Saturday, September 15, 2012

There's No Such Thing as a Free Pool

Like so many projects, this one started with a gift. - a free pool E and I picked up down the road. The story was that the pool owner's neighbor had gifted her the above-ground contraption when they built a larger pool, but she discovered it was too shallow to meet her desire. And it didn't have a pump.

No big deal, right? We figured we'd put it up, fill it, and find a pump.

Um. No.

Turns out its nearly impossible to find replacement parts for above-ground pools like these anymore. Their design changes every year, and they're so inexpensive (relative to a real, in-ground pool), that our culture calls for simply throwing away the old and picking up entirely new.

Various attempts at making it work included, ultimately, the purchase of a pump really designed for a larger pool. But it was the best we could do, said the pool store manager who spent more than an hour helping me gather fittings that might work.

Fate stepped in, though, and saved us a bundle. The new filter required sand, but the pool store didn't carry it. Turns out neither did the hardware store. But a trusty internet lookup led me to a mega-department store where, just inside the door, was THIS POOL, complete with all fittings, for a fraction of the price of the pump and fittings I'd picked up not two miles away.

I wrestled the new pool collection into the van, then turned right around to return to the expensive goodies to their store, then headed home.

That's when the fun began. THIS pool came with instructions and FIRST and FOREMOST, it said, the ground must be level and the pool must be placed on some sort of pad. A driveway/concrete slab would have been ideal, but we use our driveway and it's on the hottest side of the house. We're not up for pouring at this point, so we did the next best thing: paving stones picked up from our local brick/block/paver manufacturing company.
Using shovels, levels and lots of sweaty hours, it took us nearly two days to lay the pavers. The ground was brick-hard, so scraping and leveling was a chore. And we'd learned from our previous partial install of the "free" pool that any slant means a big water-level variation from one edge of the pool to the other. Turns out, this uneven pool level can lead to structural failure. The related sudden loss of thousands of gallons of water can cause damage to anything nearby. So we took the time to do it right.

As we laid the final row of pavers, Mr. B smashed the heck out of one of his fingers. I'll tell you what; he's a man of his word. He doesn't abide foul language, and when he smashed that finger, the only indication I had that anything happened was that he jumped an easy three feet into the hair and said, "ouch. That hurt." No exclamation, really. But he turned around and walked into the house. Since he usually carries on after minor injuries, I knew it was a bad one.

I wrapped up the paver laying, he iced his blackening finger, and the next day with the girls' help, we put up the new pool and enjoyed a swim. Sure, it's only 42 inches deep and 15 feet across. But when it's hot and you need a simple dip, it's wonderful. And while an in-ground pool with an end deep enough for proper diving would be a dream, I think the purchase price of this pool and all the pavers was less than we'd spend in any given year maintaining an in-ground pool.

And two days later, we were treated with another visit from one of the girls' Central Coast friends.

The pool? Was the hit of the party.

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