I was going to wait until it was easier to post some pictures to spill the beans on our yard project, but I changed my mind. We're about two thirds of the way through summer and I hate to wait any longer to give you the details of our project in case it might inspire you to do something similar.
So what did we do? We put in a pool! Everyone in the Willoughby house loves the water and we've talked about getting a pool for the longest time, but it just wasn't in the budget. We've always had a quick set type pool (you know the kind with the inflatable top ring) and used it a lot, but it wasn't the same as having a real pool.
An inground pool would have been ideal, but was a little out of the budget, so we had been talking about an above ground pool since last year. Initially, I balked at the idea because I didn't think it would look very attractive in our yard. Once we came up with the idea of adding a surrounding pool deck and landscaping, I was sold. Our back yard is huge so we were sure we would have plenty of room.
I should stop here and tell you about the cost because you may be thinking that even an above ground pool can be pretty expensive. True, it can be. Our pool is 24 feet long by 15 feet wide and 52 inches deep. Along with the mechanical systems, winter cover and solar cover our pool could cost thousands of dollars in a swimming pool showroom. So what did we pay? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. We had to buy sand to put underneath it which came to about sixty dollars. Other than that, it was all just labor. An older couple had purchased a house with this pool in the backyard and were giving it away in exchange for taking it down and hauling it out of their backyard. It also had a wood deck that surrounded approximately half of the pool that had to be taken down (some of which we will be able to reuse). We found their ad on craigslist and contacted them right away. We were the first responders so it was ours! It took two full days of work and multiple trips to get the pool and deck dismantled and brought back to our house (it was nearly and hour drive between their house and ours). That was the end of project number one.
Project number two was to carefully dismantle the gigantic wood playscape in our yard. We built it eleven years ago, but the kids are too old for it now and it was in the exact spot where we wanted to put the pool. Also, we wanted to save the wood and reuse as much as we could for the deck around the pool. We thought it would be a fairly quick and easy project, but it wasn't. Most of the screws stripped out when we tried to remove them and the bolts that attached the uprights to the structure had to be cut out.
Project number three was to unload six truck loads of sand onto a tarp in the driveway. The company we bought it from is less than a mile away from our house, but would have charged more for delivery than the sand itself cost so Mr. Willoughby hauled it in his pick up. Because of the weight, he could only pick up a half yard at a time. We needed 3 cubic yards, so it took six trips. The store had limited hours on that day which meant we had to work quickly to remove it so he could go back and pick up the next load. Between the two of us, we shoveled nearly 4 1/2 tons in a less than two hours.
Project number four was to prepare the site for the pool, which meant removing the grass and leveling the ground. It is preferable to dig down the high spots than to build up the low spots. If we had had access to a bobcat or skidsteer, this would have taken a few hours. We did it all by hand, one shovel at a time, and it took days. The kids helped a little, but for the most part it was just me and Mr. Willoughby. Remember when I told you we have lots of mature trees in our neighborhood? That also means lots of roots. They were far enough from the trees that they could be cut out without causing harm to the trees, but each one had to be chopped out with an axe so it took forever.
Project number five was to install the buttresses and outer ring of the pool. The buttresses support the weight of the water on the long sides of the pool and have to be partially buried in the ground. More digging, followed by measuring, squaring, adjusting and leveling.
Project number five was to pile the sand in the middle of the pool before the sides went up. We again moved 4 1/2 tons of sand with two shovels and a wheel barrow.
Project number six was to install the pool wall. This was, surprisingly, much easier than we thought it would be. We thought we would need extra help, but we managed fine with just the two of us.
Project seven was to spread out the sand within the pool walls before the liner was installed. It had to be coved and tamped down until it becomes firm. Mr. Willoughby did most of that himself to reduce the foot traffic over the sand.
Project number eight was to install the liner. This took three of us and went very quickly. It's a beautiful liner, by the way. It looks like mosaic tiles around the top and is speckled blue and white down the walls and along the bottom. Luckily it was not damaged when we initially dismantled the pool.
Project numbers nine, ten and eleven were to fill the pool with water, install the top rail and hook up the mechanical systems.
The next project is to build the deck surround, but we haven't had the time to do that yet. We have it planned out, and most of the wood will come from the playscape and the original pool deck, so we hope to start some time this week. After that, I'd like to do some landscaping around the base.
We've already been swimming in it at least a half dozen times. The water is on the chilly side (about 73 degrees), but we don't care! You would be surprised how fast your body gets used to it. We have a pool heater (also a freebie from craigslist) that we are going to try to convert from natural gas to propane so we can bring the temperature up a few degrees, but that's another project!
If I've inspired you to want to try this in your own yard, I would say it's a challenging project without the help of heavy equipment (sod cutter, bobcat, etc.), but certainly doable. Once you are swimming in it, it's all worth it!