Setting up the swimming pool

I usually have a fairly strict separation of topics between my personal blog and my homestead blog: the personal blog is for short posts about personal stuff, and links to my homestead and Dejal blogs, and the homestead blog is for longer posts about animals, gardens, and building projects.

But they’re my blogs, so I can bend the guidelines if I want. This post is something I’d usually cover on my personal blog, but I wanted to do a longer post, and it kinda relates to a building project (the pool deck), so I’ll let it slide. Let’s not make a habit of it, though, eh.

Anyway, the topic (as you might have surmised from the title) is setting up our above-ground swimming pool. Something I do each year, for us to enjoy for something between about 5 and 15 swims between late July and early September, before taking it down again and storing it in our workshop for the rest of the year.

Speaking of my personal blog, you might recognize a cropped edition of this picture from my most recent What’s It Wednesday post: the poles and supports for the pool, as stacked in the back of the shop:

Poles and supports

The two solar panels are also stored back there, somewhat rolled up:

Solar panel

But the first thing I bring over is the pool liner. Here it’s folded up on my cart. It’s rather heavy and bulky, but each year I’ve been getting better at wrangling it (or maybe all this homestead lifestyle is improving my muscles?):

Pool liner

Then I bring over the poles and supports in two cart loads:

Cart with poles and supports

Along with tubing and pool floats:

Cart with supports, pipes, floats

Some of the components next to the pool area:

Pool liner etc

The steps we got last year live next to the pool deck, being weather hardy and rather heavy, though the two buckets of sand, used as weights for the steps, were stored in the shop:

Steps and supports

Once everything is on hand, I spread out the tatty old tarp as extra protection for the pool liner (I really should buy a replacement):


Then I lay out the pool liner, carefully positioning it based on some nails in the ground I added as markers last year, to ensure proper alignment with the pool deck. I also move the steps onto the liner, and insert the poles and supports:

Liner and steps

A closer look at the supports:


The assembled (but empty) pool:

Assembled pool

I then add the sand buckets under the steps, suspended from it, and position the steps in the right place, on a protective mat:


The skimmer, not yet connected:


Another view of the steps; notice that I’m starting to add the water; it takes quite a long time to fill:


The steps are screwed to the pond deck:


The pool continues to fill overnight. In the morning, it is pretty much filled:


It’s a lot of water, but our well can handle it, and the water is returned to the ground when we’re done with it.

Here are the sand filter and pump:

Filter and pump

And the solar heaters; the water flows from the pump via the filter, then through the solar panels, warming the water from heat from the sun adsorbed in the black plastic:

Solar heaters

The completed pool:


It just needs a few hot days for the water to warm up from the cold water out of our well, to a bearable temperature.

Now it feels like summer!

Building a pool deck extension

We have an above-ground swimming pool, that we set up around July and take down around September. We only swim in it a few times during summer, typically when the air temperature is 90° F (32° C) or more. It is a big hit during our summer party, too. But getting into the pool involved walking down a flight of steps from the deck, around the deck, and climbing a rickety ladder up and down, despite the pool being positioned a few feet from the deck. The pool can’t be set up any closer, due to a retaining wall and the support legs of the pool.

So a project in the last week or two was to improve that by building a small extension to the deck, enabling direct access to the pool.

Here’s the “before” picture; the deck railing and pool beyond:

Railing and pool

I removed that portion of the railing, blocking the gap with a temporary barrier. I also brought over a bunch of tools:

Removed railing

I built a pair of gates, using some reclaimed material from the old railing:


I also purchased some nice plastic pool steps, which Jenn assembled:

Pool steps

I rested the steps in the pool, to confirm their height; they’re floating, as they need to be weighted down with sand:

Steps in pool

Building the deck extension joists, using treated lumber:

Deck joists

Adding cedar deck boards, to match the main deck:

Deck boards

Adding trim around the edges:

Adding trim



Looking from the ground next to the pool, where you can see the aforementioned retaining wall and pool legs, plus the attachment point and a post in a concrete footing:

Attachment point and posts

I considered several concepts for the deck, including having it removable, or hinge up like a drawbridge. Since I need to take down and set up the pool each year, I thought that having it be able to get out of the way would help with that. But ultimately I decided to make it a fixed deck, since that would be more sturdy, and it is very heavy. I determined that I should be able to assemble and disassemble the pool even with the deck fixed in place, since the pool leg under the deck will fit between the deck legs.

So I trimmed the trim of the main deck, to avoid unevenness there:

Trimmed trim

The underside of the deck, ready to be installed:

Underside of deck

The deck resting on boards, during installation; since it is rather large and heavy, it was a bit awkward to maneuver by myself, but I managed (Jenn was at work):

Resting on boards

The deck mounted, with missing boards for reasons:


Me under the deck, attaching bracing to the legs:

Me under the deck

Adding a railing post:

Railing post

Using the router to have nice rolled edges on the top of the railings, to match the main deck:

Routing railings

The extra deck boards and gates installed:


Initially I mounted the gates to open onto the main deck, as above, based on my original idea of having the extension fold upwards. But Jenn pointed out that it’d make more sense for them to swing the other way, now that it’s fixed in place. So I re-hung them to open that way, which is indeed much tidier:

Gates opening onto deck

Here are the gates closed, with a cane bolt to hold the right one closed, and a key-lockable latch for the left one:


When the pool isn’t there, we’ll probably lock the gates, for safety.

Next, I finished the railings, again to match the main deck:


The railing from the other side:


And I stained the railings:

Stained railings

The completed deck extension:

Finished deck

Finally, Jenn and I mounted the steps into the pool. Easier said than done, since she endured the chill water to position a mat under the steps, and hang buckets of sand below the steps to weigh them down:

Mounted steps

The steps are designed to fill the legs with sand, but we decided to hang buckets instead, to make it easier to move the steps when taking down the pool. It’ll be easier to set up the steps next year when assembling the pool, since I’ll be able to do it before filling with water.

The finished deck extension, complete with lights on the railing:


(The temporary rope barrier was to stop kids from diving during our annual party; that is normally a nice spot to sit and dangle feet in the pool, or rest beverages or pool floats.)

The deck and pool got a lot of use during our party on Saturday, and was admired by all. We had our first official swim on Sunday, and found the deck extension and steps so much nicer. To paraphrase someone at our party, this is how the deck should have always been.