The reflection pool at New York, New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV receives a challenging restoration.
By Jen KramerThe Statue of Liberty. The Chrysler Building. The Empire State’s famed spire. Tourists stare in amazement as New York’s landmarks rise above them, yellow cabs whizzing past, and waves of heat blasting in from the surrounding desert. Surrounding desert? That’s right. The New York in question isn’t New York, New York, but rather Las Vegas’ New York, New York Hotel and Casino.
When the Las Vegas property recently replaced its largest reflection pool, the challenge was making it “landmark worthy” – while staying on time and on budget. Not surprisingly, property management turned to industrial coatings, and a local coatings contractor for a solution.
“In high-end hotels, resorts, and homes, traditional plaster, epoxy, tile, and fiberglass materials have limited the design options and slowed project completion,” says Tim Singleton, a project manager at Water FX, the Las Vegas-based contractor who was awarded the project. As many of Water FX projects involve dramatic pools, spas, water features, and thematic props, renovating the large reflection pool at New York, New York – approximately 9,600 square feet – would fit right in with their portfolio.
POLYUREA VS. PLASTER
Singleton and his crew use polyurea systems when creating or rehabilitating water features. A seamless, spray-on, waterproof, protective coating, polyurea allows the FX crew to expand the design palette possibilities for water features, architectural decor, and themed props.
As Singleton explains, traditionally pools and water features are lined with a plaster material that is not only difficult to consistently color, but it is also time-consuming to apply. Singleton states, “Plaster has to be troweled on by hand, which requires craftsmanship to get right, particularly on wavy, irregular, or angular surfaces.”
Then, plaster usually requires a waterproofing topcoat, such as a two-part epoxy. The topcoat application process (mixing and rolling) is time-consuming as well.
The epoxy can be extremely “temperamental.” For example, it cannot be mixed too soon before application because it has a short pot life. Therefore, especially on projects with large amounts of square footage, epoxy typically must be mixed in small batches shortly before use. This process is time-consuming and can lead to waste – which can quickly add up.
Singleton explains that on a project the size of New York, New York’s large reflection pool, it would have required up to 20 men – mixing and hand troweling the plaster, and then mixing and roller-applying the two-part epoxy coatings in order to complete the job in the necessary time frame.
In order to remain on time and on budget, the six-man Water FX crew had two days to complete the waterproofing project – from surface prep to topcoat.
SAFETY: FIRST, LAST, AND ALWAYS
Singleton and his crew were sure of themselves and the work that was in front of them. But, as he says, “strange things can happen in a water feature that’s so close to the public.”
Since the reflection pool is located directly on the famed Las Vegas Strip, it draws a lot of attention – even as a construction site. The Water FX crew is strict when it comes to following safety procedures and the Casino provided helpful safety measures as well.
“We put up heavy Visqueen sheeting to prevent overspray from reaching the street. The hotel also put heavy-duty mesh construction fences in place to keep the tourists a minimum of 50 feet away from the edge of the pool,” Singleton says.
They were also able to pull their trailer – containing a Graco Reactor 2 HXP3 hydraulic proportioner, 400 feet of heated hose, plus all the materials necessary for the major spray project – right up to the job site. “It helped having the rig so close to the work site,” Singleton recounts.
With the site properly marked off and the rig in place, the crew could get to work.
First, they chased and filled any cracks in the drained pool. “We used a caulk gun and trowels to apply Sikaflex® polyurethane to seal any cracks that were larger than one-eighth of an inch,” explains Singleton. Sikaflex® is a high-performance, moisture-cured, non-sagging, elastomeric sealant designed to provide durability and flexibility.
“There were very few large cracks,” Singleton continues. “The pool itself was in relatively decent shape. It was covered with Shotcrete, so we didn’t have to scarify the surface either. Just vacuum to clean.”
The prep process over, it was time to suit up in their standard personal protection equipment (PPE) for spraying. Whether working a high-profile job like the casino’s reflection pool, or a pool in a housing development, the Water FX crew follows the same safety procedures – every time they spray. They wear full-body Tyvek suits, full-face, fresh-air-supplied respirators, spray hoods and goggles, as well as the standard steel-toed boots, gloves, and hard hats that they wear daily.
Properly protected, it was time to spray.
THE FOUNTAIN’S FOUNDATION
First, they used their Graco Probler P2 plural-component air-purge gun to spray-apply a thin layer of VersaFlex’s VF 20™ primer on to the concrete. “We apply this as thin as possible,” Singleton says, “because if we get it on too thick it will puddle and peel away from the substrate.” The two-component isocyanate and resin blend primer is designed for porous substrate applications to increase coating adhesion and reduce pinholes. Spray-applied in a mist coat and then backrolled, the Water FX crew allowed the primer to cure overnight. And thus ended day one.
Day two saw the crew suiting up again and ready to spray VersaFlex’s AroStruct® polyurea to create a seamless liner for the reflection pool.
AroStruct is a fast-set, rapid-curing, 100 percent solids polyurea. It is designed to be a “structural coating capable of providing added stability to the substrate to which it is applied,” according to VersaFlex’s Website.
The Water FX crew again used their HXP3, 400 feet of heated hose, and Probler gun to spray-apply 50 to 60 mils DFT of AroStruct onto the primed substrate.
The AroStruct contains no VOCs, provides high chemical- and abrasion-resistance and can be tack-free in 25 minutes, with a return-to-service time of approximately one hour.
“The structural polyurea withstands sun, chemicals, and public abuse better [than traditional materials such as fiberglass], and is easier to work with,” says Singleton. “Because it is sprayed onto substrates, it works easily into intricate shapes like waterfall rocks, water slides, and winding lazy river structures.”
“Architectural designers will find that AroStruct could serve as external, protective, structural support for a variety of decorative items – from columns and archways to lightweight thematic props mounted to walls or hung from ceilings,” Singleton explains.
This is a fact that isn’t lost on the crew with a casino-project-heavy schedule. “We see the design, safety, and turnaround possibilities of new materials like VersaFlex’s AroStruct to customize water features, architectural décor, and themed prop designs,” says Singleton. “We often use spray polyurethane foam (SPF) to create decorations for the hotels here in Vegas. AroStruct and GelFlex® give us another set of options. The polyurea can provide an incredibly strong, yet lightweight protective topcoat for the sculpted SPF creations.”
The casino wanted a deep pool, but was limited by large culverts beneath the pool itself – not to mention safety regulations that mandate a depth of 18 inches. Water FX was able to create the illusion of depth by spraying the pool with the polyurea system.
“The GelFlex topcoat offers hundreds of UV-stable colors, which allow you to match any color,” says Singleton. “You get the look of multiple epoxy coatings in a single, seamless, durable, waterproof topcoat without all the work and hassle.” By selecting a dark topcoat, they easily created a sense of depth in the shallow pool.
An aliphatic polyurea, VersaFlex’s GelFlex provides a UV- and color-stable, 100 percent solids, and abrasion- and chemical-resistant, high-gloss topcoat.
It can be applied over epoxy, polyurethane, polyester, or polyurea coatings – even in temperatures as low as 20 degrees F.
As a system, the GelFlex and AroStruct provide the Casino with a durable, perfectly lined reflection pool. The AroStruct creates a seamless, waterproof, protective membrane that strengthens and shields the concrete substrate. The GelFlex also creates a seamless waterproof liner that is puncture-resistant and color-stable. The entire system will withstand the thermal cycling to be found in the Vegas desert: Freezing winters and baking summers.
Approximately one hour after spraying the AroStruct, it was time to spray-apply the GelFlex. But, Singleton and his crew first flushed their equipment, with VersaFlush™ – a non-toxic, non-chlorinated, non-flammable flushing solvent designed to remove components of polyurea and polyurethane from plural-component application equipment.
Then they spray-applied the GelFlex at a thickness of 10 to 15 mils DFT, creating that dark, “deep” pool that the Casino wanted, and finishing the project in two days.
A POOL FIT FOR A VEGAS WHALE
“No one really wants a boring white plaster pool, and two-part epoxies are limited in color too,” says Singleton. “The polyurea topcoat can customize the design and color of swimming and decorative pools, ponds, fountains, water walls, waterfalls, and water features. It is fun, for instance, to match the bright colors of kids’ water toy structures with complementary designs and colors in kids’ pools.”
“While a large vessel could take months to tile, using VersaFlex’s polyurea coating system and GelFlex topcoat we could save months and tens of thousands of dollars in application,” says Singleton. “The maintenance savings would be significant as well because tile grout is susceptible to chemicals and notoriously hard to clean, while the polyurea topcoat is chemical-resistant and easy-to-clean.”
Now the only limits are creativity, and, possibly hose length, because odd shapes and unique colors no longer pose a challenge.
“Whether customers ask for pirates, mummies, or giant holiday ornaments hung from the ceiling, we see the structural polyurea as being an important part of that process,” Singleton explains. “Adding the expanded color palette of the GelFlex topcoat to that mix only expands the design possibilities.” •
Photos Courtesy of VersaFlex Incorporated