200-Foot Vinyl Liner Stretches Pool Builder's Imagination

photo of 200-foot vinyl liner projectWinter in Wisconsin often means some time off for pool builders, but for Madison's Farwell Pools & Construction, 2011 was an unusual year. As temperatures plummeted and the holidays approached, the company prepared to install a 200-foot vinyl liner.

Earlier in the year, owner Duane Farwell had been approached by a contractor who was installing a fire protection vessel below a new commercial building. They needed Farwell Pools to place a vinyl liner in the vessel because the cold temperatures precluded the use of the spray seal originally intended for the project.

"I wasn't really sure how to approach the project," Farwell says. "Nothing like this had ever been done, at least not to my knowledge."

While the idea of laying vinyl in a super-sized pool seems simple enough, it forced Farwell and his team to create a whole new system for placing the liner.

photo of 200-foot vinyl liner projectThe fire protection vessel they were to be lining was not only two thirds the length of a football field, it was 15 feet wide and seven feet deep, as well. When Farwell contacted his vinyl manufacturer he was told that the longest piece of vinyl they had ever made was still 80 feet short. The vinyl liner eventually manufactured weighed in at more than 1,000 pounds and had to be mechanically hoisted into the reservoir.

The next problem Farwell's team faced was the potential hazard posed by building materials falling into the reservoir and damaging the vinyl during construction of the building. To guard against this, a concrete ceiling was placed over the vessel, providing protection against falling objects, and leaving only two small openings for the workers to get in and out of the reservoir.

The last element to the project was getting the vinyl liner to fit just right into the vessel. There were two major problems with this: 1) the vinyl had to be specially fitted to an exit pipe that would let the water flow into a pumping chamber in case of fire, and 2) it is just too damned cold in November in Wisconsin to install a vinyl liner.

photo of 200-foot vinyl liner projectFarwell's brother created a gasket system to hold the liner in place around the pipe, since the vinyl was too heavy to use screws that would typically be used in this type of installation. To solve the second problem, the team used two 400,000-Btu heaters to create more favorable conditions for pool lining.

Despite not really having a clue as to how to get going on a project of this magnitude, once the crew got their teeth into the job, steady progress was made and after weeks of hard work, the 200-foot vinyl pool was finished.

Even though the liner was to be strictly functional, with no need for aesthetic qualities of any kind, it looked beautiful, Farwell says.

"We're really proud of the way it turned out. We had to create the whole system ourselves. It was a new challenge that kept us busy during a time when we usually wouldn't be."

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