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Water's Edge

Pool Building in the Islands  Phase One: Concrete Placement

By the time our client showed up on site, he had been awake for hours, making phone calls, directing meetings and making sure that his team members would enjoy the ride on their newly launched venture. At 5:30 AM on a midsummer morning, the site where his new pool was being built was a flurry of activity.

Crews rolled out hoses and made the last-minute adjustments to the steel cage that was to be the structural skeleton of this new pool. In the distance, a site manager checked on progress of the barge that had left Tortola about an hour ago. The barge carried four fully loaded trucks of concrete across a relatively choppy Sir Francis Drake Channel. The trucks had been loaded, or batched, at about 2:30 that same morning. Special admixtures, delay set and additives were carefully dosaged to ensure the concrete would stay workable until it was time to unload the truck.


The trucks arrived on the island and started their short but arduous voyage through narrow roads to the site. The concrete pumps and compressors were started up, and the cacophony of diesel engines sang their songs as to welcome the first truck to its destination.

The lines were cleared and pressurized, and the first concrete reached the hole that was to be a pool. At this time, the pool consisted of a maze of steel rebars of various thicknesses tied together at specific intervals and a myriad of PVC pipes. Both the steel and the pipes would be invisible by the end of the day as some 80 cubic yards of concrete would be shot into the pool. While one nozzle man shot 5000 PSI concrete from a 2” hose at about 75MPH, others would shape his work and build a precise 8” curved wall or carve the steps, seats, benches and other features that would make this pool unique. At 7:00 AM, it was time for truck number two. The nozzle man took a break, had a good wash-up and was ready to take on another load. Some 26,000 pounds of concrete flowed through his hands before the next break. The first 16 yards of concrete went a long way. The walls of the pools were up almost four feet, and before long, we needed to ensure that the barge would be back with the next set of trucks. The site manager was pacing around to encourage everyone to stay on schedule. Delaying the barge or not returning the trucks on time would be expensive.

Photos courtesy of Poolworks.

The second barge landed just in time to take the first four trucks back, too. We were on the home stretch as just the top of the walls and the floor needed to be done. Thicknesses were checked, levels reconfirmed, and the mixture changed to allow for the concrete to flow a little easier. Once the walls were done, we didn’t have to rely on stacking the “mud,” as shotcreters call it, therefore the mixture could be flowable to make work faster on the floor.


We were able to empty a truck in about 35 minutes; whereas, earlier in the day the materials were much stiffer, and it had taken over an hour to empty the trucks. Men started to clean up and prepare all the hoses and cables and machines for the journey home.

Our client was heading off to go hang gliding, but not before checking on the progress on his new pool. Fully amazed to see it almost complete, he inquired when we could fill it. We had six days left before the pool was to be used by some of the client’s guests. We had less than a week to lay the limestone, apply a pebble finish, and install multicolor LED lights and energy efficient Variable Frequency pumps. More on that next time…

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