The infamous Watergate hotel gets a high-profile facelift

The newly-renovated spa area provides a year-round oasis to hotel guests and members of The Watergate Hotel.Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., is best known as the site of one of the biggest political scandals in American history, thanks to a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters housed in the hotel’s adjoining office complex, which eventually led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

After countless renovations and an ownership battle as tricky as the Watergate investigation itself, the hotel recently reopened after being shuttered for nearly a decade. The $200-million renovation, which capitalized on the hotel’s vintage aesthetic, restored many of the hotel’s original features, including its grand staircase and mosaic-tiled 50-foot (15 meter) saltwater indoor pool that’s located below the lobby in the 12,500-sq.-ft. (975 meter) spa – Argentta. Named after the Italian word for silver due to the genuine silver flecks in the tile, the Argentta design pays homage to the hotel’s original architect, Luigi Moretti.

Profast Commercial Flooring used Glass Tile Adhesive, a bright white water-mixed single component adhesive mortar, to install the pool’s silver-flecked mosaic tile. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Profast Commercial Flooring

“The Watergate Hotel was a playground for powerful people for more than 50 years, so it was exciting to be a part of such a high-profile renovation,” said Kevin Killian, president of Profast Commercial Flooring, the NTCA Five-Star Contractor chosen for the project. “Because of our previous success using LATICRETE® on large pool projects, our company chose to use a range of LATICRETE products to ensure long-lasting, quality installations.”

The challenge: 

High profile meets high traffic: Linked to iconic Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable and Greta Garbo in addition to the Richard Nixon scandal, The Watergate Hotel’s reputation precedes it. Knowing that the spa would double as a leisure area and point of exploration for curious travelers visiting the historic site, the space would need to “wow” visitors while withstanding heavy everyday use.

Preservation of history: Instead of demolishing The Watergate Hotel pool and starting from scratch, the developer, Euro Capital Properties, in collaboration with architects BBGM and Ron Arad Architects, decided to keep the original look and feel, which included using the existing concrete shell of the pool. This required Profast Commercial Flooring to be careful when removing the original tile without damaging the pool shell, and using care while installing the new tile.

Named after the Italian word for silver due to the genuine silver flecks in the tile, the Argentta design pays homage to the hotel’s original architect, Luigi Moretti. Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Watergate Hotel

A LATICRETE solution: 

Profast Commercial Flooring captured an image of the completed Watergate Hotel Pool renovation. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Profast Commercial Flooring

After sitting unused for more than 10 years, the pool had developed a large crack that spanned its entire width. Before Profast Commercial Flooring could begin removing any of the original tile work in the preserved concrete shell and pool area, a pool contractor was required to mend the rift by crack chasing and injecting the opening with epoxy to close it.

HYDRO BAN®, a thin waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane that combines optimum performance and unmatched productivity, was then applied in two separate coats to offer anti-fracture protection of up to 1/8” (3 mm) over shrinkage and other non-structural cracks. To test for watertightness after the application of the waterproofing membrane, an independent testing agency was hired to monitor the water level along with the humidity in the pool area, accounting for evaporation. If the waterproofing installation did not pass the flood test, moisture issues could cause costly damages. Thanks to HYDRO BAN and its proven reliability, this was not an issue.

Profast Commercial Flooring installed the tile in the 12,500-sq. ft. (975 meter) spa –Argentta, using the original pool shell. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Profast Commercial Flooring

Once Profast Commercial Flooring received the green light from the testing agency, the crew began thinsetting the glass tile in the pool and surrounding wall space, with Glass Tile Adhesive, a non-sag, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar that is specifically formulated for use in glass tile applications. Designed with efficiency and cost savings in mind, Glass Tile Adhesive is a bright white water-mixed single component adhesive mortar that made the installation of the project’s silver-flecked mosaic tile easy to execute.

The Profast Commercial Flooring crew thinsetting the glass tile in the spa’s wall space with Glass Tile Adhesive. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Profast Commercial Flooring

3701 Fortified Mortar has been a trusted thick bed mortar used in demanding wet area installations on many prestigious projects around the world for over a decade. For this reason, 3701 Fortified Mortar was chosen as the mortar bed used to screed and slope the Watergate Hotel pool deck to the various area drains throughout the Argentta. Made up of a polymer-fortified blend of carefully selected polymers, portland cement and graded aggregates, 3701 Fortified Mortar does not require the use of latex admix or jobsite blending. Its pre-mixed packaging is versatile and economical, and helped save the contractor both time and money by allowing a fast installation.

SPECTRALOCK® PRO Premium Grout was chosen by Profast Commercial Flooring because of the previous success the company had using the product to re-grout other swimming pool and wet area projects. The patented, high-performance epoxy grout is crack and chemical resistant and offers excellent color uniformity, durability and stain protection.

The Watergate Hotel’s mosaic-tiled 50-foot (15 meter) saltwater indoor pool, revitalized by Profast Commercial Flooring and LATICRETE setting materials. Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Watergate Hotel.

Outcome: 

The newly renovated spa area plays up the retro luxury that embodied the swank hotel pre-scandal, while providing a year-round oasis to hotel guests and members of The Watergate Hotel.

“Our many years of experience and craftsmanship, paired with the excellent field support and technical knowledge of the LATICRETE team, ensured a newsworthy transformation,” added Killian. “With the help of high-quality LATICRETE products and their industry leading warranties, The Watergate Hotel pool will remain a standout feature of the hotel for many years to come.”

Since opening, The Watergate Hotel has been voted as one of the ten best new hotels in the nation by USA Today in its 2017 10 Best Readers’ Choice awards.

The Watergate Hotel’s mosaic-tiled 50-foot (15 meter) saltwater indoor pool. Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Watergate Hotel.