By Andrew Rudansky
Labor Day is right around the corner, and the summer season is once again coming to a close. The end of the summer means an end to the outdoor family barbeques, fewer days spent at the beach, and the seasonal closing of the Hamptons icon, the backyard pool.
There are few people more knowledgeable than Gregory Kirwan and Michael Hartman when it comes to swimming pools. The two are co-owners of Casual Water Pool & Spa Professionals, a pool construction and maintenance company. Kirwan and Hartman met while working at a different East End pool company, and they decided to start their own separate business. That was 18 years ago.
Now almost two decades later the two have installed over 600 swimming pools in the Hamptons, have two offices, one in Bridgehampton and the other in Southampton, and are currently the only pool company on the East End that is “Green certified” with the National Association of Home Builders.
“[NAHB Green certified] basically means that we are geeks,” said Kirwan. “We want to go out there and make sure that we do anything and everything to make your swimming pool the most energy efficient without you having to ask us.”
Over the years Casual Waters has developed into a full-service company that specializes in luxury Gunite swimming pools and environmentally-friendly, cost saving designs. As the days get shorter, more and more of their clients are asking to shut down their pools for the year.
“From Labor Day to Columbus Day weekend is the busy season [for closings],” said Hartman “but some of the latest closings are around Thanksgiving.”
The winterizing, covering and closing down of pools is a large part of their fall business; however an even bigger portion of their time in the fall is the construction of new pools.
“No one wants people digging in their back yard in the summer,” said Kirwan, who explained that the majority of the pools Casual Water builds every year are in the off-season. With the construction of new pools, many of Casual Water’s clients are looking for the newest and most popular pool features.
Over their many years in the business Kirwan and Hartman have seen these trends come and go in pool technology.
According to Kirwan and Hartman, one of the best features they have seen take off in recent years are the retractable safety covers. The two were adamant about the necessity of these pool covers for both the safety they provide for young children and the benefits they have for the environment.
“[A retractable safety cover] is the single most energy efficient piece of equipment that we could put on your pool,” said Kirwan. He explained that an uncovered pool could lose up to two inches of water every week due to evaporation. Replacing this water requires additional heating and water chemistry, but using a retractable safety cover “will eliminate water evaporation by over 95 percent.” The two are not as supportive of other new trends.
“In the last five or six years ‘salt water’ has become the biggest catch phrase,” said Kirwan. “People come to us and say ‘I don’t want to use chlorine, I want a salt water pool.’ The misnomer is that salt water pools have chlorine.”
While Casual Water does build salt water pools if requested to do so, they have been recommending that if their clients want a chlorine-free pool they instead look into mineral water pools that are completely chlorine and salt free.
“We can make the water in the pool, every drop of it equivalent to mineral water, spring water. Like Poland spring you can drink it,” said Kirwan.
Another trend that Casual Waters has seen increase in popularity in the past few years is the Infinity Edge Pool, a swimming pool that produces the visual effect of extending to the horizon. Kirwan said that these pools are technically challenging to build.
“We have actually gone through a whole bunch of certification processes so that we can actually build these pools correctly,” he said. “We put a lot of effort and emphasis on getting the proper training”
One trend that Casual Waters tries to steer their clients away from is the solar panel heated pools. Both Kirwan and Hartman were dismissive of the idea because they believed it was an inefficient use of energy. They explained that to properly heat the pool water, it would need to be pumped up to the solar panel on a rooftop, and that would require more energy than is being produced.
“In the end we like to give the clients what they want,” said Kirwan. The two owners of Casual Waters said they try to give their clients suggestions but in the end it is up to the owner.
Lately what the clients have wanted more than anything is suggestions on what to do with this week’s Hurricane.
Hartman and Kirwan still remember how Hurricane Bob affected pools in 1991.
“It was a mess,” said Hartman. He said just like in any hurricane-like weather, pools would probably overflow and trees and furniture would fall in the water. In the end, all anyone can do is clean up the mess afterwards. Luckily for Casual Water’s clients, they do that, too.