Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

This was NOT the kind of gardening my clients wanted to pursue in their free time.

This was NOT the kind of gardening my clients wanted to pursue in their free time. 

It started out as a typical morning. Got up, got dressed and headed over to my favorite greasy spoon for a quick breakfast and cup of Flo’s famous coffee. Just as I was entering the diner, my phone rang. I motioned to Flo to hold on a sec as I walked outside to answer my phone. 

The attorney on the other end was calling on behalf of her client, who had a travertine pool deck that was turning green.  The case seemed pretty straight forward to me. I was guessing the green discoloration was algae growth. Algae and other biological growth is typical around pool decks when they are not maintained properly.  I thought I would tell the attorney that, but she went on to say that this was a problem that showed up within two weeks of installation. She asked to look at my schedule to arrange an inspection. I told her I would look at my calendar after I got back to my office.

I walked back in to the diner as Flo was pouring my coffee (have I  mentioned that Flo is probably telepathic?). I grabbed a newspaper off the counter. For a moment my thoughts remembered that part in Dirty Harry where Clint Eastwood is reading the paper while the waitress was pouring his coffee. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be a robbery in my future (LOL!). I opened my calendar on my phone as I finished breakfast, and called the attorney back to set up an appointment.

A few days later I arrived at the house with the green pool deck. It was a rather modest home. At least it was from the front entrance. I rang the doorbell and was greeted by a young couple who reminded me of Mr. & Mrs. Cleaver from the Leave it to Beaver show. (I wonder how many of you are headed to YouTube to look it up – LOL). I almost asked where the Beave was, but I bit my tongue. No, really, I accidentally bit my tongue.

 The homeowners led me to the back of the house where there was this enormous pool and pool deck. It looked like an Olympic-sized pool, and the deck had to be well over 5,000 square feet. I noticed immediately that all the fillers were covered in green algae. I took out my golf ball and rolled it across the deck to see if perhaps there were low spots that rain was accumulating in. It was flat as my grandmas’ pancakes. 

 I started my interview and found out that they had pressured-washed the deck every month, but the algae kept returning.  I took some samples of the fill to bring back to my lab, and to make a long story short, I discovered that the fillers were contaminated with organic matter.

Now for a biology lesson. In order for algae to grow it needs moisture, light and a good source of food. By food, I mean organic matter. It was clear that the fills were contaminated at the factory. I have seen tens of thousands of square feet of travertine pool decks, but never have I seen algae return this fast. I called the Cleavers and told them that I would recommend replacement since there is no guarantee that the fillers can be removed, or that the algae can be cleaned. It was most likely to return. Another case solved, even though it wasn’t a sit-com happy ending. But the cherry on the top for me? Just as I was about to hang up, I heard a kid in the background yell, “WALLY!” LOL! Yep, the Cleavers, all right.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Send your email comments to