Oh Hail, CA Is Drought Free!

All right already the rain can now stop! The snow pack is more than I can ever remember and it still looks like more could hit this season.

It truly is a nice thought that we are drought free for now, but we can’t loose sight of water conservation. In the past I’ve written blogs such as ‘Please Don’t Pick on the Pool Builder’ that have pointed out that having a pool doesn’t mean your property as a whole can’t be water wise. I am personally continuing to tighten up the water saving belt and still have a pool. We recently installed artificial turf in the front yard to permanently stop unneeded water use on a lawn. I installed a drain system that reintroduced any run off water on my property into the native soil instead of the gutter. We removed a fountain that was a waste of water and a maintenance issue at times. Newer appliances and fixtures are mandated to be water savers and energy savers. I’m glad to help you consider ways to become more water wise.

Good news, I’m excited about the upcoming river rafting season that has struggled in past years. Lakes that have been low and ugly will be full and beautiful. This weekend is the peak of the Wildflower Super Bloom in many areas in SoCal with many flowers yet to bloom as it warms up for Spring. We experienced an amazing migration of Pink Lady butterflies from Mexico that was a first for this 54 year native. Parts of Los Alamitos, Long Beach and Lakewood saw intense hail storm that dropped large hail balls. Thank you Amy Mora for this entertaining video.

Please share with us any extraordinary experiences you have witnessed due to this wet weather.

*Featured image from https://twitter.com/DigitalGlobe/status/1108441980567277573/photo/1

Pool Tile Cleaning – Amazing Results Through Bead Blasting

John: Hey Brian, we have clients that have beautiful pools with tile that looks chalky and unsightly; is this because of our hard water?

Brian: Yes John, you would be amazed how many different chemicals and elbow grease it takes for a pool service technician to keep tile looking beautiful. Calcium buildup is thanks to California hard water.

John: What else can a homeowner do?

Brain: On average a bead blasting of the tile every 3-5 years keeps the tile looking like new.

John: And what does bead blasting entail?

Brian: With Precision Pool Tile Cleaning, we simply show up with our trucks and equipment specialized in calcium removal. We first drain the pool a little, only enough to access the calcium line, then we use the correct blast material for your specific tile type. Then clean up is as easy as vacuuming to remove the spent media and refilling the pool. We apply a sealer at the discretion of the pool owner, to make it easier for removal of the calcium when in returns due to hard water.

John: Nice, sounds pretty easy. How long does an average sized pool and spa take?

Brian: Amazingly, typically half-a-day to a full day depending on the size of the pool/spa and the amount of tile in need of bead blasting. We have completed over 1,500 pool tile cleanings per year for the last 17 years; that is over 25,500 pools and counting! Check out our reviews on Yelp and the amazing Before & After photos.


Check out the Precision Pool Tile Cleaning Yelp Profile for amazing testimonials. Call 888-300-8453 to discuss your pool tile cleaning needs.

Winter Storms Push Back CA Drought

In just a few recent weeks the wet winter has greatly reduced drought conditions here in California. The mountains are covered in snow, Mammoth mountain recently received 11+ feet in just 5 consecutive days.

“The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday, February 7th, that a large portion of the state including the Sierra Nevada, much of the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area is free of any significant dryness. Heavy rain has also ended most of the moderate drought that stretched from the Central Coast to the southern tier of the state, leaving a lesser condition designated as abnormally dry, according to the monitor.”*

Even before the recent stormy weather, the California Department of Water Resources found the Sierra snowpack above 100 percent of normal, an important reading because it holds about a third of the state’s water supply. It is now well over 125 percent of normal.**

Please Don’t Pick on the Pool Builder

Yes, on the surface it seems like a swimming pool uses a lot of water. Of course, we do not want to waste water, so be sure your pool doesn’t have a leak, a pretty obvious issue. Beyond a possible leak, when you think about the water consumption per square foot on a piece of property, you have many other culprits which waste much more water. The biggest culprit is your luscious green Marathon II sod lawn. This lawn uses much more water per square foot on your property than any other item except for maybe your toilet and shower. We believe the lawn and landscaping needs more attention than the swimming pool.

We did some research and found out that the per square foot evaporation rate of a swimming pool at an average temperature of 75 degrees is almost half of what it takes to maintain a Marathon II sod lawn. This doesn’t take into account the area around a pool known as decking which is either a concrete or other hard surface which requires no water. If you take the square footage of your swimming pool and decking area into account, you will likely see about 50% or less consumption of water compared to a lawn with landscaping.

Bottomline

We desperately need the rain but still need to be #waterwise all year long!

*https://ktla.com/2019/02/07/wet-winter-greatly-reduces-drought-conditions-in-california/

**https://cdec.water.ca.gov/snowapp/sweq.action

The Power of Communication – Our Process

Sunset Designers & Builders has been around for more than 70 years and our expertise is second to none, but it is our communication skills which set us apart from our competitors. We ensure that our clients are informed and up-to-date on all information regarding their project whether it be job progress, materials selection, or any causes for concern. We do this by sending emails informing clients as their project progresses, but also by guaranteeing that we are always a phone call away when a client has any questions or comments both good and bad. In this post, we want to address how we developed this system of communication and why we think communication is so important, especially in the pool business.

John ZahnHow This Communication Started?

We first began sending daily emails to a pair of clients who were both working professionals and were rarely home to survey the jobsite. We found that the best way to communicate with them was through emails recapping the day and asking about any necessary material selection. This constant line of communication kept the clients informed and allowed them to ask any questions or express any concerns despite not being present at the jobsite. We found this technique of daily communication to be incredibly beneficial and the clients truly appreciated the information we provided them. In this way, our increased communication benefited both parties. We then took this strategy and applied it to all our clients, and, while many clients do not need this level of communication, most appreciate it and like to remain informed. We do not expect clients to respond every day but rather we just find comfort in knowing that they receive the information. We have had countless clients tell us that they appreciate our communication skills and claim it made a timely, expensive project like building a pool less stressful and more manageable.

Nate TrimmerWhy Is Communication So Important?

It’s simple – we care about the customer experience. How would you feel if your contractor building your house just decided not to contact you for a week straight? You would feel nervous and frustrated because you have no idea what is happening despite the hefty sum of money you are paying – the same goes for a pool. We understand that customers want to be kept informed on projects for which they are paying for, and it is our duty to maintain this communication. It is for this reason that we place such a high emphasis on communication because we have been in that position of being the customer. We understand that the customer wants to be the first person notified when something happens and wants to be constantly informed regarding the status of their pool and outdoor living space.

The History of Sunset Designers & Builders, 70 Years in the Making

Sunset celebrated its 70th birthday this year since our opening back in 1948. Our history is a long one and involves a few changes in location and business focus, but we have always been involved in Outdoor Living in the Southern California area. Our experience is one thing that sets us apart from competitors, and we thought our 70th anniversary would be a good time to share this history that has made our company what it is today.

Origin, Our History Starts in 1948…

Back in 1948, we were originally named “Sunset Fence and Patio Company” and located in Long Beach on American Avenue, known now as Long Beach Blvd. Sunset Fence and Patio Company allowed customers to buy fencing materials and do it themselves or hire Sunset Fence and Patio to come build them a custom fence. A World War II veteran, Bob Dare, was in charge of selling the services of the company. Bob became one of the partners in 1950, and the company changed its name to Sunset Designers & Builders in 1953 as the company gradually grew and added in-ground swimming pools to the list of their services. In 1973, Bob married John’s mother Peggy. In 1991, John Zahn purchased the business from the other partners including Bob Dare, John’s stepfather.

Sunset Under John Zahn

In 1991, John Zahn purchased the business from the other partners including Bob Dare, John’s stepfather. Since that time, John has been the sole owner of the business and has grown the company into a premier Outdoor Living specialty company. As customers’ wants and needs change, and the appreciation for Outdoor Living increases, John has changed the business accordingly, staying at the cutting edge of pool and spa design trends. Although making selections in the digital age has gotten easier, John has not retired the importance of personal one-on-one attention. John personally manages his team on each job from beginning to end, continuing the legacy of excellent customer service, while creating Outdoor Living spaces to enjoy year-round.

Sunset has come a long way from Sunset Fence and Patio Company back in 1948, but we have never lost our commitment to high quality projects as well as customer service. We have shifted locations slightly but continue to focus on the Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and Long Beach areas. We are proud of our 70 years in the business and believe it sets us apart from all the other Outdoor Living specialists in the area!

Shotcrete vs Gunite – Building a Swimming Pool

Shotcrete is an all-inclusive term to describe the spraying of concrete, which can be done through a wet or dry mix process. Gunite refers to the only dry mix process of shotcrete during which water is injected immediately prior to application causing the concrete to mix in midair and then it splatters against the surface. A wet mix shotcrete process, on the other hand, involves a mixture that is combined at the concrete plant before being transported to the site and pumped.

Both wet mix and gunite are referred to as “free form” applications of concrete which enables the pool to be designed in any shape or size. The concrete mix formed from these two is dry enough to be applied to vertical surfaces like pool walls.

Shotcrete

shoot shotcreteShotcrete is often referred to as “wet mix” because the concrete mixture is combined at the concrete plant before being transported to the site in concrete trucks.

Pros

  • There is no mess to the environment as the concrete goes directly into the pump and straight to the application site.
  • Shotcrete will result in a stronger and more watertight pool when used properly
  • The lower volume of water results in fewer joints in the pool between concrete sections, which is typically a good thing as you want to typically minimize pool joints
  • Higher compressive strengths in the range of 6,000 to 7,500 psi
  • Free form application makes it possible to build strong pools in any shape

Cons

  • Need a skilled pool expert to install and there are less shotcrete experts in comparison to concrete pool experts
  • More expensive than gunite. Approximately $500 more per pool but well worth it!

Gunite

Gunite on the other hand is referred to as “dry mix” because the water is not mixed in until application meaning that it mixes in midair when it splatters against the wall. Result is a drier concrete mix.

Pros

  • Has a smoother surface than wet shotcrete

Cons

  • Highest compressive strengths typically between 3,000 and 4,000 psi
  • Messy to environment. Sand is dumped in the street and loaded with a tractor into the gunite rig. Public Works departments are not happy with this technology.
  • Difficult to control strength of the mix in hot weather.

Conclusion

At Sunset we switched over to wet shotcrete 15 years ago and love using this process to build and remodel pools as a leader in our field.

Fake Your Lawn ‘Til You Make It

A few months ago, we discussed the benefits of drought tolerant plants for your yard. However, we understand that some people still just love that classic green lawn in the front yard. However, in Southern California it has become nearly impossible to maintain a perfectly green lawn. Some are able to maintain this green lawn by spending precious time and money, but we have personally found the better solution to be artificial grass. Artificial grass has come a long way, and the newest artificial grass is almost indistinguishable from real grass. In this article, we will look into the benefits of artificial grass and why you should consider it for your lawn.

Pros of Artificial Grass

Like drought tolerant plants, an artificial lawn conserves water and saves you precious money on your water bill. Artificial grass also provides the advantage of less maintenance than any other option, as you simply just have it installed and only worry about the occasional quick cleaning. Artificial grass also has an aesthetic appeal similar to a traditional lawn and can often be indistinguishable to a simple passerby. Artificial grass may be more expensive than drought tolerant plants or a traditional lawn, but this money is saved in the long term due to water and maintenance conservation. Artificial grass has come a long way over the past few years causing its look to be nearly similar to that of a traditional lawn; thus, if you want to keep a green lawn without constant watering and hassle then an artificial turf lawn may be right for you.

Cons of Artificial Grass

The major downside of artificial turf is its negative impact on biodiversity and the environment. Artificial turf offers no soil or food value for other plants and animals, and it is non-permeable meaning water will not be absorbed and thus recycled to the environment. Artificial grass also has a heating effect, which anyone who has played a game on a turf field can tell you, meaning that every artificial grass lawn makes the local environment slightly warmer. Finally, artificial turf is produced using petroleum. Thus, artificial grass helps you conserve water while maintaining a similar look, but in doing so you may be slightly damaging the environment and local species.

Artificial grass has come a long way from the ugly, abrasive grass that used to dominate the market – nowadays you can get artificial grass that looks real and feels soft to the touch. Artificial grass offers very low maintenance as you never have to cut it or water it, but with this all comes the negative environmental impact. Artificial grass restricts access to soil which birds and insects feed upon while also causing heating and water runoff. With all this being said, we don’t think it should deter you if you want an artificial lawn. Switching your traditional lawn to artificial grass will not ruin the environment – after all you are only one person – we just wanted to share the slightly negative impact it may have.

Water Features Transform the Swimming Pool

Back in the day, a pool was considered cool if it had a diving board. Nowadays, diving boards are nearly non-existent and have been replaced by new, awesome water features. Water features are a must in almost any pool and can totally transform your backyard and house value. In this article, we’ll look at some of the various water features we can install to transform your pool and ‘Outdoor Living’.

Spillway Waterfall

One of our most popular features is the spillway waterfall. They can be installed in a pool or a spa and is a simple, yet elegant touch to any project. Spillway waterfalls look good, can feel good if you are under them, and create a serene, relaxing noise of running water. We have added a copper spill edge to most waterfalls in order to direct the water off the tile face and make it more attractive with better water sounds.

Spitters

Spitters can be placed anywhere around the edge of the pool and catch the eye of anybody looking at your pool. We once installed crossing spitters which was a fun project to say the least and the end result was awesome.

So, if you currently own a pool and feel that it is missing something then give us a call! Some sort of water feature could surely help boost the functionality and elegance of your pool without having to completely tear up the existing pool. A few subtle additions can make an enormous impact and increase the beauty of your ‘Outdoor Living’.

Turn Up the Tunes with SONARRAY

A few weeks ago, we posted about a revolutionary outdoor sound system – the Sonarray SR1. In case you missed it, the Sonarray SR1 is a new outdoor sound system that uses satellite speakers to provide your backyard with a type of surround-sound that cannot be heard with any other speaker system.

I had a Sonarray system installed a few months ago, and I have been in love with it since. I only have good things to say about the Sonarray SR1 sound system and think it is the best in the market by a wide margin. The built-in presets are wonderful, but you can even fine tune the sound to get it to your liking depending upon listening style. I encourage everyone that is on the fence to come give it a listen yourself in my backyard! In the meantime, we have a video below of me displaying the speakers and sound quality in my yard. This video shows just how easy it is to conceal these speakers as well as the quality of the sound, as the sound remains consistent even as I walk around the yard – check it out!

We are incredibly excited about the new Sonarray SR1 sound system and know you will feel the same once you have heard it! Give your ears a test drive! Call John now at (562) 881-6000!

Drought Tolerant or Artificial Grass Lawn

California may be out of its drought, but there is no guarantee things will remain this way. With a lack of rainfall, California is a perfect place to have a lawn that does not rely on water. Even if you love a classic grass lawn, perfect lawns are almost impossible to achieve hence why you see yellow and brown lawns all around the neighborhood. Drought tolerant and artificial grass lawns are two great alternatives that allow you to minimize water use while maximizing aesthetic appeal.

Drought Tolerant

Variety of plants that rely on little water including:

You can ask your local nursery about drought tolerant plants as well! Drought tolerant plants go great with hardscape designs. Hardscape has a lot of flexibility and allows you to tailor your yard in several ways. Hardscape has become more and more popular due to its aesthetic appeal and practicality.

Artificial Turf

Benefits

  • No watering, mowing, or feeding while still maintaining traditional front lawn grass look.
  • Life expectancy can be upwards of 25 years making investment worth it in long term.
  • New artificial grass can often fool most into looking like real grass.

Drawbacks

  • Provide no food or habitat for local birds or insects. Biological zero meaning you are not promoting biodiversity.
  • Feel is just not the same as regular grass.
  • Often made with recycled materials but not biodegradable.