Dare to Be Different

Michael Popke Headshot
All photos by Jeffrey Bebee and courtesy of Pentair
All photos by Jeffrey Bebee and courtesy of Pentair

2019 06 14 Elite Landscape 6600 Marcus 0065The following content is supported by one of our advertising partners. To learn more about sponsored content, click here.

For more than 15 years, Elite Landscaping in Omaha, Neb., worked with local pool builders, designing backyards anchored by vinyl liner pools. After teaming with a few shotcrete pool builders, though, owner Jason Decker decided to try his own hand at custom pool design and construction.

Smart decision.

The third pool Decker ever built with his own crew — a $1.8 million project that includes a 1,600-square-foot pool house that seats 88 people and looks like it belongs on a commercial property, plus a sunken bar with five levitating underwater stainless-steel bar stools, a waterfall and slide, elaborate rock placement, dramatic LED lighting and a fire pit — won Silver in AQUA’s 2019 Pool & Hot Tub Alliance Awards of Excellence in the Concrete Freeform category and propelled Elite Landscaping to premier builder status.

“It's definitely my favorite project,” Decker says of the Lincoln, Neb., project that dares to be different. “But it certainly doesn’t fit the mold of what you typically see. For example, the pool house is filled with oak. Oak is completely outdated, and I’m the first to say that, but it’s part of what gives this project so much character — and it’s what the customer likes. We gave him what he wanted.”

The customer is a successful entrepreneur who loves to entertain employees at his home, and Elite Landscaping gave him the perfect setting for doing exactly that. Completed in 2018, the project took two years and included a significant number of change orders as Decker worked with the homeowner to ensure that everything was just right.

The pool house features several booths and tall tabletop settings, bar stools, a fully equipped bar with stainless-steel appliances, large flat-screen TVs, men’s and women’s restrooms, wood ceilings, travertine tile flooring and open-air views to the pool. Other notable elements of this project include a 10-foot-diameter spa, a stream that surrounds the pool, extensive plant life and an elevated ancillary deck.

2019 06 14 Elite Landscape 6600 Marcus 0038


‘I’ve Never Had to Look Elsewhere’

As Decker worked with other pool contractors on large landscaping projects, he took note of the equipment they most often used, and one brand stood out above all others: Pentair. So when he started building his own pools, Decker turned to Pentair and the company’s local sales representatives to help him get his footing.

“Early on, I definitely relied on them to help me with things like getting the correct IntelliTouch® panel for projects, sizing the pumps and choosing the heaters,” he says. “With this project, Pentair really helped me put that pool equipment pad together and were great to work with.” Key Pentair equipment used on this pool includes eight 3-horsepower WhisperFloXF™ variable speed pumps, a Pentair ETi 400 high-efficiency pool heater, a MasterTemp 250-BTU spa heater, two Clean & Clear® Plus cartridge filters, an IntelliTouch® control systems with ScreenLogic® capability, an IntelliChem® water chemistry controller, 13 LED GloBrite lights, three IntelliBrite® 5G color-changing pool lights, three ColorVision® LED bubblers and a BioShield® UV sterilizer.

Throughout his tenure as a pool builder, Decker has remained “super loyal” to Pentair.

“I haven’t strayed and used any other brands” he says. “They’ve always been there for me to answer a phone call if I have a question. They’ll also come out and help me troubleshoot things. never had a reason to look elsewhere.”

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From Spring to Stream

Decker’s lifelong passion for art has allowed him to maintain an old-school approach to designing pools: He still draws his ideas by hand using a pencil and drafting paper.

That tried-and-true method helped him determine the best way to navigate this project’s greatest challenge, which was incorporating an underground spring that ran beneath the 13-foot-deep pool. Elite Landscaping’s crews ultimately ended up running a sump pump that collects water from the spring and pumps it into the stream that runs around the project.

“Essentially, when you shoot a pool shell, you create a boat that floats,” Decker says. “The sump system collects water from underneath the boat, or the pool shell. We then use that groundwater to feed the stream and irrigate all the landscaping on the property.”

Today, Decker builds about six to eight projects per year — all of them considered “super high-end,” he says. And this one stands as a shimmering example of how creatively distinct his projects can be.

“The owner of this house told me, ‘I want this to be a showcase — a crown jewel,’” Decker concludes. “So I said, ‘Okay. You got it.’”

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