Business Q & A | Expert offers tips for pool season

Gary Thull is the owner of Gary Thull Pools. Thull has been designing, building and maintaining pools for the past 30 years.
Gary Thull is the owner of Gary Thull Pools. Thull has been designing, building and maintaining pools for the past 30 years. CDT photo

Beating the summer heat never felt better in a pool.

That is where Gary Thull steps in.

He founded Gary Thull Pools in 2007. With 34 years of experience in the pool industry, he’s probably done and seen just about everything.

Thull built large, deep diving pools in the ’80s and witnessed cultural preferences shift toward smaller, shallower pools over time. He also knows that sometimes things don’t go as planned, particularly when animals like snakes, groundhogs and even horses may take a dip in your backyard.

Thull gave a few tips for those who want to build and maintain their pools.

Q: What’s the process of building a pool?

A: We work with homeowners right from the start, have a meeting typically at the kitchen table, then spend time in their backyard. From there we’ll do a 3-D design drawing for them to really visualize what they’d like to see. We’ll show them some pools in the area similar to what they’d like to do. From there, it goes in contracting to build.

Q: Is designing a pool easy or are there parameters you have to work within?

A: There are always confines to work within. Some projects are really close to setbacks you have to work through. We just worked through one where the homeowner had to get a variance for the pool. It was a process where we were under contract with them last June, but it took until December to get a variance to build a pool. Now that the project is almost completed, they’re extremely happy, so it was worth it. Sometimes it is more of a process to get the permits than what you would think.

Q: What’s important for people to understand when they want a pool built?

A: They want to consider the setback requirements and see what is available in their area. If they’re in a community that has a homeowners association, they need to be aware of whether there are any special rules. One time I built a pool where there was a requirement that the neighbors had to agree on it first and sign off on it.

Q: How long does a pool usually take to build?

A: It can vary a lot, but a month is a good average. The size in pools has really changed in the industry since I started in 1981. At the time most pools, about 90 percent, built were diving (pools) and were 18 feet by 36 feet. Since that time people have trended toward smaller, shallower pools like 14 feet by 28 feet,

Q: Are smaller, shallower pools also more economical for families?

A: They are (more economical), and maintenance is simpler. It allows them to maybe open earlier and close later, afford an option like an automatic cover, have features that control heat and chemicals. The end result is that people get to swim more. We also deal with much smaller lots than what we used to.

Q: What are the most common repairs for pools?

A: I’d say the No. 1 call we get, and not for ones that we built, is a leaking pool. A lot of that is because of poor installation. Some things like plumbing can move or not settle right over time. Maybe a liner wasn’t installed properly.

Q: Are there things people typically neglect to take care of?

A: A common repair is liners needing to be replaced sooner than they should, and a lot of that is by neglect of water chemistry. Instead of following the instructions they were given when they started the pool, they start to cut corners, which harms the liner.

Q: The neglect of those things may get you more business, but it leaves customers with less money, right?

A: We certainly appreciate the business, but we’d rather have business because of something that wasn’t unnecessary. We’d rather have to do things for people that are regular services as opposed to unplanned emergencies.

Q: What should people do to care for their pools?

A: General housekeeping of the pool, keeping leaves out of the skimmer, brushing and vacuuming regularly, testing their water and following instructions. All of that is really helpful to them in the long run.

Q: What are some things you’ve had to deal with on the job you didn’t expect?

A: I got a call last week from a gentleman who owns a campground. He told me he needs help needing the water circulating and cleaned up. He was describing it and said, “I think I have most of the fish and frogs out of it now.” I hesitated, so he told me that a camper and his family were there that liked to fish. He opened the pool and let them fish. I never heard one like that before. We’ll have our work cut out for us if we do clear that out.

We’ve encountered snakes, too. Our technician posts some of those on our Facebook page. We’ve encountered poisonous snakes and groundhogs. We had a wild chase with a groundhog last year that was kind of vicious. The worst was a horse got into a pool once. I didn’t see this, but a customer told me one of his cattle got into the pool and walked it up the step. Amazingly, it didn’t damage the liner.