When it comes to covering pools, collaboration is nothing new for Bill Kantor and Bob Elder.
“I’d say nine out of 10 of the pools I do have an
automatic cover, and we always go to [Elder] when we need something
done,” says Kantor, managing partner of Benchmark
Fiberglass Pools in South Haven, Mich.
But no project has been more daunting for the two than a recent
installation at a home perched on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The fiberglass pool sports a vanishing edge on its narrow far
end, a spa that flows over the cover lid into the pool on the near
end, and limited space for the tracks on either side.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, though, Elder, who owns
Automatic Pool Covers in North Muskegon, Mich., quickly came on
Brainstorming a solid solution
Before starting work, Elder and Kantor typically sit down and draw
out the design, then implement the plan. But for this one —
given the number of special features — they needed to do some
The home is designed with a 45-foot-long hallway that leads
directly outside to the patio and pool, and then to Lake Michigan.
The homeowners’ desire to make the pool and spa appear as one
continuous body of water leading into the lake was the most
difficult characteristic of the job.
It required that the cover mechanism and tracks be perfectly
Spa water flows onto the
removable pavers (above, left),
which conceal the pool's
cover component box. The
box is protected by a black
PVC membrane (above, right).
The cover track (left)
was installed vertically
near the gutter.
• Spa treatment
The spa had to be addressed first. Positioned next to the home and
protected by its own cover, it presented some challenges to the
To achieve the seamless look the homeowners sought, the spa
— a raised, total-perimeter, vanishing-edge fiberglass model
— had to at least appear to flow into the pool.
With this design, however, the water couldn’t stream
directly into the pool because the cover box/housing needed to be
placed on that wall. So the team found an unusual way to visually
tie the two vessels together.
First, the spa would overflow on all four sides. On three walls,
the water would fall into a gutter. The fourth wall would spill
over into an underground trough. The other three gutters would
drain into that trough.
The designers still wanted some water to transfer from the spa
into the pool. So they created a slot on the spa wall nearest to
the vessel. Water from the overflow gutters and channel would ooze
through that slot, over the cover-box lid and into the pool.
This meant that water would be making constant and direct
contact with the cover-box lid. So some protection was needed to
keep the cover components dry.
To preserve the seamless look of the pool/spa combination, they
also needed the lid to be as unobtrusive as possible.
In most cases, Elder simply uses a 12-inch lid with a 6-inch
aluminum hinge, which comes standard out of the box. But that
approach wouldn’t work here because it would neither protect
cover components from the water, nor blend the lid into the
This project would be best served by covering the box with paver
To protect this area, the designers capped the box with a
one-piece, stainless steel tray system held in place with stainless
steel brackets. They covered the trays with a black PVC membrane
“It does two things,” Elder says. “It keeps
the stones from having to be anchored because the rubber keeps them
from sliding around. It also prevents the water from backflowing
into the back part of the [cover] pit.”
They positioned the stone pavers, which were a practical and
aesthetic solution, over the PVC membrane.
“We placed the stone pavers on the trays and did not have
to anchor them, which helps when service is needed in the cover pit
area,” Elder says. “Plus, the stones provide a nonslip
• Vanishing-edge issues
The raised spa leads to a one-piece fiberglass, raised-wall pool.
While designers typically place the vanishing edge on one of the
longer sides of the pool to provide an expansive water wall, this
particular project called for it to be on the narrow side.
Putting a cover on the pool was a challenge from the start,
considering the fiberglass shell was not built to accommodate it.
Elder and his crews would have to construct a system separate from
Further complicating the task, one of the vessel’s long
sides was designed as a slot overflow. So the team had to find a
way to address the slot-overflow gutter and the cover system.
Kantor and Elder’s solution was to dig and pour a concrete
gutter down that side of the pool. They put a standard, 90-degree
vanishing-edge track in the channel. This would secure the cover
over the perimeter-overflow weir.
“So the track actually sits vertical as opposed to
horizontal,” Elder says. This way, the track takes up less
space between the pool and perimeter-overflow gutter.
Water would flow from the pool into a slot just in front of the
cover track. With some modifications, such as custom-bending a
stainless steel attachment for the glider, the system would fit
around the perimeter-overflow system.
Over the gutter, they placed the same stone pavers used to hide
the cover box.
The other side of the pool would not be a slot overflow. Elder
installed a poured-in-place track channel, also called a track
receiver, followed by a simple under-track setup. To complete the
look, they also put pavers over that side, which they will glue in
place when the job is complete.
This meant two track systems, with one set 4 inches higher than
the other. Elder needed to make some adjustments.
“We have two different frictions there,” he says.
“You have a friction on the track channel, where basically
there is no friction. Now we have weight on the leading edge on the
right-hand side for the vanishing edge, and the friction points are
different on them, so they’ll track differently. We had to
try to get it as even as possible.”
He adjusted the tension on the rollers and tubes until it evened
out from one side to the other.
While some fine-tuning was necessary, not many corrections were
needed thanks to the team’s up-front brainstorming.
Aside from gauging how the cover was stretching over time, which
is to be expected, they made sure to come back and check that the
cover housing wasn’t rusting and was properly protecting the
With the goal of maintaining high functionality, they shaved the
cover fabric down so it would lie flatter than before.
“Because there’s nobody else doing this stuff, there
isn’t a specific checklist we look for,” Elder says.
“But functionality is tops, and aesthetics is right up there
“This type of project is not for every builder to take
on,” he continues. “It requires large amounts of time
and the ability to think outside the box. The project must be fully
service-accessible. I have seen projects completed by others that
look great until something goes wrong and needs to be serviced.
“You have to keep the customer’s complete interest in
mind when designing their project.”