Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DIY Backyard Landscaping: Above Ground Pool

The work has been a consistent daily grind around here. But when you see how it is all coming together, it all seems worth it.

We a started with a swing set, a trampoline, a garden and a whole lot of dirt. I am talking a wasteland of dirt.

While the dirt is still present and accounted for, its numbers have been shrunk considerably.

Here is our goal:

Not to scale.

Grass for us to run on, play soccer, and spread out a blanket to watch clouds. A pool for the hot summer days. A pool deck for us to relax and watch the kids jump in the trampoline or play on the jungle gym. A great fire pit for the adults to chat around at night, enjoying a drink or two.

We still have sprinklers to install and sod to lay down, plus a little cleaning up, but until then I thought it would be fun to post about each of the projects.

First up? The pool!


We started with this rather sad stretch of yard next to the trampoline. I knew we would have some leveling to do as my garden boxes used to be over here and they had caused some dips. But wow, it was so much more than a few small dips.

One of the former owners of this house must have hardscaped this area at some point because everywhere we dug, we hit gravel. A huge compacted bed of gravel.

We started by using a flat front shovel to remove all the thatch and roots and to create a base to determine the slope.

Once that was done and we could clearly see where the lowest spot was so we got started. When preping an area for an above ground pool, you always want to level the area to the lowest point. Never add dirt to raise the lower area up! Under the wieght of all the water in the pool, that added dirt will compact and suddenly your nice level pool will sag and risk collapse.

Sadly, our low spot consisted of one 4 foot by 2 foot corner. Eight square feet caused us to dig out and level 192 square feet to match it. Yeah. Less than fun.

To level we taped a four foot level onto a 2x4 piece of wood. Starting at the high point we would place the level then use the 2x4 to scrape dirt down until it was right. Over and over again we repeated this process until the entire area was level within 1". Not fun. Beer helped.

Really hard to get a good photo by flood light.

4' level attached to a 2x4 with tape

After we walked the area to ensure we had gotten all of that pesky gravel out,  we began to assemble the pool. Now, typically you would do two more steps of prep. First, lay down a sand bed to help protect the pool from anything poking through. Second lay down foam insulation boards(from the hardware store). Not only does this provide an extra layer of protection, but it also creates a soft smooth surface for walking.

Because we bought this pool used and there was no guarantee it would remain usable after reassembling, we didn't want to invest that extra money. Instead we just used a 10mm tarp under to pool to help protect the vinyl from any rocks or roots we missed.

This particular pool is a 9'x19'x52" Splash-a-Round soft sided vinyl pool. We just followed the directions for assembling it, which was the easiest part of all of this. We would then spend the next three weeks replacing broken pump valves, patching holes in the bottom of the liner, and fixing leaking parts.

Pool up, working on fixing it.

Once everything was fixed, we focused on the extras. The pool came with an old deck that needed a lot of love. Sadly, without the deck we could not get into the pool. Stairs and all, you know. So hubby began replacing rotten boards and strengthening the supports. We knew from the start that if we liked the pool we would build a big wrap around deck before next summer, but for now we needed to make this one safe for everyone.

Still a work in progress. Needs rails.

Once the stairs for the deck were up it was time for some prettying up! First we installed a reed cover to hide the big blue eyesore.Next we marked out where the future deck wrap around deck will go and after weed spraying, laying down weed cloth, and putting in an edger we spread out 2 yards of basic 3/4" gravel. We also repeated the process for under the trampoline. No more weeds growing under there! Looking better already!

While the whole process was heartbreaking, frustrating, and back breaking to say the least, we have loved having the pool. Or as Gabe calls it, the cool!

Next up, how to make your own concrete edger or curb!

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