photo of a hybrid pool
This hybrid pool, located in Ortonville, Mich., has a vinyl-lined body and a gunite sun shelf. Other features include a hand-carved concrete waterfall, rock slide, grotto and poolside pizza oven. (Photo courtesy of Legendary Escapes/Al Curtis)

I’m a true hybrid — a wild blend of pool guy, philosopher, social media geek/guru, entrepreneur and family man — so building hybrid pools is a perfect fit for me. With every project I undertake, I push the limits of creativity, applying best practice building techniques with new artistic expression. For me, hybrid pools offer unlimited opportunities to play and explore. On top of that, they’ve expanded my business in ways I’ve never dreamed possible.

I’ve been in the pool industry for almost my whole adult life, logging 28-plus years in the business. Like you, I’ve seen new products, trends and all sorts of innovations and I’m always excited to learn something new that I can pass on to my customers and help create the perfect backyard lifestyle.

My adventure into “hybrid” pools began years ago when a customer wanted a traditional vinyl liner pool, but also wanted deck chairs in the shallow end and a swim-up bar with stools that would sit in the water, both of which could possibly tear the liner and result in expensive repairs.

I suggested a combination of two traditional pool building techniques: The body of the pool would be done with a traditional vinyl liner and the sun shelf/swim-up bar and table area would be crafted in gunite. The clients absolutely loved the idea, and I launched a career in hybrid pools. With hybrid pools, I can challenge the boundaries of what my customers expect and deliver a truly life-enhancing addition to their home.

Some manufacturers are answering the demand for sun shelves and other such add-ons with steel-covered vinyl systems. That’s one way to go, but your customers are still limited to what the manufacturer can offer, and they have to deal with durability issues. If you want to offer off-the-shelf solutions, that’s okay, but you may be missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

If you’re ready to dive into the world of innovative pool builds, start by considering what you’re already doing that’s new, different or incorporates special design or building techniques. Building hybrid pools is just one way to make your projects unique, and there are dozens of other customized options you can provide. The important thing is to make yourself stand out through your designs, as it’s the best way to grow your market and enjoy your work.

Giving Them What They Want = Real Customer Satisfaction

Congratulations: You are about to embark on a journey that will be challenging, possibly frustrating and a whole lot of fun.

As you begin the design process, ask the homeowners how they see themselves using the space. How will the pool integrate into the rest of the yard, patio, walkways, decking, etc? Do they want a swim-up bar? Would they like deck furniture that sits on a sun shelf or shallow area of the pool? What about slides, grottos or other built-ins? (We did one hybrid project for a pizza-baking family that included a massive wood-fired brick oven integrated seamlessly into the overall design. It was a fantastic use of the hybrid pool’s best features.)

The beauty of the hybrid is that you are only limited by imagination and potential budget. Not only are you free to create new shapes, new designs and new functions for your customers, you can do it in ways that exactly meet their needs. By building hybrids, you automatically remove yourself from run-of-the-mill work and into the world of custom work. This, as I’ve found in my own work, is where you build a lasting reputation as a creative and responsive pool builder who really understands your customers and what they want.

In this kind of space, referrals seem to take care of themselves, and we’ve been able to take our pick of exciting and challenging projects. As more homeowners see these awesome hybrid pools, the general feeling seems to be, “It’s gorgeous! I want one!”

And that is the best kind of referral you can ask for.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail scottw@aquamagazine.com.