US 20020020011 A1
A portable containing structure comprising a series of interlocking panels that, when constricted form the containing structure. These panels may be used to form such structures as a pool (swimming or wading) and may also be used to form an ice rink, spa, sandbox, window box, etc. The structures so formed are strong and utile and are easy to construct and deconstruct.
1. A portable containing structure comprising a series of interlocking panels, said panels having a horizontal top edge and a horizontal bottom edge, two opposing vertical connecting edges, a horizontal outside wall and a horizontal inside containing wall, so that when said interlocking panels are connected along said opposing vertical connecting edges, a containing structure is defined.
2. The portable containing structure of
3. The portable containing structure of
4. The portable containing structure of
5. The element of claims 2 through 3 wherein said pool has a square, rectangle, diamond, “L” or “T” shape.
6. The portable containing structure of claims 2 through 3 wherein decorative siding is added to the horizontal outside walls thereof
7. A portable swimming pool structure, said structure being defined by a series of interlocking panels, each of said panels having a horizontal top edge and a horizontal bottom edge, two opposing vertical connecting edges, a horizontal outside wall and a horizontal inside wall and a pool liner contained within said structure.
8. The structure of
9. The structure of
10. The structure of
11. The structure of
12. The structure of
13. The structure of
 This application is related to our previously filed Provisional Application, U.S. Ser. No. 60/212,809, filed Jun. 19, 2000, the sum and substance of which is incorporated herein by reference.
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates to the field of easily constructed portable containing elements such as those that can be used as swimming, wading or reflecting pools, skating rinks or for the containment of flowers and the like. More specifically, this invention relates to portable elements that can be assembled and disassembled with ease so as to provide a strict measure of portability and ease of use. Even more specifically, this invention relates to a strong, rigid and lightweight pool structure that can provide a long and useful life and one that can be used with a great deal of safety.
 2. Description of the Prior Art
 There are a host of prior art containing structures that can be used as above ground pool elements. One typical such structure is described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,793,651, issued Feb. 26, 1974. This reference describes a portable, above ground pool and teaches the construction thereof. These prior art pool structures can be used on most level surfaces and comprise an endless, vertical wall confining either a circular or oval-shaped area with a water-containing membrane placed therein. The wall is conventionally thin, flexible steel that is attached to a plethora of reinforcing elements along the outside surface thereof. In point of fact, prior art pools are conventionally made by laying down a lower reinforcing means into which the thin wall is inserted. Next, a series of upright reinforcing elements are attached to this thin wall by a multitude of bolts and nuts. The water-containing membrane is then placed inside the area defined by this thin and highly reinforced wall and another reinforcing means placed on top of the wall structure. This serves to hold the membrane in place and to provide additional reinforcing means for the entire structure. Water is next added along with optional elements such as pumps, filters, skimmers, heaters, etc., as is well known in the prior art. The construction of this prior art pool structure is complicated and requires more than a single person to construct. Since there are a host of parts and pieces these structures are conventionally installed by contractors and pool installers who bring extra parts such as bolts an nuts to the site because many of these small parts get lost in during the construction thereof.
 These prior art so-called portable pool structures are designed to be utilized in the back yard or on a deck, etc. The problems involved with these prior art structures are myriad in number. First off, they are difficult to erect and usually require more than one person to be involved. There are a host of small elements such as nuts, bolts, washers, etc. involved in the construction and this also causes problems. Also, they are flimsy in nature and do not acquire rigidity except when filled with water for final use. If a large wind comes up during installation and prior to the addition of water, these pools tend to collapse since there is no water present to hold the shape of the pool. These prior art pools are used mainly for swimming and wading. The element of this invention, however, can also be used for swimming, wading and, in an alternate size, be useful as skating rinks, fishponds, flower boxes and the like. Finally, prior art pool elements are not really portable in nature. Since they are difficult to construct they are inherently difficult to take down and without the presence of water, as mentioned above, they are extremely flimsy. Also, they are limited in shape to round or oval construction and thus cannot provide other structures and shapes such as square, rectangular, “T”-shaped, etc. Pools of these particular shapes are the so-called “in-ground” pools and are usually made from concrete or concrete-like products. These in-ground pools are expensive to build and to maintain.
 Thus, there is a pressing need to provide a truly portable, simple, strong and light weight structure that can be manufactured easily into a plurality of shapes and uses, one that can be assembled and disassembled easily for subsequent reuse and adaptability. There is also a need for structures that do not have round or oval shapes, ones that can be constructed easily into rectangular, square, “T” shapes, etc. at a reasonable cost and with true portability.
 These and yet other objects of this invention are achieved by providing a portable containing structure comprising a series of interlocking panels, said panels having a horizontal top edge and a horizontal bottom edge, two opposing parallel vertical connecting edges and an outside horizontal wall and an inside horizontal wall, so that a plurality of said interlocking panels may be connected, to define a containing structure.
FIG. 1 is one view (color photograph) of a square shaped structure of this invention used as swimming or wading pool.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a typical sidewall panel element used to make the swimming or wading pool of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a side view of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is a top view of four (4) sidewall panel elements of FIG. 2 connected to form the swimming or wading pool of FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 is another view of a means for connecting two or more sidewall panel elements.
FIGS. 6 and 7 show some of the variety of connecting elements that may be employed to connect one or more of the sidewall panel elements of this invention as described in FIG. 2.
FIG. 8 is another side view (color photograph) of the pool from FIG. 1 showing some of the elements conventionally used with a pool.
FIG. 9 is a top view showing of a pool having slots within the interlocking sidewall panels.
FIG. 10 is a side view showing from FIG. 9 with two umbrella-like shade elements placed in the slots from FIG. 9.
 Looking now specifically at the drawings which show some, but not all, of the embodiments of this invention, FIG. 1 is a 4-color photograph of a typical pool that can be made from the elements of this invention. In this particular showing, this pool is square in shape and made up of four (4) sidewall panels. The front panel 1 is shown trimmed out with matching wood that covers up the elements that join panel to panel. The remainder of the panels are made in a like manner. Water 2 is shown contained within the pool and the pool has been dropped into a suitable opening within a deck 3. The pool is trimmed out with a top rail 4 that serves to help hold the pool liner or membrane while installing this element. This liner or membrane is presently under the water 2 and in this showing is blue in color, a particularly common color for pool membranes.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a typical sidewall panel element of this invention. In this particular view, 5 is the outside wall of the panel, 6 is the top, horizontal edge, and 7 the bottom horizontal edge thereof. 8 and 9 are the vertical connecting edges. Three holes are shown drilled into each of these edges and these are labeled 10 and 11. Another set of holes are shown drilled through wall 5 and these are labeled 12 and 13.
FIG. 3 is a side view of the panel from FIG. 1 with 6 and 7 being horizontal top and bottom edges and 8 being one of the vertical connecting edges having holes 10 drilled therein.
FIG. 4 is a top view of a typical pool made from the elements of this invention. In this figure, four panels 5, 14, 15, and 16 are shown connected together to form and define a square pool. At each end of each panel connecting elements 17, 18, 19 and 20 are shown. These connecting elements will be inserted through holes 10 and 11 as shown in FIG. 2 and into opposing holes 12 and 13 in opposite panels.
FIG. 5 shows a pair of opposing panels 20 and 21 that can be connected by yet another connection means. In this particular showing, panel 20 has a pair of male insert elements 22 and 23 that are aligned such that when the panels are mated, they will hook into a pair of opposing female elements 24 and 25 located on panel 21. This is a particularly efficacious method of connecting panels within the scope of this invention.
FIGS. 6 and 7 are conventional attaching means for joining panel to panel. A pair of nuts and bolts 26 and 27 are shown in FIG. 6 while a pair of slotted male elements 28 and 29 are shown in FIG. 7. Many other connecting elements may be used within the metes and bound of this invention. These include pins, hooks, screws, etc. It is not important as to what connecting element is used, only that it be efficacious in making a secure connection between panels, but one that can be easily removed when required.
FIG. 8 is yet another perspective view (from the other side) of the pool shown in FIG. 1. Additional elements are shown in use with this pool such as the pump and filter 30 and a pool cover 32 which serves not only to protect the pool from outside contamination when the pool is not in use but also absorbs the rays of the sun and adds heat thereto. This particular figure is included to demonstrate that pools made by the teachings of this invention can employ all of the conventional pool accessories.
FIG. 9 is a pool or containing element similar to that shown in FIG. 4 shown from the top. In this figure containing slots 33-36 are shown through the top rail 4. In FIG. 10, the pool from FIG. 9 is shown from the side. Two shading elements 37 and 38 have been inserted in slots 36 and 35. These shading elements, as shown herein, are different types of umbrellas. In yet another embodiment, poles may be placed in each of the four slots and a canopy erected over these four poles.
 Pools and other structures and containers that can be made according to the teachings of this invention may assume a myriad of shapes including “T” shaped; “L” shaped; triangular; octagonal; pentagonal; etc. One only needs to design the interlocking panel to fit the shape. In fact, many shapes can be made strictly from the above referenced panels, for example. The panels can be manufactured from a plethora of materials including steel, aluminum or other thin metals and plastics, for example. We prefer a panel made from 20 to 12 gauge aluminum with a preferable thickness of between 18 to 16 gauge. These interlocking panels may be made in any length and height desired. A particularly useful dimension is about 10 feet in length and about 5 feet in height since these elements can be easily obtained and handled. However, longer panels are envisioned for longer length structures. Starting with higher panels or simply joining panels along the length thereof can achieve increases in height.
 Interlocking panels made for the structure of this invention may be interlocked using a number of conventional interlocking means. Holes may be drilled along each interlocking edge and then connected to the next panel by using a series of nuts and bolts. When it is desired to make an angle between two panels (e.g. right angle in the case of a square, rectangle, “T” or “L” shape) these holes will line up with another series of holes formed through the wall of the panel and using nuts and bolts can also join these. Alternatively, one might have panels with a female slot or hole and a male hook or shoulder bolt on the opposing male panel. Again, a series of female slots may be cut in one panel, a male tip having a hole within the tip on the male panel and after the mail tip is inserted into the female slot, a pin element may be dropped through the hold in the tip making a quick and easy connection thereof. These later interlocking systems are deemed to be most propitious since each panel can be made up and decorated on the outside wall prior to installation as a pool or other structure as defined herein. Other quick connecting means may also be employed within the scope of this invention to join panel to panel and thus create the desired structure in the desired shape. Yet another connecting element might include a cam lock element connection at each end of the panels of this invention.
 Although a reinforcing structure is shown in FIG. 2, it is not requisite for the construction of any of the structures envisioned within this invention. If, however, one wishes to add some sort of siding to the outside length of the panels, as is shown in FIG. 1, it is preferable to add a minimum of reinforcing elements along the length so as to assist in the installation of this siding. These additive reinforcing structures are shown as 5 a, for example, and can be snapped into place as shown or alternatively, snapped into place from a reverse direction.
 Any conventional material may be used to provide a decorative cover on the outside wall of the interlocking panels used to make the structures defined herein. As shown in FIG. 1, a decorative siding 3 a has been attached to the outside wall. In this particular case, the decorative siding used was so-called Texture-1-11 that has been screwed to the rim, top and bottom, of the outside wall and has been stained to match the deck, for example. However, any conventional material can be used as well. These include aluminum siding; cedar siding; stucco; brick; mortar; or any of the conventional materials used to side buildings and the like. These may match the decor of the surroundings such as the deck, as is shown in FIG. 1. Decorative siding can be added at any stage of the manufacture of the panels of this invention. Alternatively, decorative panel covers may be provided as so-called “slide-in” elements. This particular feature would allow a decorative change to be accomplished as well as to permit the user to remove the slide-in decorations in order to access the connection elements contained within the panels.
 After several panels have been interlocked to form the desired structure, any other use is up to the user. For example, a pool liner may be inserted in a conventional manner and a top rail applied over this liner to hold it in place. Other conventional means for holding a liner within a pool structure may also be employed within the metes and bounds of this invention. Then, this may be filled with water to form a delightful swimming or wading pool. Various pumps, filters, skimmers and the like may be added to help maintain the pool in a conventional manner. Some of these additions are shown more completely in FIG. 8.
 As previously mentioned, pools, such as swimming and wading pools, can be made very easily using the elements of this invention. It is a simple task to join together a plurality of interlocking sidewall panel elements in the shape desired, pop in a pool liner and fill the pool with water. Pools thus made can also be used as garden reflecting pools, fishponds, etc. One great improvement in addition to the sturdiness and ease of construction is that these pools can be drained of water during the off-season and either taken down and stored or simply left up. Prior art swimming pools had to have the water left in them during the winter months to prevent serious damage and collapse. To form a conventional skating rink panel elements of smaller heights would be used. For example, a skating rink made about 4-6 inches in height would be safer to use and would provide a more propitious skating area.
 As previously mentioned, size is not a problem since the interlocking sidewall panels can be manufactured in any given length and width or, alternatively, joined together top and bottom to increase width. Some change in the connecting edge is necessary if the angle of connection is changed from a right to some other angle. It is only necessary that the connecting edges be parallel to each other when connection is made. When a plurality of interlocking panels are connected in this manner, a structure is defined, such as a pool, skating rink, flower box, etc.
 In addition to conventional pool elements (e.g. filters, pumps and the like) it is possible to add exterior elements such as an umbrella or a canopy. This can easily be accomplished by providing slots within the interlocking sidewall panels at convenient points so that the umbrellas or canopies can be inserted therein. This lends considerably to the utility of the pool of this invention since this is not possible with prior art pools. In addition, cup holders, etc. can be placed within the top handrail of the pool. Other decorative elements can be added to the sides in order to insure that the pool or other structure defined within this invention has unique characteristics.
 One other use for the structures defined within this invention is for a spa element. For example, heaters, bubblers and the like may be added to turn the structure of this invention into a hot tub or spa element. In that case, it may be useful to add insulation to the side panels in order to conserve the heat. Also, an insulated top may be constructed and added to prevent heat from escaping from the water surface when not in use. The use of such a spa within a nursing home or other health facility is obvious. The elements of this invention may be easily constructed inside the room or facility for such use and then, if not needed in the future, easily taken down for storage. The structure of this invention may also be used as an immersion-type baptismal font. Some religious organizations require that baptism be accompanied by total immersion. Since this is often not possible at the church site, it is sometimes required that this service be removed outside to a suitable pool, pond or lake. By having such a removable structure as is defined by this invention, a pool can be kept inside the church itself for just such an event. After use, the pool can be taken down and stored.
 It should be pointed out here that structures made according to the teachings of this invention are eminently useful and strong and rigid. For example, a user may sit on the top rail of a pool without having the walls collapse. This is not possible with any of the prior art pool elements. In addition, steps or seating areas may be included within the pool itself. This may be accomplished by manufacturing the side panel elements with the various steps or seats attached thereto. These last elements may be made from the same material of construction as is used to make the side panel elements and they may be integral thereto or attached by welding or other means. This is another distinct advantage over conventional back-yard pool elements that do not have such inside steps and seats.
 In another embodiment, posts may be placed within the slots as defined in FIG. 9. By joining fence elements between these posts the pool an integral safety feature is provided, something lacking in prior art pool elements. To summarize, these slots may be used to make a fence, screen, canopy, umbrella, etc.
 In yet another use, smaller panel elements may be combined to provide a container useful as a play sandbox. The sandbox is easy to construct and is portable in nature, something not provided by any prior art element.
 To demonstrate the utility of this invention a pool as defined by FIGS. 1 and 8 was put together by one man. The pool was assembled using interlocking the panels and nuts and bolts (2 on each vertical parallel edge of each panel) to connect each panel against another at right angles. This then defined a structure with an 8′ by 8′ square being 2′ deep. A liner was placed therein and a top rail placed over the edge of the liner and the pool was ready to fill within 20 minutes. No other conventional pool can be made in this fashion, especially in the shape shown. This pool was inserted within the deck surrounding the pool to form a delightful swimming and cooling off pool. When an interlocking device is used to connect panels together (as is shown in FIG. 5) no tools are necessary to complete a pool installation using the teachings of this invention.