Playing with Fire
How high-end pool builders use fire to add drama and excitement to poolscapes
Years ago, while I was working as a sales manager for an industrial combustion company, I received a phone call from a contractor working on the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. His specialty was water, and he was looking for a mechanical engineer to assemble all of the technical equipment for the fire features on the project, which included two 7-foot-diameter cast-stone water and fire urns at the entrance of the temple. I always had an interest in landscape architecture and construction, and so I agreed to help them out.
After working on that project, I realized that landscape contractors and pool builders were incorporating fire features into their designs on a very limited basis, trying to put the mechanical components together on their own and making it work—but they didn’t really have the technical knowledge in handling a fire feature. That’s when I decided to start Grand Effects and to develop a line of fully-assembled, tested, and approved, packaged fire features—including fire bowls, fire and water bowls, vertical torches and linear inserts—that would make it easier for architects and pool builders to incorporate fire into their designs.
Enhancing the Backyard Experience
When I first started Grand Effects, I noticed that high-end pool builders were starting to design more than the pool: they began to design the entire backyard as a full-service entertaining area. Many homeowners do not use their pool every day, but they do get satisfaction and enjoyment on a daily basis from the beauty of their backyard water feature. Fire adds a unique element to the poolscape and creates a new and exciting experience for the homeowners to enjoy. They can turn on the fire features and look out and see the fire working off the reflection of the water—at night, it really becomes the focal point.
It’s not so much the fire element, but what these high-end pool builders and designers are able to do with them. Luxury pool builders are becoming more creative in how they incorporate fire into their pool designs. Some of them are offering fire features on every job because homeowners are craving something unique, something exciting—that “wow” factor. It’s really up to the relationship between the homeowner and the pool builder and how they want to incorporate fire into their designs. It can be as simple as a firepit that the homeowners and their guests gather around while looking out over their backyard, or as elaborate as a water and fire bowl with water pouring out of the fire and into the pool, producing a beautiful and mesmerizing visual with the fire and water working together.
Pool Designs with Flare
The high-end pool builders that use fire feature products are usually the best designers and builders in the nation, and I’m constantly surprised at how they incorporate fire features into their projects. Many times, they’ll use fire bowls to accent or frame their designs, placing them on top of columns that they built around the pool.
In addition to using decorative fire features, many pool builders choose to buy fire inserts, or burner mechanisms, which are just the controlled mechanics. The builder will then design and construct a custom firepit using stones to match the rest of the project and then install an automatic firepit insert. Homeowners can then push a button or use their iPhones to ignite the feature.
Linear burner inserts, which normally come in lengths from 3 to 10 feet, as well as custom lengths, are becoming more and more popular. A recent project I finished was for Stonecrest Pools in Texas. We created a 30-foot custom-curved line burner that was part of a glass-tile water wall built in the home’s “spa retreat”—which was located outside of the master bedroom. When the homeowner walks out of her bedroom and into this area, she sees the water flowing evenly over the glass-tile wall and the fire at the base of the wall reflecting off of that glass tile—the effect is quite dramatic.
As a manufacturer, one of the things we strive to do is provide pool builders and landscape architects with a selection of beautiful and safe fire features that they can mix and match to fit into their designs. But what we’ve learned is that fire products are only a piece of the big picture—it’s not so much the fire element but what the designers and builders do with it and how creative they get incorporating it into their design that really gives a project that grand effect.
Kevin Doud is president and CEO of Grand Effects, Inc., in Irvine, CA, a manufacturer of decorative outdoor water and fire features for high-end commercial and residential properties. Kevin has over 15 years of experience in combusting engineering and holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA.
Top: Photos courtesy of Stonecrest Pools, Keller, Texas
Bottom: Photo courtesy of Paragon Pools, Houston, Texas