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 brackets.

“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 down.

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 easier.

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 the stones. 

“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 way.”

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.