Proper execution is all about learning from experience. You may have to burn the tongue a few times before enjoying a taste of success.

The design process on this fiberglass poolscape was no exception.

Jonathan L. Melvin, RLA, ASLA, landscape architect and principal of MRM Design Group, PA in Battleboro, N.C., spent a year planning and developing the challenging installation and its unique waterfeature, which also houses the pool’s automatic cover. And while there were re-starts and do-overs, by all accounts the result was well worth the effort.

From the beginning, Melvin knew this would be a tricky installation. The homeowners — a young couple with contemporary tastes — were sold on an automatic cover. And it would have to retract beneath the waterfeature.

“Projects like this don’t come along every day,” Melvin says. “So when the opportunity arose, it was nice to flex the creative muscles.”

Melvin coordinated with Mike and Jimmy Baker, co-owners of Aqua-Clear Pools & Spas in Rocky Mount, N.C., to construct the waterfeature wall first. He then set the pool at the precise elevation to allow the pool cover track to align properly with the 4-inch opening.

The nearly 20-foot-long waterfeature wall was constructed of reinforced, concrete-filled block. Six-inch-thick, poured-in-place concrete lintel, similar to what’s used to shape windows and doorways, was used for the cover opening. The structure also features 2-foot-wide sheer descents on either side, and an 18-inch-wide tapered sheer descent in the above center position. (For more details on this installation, go to Project Pictorial.)

“The wall is supported on both sides of the opening with reinforcing,” Melvin says. “For this reason, the motor housing for the pool cover couldn’t be inside the wall. Instead, it was positioned behind the wall, requiring a lean-to cavity structure for housing.”

Melvin contacted the cover vendor —Pool Cover Specialists in West Jordan, Utah — and sent over preliminary construction details.

“I was then able to design to the measurement requirements for the motor and spindle housing,” Melvin says. “After discussions with [Jimmy Baker], we decided we would have to build the waterfeature wall first in sequence.”

The cover box itself was constructed of brick, and the lid was prefabricated from aluminum. Because of its length (16 feet, 4 inches) and mass, the lid was split into two sections, which overlap in the center to keep out rainwater.

An angled piano hinge provides ready access for service, as well as access to the water supply lines that run to the sheer descents. This configuration also allows rainwater to shed easily down the exterior.

“The pool itself was set following the rough-in for the waterfeature wall,” Melvin says. “This allowed the pool to be set at the precise elevation we needed in order to line up the cover track with the opening at the front of the waterfeature wall.”

The actual build went off without a hitch, Melvin reports, thanks in large part to advance — and precise — construction details, as well as close coordination with the contractors.


  • Project Pictorial

Take a closer look at the details of this installation.


  • Jonathan L. Melvin, RLA, ASLA, MRM Design Group, PA, Battleboro, N.C.
  • Mike Baker, Aqua-Clear Pools & Spas, Rocky Mount, N.C.
  • Jimmy Baker, Aqua-Clear Pools & Spas, Rocky Mount, N.C.
  • Shaun Joyner, Bridgeview Contractors, Rocky Mount, N.C.
  • Bobby Joyner, Appian Consulting Engineers, Rocky Mount, N.C.