apparent this was no ordinary job.
The 17-by-40-foot pool was perched atop a large concrete and stucco
structure that served as an equipment room and storage facility.
Though the yard wasn’t a particularly steep grade —
only about 5 percent — the trough wall was a good 10 feet
above the ground. Meantime, the vertical wall upon which the cover
box was mounted extended an additional several feet beyond that.
Following are a few of the more challenging aspects of the project:
1. Leiffer and Saechao first needed to mount three 45-50 lb.
brackets onto the exterior wall — two on the motor-side end
and one on the opposite end. All three had to be level all the way
across. The automatic cover would then be bolted to the
“We had to climb up onto this 12-foot scaffolding to do the
mounting,” Leiffer recalls. “And we had a front wall,
but no back wall. There was nothing behind us.”
So the two installers steadied themselves a dozen feet above the
ground and raised the cover unit, while a third crew member placed
a level on the center of the drum. Leiffer and Saechao measured and
marked by hand the proper height and distance apart, leveled them,
and then drilled the brackets into the wall.
“Mounting the unit was actually fairly easy after that,” Leiffer adds.
2. Placing the cover tracks on the vanishing-edge sidewall proved
tricky as well. Leiffer, who’s not a small man at over 6-feet
4-inches, had to climb up a 12-foot ladder and station himself on
the trough wall that was only about 6-inches thick — all
while carrying two drills, a handful of screws and stand-offs for
the track, among other gear.
“We had to get the track up sideways on the tile wall and
make sure it was level before we could mount it,” he says.
“Plus we had to drill through the tile wall without
shattering that. So you’re standing on this 10-foot-high
wall, on a tiny platform, with a bunch of equipment, and
there’s water in front of you.”
3. Loading the cover brought the pair back to the 10-foot wall
where the unit was mounted. But because of the positioning and
location of the cover box, they couldn’t just drop the cover
So Leiffer and Saechao took the cover onto the pool deck itself and
unrolled it by hand. Then, they flipped it upside down, pulled it
over the pool and fed it into the slot. Finally, they were able to
attach the cover to the drum, which rolled it back up.
“It was kind of a beast having to roll up that cover while
walking along that beam and that deck,” Leiffer says.
“And then we had this 17-foot leading edge bar, which was
basically hanging in mid-air. And it kept wanting to pop off the
front of the cover. So we had to figure out how to get it on there
while it’s in wide-open air on the 10-foot wall side.”
After all was said and done though, Leiffer and Saechao managed to
tame the beast. And the result is a vanishing-edge installation
they won’t soon forget.
Aaron Burningham Ogden, UT
A few years back, Aaron Burningham was confronted with a unique
project in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. He was charged
with installing a cover on a vanishing-edge gunite pool that
contained a raised wall on two sides in addition to various
waterfeatures, including a slide and multiple waterfalls.
The pool was about 17- by 35 feet, and was surrounded on all sides
by faux rock. And of course, the leading edge had to disappear
under the lid that encapsulated the pool cover.
As an installer, Aaron Burningham figures he can cover almost any
pool. The key, he says, is to make sure you plan for the cover at
the beginning stages of construction.
Following are a few of the more memorable aspects of the project:
1. Oftentimes with raised walls, builders will shoot the wall at
the same time they do the gunite, Burningham says, and
they’ll end up having to notch that wall later in order to
install the encapsulation into the wall.
But for this project, an encapsulation, or track, was placed on the
side wall (the one with the slide), during the gunite stage, and
crews did their rock work over the top of it.
“Because we planned ahead of time, we brought the
encapsulation out and had it installed during gunite. Doing it this
way we ended up not having to notch the wall later, which was much
2. Because the homeowner didn’t want to see the cover when it
was open, Burningham had to hide the leading edge.
The task was more difficult in this case, thanks to the different
elevations of the tracks, a hallmark of vanishing-edge pools.
On a typical leading edge, Burningham says, the lowered beam at the
end of the pool is notched: “This allows you to turn the
leading edge bar upside-down, putting the bar at a lower
level,” he explains. “And you notch the beam so you can
pull the leading edge bar into the notch. This allows you to
hide it underneath the cover box lid. The lid stones extend over
the notch, and your leading bar is now hidden.”
To conceal the cover box itself, the pool builder fashioned
2-foot-square lid stones that started at about 5 inches on the back
side and tapered down to about 2 inches on the front. Burningham
placed brackets against the back wall of the cover box to hold the
stones in place, but instead of installing the brackets level, he
had to angle them so they matched up with the varying thickness of
“After installing the brackets, we had to put bolts in the
bottom that would angle the brackets enough so when the lid stones
were in place, they were level with the deck, even though the
stones weren’t exactly level,” he recalls. “As
far as angling the lid brackets, I don’t know that anyone
else would ever try that, but the builder wanted it done that
3. The pool contained several water features — including a
waterfall, rope fountains and the aforementioned slide. To prevent
against flooding of the cover when closed, Burningham incorporated
a waterfeature auto shut-off on the cover’s roll-up tube,
which he called a rotary limit switch.
This small mechanism counts the rotations of the tube and
automatically shuts down the waterfeatures’ power when the
cover begins to close.
Burningham explains: “When the cover is all the way open, a
gear presses a lever which supplies power to the waterfeature. When
the cover starts to close and the tube starts to turn, the gear
comes off the lever and cuts off power to the waterfeature.
Power then is supplied back to the features once the cover is
completely open again.