Decking is to a swimming pool as good wine is to a fine meal. However, many builders seem stuck in the mindset that they must have white wine with fish. This does not always have to be the case, as demonstrated by Skip Phillips, a 30-year veteran in the industry and an international guru in pool design and construction.

Although Phillips, president of Questar Pools and Spas, Escondido, Calif., works mainly with natural materials because of their lasting qualities, nearly every pool he designs looks different from any pool he has previously built.

How does he do it? Phillips takes the time to work with the homeowners building the pool, as well as landscape architects and architects — all in an effort to seamlessly match the materials and craftsmanship of the pool to the homeowners' land, home and style.

"We're intimately concerned about architectural continuity — making sure there's a connection that hopefully runs seamlessly from the front of the house to the back," says Phillips, who is also co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group, based in Paso Robles, Calif., and a recipient of more than 100 local, national and international design awards.

But that architectural continuity is going to be lost if the builder relies too heavily on making the swimming pool the center of attention and doesn't put the time and effort into also making sure the deck is doing its part to complement and complete the design's scheme.

"Most pool contractors want to eliminate decks as a part of their contract, because it's an area that is probably the least understood and has the highest liability (because soil damage and poor workmanship are prevalent on flat work)," Phillips says. "We're exactly the opposite.

"Decks are probably the single most important part of the backyard as it relates to balance and materials, because the majority of what you see when you go into a backyard is the deck."

If this is the case, however, then why are so many builders using the same decking options time and again, when clearly each homeowner and property is different in some way from all others?

"You can either innovate or imitate," Phillips says. "Right now what's driving the pool industry [in new designs] is not the pool industry. It's homeowners that travel, and it's landscape architects and architects."

So Phillips doesn't look to the pool industry or even the United States when he needs design advice or motivation. He looks to his two Genesis 3 partners, David Tisherman and Brian Van Bower, and to Europe and Indonesia, which he says have a "different mentality" when it comes to design. He also believes that watching other industries helps him to further enhance his own designs.

"If you really want to be sharp on your retail design in the pool industry, it's idiotic to look at the pool industry. Why not go someplace where someone really knows what they're doing, like Neiman Marcus?"

But not every builder has the luxury of allowing a project to last 90 to 120 days, as most of Phillips' do. And not every pool builder is lucky enough to be working on projects that cost $100,000 to $800,000, as Phillips does. But that doesn't mean Phillips doesn't believe they can't succeed in the same ways he has, although he does believe not all will want to.

"It requires confidence in your design abilities," he says. "There's going to be a handful of people in this industry, in this country, that change the expectations on vessels — it's not going to be a mainstream thing.

"Disregard what the pool industry typically does. Disregard what you typically do."

Watch Where You Step

Glow-in-the-dark coating helps keep all hands on deck.

Although decking usually contributes aesthetically to a pool, some builders may overlook the safety it can also provide.

A new water-based coating product called GlowGrip hitting the market this month, from the Kankote Corporation, Brookville, Pa., is a glow-in-the-dark material most often applied around the perimeter of a cement pool, creating a warning line after dark.

The inventor of the waterproof product claims it is not only easy to apply — it doesn't require professional installers — but it also stays cool under foot and can prevent slips and falls.

Here's how it works: Once applied to a deck, UV-rays from sunlight charge the photoluminescent GlowGrip throughout the day. As the sun sets, the product begins to give off a phosphorescent glow, which lasts up to 24 hours, according to Tom Beimel, operations manager for Kankote.

GlowGrip can be adhered to a deck in four ways: brushed on with a paint or concrete brush, rolled on, sprayed on or troweled, Beimel says. It comes as a dry mix, which a builder then adds to water and mixes before applying.

Surface preparation also doesn't require much work. Simply power-wash the surface, dry it and apply the luminous material. If the substrate has had a prior coating of another material, Beimel suggests first using an acid wash and rinsing it off well before applying GlowGrip.

Beimel suggests not applying the material to wood decking, as "the swelling on the wood does interfere with the adhesion," of the product.

GlowGrip has a dry-time range of 30 minutes to 6 hours, according to Beimel, and should be applied when the temperature is between 45 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which factors into the dry time.

Once the product is applied, Beimel says it can last up to 10 years. And, he says, "Even though it goes on thin, it dries in a cellulose manner, so there are a lot of little air pockets in the material. With direct sunlight, it will be much cooler than concrete or gunite."

GlowGrip is non-toxic and features a no-slip component. Beimel also says that once the product is applied, it will not chip, flake or peel.

This luminescent material can also go on the inside of a pool, but in this application, a clear coat should go on top of it.

"Generally, we suggest that a clearcoat industrial marine urethane be used to prevent fouling and deterioration from the chemicals associated with pool use and/or cleaning," Beimel says. "For extended wear life and abrasionresistance, we also suggest using this product, and although it will reduce the static coefficient of friction, it has two to three times the abrasion resistance of an epoxy," Beimel adds.

The company supplies the industrial marine urethane, as well as another product called GlowGROUT, which is used on mosaic tiles on inset pools, decks and steps.

—E.F.