Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Obtaining swimming pool concrete cores

Obtaining concrete cores from a swimming pool, spa or watershape for the purpose of testing the in-situ (in place) strength requires expert witness supervision and adherence to sampling and testing standards.

Where to core

The locations on where to obtain the samples should be chosen to obtain a representative sample of the placed concrete.  Areas where inexperienced shotcrete operators would allow the accumulation of rebound and trimmings should be tested.  Walls and vertical surfaces should be tested as well, to ensure proper shotcrete placement and correct steel encapsulation.

Core size - Diameter & Length

The testing standards require that the ideal length to diameter (l/d) ratio should be 2, and in no instance less than 1.  Therefore, if the shell is 12 inches thick, the core diameter should be 6 inches.  An 8 inch thick shell would require a core diameter of 4 inches.


The coring machine should be mounted to the surface or of such mass, that it does not move or allow the diamond core bit to wobble.  Wobbling can impart stress into the core sample.

The core bit must be water cooled during the coring operation.  This may saturate the outer surface of the core sample.  However, in a swimming pool that has been in place for a period of time, the shotcrete may already be fully saturated.

Reinforcement Encapsulation

A few cores should be taken through the steel reinforcement, in order to verify the complete encapsulation of the reinforcement.  Hollow pockets from shaddowing and honeycombs are a common occurrences in inferior shotcrete.  

If improper contact lap splices were used when installing the reinforcement steel, then particular attention should be paid to these areas.  The large mass of bars frequently causes honeycombs behind these splices.

Cores containing reinforcement should not be relied upon to evaluate the in-situ strength of the concrete.

Test Results

ACI 318-08, Section, specifies two criteria that must be met for accepting the strength of in place concrete (fc' = specified strength of the concrete):
1) the average of any three consecutive strength tests equals or exceeds 85% of fc';
2) No individual strength test shall fall below 75% of fc'.

In other words, the average of THREE CONSECUTIVE tests must meet or exceed 85% of fc' AND the strength of every sample must be at least 75% of fc'.  

These lower acceptable margins are due to the inconsistent and unreliable development of concrete's strength in-situ.  In contrast, poured cylinders that are prepared as samples of the delivered concrete, are water cured under controlled conditions, and therefore expected to develop higher strengths (ACI 318-08, Section

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. 

Visit his website at: 
All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pool Expert Witness analyzes aqua azul colored glass tile mosaic failure

Swimming Pool Construction Defect Expert Witness analyzes aqua azul colored glass tile mosaic installation failure.

Something for nothing? Never!

A homeowner in Los Angeles, CA got competitive bids to line his swimming pool with aqua azul colored glass tile mosaics.  The average price for ONLY THE INSTALLATION was $75 per square foot.  The cost of the tiles would be extra.

However, one company proposed to supply their own aqua azul colored glass tile mosaics and install them for around $20 per square foot.

Hmmm...  multiple companies provided bids that averaged $75 per square foot (labor and setting materials only) and this company was going to provide and install the tiles for only $20 per square foot?  

Remember, there is a sucker born every minute!  You don't get something for nothing!

Poor Quality Glass Tile Mosaics

Yes, there is a difference in the quality of glass.  Most cheap imported glass tile mosaics from Asia are formulated with recycled glass of unknown origin.  This bastardized blend results in many kinds of glass with different expansion indexes.  Under the slightest change in temperature (sunlight or heating a spa) and the different formulations of glass will expand at different rates.  And,  you guessed it, they will crack.

This company promoted their glass as being inexpensive because they cut out the middleman and imported container loads directly from Asia.  

Poor quality glass is poor quality glass, no matter where it's from.  The contractor did not care, nor were they even educated as to the science of glass.  

                      Click on the image to see the cracked aqua azul glass tile mosaics up close.

Deficient Installation Instructions

The Asian manufacturer of the aqua azul colored glass tile mosaics did not even supply installation instructions that complied with ANY published trade standard.  Their instructions did not recommend any compatible thinsets or grouts. They made no mention of the requirement for waterproof membranes.  No Tile Council of North America (TCNA) product analysis or testing were provided or available.

Their instructions said to merely mix by hand, a blend of white cement and sand.  They stated to set the tile directly onto the concrete pool shell.  No leveling mortar bed and no waterproof membrane was specified.

TOTAL Disregard of Industry Standards

The low ball contractor then merely followed the manufacturer's instructions, and set the tiles directly onto the concrete shell.  In some instances, they merely set the tiles on top of the old pool plaster.

No leveling bed or waterproof membrane was installed.  The tiles varied in appearance because of the variances in the underlying layer.  The tiles were not level and undulated across the walls and floor.  

                 Click on either image to enlarge them, so that you can view this abortion up close.

No movement joint was installed below the coping stones.  The gap that was supposed to be filled with a flexible material was instead filled with grout.  When the coping exerted stress upon the tiles from thermal expansion, the energy was transferred into the tiles.

                                                Click on an image to enlarge the cracks!
Whose to Blame?

Legally, the contractor is ultimately responsible for the poor quality aqua azul colored glass mosaic tiles and the inferior workmanship.  There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for ignoring the published trade standards regarding the proper installation of glass tile mosaics in a swimming pool.  

A waterproof membrane is a "no brainer."  They are required in shower pans and showers are only wet for a few minutes at a time.  Swimming pools are full of water 24/7 and 365 days a year!

The property owner is to blame as well.

They were simply GREEDY and CHEAP.  They wanted something for nothing.  They wanted the look of the expensive glass tile mosaics without the associated price of doing it correctly.  


The property owner did not do their due diligence.  The search engine GOOGLE would have revealed that the contractor left Arizona, when their contractors license was REVOKED by the State of Arizona.  At the time, the State of California Contractor's Licensing Board records showed disciplinary actions and sanctions.  On-line reviews of the firm indicated that they were unscrupulous.

Yet the property owner hired them any way.  What a deal!  What an idiot!

                                   Click on the image to enlarge the delaminating tiles.

Instead they ended up with a nightmare.  But, they really got what they deserved.  This contractor and this property owner were made for each other.

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. 
Visit his website at: 

All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Expert Witness, Watershape Consulting & Swimming Pool Construction

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Please use the email address posted in the footer for inquiries, permission to re-post the contents of this blog or for hiring Paolo Benedetti for swimming pool design, construction or expert witness work.

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. 
Or visit his website at:

All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Swimming Pool Expert Witness - What to expect

What to expect when hiring a Swimming Pool Expert Witness for Litigation - You're going to Court.

When an attorney hires the expert

Sometimes, a law firm retains the services of an expert witness.  This is a strategic move that is exercised when the case involves a lot of unknowns.  If there exists uncertainty as to the validity of a claim or if the expert may reveal liability on the part of the client, this is usually a smart move.

By having a law firm hire the expert witness directly, anything generated by the expert witness becomes the "work product of the attorney" and is usually not subject to discovery.  

A word of caution.  In this instance, a smart opposing attorney will know that not every work product of the expert witness was disclosed.  They will spend a lot of time and effort, questioning the experts findings, opinions and conclusions.  The expert must answer these probing questions under oath.  Items that were not disclosed may be revealed anyway.

Truly Objective Experts

Sometimes the client's case cannot be supported by the expert witness's analysis.  The expert witness must "tell it like it is," regardless if the outcome is positive.  Do not expect an expert witness to lie or twist the truth, merely because you are paying the bills.  

Expect the cards to fall where they may.  This is another reason why having a law firm hire the experts may be a good idea.  Information detrimental to the client's case would not have to be revealed.

Expert Witness Referral Firm

Do you really need the services of an expert witness referral firm?  Probably not.  Some of these firms maintain control of the invoicing for the expert witness's services.  They add a surcharge to the expert's invoices before forwarding their own invoice for payment.  If your attorney has hired the expert witness, expect the law firm to also add a mark-up to the invoice.  Padding on top of padding!

Other referral services charge the expert witness a "finders fee" for each case referral.  The expert is going to recover this fee somehow - either through inflated fees, surcharges, overhead or other hidden expense.

With the advent of internet search engines, it is very easy to locate, research the background of and directly hire your own expert witness.  After all, isn't that how you found this blog?

Open Book or Case Initiation Fee

Most expert witnesses charge an "open book" or "case initiation" fee.  This fee is the cost to hire and lock-up the expert as your expert, so that the opposing party cannot hire them.  Some smart law firms hire every decent expert witness that is available, merely to prevent the opposing party from hiring them.  After receipt of this payment, the expert witness is said to have been retained.

This also gives you the right to name those experts as your experts, whether you intend on using their services or not.  Sometimes, cases settle just because one side has retained the best experts available.

This fee is not applied to any work product.  It is only for the right to name that expert as yours.


Expect a contract that requires a retainer (deposit) against which work is invoiced.  Just like an attorney, an expert witness bills by the hour for everything that they do for your case.

The worst cases drag on for years, and the expert is entitled to be paid as their work progresses.  Periodically recharging a retainer and billing against that deposit, ensures that the expert is paid promptly.

Case Materials

The expert is required to read every document that is provided to them.  Oftentimes, many duplicates of the same documents are submitted from different sources.  

Duplicate documents must still be reviewed to ensure that they are exactly the same.  Everything must be cataloged and archived for later retrieval.  Binders of materials are assembled and tabbed as to their origin or source.  Digital photographs must be printed and assembled into an album.

Project Evaluation

The expert may require the support of other specialized experts to determine if standards and specifications were adhered to.  These experts will be an additional charge.

Such specialized experts may include a material testing laboratory, forensic materials scientist, soils engineer or geologist or structural engineer.  These specialists can assist in determining if various aspects of the project were sufficient for their designed purpose.

Standby and Reimbursables

The time the expert spends on your case, is time that they cannot bill another client or project.  This is called "opportunity cost."  The expert has lost the opportunity to sell that time or resources to another client.  Time spent traveling to and from site inspections, airline flights and time spent sitting in court rooms waiting are examples of lost opportunities.  The expert cannot be working on other projects - it is unrecoverable time.

"Standby time" is when the expert is required to be available for depositions, court hearings or teleconferences on a moments notice.  This usually requires that they remain near a phone and be committed to having a minimum response time.  Since they cannot go about their normal course of business unfettered and without restriction, there is usually an hourly fee associated with "being on stand-by."  You have consumed their ability to focus 100% on another project.  Because the expert can do "busy work" while on standby, standby time is usually billed at a reduced hourly rate.  While not common, standby time does occur on occasion.

Expect to be charged for overhead, administrative and reimbursable expenses.  Airline tickets, hotels, meals, duplication expenses, overnight shipping, photo printing, CD/DVD duplication and CAD drafting are all examples of reimbursable expenses.  Vehicle mileage is another example of a reimbursable overhead.

Administrative support, which is billed at a lower hourly rate than the expert doing it themselves, is an economical method of completing work for the client. 

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. 
Visit his website at: 
All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pool Construction Defect Case?

So, you think that you have a swimming pool construction defect case?  What now?  Ask an expert witness !

Performance or Workmanship Issue

Usually a dispute originates over an issue of workmanship or the improper performance of an aspect of a project.  The builder refuses to correct the perceived error and the property owner refuses to make a payment.

Project Review

An Expert will review the project documents, contracts and plans.  He will inspect the project to determine if the project was built "per plans."  

Next the expert will compare the workmanship of the project to the building codes, published industry workmanship standards and acceptable trade standards.  Some states have published minimum acceptable workmanship standards.

Usually the expert will identify additional aspects of the project and contractor's performance that do not meet acceptable trade standards.  

So, it is in a contractors best interest to resolve complaints before the property owner has a project inspected.  Why?  Because there is almost always something else wrong with a project that the property owner is not aware of (or the builder)... simply because they do not know the codes or standards.

That usually does it

Faced with the facts, and inspection report and the performance standards - either the property owner or builder is correct in their assertions.

And in most cases, the party at fault makes the proper corrections.


When one party refuses to agree with the facts, then some form of civil litigation usually follows.  It does not make sense to spend $100,000 to collect $60,000.  It makes sense to force a contractor to correct errors made during construction.

When faced with litigation, the property owner's attorney is going to seek damages for every single error that the contractor made during construction.  

Therefore, doesn't it make sense to reach a settlement to correct the major issues and complaints, instead of being held (potentially) responsible for the cost of entire project PLUS damages and attorney's fees?

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. Visit his website at: All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"ADA Compliant" does't mean that IT IS!

Just because a product is labeled ADA Compliant, does not mean that it is.  As the specifier or installer you need to be the expert, and verify that the products are in compliance.

Don't take anyone's word for it

I was researching outdoor showers and discovered that many models are labeled "ADA Compliant." 

I soon realized that almost every one of these outdoor shower products were falsely advertized as being "ADA Compliant."  They in fact, were only partially complaint.

It help to know the codes
These products merely had ADA Compliant handles on the water valves and lowered shower heads.  Convenient yes, but they had omitted a major safety factor.

Temperature modulation and temperature limits are a required feature of ADA Compliant showers.  When a shower gets scalding hot, a disabled person cannot jump out of the water and scream! A paralyzed person will not even know when they get burned.

A matter of liability

Relying upon a manufacturer's label of ADA Compliance can result in the specifier or installer assuming liability in the even someone is injured.

It helps to know the codes!

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. Visit his website at: All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Expert Witness - Swimming Pool Construction

 Swimming Pool Construction - Expert Witness

 How can an Expert Witness assist you in dispute resolution?

Most often, property owners are not contractors or engineers.  They often rely upon their architect, swimming pool contractor, general contractor or landscape architect to properly specify and construct their project.

Only when workmanship deficiencies manifest themselves, does the property owner become aware of issues.  And in most cases, the apparent defects are not the only project defects.  

The property owners are not experts.  That is why they hired these other parties to begin with.  The property owners relied upon those "expert" to do things properly.

Two sides to every story

After defects become apparent, the property owner usually requests in writing that the defects be corrected.  In some instances cosmetic defects are easily repaired.  But in many cases the responsible party makes excuses, redirects blame or flatly refuses to correct deficiencies.

This is when an Expert Witness should be retained.  The Expert Witness will inspect the project, the apparent defects, the project documents and specifications and review the thousands of high resolution photographs the property owner took during construction (hopefully!).

Armed with the inspection report, the property owner will have the relevant supporting documents, codes and trade standards that apply to the project's deficiencies.  Sometimes, the project inspection reveals many additional items that the property owner was not even aware of.  Now the property owner is informed and educated and the playing field is leveled.

A Matter of Education

Oftentimes, project deficiencies are the result of the responsible party lacking the proper experience, training or education.  Faced with published standards and codes, they have no alternative but to correct the deficiencies.

If after being confronted with the facts and industry standards of care, the responsible party refuses to make the requisite repairs, then the property owner may proceed with civil or administrative relief.

State Contractor Licensing authorities and civil litigation may be pursued simultaneously.  Or the property owner may merely seek a "correction notice" from the Licensing Authority.  

If the owner files a lawsuit in civil court or arbitration,  then oftentimes the Licensing Authority will stay their investigation, pending the outcome of civil actions (arbitration or litigation).  They will gladly enforce any judgement rendered against the responsible party from arbitration or a court judgement.

"Faced with the facts" is oftentimes all that is needed to "push" the responsible party into repairing project deficiencies.  

Just the fact mam, just the facts.

Contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa at: or 408-776-8220. Visit his website at: All Contents © Aquatic Technology 2013 No portions of this blog may be reproduced or re-posted without the expressed written consent of Aquatic Technology.