Recently, Pool Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons, a company that specializes in the design and construction of luxury pools and outdoor living spaces. Congdon is also known for his role as the star of the hit TV show Insane Pools, airing on Animal Planet, the DIY Network, and Discovery+.
About Lucas Congdon & Lucas Lagoons
Congdon started Lucas Lagoons in 2002, with the goal of creating one-of-a-kind outdoor living spaces for his clients. Over the years, the company has grown in size and reputation, with Congdon and his team designing and building some of the most extravagant and unique swimming pools and outdoor spaces in the country.
In 2015, Congdon was approached by the Animal Planet network about starring in a new TV show that would showcase his work at Lucas Lagoons. The show, titled “Insane Pools: Off The Deep End”, quickly became a hit, with Congdon and his team traveling all over the country to design and build some of the most amazing and over-the-top swimming pools imaginable.
What sets Insane Pools apart from other home improvement shows is the sheer scale and creativity of the projects that Congdon and his team Lucas Lagoons got to take on. From pools with waterfalls and slides to outdoor kitchens and living spaces, there is no limit to what Congdon and his team can do. Take a deeper dive with us as we go one on one with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons.
Interview: One on One With Lucas Congdon
PM (Pool Magazine): Is it safe to say that Lucas Lagoons has become kind of a household name by now?
LC (Lucas Congdon): “Yeah, that’s how it feels. Wherever I go, there are always people excited to see me or sometimes I get, where do I know you from? And then I know right away, like. I don’t know them. They’re a fan of the show and it’s flattering. It’s pretty cool. “
“Sometimes it’s one of those awkward moments where you’re like running to catch a flight you’re late for and someone stops you. You don’t want to be rude, so you try to make the time. But yeah, it’s pretty cool to just be able to share my passion and have people recognize that. And it’s obviously really hard to kind of start a company and let people know what you’re about and Insane Pools really helps show people what we’re about and that’s quality and fun and building one-of-a-kind pieces of art you can swim in.”
PM: Did you ever have the thought (I’m going to be a pool celebrity one day), did that ever dawn on you when you first started down this path?
LC: “Well, it’s kind of funny when you’re younger. It’s hard to know what you want to do when you grow up. I always loved the video camera. My aunt and uncle were the first in the family to have a video camera and every time they had it on and jump in front of it and act goofy and do silly stuff. When I started to college, I didn’t know whether I wanted to do like, landscape architecture or film. I got bored with school and just jumped into creating things. It’s cool because both passions ended up coming together. It wasn’t like I had this all planned out. One thing led to another. I just always made videos and loved sharing what I was up to and through YouTube. That’s how it kind of all got kicked off.”
PM: How did you get started in the industry and what was that path like for you from developing Lucas lagoons to becoming one of the most well-known pool builders in the world?
LC: “Well, I remember back to there was one winter there in Vermont where I was working for my mom doing stone work, and every morning it was like an hour drive to this beautiful home on Lake Champlain, but it was the winter, so we’d have to brush all the snow off the rocks before we started working. My fingers were so cold, and I remember right then and there thinking, I got to find another place to work. Shortly after that, I did a tour around the US with my girlfriend at the time and tried to find a place to move to so I could work year-round. We were kind of torn between California and Florida, but I was a young kid without any money, and California is pretty expensive. So I decided, you know what? Seems like there are the same opportunities in Florida, and it’s a lot cheaper to live there. So we chose Florida. After that kind of one thing led to another, I started doing tree work and some landscaping and then got into some water features. Finally, I had a client that said they wanted to remodel their pool.”
LC: “I knew nothing about pools, but I knew if I did some beautiful rock work like I did growing up in Vermont, around the swimming pool, it would look beautiful. I also had met Crash, who has been on the TV show and with me from the beginning. He had done some pool tile coping, and some remodels. He knew a little bit about it, and I knew about the rock work. So we did our first pool remodel and it came out beautiful. The rest is history. I realized that’s what I love to do and I found my passion. I changed my business name from Earthworks to Lucas Lagoons and said, ‘This is what I want to do’.” I want to build lagoon-style pools, and just kind of took off from there in 2003.”
PM: Congratulations on some of your recent awards. We had a chance to check out some of these projects, and they’re really breathtaking.
LC: “Yeah, it’s hard to keep them all straight. I have a list of some of the most recent awards, but they’re all just so unique and different. And when I first started out, we took the time to submit for a lot of awards. We won within the first couple of years almost 40 awards. Then I got so busy with the show, I didn’t submit Lucas Lagoons for awards for years. Just recently we’ve had some time to start submitting again and it was just awesome to get such great feedback from FSPA and then we also won a Pinnacle Award. It’s just been awesome.”
“Each job is just so uniquely different. We’ve been doing some modern designs, just to show that we’re well rounded and getting awards for those as well. Lucas Lagoons isn’t a one-trick pony. Not only can we do beautiful designs with a lagoon-style pool, but also if someone wants a more fine modern look. We’ve been having fun exploring that style as well and just really enjoy it. We’re always reinventing the wheel and that’s what keeps me interested in doing what we do.”
PM: How did you get first involved with doing the show Insane Pools and make the leap from YouTube to TV?
LC: “We got really, really, lucky. We had our YouTube channel and people were finding us through that. Then we had, I guess for lack of better words, just kind of like a talent scout who was looking on YouTube for ideas for a new show and saw what we were doing. He made a sizzle reel and pitched it to a few different networks. The first round nothing happened. The second round was drawn out and was like this multi-year process. So it was really like gut wrenching. You think you’re going to have a show, then you don’t have a show. That kind of back and forth. After a while, I stopped telling people Lucas Lagoons was going to have a show because it was just taking so long, they thought I was just making it up.”
“I just figured I’d just put it out of my mind and whatever was meant to be, was meant to be. Luckily ‘Insane Pools’ all came together and it was definitely a much bigger and harder challenge to do the show than I ever thought it would be. In the end though, well worth it. It really got our name out there and we’re obviously very proud of the show and the pools we did. I can say one thing, it was definitely a huge challenge to try to film the show and still be able to run a business at the same time. Yeah, lots of challenges.”
PM: Can you share that with us? What are some of the challenges of building a pool for a customer that’s going to be on a TV show?
LC: “Everyone thinks that just because you’re on TV, you’re just rich and made of money. That’s the thing with reality TV, they don’t pay you hardly anything because they know that it’s an opportunity for you. So you don’t really get paid much from the show. The clients know you’re going to get advertising for it, so they want a discount and they want something special. A lot of people have seen Extreme Home Makeover where they do things for free. There’s kind of that mentality that maybe they’ll get something for free if they reach out to the show.”
“Here I am, just a small pool business – Lucas Lagoons. I’m a self-started guy, and everyone’s kind of trying to get a deal and I’m just trying to make a living and stay afloat. Back then, I wasn’t famous, so we had small budgets. I knew this was my one shot to show the world what we could do. No matter what budget I got from my clients, I pushed it as far as I could. We gave it all we had and we put our own money and efforts and tried to get deals where we could and tried to make a million dollar look for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It was definitely very difficult.”
“The first season was really tough because they put low budgets on the pool. I built something worth five times what I was paid. That was season one, I think that was seven years ago now. Obviously with inflation things have gone up. So people see that first season, they think for $150,000, I can build them the pool they saw on TV. Now, that’s our average design fee just to develop these types of massive projects we’re doing. So a lot has changed.”
PM: What’s been your favorite part about doing the show?
LC: “I think just being able to connect with so many people that I wouldn’t have connected with before the show, whether it’s homeowners or other people in the industry or kids that have been inspired to be creative and want to work with their hands. These days so many kids are just kind of stuck on devices and disconnected from this kind of hard work and art. So it’s been really cool. Kids have sent me videos of them building their own little ponds in the backyard, or making Lego pools or hand drawings of pools. Just so much fan mail. It’s really cool. I love that I’m inspiring the next generation to be creative and work hard, that’s really rewarding.”
PM: What would your advice be for any homeowner that’s looking to build a luxury resort-style pool like the ones that your firm builds? What’s a good starting point budget-wise?
LC: “On our projects these days, a smaller project starts at around half a million, our average jobs are around a million. We have jobs approaching 10 million. It’s very expensive these days with inflation and just the labor force to build. If someone doesn’t have a huge budget, I would recommend looking into some other options.”
“There are so many different ways of building a pool, right? I mean, if they’re looking for amenities around a pool, you could do a vinyl liner pool or a fiberglass pool and then just do like a nice covered outdoor kitchen hangout area just to have water to jump in and swim in. My first pool experience was an above-ground circular pool my aunt and uncle had, and we used to love playing Marco Polo in that thing as a kid.”
“It’s so easy for people to reach for the moon, but really it doesn’t take something huge and elaborate to be fun. For example, in the beginning, before we had the big budgets, we’d take an old pool and instead of building these massive footers and using pilings to hold up the weight of massive rocks, we would just add use a pond liner and lip it over the edge of the pool and use smaller rocks and build a beautiful waterfall. We’d cut out some planters in the deck, add some lighting. There’s lots of things you can do if you have the ability or the willpower, whether you can do it yourself or find some people to help you.
“My first pool remodel was $35,000, and it was beautiful. Our most expensive project to date is 10 million. So I built everything from $35,000 to $10 million, and no matter what the budget was, in the end, everyone was always just like, this is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I think putting as much care and passion into it, that’s really all it takes. Take whatever budget you have and make it as beautiful as you can make it.”
PM: We were listening to your episode on Pool Chasers, and you were talking a little bit about that. You got your feet wet, so to speak, with remodels. Are you all self-taught?
LC: “Yeah, there was nobody doing what I wanted to do and I mean nobody. I tried to find people to learn from, and there was just really no one in my area doing it. I had to get little bits and pieces of information from whoever I could ask. Really, kind of the one thing for me is I can visualize what I want to do and figure out how to make it, I guess that’s my gift. That part always came easy to me. I didn’t think it was really that big a deal. Then again, I guess there are things that I think are just so hard that are easy for other people. I guess if it’s your gift, it just kind of comes naturally. “
“I was always creative, though. I grew up without TV and living off the land and would always just make things. My dad was a furniture maker, so he worked and had a shop at home. I had access to all of that so as a kid, I’d play in the shop and build things.”
“I didn’t imagine I’d be this successful. It definitely wasn’t overnight. I mean, I started in 2003. It’s 2023 here. So 20 years of just, you know, a lot of stress and hard work and ups and downs. You know something though, at the end of the day, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
PM: That’s awesome. We have to ask you a question that we’re sure you keep getting asked. When is the next season of Insane Pools? Are you going to do another one?
LC: “We’ve been trying to figure out how we can pull that off. Right now, we just have so many projects in so many different states. And Florida is a massive state. I mean, if you go from Key West to Tallahassee, it’s almost 12 hours of driving. So we have a huge area to cover. I’d love to find a way to do it. As of right now, we don’t have anything in the works but we are self-producing some episodes on YouTube again, because that’s manageable and are compiling lots of footage of all our projects. We’re saving that up and trying to find a formula or format where we can actually have a couple of full-length episodes ready to release. We’re just trying to figure out whether we can get that on Insane Pools as maybe like a special they want to run.”
PM: We’ve seen you been delving into a couple of other new things. One of them was shipping container pools. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
LC: “So I went out to Vegas and met the company and they have a cool product. I’ve been trying to find other more affordable options for people. I thought, put a shipping container pool in the backyard and maybe do like a little pool house or cabana. It’s a nice backyard for a reasonable price and they’re pretty cool. It’s just hard to permit them. In areas where you want to fit one, you have to crane it back there. So not as big of a success with that as I was hoping. Definitely some challenges. I still think it could be a cool option for some people.”
PM: Your firm is known for over-the-top resort-style lagoon pools. Is this going to be like a whole side of his business that we haven’t seen before?
LC: “I think what I’d like to do is kind of get my construction company really ironed out, doing the big projects I really love, and I do a lot of consulting and traveling. As we iron out the business, that’s kind of what I want to go after, coming up with not only the multimillion-dollar pools, but really cool, affordable backyards as well. I feel like no matter what people’s income is, they all deserve a beautiful backyard. Everyone wants the same thing. They want a place to make memories with their friends and their family. It’d be really cool to help people find a path, no matter what their budget, to get a backyard they can enjoy.”
PM: What’s next on the horizon for your team over at Lucas Lagoons?
LC: “We’re doing like 15 big jobs right now. It’s pretty nuts. I do a lot of traveling and consulting. I’ve been training and building other teams for the travel work. So my team is able to keep working here in Florida. Every day is different.”
“Some days I’m traveling or flying or driving. Right now I’m assembling a big team to do a massive pool in Texas. They’re on 7,500 acres. It’s going to be the biggest pool of our career.
“It’s going to be a huge, massive pool that goes over a lower pool and between the two is a 3,000-square-foot grotto with a huge lazy river and just pretty much any feature you can imagine is on this pool. It’s going to be pretty intense to build.”
“Then we’re also designing and going to build our first full-on commercial pool for a resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s the Inn at Christmas Place and that’s going to be a Christmas-themed pool. We’re going to try to do a grotto-like an Igloo. We’re going to have some ice sculptures that are made out of acrylic.”
“We’re going to have a lazy river island with like an old truck with a Christmas tree in it. But, you know without making it look cheesy because Christmas can be hard to design for but it’s such a fun, awesome holiday. How do you do a Christmas pool that’s not just super cheesy? It’s been a challenge but it’s looking super cool. So yeah we’ve got some fun things going on.”
Listen to our entire interview with Lucas Congdon on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Featured Photo Credits: Kevin