Let’s Build a Pool

Phase one: 2021

Through a fortuitous set of events, we were able to purchase the empty lot next to ours. It gave me the idea to put up and above ground pool as we’ve always wanted to have some water to cool off in when the LA heatwaves make going outside otherwise unbearable. I found a good sized above ground pool (12’x24’x52″ deep) that even came with a pump designed to use salt water. The only problem: we live on a hillside and with nearly 80,000 pounds of water involved, above ground pools need flat ground to not become an avalanche to our neighbors down below. The only logical solution was for me to excavate a flat spot in the dirt that would be large enough to support the pool, plus extra space to make room for the pool leg supports and pump. I targeted 16’X28′ and started digging. With a pick, shovel, and wheel burrow, I would go out after work and on weekends for a few hours at a time and chip away at it. Filling the wheel burrow, then dumping the dirt around the property, terraforming the lot in the process. Once the pool was up, I decided to build a L-shape deck around two sides, added a deck ladder to replace the janky A-frame ladder the pool came with, and a railing/gate solution to keep the dog out (Sylvia & Ruby just let him in anyway).

After spending time enjoying the pool, we added aesthetic improvements like lights for night swims, tried out some battery-powered lights that went into the water (which worked great for about a week and then filled with water and corroded), got some chaise lounge chairs for the deck. It added a look that was less “thrown together”. Finally, after seeing some DIY things on youtube about people making solar heaters I built one of those… that worked zero percent.

Phase two: 2022

After having it up a few months of the first summer, I noticed that the low side was sinking into the dirt and becoming less than level. Also, due to the support legs on the high side being too close when we filled the pool the first time, the entire thing was not being supported equally and thus adding undo tension to that low side. I’d have nightmares of the entire thing giving way, leading me to build a surrounding wall, reinforced with tons of dirt in the hopes that any potential deluge could be contained somewhat. However, as soon as the cooler weather of the Fall began, I emptied the pool (running a pump with a hose up the hill and into gopher holes) and went about focusing on better leveling and supporting the ground beneath the pool and its support legs. This meant leveling a rectangle in the center, where the pool sits, and filling it with sand. Then everywhere else around the sand I filled with gravel in between pavers where each of the legs sat. Part of the problem I was trying to fix was that whenever I had to leave the pool to retrieve some pool noodle or whatever that fell into the “maintenance area” where the pump sits, I’d get muddy feet due to the exposed dirt.

Once the pool was up and filled, however, there was a new gap left now that the legs were being supported properly. So I needed to add an extension to the deck on the long side. I also purchased a solar heater and installed that where my failed DIY version had been installed (and then uninstalled). From there it was a lot of decorating, the addition of a table I built to support a mini fridge underneath. The final big element was the addition of privacy screens with grass thatching.