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Gunite Slinger Polishes Off Pools in the Hamptons

Tue May 13, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Maura Bohart

From sailboats to figure 8s to giant teardrops, David Schiavoni of East End Ready Mix in West Hampton Beach, N.Y., has worked on very unique swimming pools.

“We’ve gunited some really crazy pools. The biggest we did was shaped like a sailboat,” said Schiavoni. “The owner wanted it to look like a sailboat because in the background was the ocean. They all want to have something no one else has.”

Swimming pools in the Hamptons cost more than most people’s homes. To spend in excess of $1 million on a pool is commonplace.

But the pools Schiavoni works on are no ordinary pools. Instead of square-shaped, vinyl-lined, cookie-cutter contraptions, these fabulous pieces of architecture are made from sprayed gunite concrete, a more expensive, but also more flexible way to create swimming pool works of art. Gunite concrete pools can be made in any shape or size.

To construct them, a contractor digs a hole and makes a grid pattern of steel rebar on the floor and walls of the hole. Next, electricity and plumbing are installed. To ensure swimmers don’t get any shocking surprises, everything is well grounded, with electricity flowing to the ground away from pool users.

That’s when East End Ready Mix, the concrete contractor, enters the picture. East End sprays gunite concrete behind and around the rebar, until the floor and walls are the correct width. Gunite concrete is a dry cement mixture that is blown through a hose to the nozzle, where water is injected immediately prior to application.

Once the concrete has been installed, coping is installed, and the pool cures for a few days. Finally, it is ready for swimmers.

Same Equipment, Twice the Productivity

Schiavoni’s business, East End Ready Mix, is located Bridgehampton, home of New York’s fabulously wealthy. He built it about five years ago to accommodate the demand for specialty pools.

“My other plant is 25 miles away,” Schiavoni explained, “but 80 percent of my work is within 5 miles of this new facility. Before, my trucks were doing three loads a day. Now, with the new plant, they’re doing six loads a day — the same amount of equipment, twice as much work.”

East End Ready Mix uses a deaccumulating scale plant. Instead of putting bins of sand high above the mixer, pouring them in and producing a truckload of concrete, East End Ready Mix loads raw materials directly into the mixer using a Kawasaki wheel loader.

This allows East End to produce concrete much faster — as fast as the loader can load ingredients. Since productivity depends on the speed of the loader, it was very important to buy a good loader.

Schiavoni chose a Kawasaki 65ZV, purchased from Brian Belford of All Island Equipment in West Babylon, N.Y.

“[Brian Belford is] very good. He knows when you need a machine and he’s there to make sure you get it,” said Schiavoni.

The Kawasaki’s size, clearances and reach all matched East End’s needs perfectly.

“It’s like whether you’re in a sports car or a Cadillac. [A sports car] goes faster. A big payloader in a small yard isn’t beneficial. It’s too slow. This machine is the perfect size for my yard.”

The automatic transmission, the four-wheel drive kick in button, and the air conditioning are Schiavoni’s most prized features. They keep the operator comfortable and the loader moving concrete as quickly as possible — and it all comes down to moving concrete.

A New Use for an Old Invention

Schiavoni has made two significant investments — creating a domed building for sand storage and designing a portable concrete plant.

The portable concrete plant was a clever way to increase productivity. Before the portable plant, East End had to mix concrete at its facility in Bridgehampton, then transport it to the job site in cement trucks. When the cement trucks ran out of concrete, work was over for the day.

The portable concrete plant allows Schiavoni to mix on site. East End Ready Mix brings sand, cement and other raw materials on site, calls in the portable plant and produces concrete as fast as its loaders can feed ingredients to the plant. This has dramatically increased the efficiency of East End’s gunite operations, according to Schiavoni.

“Using traditional methods of hauling concrete in by the truckload, we were able to process 50 to 60 yards of concrete a day. With the portable concrete plant the volume has increased to 180 yards a day,” he said.

Old inventions often take on new uses. The centerpiece of Schiavoni’s portable mixing plant is an old potato hopper. Sand, concrete and water are mixed in the hopper, then forced by way of a compressor through the application guns that apply the gunite concrete.

Keeping it Green

Recycling and not wasting product is very important to Schiavoni. People often overestimate the amount of concrete they need from a load and a few yards of material come back to the plant.

Instead of dumping the concrete in a landfill, East End Ready Mix makes concrete products such as cesspool covers with the leftover concrete.

One product Schiavoni is particularly pleased with is pillar gates. The pillar gates solve two problems: they use leftover concrete and they make residents happy with quick, clean gate installations.

Most homes in the area are surrounded by extensive fences. There is a gate at the driveway, and large stone pillars support the gate. These gates were traditionally made of fieldstone and built on site by local craftsmen. It is a very time-consuming process and difficult to find a contractor for the job.

“If you have someone building there by hand, they’re there for weeks and months making noise and making a mess,” said Schiavoni.

Schiavoni began using leftover concrete and making pre-cast concrete pillars with cut stones attached to the facing. The pillars could be delivered from East End’s yard.

“It only takes one day to install and people like that,” Schiavoni said.

East End also is environmentally conscious when cleaning its concrete trucks. At the end of the day, the company washes each truck with approximately 500 gal. of water.

After washing, the muddied concrete water is run through a separating process. The resulting water has a very high PH. It is then treated with muriatic acid to lower the PH. After treatment, it is saved in bins, where the concrete settles to the bottom. The next day, East End uses the same water to wash its trucks again.

East End Ready Mix also has planted trees around the perimeter of its property to keep it green and pleasing. CEG

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