Basecrete And The Challenges Of Saving The Iconic Woolworth Building Pool

By Vito Mariano

The Woolworth Building in New York City is designated both a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark. She is one of the most important architectural legacies that grace the skyline. This grande dame of New York selected Basecrete for the renovation of her 106 years old pool.

Basecrete is an all-in-one cementitious waterproofing and bondcoat. The product is engineered to work as both the waterproofing and the bondcoat. It is also engineered for simple application. Basecrete is applied with one vertical application, followed by one horizontal application. The product goes on like butter, and can be sprayed, troweled, rolled, or squeegeed.

The honor to be a part of the extraordinary Woolworth Building renovation came with unique challenges. Built in 1912 at a cost of $13.5 million by dime-store magnet Frank W. Woolworth, she is one of the oldest steel-frame skyscrapers in New York. When completed she stood 792 feet (241 m), and was one of the tallest buildings. At the turn of the last century, the Woolworth Building’s pool promised its tenants an “immense Swimming Pool and Turkish Bath establishment, open day and night, with every modern device making for comfort, safety and sanitation.”

Considered the second oldest pool in New York, the pool was originally designed to evoke a Pompeian pool. Rectangle shaped with two lanes for swimming, the pool is seven feet at the deepest end. Over time, the pool became part of a health club and in 1999, owners drained the pool. So the pool sat empty for twenty years.

To bring the pool back to life after long years of neglect and deterioration, Vito Mariano, President of Basecrete Technologies, recognized for his expertise in solving some of the industry’s most challenging structural problems, was brought into the project. Mr. Mariano then collaborated with Basecrete’s Mr. Paul Perrina, with over fifty years’ experience working with New York skyscrapers.

The vision for this iconic skyscraper’s 106 years old pool was to recapture the glory of the past. In so doing, the owners sought to keep as much of the original 1912 look and design as possible. Now the pool will be reconstructed and brought to code. To bring the pool up to modern codes and maintain the integrity of the past, Basecrete had to assess the scope of work required even before waterproofing could begin.

Because of the age of the pool, one of the challenges Basecrete faced was that the pool was not poured concrete. There was no pool substructure as the industry knows it today. The pool was not solid; it was not monolithic. The pool construct reminded Basecrete of the old cinderblock pools.

The original builders used glazed 12 inch clay bricks. These bricks were laid and stacked with mortar. This became the main construction of the pool. Then, as the decorative finish, the facing of the brick had been glazed turquoise. Substantial challenges abounded.

As much of the original pool as possible had to be preserved. These preserved portions of the glazed brick needed to be integrated into the new pool. Then the pool had to be made into a monolithic water containment vessel. And waterproofed.

In meeting the requirements for the renovation, the best solutions proved to be deep spall repairs, crack repair, concrete leveling, shallow repairs, tile coating and repairs, embedded reinforcement, and then applying Basecrete’s waterproofing system.

To preserve the original pool design, concrete was formed and poured around the pool perimeter for support and to create a monolithic structure. The damaged glazed bricks were removed. Basecrete took the least damaged portions of the original glazed brick wall, and then re-grouted and densified with Basecrete Plus Primary Waterproofing. Also, any salvageable glazed bricks were reset using Basecrete as the mortar. This process safeguarded that part of the original pool would co-exist with new sections of the pool.

The entire pool was densified with Basecrete Plus Primary Waterproofing. Then all poured concrete was waterproofed with Basecrete Waterproofing and Bondcoat. This process encapsulated the entire pool structure with waterproofing. All new finishes chosen for this pool will be butted up to the old glazed brick.

Basecrete helped save the original beauty of this historic pool. And the engineers and architects were so impressed with the performance of Basecrete and the product’s ability to overcome the substantial challenges that they have specified Basecrete for additional concrete repairs and remodeling of the building as it’s being converted into mixed use space and luxury condominiums. When fully completed, it will be a stunning renovation with Basecrete providing the strength beneath the beauty.