Title:
Pool having curvable wall
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A curvable panel for swimming pools and the like includes a panel that is flexible to form concave or convex surfaces. At least one elongated reinforcing member is secured to the panel to retain the panel in the desired shape. Locating features such as notches or the like in the elongated reinforcing member and the panel ensure that the panel retains the desired shape. The panel can be readily formed into a variety of shapes, thereby reducing the tooling, inventory, and other such costs that would otherwise by incurred if a plurality of rigid curved panels were utilized.



Inventors:
Kantor, Paul (South Haven, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/643383
Publication Date:
06/28/2007
Filing Date:
12/21/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HIJAZ, OMAR F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Price, Heneveld, Cooper, DeWitt & Litton, LLP (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A panel for swimming pools, comprising: a panel having generally vertical first and second side faces, the first side face being suitable for forming a sidewall of a swimming pool of the type having a liner, the panel defining upper and lower peripheral edges, and side edges extending between the upper and lower peripheral edges, the panel including a plurality of structural ribs projecting transversely from the side face and extending generally vertically along the first side face and defining an outer edge surface, the panel comprising a flexible material such that the first side face can be formed into a plurality of non-planar curved shapes; at least two of the outer edge surfaces of the structural ribs having a rib notch therein with opposed inner side surfaces; and at least one support member extending horizontally along the second side face of the panel, at least a portion of the support member being positioned in the rib notches in the outer edge surfaces of the ribs between the opposed inner side surfaces to vertically position the support member relative to the panel, wherein the support member is connected to the panel in at least two locations and holds the panel in a curved configuration with the first side face having a non-planar curved shape.

2. The panel of claim 1, wherein: the support member comprises an elongated strap-like member having opposite side edges, at least one side edge having first and second strap notches therein, and wherein the opposed inner side surfaces of the rib notches are received in the strap notches to horizontally position the strap-like member relative to the panel.

3. The panel of claim 2, wherein: the strap-like member is made of a flexible material.

4. The panel of claim 1, wherein: the rib notches include base surfaces extending between the opposed inner surfaces; and including: threaded fasteners extending through the support member into the base surfaces of the rib notches.

5. The panel of claim 1, wherein: at least a first one of the ribs includes a main rib section extending along a side edge of the panel, the first one of the ribs including an offset portion forming a rib notch, the offset portion being spaced horizontally from the side edge of the panel and from the main rib section.

6. The panel of claim 5, wherein: the first one of the ribs includes angled portions extending between the main rib portion and the offset portion.

7. The panel of claim 1, wherein: the panel comprises a vertically enlarged web, and the structural ribs are integrally formed with the web.

8. The panel of claim 7, wherein: the web and the structural ribs are made of a polymer material.

9. The panel of claim 1, wherein: the support member is made of a polymer material.

10. A swimming pool, comprising: a plurality of upright wall panels that are interconnected to form a pool sidewall; at least one of the wall panels comprising generally vertical inner and outer opposite side faces, and including a plurality of horizontally spaced apart retaining structures extending outwardly form the outer side frame and defining first engagement surfaces, wherein the inner side face has a gently curved shape in plan view; at least one horizontally extending elongated support member connected to the retaining structures and retaining the one wall panel in the curved shape; and wherein: the elongated support member defines second engagement surfaces in contact with the first engagement surfaces and restricting vertical movement of the elongated support member relative to the one wall panel.

11. The swimming pool of claim 10, wherein: the retaining structures comprise flange-like structures.

12. The swimming pool of claim 11, wherein: the flange-like structures define outer edges, and the first engagement surfaces comprise notches in the outer edges, and wherein: portions of the elongated support member are received in the notches.

13. The swimming pool of claim 12, wherein: the elongated support member defines opposite edges; and the second engagement surfaces comprise notches in the opposite edges that receive portions of the flange-like structures.

14. The swimming pool of claim 11, wherein: the one wall panel defines upper and lower edge portions, and the flange-like structures extend from the upper edge portions to the lower edge portions.

15. The swimming pool of claim 10, including: mechanical fasteners connecting the elongated support member to the one wall panel.

16. The swimming pool of claim 11, wherein: the one wall panel includes a vertically and horizontally enlarged web having an inner surface forming the inner side face, and an outer surface, and wherein: the flange-like structures are integrally formed with the web and extend transversely outwardly from the outer surface.

17. The swimming pool of claim 16, wherein: the web is substantially uniform in thickness.

18. The swimming pool of claim 10, wherein: the inner side face is concave.

19. The swimming pool of claim 10, wherein: the inner side face is convex.

20. The swimming pool of claim 10, wherein: the inner side face is curved solely about a vertical axis.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present invention claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/753,070, filed on Dec. 22, 2005, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to pools, especially larger pools typically referred to as swimming pools. However, the invention could be used to produce so-called swim spas, wading pools or the like.

A major breakthrough in pool construction occurred in about 1993, when Polynesian Pools, Inc. introduced the pool disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,400,555. This pool includes a segmented wall having a plurality of wall panels that are interconnected end-to-end to form a plurality of joints. Adjacent each joint of the segmented wall is one vertical support such as a post. A hanger plate having at least two rows of holes interconnects the vertical support and segmented wall. A first row of holes are elongated in a first direction, and a second row of holes are elongated in a direction at a right angle to the first. The elongated holes provide for vertical and horizontal adjustment of the hanger plate and wall panels relative to the posts. The segmented wall is capped by an extruded coping which retains the upper edge of a vinyl liner fitted to the walls and floor of the pool.

Others have since emulated this design. Some employ braces which project further away from the pool wall, i.e. a full two or three feet, in order to give greater support to a concrete or other deck placed above the braces around the perimeter of the pool. These wider braces are difficult to work with, however, since one normally does not want to have to “overdig” more than about two feet beyond the nominal edge of the pool where the walls are placed. If the braces extend two or three feet from the wall, one has to dig further at least in the area of the braces in order to accommodate the greater length.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the present invention is a swimming pool having a plurality of panels forming a pool wall. A liner is secured to an upper edge of the pool wall, and provides a waterproof barrier for retaining water in the pool. At least one of the panels is a flexible panel having generally vertical first and second side faces. The first side face is suitable for forming a sidewall of a swimming pool having a liner. The panel defines upper and lower peripheral edges, and side edges extending between the upper and lower peripheral edges. The panel also includes a plurality of structural ribs projecting transversely from the second side face. The structural ribs extend generally vertically along the first side face and define an outer edge surface. The panel is made of a flexible material such that the first side face can be formed into a plurality of non-planar curved shapes. At least two of the outer edge surfaces of the vertical ribs have a rib notch therein with opposed inner side surfaces. A support member such as an elongated strip extends horizontally along the second side face of the panel, and a portion of the support member is positioned in the rib notches between the opposed inner side surfaces to thereby vertically position the elongated strip relative to the panel. The elongated strip may include notches along opposite side edges that receive portions of the structural ribs of the panel to thereby horizontally position the elongated strip and provide for predetermined spacing between the structural ribs. The spacing between the outer edge surface of the vertical ribs can be set to provide the degree of curvature desired for a particular application. The flexible panel can be configured in a variety of convex or concave curved shapes for inner and outer corners, respectively of a pool wall. Also, the curvature may be chosen to have a constant radius to thereby form a segment of a circle in plan view. Alternately, the degree of curvature may vary along the length of the panel. Still further, the panel may be curved to include both concave and convex portions.

These and other features, advantages, and objects of the present invention will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art by reference to the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a partially fragmentary perspective view of a swimming pool including a curvable panel according to one aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a curvable panel wherein the panel is configured to have a concave curvature on the inner panel surface;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a curvable panel wherein the panel is configured to have a convex curvature on the inner panel surface;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged view of a portion of the curvable panel of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of a flexible panel in an unflexed state;

FIG. 6 is a side view of the flexible panel of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a flexible panel positioned in a fixture for assembly; and

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a reinforcing member taken along the line VIII-VIII; FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

For purposes of description herein, the terms “upper,” “lower,” “right,” “left,” “rear,” “front,” “vertical,” “horizontal,” and derivatives thereof shall relate to the invention as oriented in FIG. 1. However, it is to be understood that the invention may assume various alternative orientations and step sequences, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings and described in the following specification are simply exemplary embodiments of the inventive concepts defined in the appended claims. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise.

With reference to FIG. 1, a swimming pool 1 includes a plurality of rigid wall panels 2 that are interconnected to form straight wall sections as described in more detail in the above-identified U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/982,010, and a liner 3 provides a waterproof barrier to retain the water in the pool 1. Swimming pool 1 also includes one or more curvable panels 10 that can be formed into an inner corner 11 or an outer corner 12. One or more buttresses 13 provide support for the panels 2 and 10. The buttresses 13 are described in more detail in the above-identified patent application Ser. No. 10/982,010.

With further reference to FIG. 2, curvable panel 10 includes a generally vertical sidewall or web 14 forming an inner side surface 15 of curvable panel 10. A plurality of flanges 16 extend transversely away from the vertical web 14, and provide reinforcement for the curvable panel 10. Upper edge 17 of curvable panel 10 includes a plurality of integrally-formed web sections 19 that extend transversely away from vertical web 14 at the upper ends 20 of flanges 16. A plurality of integrally-formed smaller web sections 21 also extend inwardly from the vertical web 14 between the flanges 16. A plurality of tapered notches 22 are formed between the web sections 19 and 21. The notches 22 permit flexing of vertical web 14 to form a concave inner side surface 15, or a convex inner surface 15A (FIG. 3). A lower edge 18 of curvable panel 10 also includes a plurality of integrally-formed web sections 19 and 21, and tapered notches 22. Vertical web 14, flanges 16, and web sections 19 and 21 comprise a polymer material having sufficient flexibility to permit deformation into a variety of shapes.

Integrally-formed end flanges 23 of curvable panel 10 are somewhat similar to the flanges 16, and further include offset portions 24 to permit attachment of elongated reinforcement members 25 to the curvable panel 10 with the ends 26 of the reinforcing members 25 positioned at or inwardly of the side surface 27 of end flange 23. One or more inner flanges 29 also include offset portions 24. The panel 10 can be cut or otherwise separated directly adjacent the inner flanges 29 to create a smaller panel wherein the inner flanges 29 become end flanges 23. The end flanges 23 and inner flanges 29 include a plurality of elongated apertures 30 that receive a peg and wedge connector or other suitable fastening arrangement. The peg and wedge connector is described in detail in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/982,010, and will not therefore be described in detail herein. It will be understood, however, that the curvable panel 10 can be readily interconnected with one or more rigid wall panels 2 (FIG. 1), or a plurality of various size curvable panels 10 may be interconnected utilizing the peg and wedge connector arrangement or other suitable fastening arrangement.

As described in more detail below, the curvable panel 10 can be used to form a concave inner corner 11 (FIG. 2) or a convex outer corner 12 (FIG. 3).

With further reference to FIG. 4, each of the flanges 16, 23 and 29 include a distal edge 31, 31A, and 31B, respectively having a shallow notch 32 in which the elongated reinforcing member 25 is received. Each notch 32 includes a base surface 33, and upper and lower side surfaces 34 and 35, respectively. Elongated reinforcing member 25 includes a plurality of upper notches 35 along the upper edge 36, and a plurality of lower notches 37 in the lower edge 38. The upper and lower notches 35 and 37 receive a portion of the flanges 16, 23 and 29. A plurality of threaded fasteners 40 extend through openings in reinforcing member 25, and are received in openings 41 (see also FIG. 5) in base surfaces 33 of notches 32. The notches 32, 35 and 37 position the reinforcing member 25 both vertically and horizontally, and the threaded fasteners 40 securely interconnect the reinforcing member 25 to the curvable panel 10. The spacing between the notches 35 and 37 can be chosen to provide the desired degree of curvature and thereby form either a convex inner wall surface (FIG. 3), or a concave inner wall surface (FIG. 2). Also, the spacing between the notches 35 and 37 in elongated member 25 can be varied to thereby provide a curve having a radius that is not constant, such that the curvable panel does not have the shape of a segment of a circle in plan view.

End flange 23 includes an upper transverse portion 42 and lower transverse portion 43 that extend inwardly from side surface 27, and upper and lower vertical sections 44 and 45, respectively form a notch 32. The offset portion 24 permits the end portion 46 of elongated reinforcing member 25 to be secured to the flange 23, without positioning the end 26 of reinforcing member 25 such that it projects beyond side surface 27 of curvable panel 10.

With further reference to FIGS. 5 and 6, a curvable panel 10 is initially formed in a flat, uncurved configuration, and the elongated reinforcing members 25 are installed to the panel 10 to provide the desired degree of curvature.

With further reference to FIG. 8, elongated flexible members 25 comprise strap-like members having elongated raised portions 55 and relatively thick end portions 56 that provide bending stiffness to ensure that the elongated members 25 do not buckle or flex excessively when a compressive force is applied. A central web portion 57 of reinforcing member 25 is relatively flat and thin to provide for threaded fasteners 40. It will be understood that elongated flexible members 25 could have a variety of configurations.

With reference back to FIG. 7, during assembly the curvable panel 10 is positioned in a fixture 50 having curved support surfaces 51, and a plurality of clamps 52 are used to secure the panel 10 against the curved surfaces 51. Curved surfaces 51 support and retain panels 10 in the proper shape. The elongated flexible members 25 are initially fabricated without notches 35 and 37 or openings for fasteners 40. The spacing between the notches 35 and 37 along the length of the reinforcing members 25 can be calculated to provide the desired curvature for the curvable panel 10. The notches 35 and 37 and fastener openings 53 are then formed in the elongated flexible members 25, and the elongated flexible members 25 are cut to the proper length. In a preferred embodiment, the elongated flexible members 53 are made of a polymer material that is somewhat flexible, yet stiff enough to provide strength for the panel 10. The fastener openings 53 and notches 35 and 37 are formed using a punch press machine (not shown) or other suitable device/method. The threaded fasteners 40 are then installed to secure the elongated reinforcing members 25 to the panel 10 to thereby retain the desired degree of curvature.

The curvable panel 10 of the present invention can be readily configured to provide a variety of shapes, including concave and convex surfaces. Furthermore, the flexible panel can be formed to include both concave and convex surfaces to thereby provide a S-shape in plan view (not shown). Because a single panel can be utilized to provide a variety of corners or curves, the amount of tooling and related expenses is greatly reduced. Furthermore, the need to provide a large number of panels in inventory is also reduced. Still further, a variety of custom shapes can be formed to provide for individual customers. The flexible panels can be readily secured to wall panels of the type disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/982,010, utilizing the peg and wedge fastening system disclosed in the ′010 application. Alternately, virtually any other suitable arrangement may be utilized to interconnect adjacent panels.

In the foregoing description, it will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art that modifications may be made to the invention without departing from the concepts disclosed herein. Such modifications are to be considered as included in the following claims, unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise.