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.


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.


  • 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


  • 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 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.


  • Has a smoother surface than wet shotcrete


  • 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.


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 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


  • 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.


  • 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.

The Future of Pool Heaters ♨️

eti400Up until now, a mid-80% efficiency for a pool and spa heater was considered very good and the best you could get. However, the ETi 400 is changing that with a 96% thermal efficiency. In this blog, we are going to look at the ETi 400, Pentair’s newest pool spa and heater, and look at the incredible benefits it brings – showing just why it is the future of pool heaters.

Durability and Longevity

The ETi 400 is made of titanium meaning it can withstand conditions that other heaters cannot. High operating temperatures and pool water chemistry can be rough on conventional pool heaters, but titanium allows the ETi 400 to withstand 1,800-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and not corrode when handling chlorine compounds. The titanium coupled with a sound design gives the ETi 400 durability and longevity in doing the job of heating your pool – meaning it will be the best and last heater you ever have to buy for your pool.

Efficiency and Cost Savings

As we mentioned, the ETi pushed the limits for pool heating with a 96% thermal efficiency. This difference in efficiency may not sound like a big deal, but in the end it saves you time and money. The higher efficiency means more energy is going directly into heating your pool which results in a warmer pool in a shorter amount of time. This also means that you are saving precious dollars on your energy bill every month because you are expending less energy heating your pool. On average for a 25,000-gallon pool, the ETi 400 would save $334 a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 3,201 lbs.

heater savingsOld pool heaters could roast a side of beef before your spa got to 100°, but now your spa is 100° before you even have time to change and get a drink! You would be amazed at how far pool technology has come since Sunset first opened in 1948, and we don’t expect the innovation to stop any time soon. This is why we are always making sure we are up to date with the latest pool technology and toys!

Light Up Your House with LEDs 💡 and Save 💲

LED lights were first developed in the 60’s, but did not become popular for almost 50 years after. Nowadays, everywhere you look you’ll see LED lights, and there’s a reason for that. LED lights are not only more efficient than incandescent lights, but also much more customizable. The various shapes and sizes of LED lights provide limitless opportunities allowing you to customize your project as you wish. In this article, we’ll highlight various benefits of LED lights and offer various options to help illuminate your house.

Benefits of LEDs

Longer Life

LED lights don’t burn out like regular lights, and, as a result, last much longer with a life expectation of 100,000 hours. In other words, if you were to leave an LED light on for 8 hours a day it would take about 20 years before having to replace the LED light.

More Efficient

Incandescent bulbs make light by heating a metal filament that releases light and energy – the only problem with this is that 80-90% of this energy is released as heat not light. LED lights are the opposite as their energy is released as 80-90% light and not heat. This means LED lights need less energy to light the same amount of space compared to incandescent lights.

Less Heat

The improved efficiency of LED lights allows them to give off less heat than other light bulbs. This means that LEDs will remain cool and not heat up a space; thus, LED lights can save you money by lessening the need for AC or fans.

Less Expensive

Because LED lights use less energy, they therefore cost less money. People often assume LEDs cost more because their upfront price is higher, but their energy efficiency paired with their longer life expectancy causes them to actually be much cheaper than incandescent or halogen bulbs.

Environmentally Friendly

LED lights do not emit UV and infrared light causing them to be much more environmentally friendly. LEDs also do not contain any toxic chemicals and are 100% recyclable.

Design Flexibility

LED lights come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors allowing for flexibility in design and various methods for illumination. LED lights can also be individually dimmed allowing dynamic control of lighting, color, and distribution. With LED lights, you can achieve miraculous lighting effects not only for the eye but also for the mood and mind. We’ll cover a few of the places LEDs could be used in your yard to help customize your lighting and upgrade your yard as a whole.

Yard Lights

Yard lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes from spotlights to flood lights to specialty lighting. One common use of LED lights is to illuminate a specific plant within your yard. LED lights can also light walkways or decks to emphasize them. The possibilities for lighting your yard with LEDs are truly limitless and an LED light can be placed anywhere you can imagine.

Pool Lights

Nothing is more eye catching than a well-lit pool, and this is why pools are the perfect spots for LEDs. The large color range of LEDs is beneficial in a pool as you can illuminate the water in any color of the rainbow. LED lights can also light up water features like a waterfall or spitters. Regardless of your choice, LED lights are a must in any pool for night swimming.

Home Lights

LED lights work not only outdoors but also inside. Replacing any simple light from a lamp to a ceiling light with an LED will help to save you money and benefit the environment. The option to dim LEDs is especially helpful indoors and can help set the mood. So next time your incandescent bulb burns out, try upgrading to an LED light.

LED lights are better than incandescent bulbs in almost every way, and in our eyes there’s no reason not to make the switch. However, be careful not to go overboard and light up your yard like it’s Christmas; light placement is an art and sometimes less is more.

Save 💰; Upgrade Your Pool Pump to IntelliFlo VSF

Pentair recently designed a new variable speed pump called the IntelliFlo VSF that is exclusive to pool professionals and cannot be simply purchased online. This new IntelliFlo VSF is more advanced than any prior pumps and offers numerous reasons to make the upgrade. IntelliFlo pumps are in more pools worldwide than any other variable speed pumps because IntelliFlo pumps are more advanced and reliable than any other pump. Check out the numerous reasons to upgrade.

Save Money

Switching to the IntelliFlo VSF pump will not only save you energy but also money. The Intelliflo VSF offers up to 90% energy savings leading to massive savings in your energy bill. At 16 cents a kilowatt hour you would save about $7,500 in 5 years by upgrading – that means the pump will pay for itself in the long run and can be seen as a long term investment.

Changing Flow Conditions

The new IntelliFlo VSF is the first pump to adjust to changes in flow conditions to maintain its programming. This is almost like having cruise control for your pump and ensures that you conserve energy and water in any condition. Every pool is designed different and conditions are constantly changing, but the VSF pool pump adapts to this and ensures that your pump is always running effectively as you desire. With the new VSF pool pump, you will never have to worry about your flow rate or other features again – you just relax and enjoy your pool.

Quiet as a Mouse

Well actually quieter than a mouse. The IntelliFlo VSF pump works at 45 decibels which is on average quieter than the sound of rainfall and slightly louder than the sound of a library. This quietness means you can relax and not be bothered by the irritating noise pool pumps typically bring.

Quiet IntelliFloUpgrading to a new pool pump may sound like a waste, but if you have an old pump that’s sucking up energy and making a ton of noise than it may be time for an upgrade. Upgrading to the IntelliFlo VSF will be a decision you won’t regret as you’ll come to save money over time and never have to listen to a loud pool pump again.

Pump Up Your Outdoor Sound System with SonArray

I recently had a SonArray SR1 landscape audio system installed in my backyard, and the stereo system has completely transformed my backyard musically! The SonArray SR1 system is heard and not seen, as the speakers provide clear high-quality sound without taking aesthetic appeal away from your landscape. With the SonArray system, I can host guests and play music at a volume that will neither disrupt a conversation or upset my neighbors! The combination of quality and flexibility that SonArray offers sets it apart as the best outdoor sound system on the market.

Higher Quality

The SonArray SR1 is a sound system consisting of a subwoofer speaker and satellite speakers – all of which are composed of only the highest quality materials. These speakers work together to deliver amazing sound quality at perfectly even volume level – similar to the experience of surround sound speakers indoors. The subwoofer is strong, yet smooth leading to a perfect pairing of bass with clarity. On top of this, the amplifier provided with the SonArray SR1 system utilizes built-in presets to minimize the time spent testing the system and maximizing the sound quality. In the end, all of this is a bunch of jargon attempting to convey the amazing sound quality that the SonArray SR1 system provides. If you don’t believe me, ask to hear for yourself! I am glad to show you a demo at my home!

Sound System Layout

The SonArray SR1 is unique because of its layout within your backyard. The subwoofer is placed in a central location, and the satellite speakers are dispersed evenly across the perimeter. This way you won’t be pointing your speakers at your neighbor but back towards your own home – that way you can keep both your neighbors and guests happy! The SonArray SR1 speakers are also designed to be hidden, so it appears that the incredible sound is coming out of thin air! The subwoofer is partially buried under the ground, while the 8 speakers are compact and on stakes that easily camouflage in the foliage. This combination of quality, layout, and concealment makes this speaker system one of a kind and is sure to blow away any guests you may host!

Personal Experience

The reason I rave about the SonArray SR1 system is because I recently installed the system in my own backyard. I love hosting friends in my backyard, so I love having a good sound system to keep everyone pleased. In the past, I have always felt that my speaker system was lacking and not able to provide the level of quality that is possible indoors. The SonArray SR1 System changes this though – the quality of the sound it provides is truly magical and is nothing like I have been able to find in the past.

Give your ears a test drive! Call me now at (562) 881-6000 or respond to this email!