Title:
Plastic molding for inground swimming pool
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flexible rib for use in conjunction with a vinyl liner clip track. The flexible rib has a clip extension which secures it to the clip track after a cantilever coping is installed. The flexible rib seals the gap created by the clip track and prevents injury by preventing a swimmer from inserting fingers into the gap. The flexible rib has a decorative facia that conceals the clip track. The facia can take a variety of shapes, including conventional shapes such as quarter round, cove, clam shaped, etc.

The flexible rib can be fabricated from any flexible material, such as plastic, polyethylene, polypropylene, rubber, etc. The flexible rib can be formed as a single continuous strip that extends around the entire periphery of the swimming pool and sealed together with a single joint. Alternatively, it can be made from precut standard size segments of flexible rib which are installed and joined together at the installation site. The flexible rib will preferably be dyed to match or coordinate with the color selected for the vinyl lining.

An optional illumination device is provided for use with the flexible rib. The illumination device can use fiber-optic leads to distribute light throughout the flexible rib. The distributed light may have a particular color, several colors, or periodically changing colors. The illumination device may be an integral part of the flexible rib, or alternatively, it may be secured to the illumination device. When activated, the illumination device will illuminate all or part of the edge of the swimming pool.




Inventors:
Irgang, Myron Ed (Hollywood, FL, US)
Lambe, Troy (Jackson, NJ, US)
Application Number:
10/384826
Publication Date:
04/22/2004
Filing Date:
03/10/2003
Assignee:
IRGANG MYRON ED
LAMBE TROY
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/169.7
International Classes:
E04H4/00; E04H4/14; (IPC1-7): E02D27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KATCHEVES, BASIL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JOHN C. SMITH, P.A. (BOCA RATON, FL, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A flexible rib for concealing a clip track in a vinyl lined swimming pool, further comprising: a clip extension extending along the length of the flexible rib and having a suitable size such that when inserted within the void in a clip track, it is secured to the clip track; and a facia extending along of the flexible rib and attached to the clip extension, the facia further extending above and below from the clip extension such that when the clip extension is inserted into the void in the clip track, the clip track is concealed from view; whereby the flexible rib conceals the clip track.

2. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the clip extension is secured to the clip track via a pressure fit.

3. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the clip extension is secured to the clip track via adhesive.

4. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the clip extension is secured to the clip track via mechanical means.

5. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the facia has a shape which is substantially in the shape of cove molding.

6. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the facia has a shape which is substantially in the shape of quarter molding.

7. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, wherein: the facia has a shape which is substantially the shape of clam molding.

8. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, further comprising: illumination means integrated into the flexible rib such that, when activated, the flexible rib is illuminated.

9. A flexible rib, as in claim 8, wherein: the illumination means is a fiber-optic lamp.

10. A flexible rib, as in claim 8, wherein: the illumination means is an electroluminescent lamp.

11. A flexible rib, as in claim 1, further comprising: securing means in the flexible rib to secure an external lamp to the flexible rib; means to provide power to the external lamp.

12. A flexible rib, as in claim 11, wherein: the external lamp is battery-powered.

13. A flexible rib, as in claim 11, wherein: the external lamp further comprises a chemical illumination source.

14. A method of concealing a clip track in a vinyl lined swimming pool, including the steps of: securing a facia to the clip track in a vinyl lined swimming pool such that the facia conceals the clip track from view.

15. A method, as in claim 14, including the additional step of: using a clip extension to secure the facia to the clip track.

16. A method, as in claim 14, including the additional step of: illuminating the facia.

17. A method, as in claim 16, including the additional step of: illuminating the facia with a fiber-optic lamp.

18. A method, as in claim 16, including the additional step of: illuminating the facia with a battery powered lamp.

19. A method, as in claim 16, including the additional step of: illuminating the facia with a chemical lamp.

20. A method, as in claim 14, including the additional step of: color matching the facia such that it matches the color of the vinyl lining of the swimming pool.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a non-provisional application which is related to, and claims the benefit of, the commonly owned copending provisional application entitled “Plastic Molding for Inground Swimming Pool”, filed Mar. 11, 2002, bearing U.S. Ser. No. 60/363,193 and naming Myron Ed Irgang and Troy Lambe, the named inventors herein, as sole inventors, the contents of which is specifically incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Technical Field

[0003] The present invention relates to in-ground vinyl liner swimming pools with cantilever copings. In particular, it relates to an apparatus and method for concealing the clip track between the vinyl liner and coping, and a method for improving safety by preventing contact between the clip track and the fingers of a swimmer. The invention further provides, in addition to concealing the clip track, a novel method of illuminating the edge of a swimming pool.

BACKGROUND

[0004] Swimming pools are widely used for recreational and therapeutic reasons in both residential and commercial settings. Due to the substantial cost associated with the installation of the swimming pool, a variety of alternate construction methods have been devised in attempts to reduce the overall cost of constructing a swimming pool and thereby increase market size. Typically, inground swimming pools are fabricated with concrete walls that provide the necessary strength to support the weight of the water in the pool. Once the concrete sets, the next step in the construction process is to finish the rough surface of the concrete with an aggregate finish surface. The finish surface of the pool is typically a smooth surface coat of material which provides a finish that is visually attractive, comfortable to the touch, and suitable for use with chemically balanced water such as that found in a swimming pool. A variety of commercially available products (e.g., Marcite (™), Diamond Brite (™), etc.) are available for finishing the surface of the concrete walls of a swimming pool in this manner.

[0005] While these surface coatings provide a suitable method of finishing the interior surface of a swimming pool, they are not without serious drawbacks. One such drawback is its cost. This type of surface finishing is a fairly expensive part of pool construction not only due to the cost of the materials involved, but also due to the fact that it requires a skilled craftsman to carefully apply the surface coat to the concrete surface of the pool wall and floor. Not only does this type of construction require skilled labor to install, but the installation process is relatively slow in order to provide the type of suitable uniform finish desired by customers. It would be desirable to have a method of finishing the interior surface of a swimming pool such that the installation cost associated with cement finishes is reduced.

[0006] One such attempt to provide swimming pools with a lower construction cost has been the development of vinyl liners as an alternative to the cement based surface coatings discussed above. Vinyl liners provide a number of advantages over cement based surface coatings. For example, the vinyl linings can be installed more rapidly, and as a result, they can be installed at a lower labor cost. Further, in comparison to cement based surface coatings, they are less likely to be affected by the chemicals in the water after installation is completed. In addition, vinyl linings will not leach chemicals into the water as cement based surface coatings may, and as a result, the vinyl liner will not affect the pH balance of the swimming pool water to the extent that cement based surface coatings will.

[0007] While vinyl liners provide several benefits over cement based surface finishes, they also have drawbacks of their own. One such drawback relates to the manner in which the vinyl liner is secured to the upper surface the pool wall. More particularly, there are significant drawbacks relating to how vinyl liners are used in conjunction with cantilever decks.

[0008] A substantial drawback related to swimming pool vinyl liners is the manner in which they are installed in conjunction with a cantilever coping. In particular, the top edge of the vinyl lining is secured to the top of the concrete pool wall by metal strap commonly referred to as a clip track. After the vinyl lining is secured by the clip track, the cantilever coping the set in place. Unfortunately, there is a gap between the top of the pool wall and the cantilever coping which is created by the clip track. While the gap is relatively small, it creates two problems. First, the gap creates an unsightly appearance which detracts from the overall appearance of the pool. It would be desirable to have a method of concealing this gap in a manner which would improve the overall appearance of the swimming pool. Second, the gap also creates a safety hazzard. In particular, while the gap is relatively small, it provides sufficient space for a finger to be inserted. It is especially easy for a small finger, such as that of a child, to be inserted into the gap created by the clip track. Since the clip track is fabricated from metal, it provides sharp edges and the potential for cutting the fingers of a swimmer. It would be desirable to have method of preventing a swimmer from inserting fingers into the clip track to prevent the possibility of injury to the swimmer.

[0009] While the prior art has provided vinyl linings as an alternative to cement based surfaces for swimming pool walls, and as further provided a variety of copings to finish the upper edge of a swimming pool, it has failed to provide a method of joining a vinyl swimming pool wall to a cantilever coping (or cantilever deck) such that there is no perceivable gap between the vinyl liner and cantilever coping. It has failed to provide an aesthetic treatment for the gap between the cantilever coping and the vinyl swimming pool wall covering which is capable of performing additional functions, such as illumination. Further, the prior art has also failed to provide a method of avoiding injury to swimmers by eliminating the gap between the vinyl liner and cantilever coping such that a swimmer's finger cannot be inserted into the gap.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] The present invention provides a flexible rib which has a clip extension that is secured into the pre-existing track of a vinyl swimming pool clip track after the cantilever coping is installed. The flexible rib prevents access to the clip track by a swimmer's fingers to prevent injury to the swimmer. The flexible rib also has a facia that is connected to the clip extension and extends between the lower surface of the coping and top surface of the vinyl lining on the upper edge of the swimming pool wall. The facia can take a variety of shapes, including conventional shapes such as quarter round, cove, clam shaped, etc. The facia has a size which is sufficient to conceal the clip track and its associated gap.

[0011] The flexible rib is intended to be fabricated from flexible material which can be cut at the installation site. The flexible rib can be fabricated such that a single continuous strip of flexible rib can extend around the entire periphery of a swimming pool and sealed together at a single joint. Alternatively, precut standard size segments of flexible rib can be installed and joined together at the installation site. Preferably, the flexible rib will be dyed to match or coordinate with the color selected for the vinyl lining.

[0012] An alternative embodiment provides for a flexible rib which can be illuminated. One variant of the illumination element uses integral fiber-optic leads to distribute light throughout the flexible rib. The fiber-optic leads can be used to distribute light of a particular color, of several colors, or are periodically changing colors. Another variant provides clamping means in the flexible rib to secure an illumination device such as a lighting strip.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF TILE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective top view of a prior art concrete swimming pool wall with a vinyl liner and clip track attached.

[0014] FIG. 2 is an end view of a prior art concrete swimming pool wall with a vinyl liner and clip track attached. This view also illustrates a mold used in the formation of the edge of a cantilever deck.

[0015] FIG. 3 illustrates an end view of a prior art concrete swimming pool wall with a vinyl liner and clip track attached. This view illustrates the edge of a cantilever deck which has been poured into the mold to form a rounded edge.

[0016] FIG. 4 illustrates an end view of a prior art concrete swimming pool wall with a vinyl liner and clip track attached. This view illustrates the position of the clip track after the cantilever deck has been poured and the mold removed.

[0017] FIG. 5 is a front view of a prior art concrete swimming pool wall showing sections of clip track which are exposed to view after the vinyl liner is installed and a cantilever deck has been poured.

[0018] FIG. 6 shows an end view of a preferred embodiment of a flexible rib installed in a clip track after a cantilever deck has been poured.

[0019] FIG. 7 is a front view of a concrete swimming pool showing a preferred embodiment of a flexible rib installed into, and concealing, a clip track.

[0020] FIG. 8 is an end view of a preferred embodiment of a flexible rib installed into a clip track. This embodiment illustrates a fiber-optic illumination system integrated with the flexible rib.

[0021] FIG. 9A illustrates an end view of a preferred embodiment of a flexible rib having a cavity to accept an electrical illumination device.

[0022] FIG. 9B illustrates an end view of a preferred embodiment of a flexible rib having a cavity to accept a chemical illumination device.

[0023] FIG. 10 is a front view of a preferred embodiment of the flexible rib having a cavity which holds a chemical illumination device.

[0024] FIG. 11 is an end view of a preferred embodiment of the flexible rib.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0025] Prior to a detailed discussion of the figures, a general overview of the system will be presented. The invention provides a flexible rib which is designed to snap into the clip track on a vinyl sided concrete swimming pool with a cantilever deck. As discussed above, this type of swimming pool has a drawback in that the clip track which is used in the process of fabricating the cantilever deck remains in the wall of the swimming pool after the cantilever deck has been poured. Unfortunately, the clip track is visible after the swimming pool has been completed and creates an undesirable appearance. In particular, the clip track creates a void (or cavity) which makes the wall of the swimming pool appear to be incomplete. One of the purposes of this invention is to provide a method of concealing the clip track and providing a more aesthetically pleasing wall surface for the vinyl swimming pool. This is accomplished by concealing the void created by the clip track and making the vinyl swimming pool wall appear to be complete.

[0026] The flexible rib is preferably the same color as the vinyl used to cover the wall of the swimming pool. By matching colors, the flexible rib will blend into the wall and become almost invisible to the casual observer. Of course, those skilled in the art will recognize that some individuals may decide to select a contrasting color to achieve various aesthetic goals.

[0027] In the preferred embodiment, the flexible rib is fabricated by extruding a continuous segment from a supply of pliable plastic. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the length of flexible rib can vary. For example, it can be fabricated into a long continuous roll of material which will allow an installer to insert a single extended length of flexible rib around the entire length of the swimming pool. Alternatively, the flexible rib can be cut into standard length segments. This approach provides some benefit in that it allows distribution of the flexible rib to be accomplished with a more uniform packaging structure.

[0028] While the preferred embodiment envisions the flexible rib being fabricated from a pliant plastic material, those skilled in the art will recognize that any suitable material can be used so long as the resulting flexible rib performs suitably in the environment for which is intended. For example, material such as plastic, polyethylene, polypropylene, etc., can all be used. While there's a wide variety of materials which would be suitable for fabrication of the flexible rib, the materials should all be suitable for use in an environment in which there would be frequent contact with chemically treated water, and frequent exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors. Due to the probability that there will be a substantial amount of exposure to sunlight, any material used to form the flexible rib should preferably the treated such that it is resistant to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.

[0029] Once the flexible rib is installed in the clip track, the seam which is created when the ends of adjacent flexible ribs meet are preferably covered with a cosmetic seal. Of course, the number of cosmetic seal's required are governed by factors such as the size of the pool, the length of standard size flexible rib sections, whether a single continuous rib is used, etc.

[0030] The flexible rib is formed with a clip extension that is designed to be inserted into and securely held by the clip track. During the installation process, the clip extension can be inserted into the clip track and is held via a pressure fit. Likewise, the clip extension can also be secured in the clip track via adhesive, or even using a mechanical securing means such as a screw. In addition to the clip extension, the flexible rib has an opposing facia which is exposed to view when the flexible rib is installed. The facia is intended to extend upward from the clip track where it will rest against the bottom surface of the cantilever deck. Likewise, the bottom of the facia will extend below the clip track and rest against the vinyl wall of the swimming pool. As a result, the clip track will be completely concealed from view.

[0031] In addition to providing a more attractive aesthetic treatment for a swimming pool, the flexible rib also provides a safety improvement. In particular, it eliminates the void created by the clip track. The void creates a safety hazard because it is large enough for some fingers, especially those of children, to fit into and become stuck or injured. During the construction process it is always possible that edges of the clip track may become damaged and acquire sharp edges. As a result, it is also possible for a finger inserted into the clip track to be scratched or cut. The flexible rib eliminates this safety problem because the clip track is no longer accessible by a swimmer's fingers once the flexible rib is installed.

[0032] In addition to the basic structure of the flexible rib, it is envisioned that the flexible rib may also incorporate other functions. For example, due to its location, the flexible rib is ideally suited to provide illumination for swimming pool. Preferred alternative embodiments of the invention envision several methods of providing illumination for a swimming pool. One such method provides illumination by bundles of fiber-optic fibers which are integrated within the flexible rib. These optical fibers can be distributed along a portion of the flexible rib, or may even extend the entire length of the flexible rib. An advantage of using fiber-optic illumination is that there is no safety concern if the fibers should somehow be exposed to water. In the preferred embodiment, an optical connector would be installed prior to the cantilevered deck being poured. In the event that the flexible rib is fabricated from multiple standard sized segments, suitable optical connectors would have to be provided for each segment of flexible rib, or inter-rib optical connectors would be required to transfer light directly from flexible rib to flexible rib.

[0033] Those skilled in the art will recognize that while fiber optics provide one method of distributing light, other suitable methods exist. For example, LEDs can be used, flexible tubes containing incandescent or LED lamps can be used, electroluminescent lamps can also be incorporated into the body of the flexible rib, etc. For ease of discussion and illustration, fiber optics are shown in the drawings and discussed in this specification. However, it is understood that any suitable light source can be used in conjunction with the flexible rib disclosed herein. In addition to integrating illumination devices into the flexible rib, the flexible rib can also be structured such that it can hold a variety of external illumination devices. In fact, any number of external illumination devices having a variety of shapes and sizes can be attached to the flexible rib so long as the flexible rib has a suitable cavity or means to secure the light source. When using a cavity in the flexible rib to hold a light source, the light source can be battery-powered to allow it to be replaced or repaired as necessary. The light source does not even have to be electrical in nature. For example, a light source can be a chemical light source such as the commercially available Glow Sticks (™) typically found at amusement parks and other events.

[0034] The advantage of integrating a light system into the flexible rib is that it allows more options in terms of aesthetic goals. In addition, it also allows lighting to be provided around the edge of the swimming pool to facilitate swimming at night.

[0035] Having discussed the features and advantages of the invention in broad terms, we turn now to a more detailed discussion of the figures.

[0036] In FIG. 1, a top perspective view of a prior art vinyl lined swimming pool wall is shown. The swimming pool wall has a concrete wall 1 which provides the primary structural support for the swimming pool. In addition, a vinyl liner 2 is also shown which extends from the top of the concrete wall 1 downward into the swimming pool. Also shown in this figure is a conventional clip track 3 which is secured to the top of the concrete wall 1 and the vinyl liner 2. In this figure, the swimming pool wall is shown as it would appear prior to installation of a cantilever deck 5 (shown below in FIG. 3).

[0037] In FIG. 2, an end view of a prior art vinyl lined swimming pool wall is shown. In this view, a mold 4 is shown attached to the clip track 3 and rests against the vinyl liner 2 of the swimming pool wall. The purpose of the mold 4 is to provide a properly formed edge of a cantilever deck 5 which is to be poured.

[0038] FIG. 3 illustrates an end view of a prior art cantilever deck 5 which has been poured around the edge of the swimming pool. The cantilever deck 5 has a rounded edge which is formed by mold 4. In addition, this figure also illustrates how the clip track 3 is secured between the camp deck 5 and the vinyl lining 2 such that it cannot be removed.

[0039] FIG. 4 shows an end view of the prior art cantilever deck 5 after the mold 4 has been removed. As can be seen in this figure, the clip track 3 creates a void (i.e., cavity) which extends around the entire length of the swimming pool. It is this void which creates both an unsightly appearance and a safety hazard. Due to the sharp edges which may be found on the clip track 3, it is possible for small fingers to be inserted into the clip track 3 where they may be scraped or cut.

[0040] FIG. 5 shows a front view of the prior art cantilever deck 5 discussed above in regard to FIG. 4. This figure illustrates the unsightly appearance of the clip track 3 which is used in the fabrication of the cantilever deck 5. Also illustrated in this figure is the fact that multiple clip tracks 3 are typically used in prior art cantilever deck 5 construction. This provides additional seams where injury can occur.

[0041] In FIG. 6, a cutaway end view of a preferred embodiment of the invention is shown which illustrates a flexible rib 6 that is secured to a clip track 3 by a clip extension 7. When the flexible rib 6 is installed in the clip track 3, clip extension 7 may be secured in any suitable matter. For example, it can be designed to secure via a pressure fit, it can be secured with adhesive, and it can even be secured via mechanical means such as with a screw (not shown). The only requirement is that the flexible rib 6 should be securely attached to the clip track 3 by the clip extension 7. Also shown in this figure is the facia 8 portion of the flexible rib 6. The facia 8 preferably extends from the lower surface of the cantilever deck 5 to a point below the clip track 3. In this manner, the clip track 3 will be entirely concealed from view. As a result, the facia 8 eliminates the aesthetic problems created by the clip track 3.

[0042] In the preferred embodiment, the facia 8 would preferably have the same color as the vinyl lining 2. In this event, the facia 8 would visually blend into the vinyl lining 2 so that it would be less noticeable to the casual observer. Of course it is possible that the color of the facia 8 could intentionally be varied to suit a particular design objective. As shown in this figure, the facia 8 has a shape which is generally similar to cove molding. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that any suitable shape can be used for the facia 8 so long as it fulfills its purpose which is the concealment of the clip track 3, and the prevention of injury.

[0043] FIG. 7 is a front view which illustrates a vinyl lined swimming pool, with a cantilever deck 5, that has a preferred embodiment of the flexible rib 6 installed in the clip track 3. As can be seen in this figure, the flexible rib 6 extends from the bottom of the cantilever deck 5 to a point on the vinyl lining 2 which is below the clip track 3. Thus, the flexible rib 6 completely conceals the clip track 3 from view.

[0044] FIG. 8 illustrates an alternative preferred embodiment in which the flexible rib 6 has an integral illumination system. In this embodiment, a series of optical fibers 9 are incorporated into, and run through, the flexible rib 6. The optical fibers 9 can be distributed to multiple points along the flexible rib 6 such that when the optical fibers 9 are illuminated, light is distributed along the length of the flexible rib 6 to the swimming pool. Also shown in this figure is an optical light source 10 and an optical coupler 11. Optical light sources 10 and optical couplers 11 are well-known in the art.

[0045] FIG. 9A illustrates an alternative preferred embodiment in which the flexible rib 6 is formed such that the facia 8 provides means to grasp an external light source 12. The external light source 12 can be any suitable light source including lights embedded within a waterproof plastic tube, electroluminescent lamps (EL lamps), LEDs, etc. The external light source may be battery-powered, or alternatively may be wired to a power source.

[0046] FIG. 9A illustrates another alternative preferred embodiment in which the flexible rib 6 contains a cavity suitable for holding a nonelectrical light source 13. The nonelectrical light source 13 may be and item such as a chemical tube which emits light for a period of time while chemicals inside the tube react with one another. Chemical tubes of this type are well-known in the art and art commercially available as Glow Sticks (™). An advantage associated with this type of light source is that it is relatively inexpensive, requires no wiring, and is easily replaceable. In addition, colors can be easily changed to suit a tastes of an individual, or to suit a particular occasion.

[0047] FIG. 10 illustrates an external light source such as a nonelectrical light source 13 (e.g., a Glow Stick) which is secured in a cavity 14 in the facia 8 of the flexible rib 6. Of course, electrical light sources having a self-contained power source can also be inserted into cavity 14.

[0048] FIG. 11 shows an end view of a preferred embodiment of the flexible rib 6. The clip extension 7 can have any suitable size, so long as it can be secured to a clip track 3. In addition, it should not be so long as to prevent the facia 8 from coming in contact with both the cantilever deck 5 and the vinyl lining 2.

[0049] As can be seen from the foregoing, the invention provides an apparatus and method for concealing the unsightly appearance of the clip track 3 when a cantilever deck 5 is installed a vinyl lined swimming pool. In addition, it prevents injuries by reducing the chance that fingers may be inserted into a clip track 3. The invention provides improved aesthetic appearance for this type of swimming pool construction, and improved safety. In addition, it also provides a functional improvement for the swimming pool in that it allows a variety of illumination devices to be used in conjunction with the swimming pool.

[0050] While the invention has been described with respect to a preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit, scope, and teaching of the invention. For example, the material used to construct the flexible rib may be anything suitable for its purpose, the color, size and/or shape of the flexible rib facia can vary. The optional illumination device can vary in terms of the illumination technology type, the color, the frequency of illumination, etc. Accordingly, the invention herein disclosed is to be limited only as specified in the following claims.