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Thread: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

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    Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    I’ve been working on building our above ground pool in our back yard for three years now. I'm a DIY nut who's spent more time reading this forum and designing my projects than I've actually spent in my pool. I officially finished phase 2 last week by turning on 160 square feet (~55% of pool surface area) of solar pool heating panels neatly installed above our custom deck roof. Here’s a snapshot:


    View facing East from top of roof. Three solar panels plumbed in parallel with inflow in top right corner of photo and outflow at middle left edge of photo. Both the 2x6 plank and single 2"; white pipe in middle of photo are temporary while I install permenant fastening system.


    View facing South. Pool on left edge, pump near bottom middle, deck roof (with solar hot water array) in top right corner.

    Here's the full set of photos on Flickr including larger size.

    Detailed project description & notes:

    Project History: In 2007 I ordered and installed a 12’x24’ AG (above ground) steel-sided pool in our back yard. In 2008 I built a roof over part of our deck. My original plans called for installing solar hot water panels on the roof, but after finishing the pool I decided the best option was to build a roof over part of our deck. This serves two goals: First, it provides a 10’ x 20’ south facing roof with nearly ideal solar TOF (Tilt and Orientation Factor). Second, the roof allows us to use the deck in the rain and provides shade when the weather is really hot. I’m very happy with the design. It’s great fun to sit out on the deck in the pouring rain or float in the pool on a hot day with it gently shading half the pool. In total the custom metal roof cost about $1000 and 2 hard weeks of my time to build. This year (2009) I’ve finally pulled out the Mario cap and finished installing and plumbing the pool SHW system.

    Parts: Here’s the short list of items used:
    • 3 solar panels totaling 160 square feet: One Fafco (sloar bear?) 4’x20’ panel, two SunHeater 2’x20’ panels, both bought on http://seattle.craigslist.org for a total of about $250. Score ! [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 5 size transitions to interconnect 4 different pipe diameters (thanks to 2” base plumbing connecting 2 panels using 1.5” fittings and 1 panel using 1” fittings, plus hand-built 3/4” vacuum release valve) [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 6 union joints (allowing me to maintain the system rather than hard pipe everything permanently then have to cut pipe on 7/12 pitch metal roof if repairs are ever needed) [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 17 2” pipe connectors including 5 45’ elbows, 2 90’ elbows, 2 straight connectors, and 8 T joints! [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 4 removable T-joint plugs inline for handy installation of fountains, water guns, or whatever I decide to cook up [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 80+ feet of 2” Schedule 40 PVC pipe [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 2 cans of paint (to match brown deck wood and hunter green roof), 2 cans of PVC cement, 8 Pipe hangers, and several other miscellaneous supplies [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • 1.5 years of worry that I’d fall off the roof as my shoes slowly slid down the straight metal roof toward a 12’ drop onto metal chairs and misc. planters on our deck [/*:m:3k5gufjl]
    • ~6 days of labor split over 5 months time.[/*:m:3k5gufjl]


    I spent about $450 on the solar heater panels and plumbing supplies. I’d rather not count the hours it took me to design and install the system. I vaguely recall about 5 trips to Lowes and Home Depot, each time thinking that I was getting the last set of PVC joints and pipes to finish this project.

    Biggest setback: Realizing the z-channels used to support the solar panels had to be screwed in at an angle that exactly match how panels laid after plumbed. Chicken-and-egg problem is I needed to support the panels to get them plumbed. I managed to solve the problem by installing temporary supports, then relying on contortionism with a cordless drill in one hand and faith that 6 screws (holding two mystic roof plank holders) would prevent me from tumbling to a painful and potentially maiming conclusion.
    Biggest surprise: Finding the 20’ panels actually take 23’ to support!
    Neat trick #1: Gutter downspout for the deck roof actually conceals the 2” pipe supplying water to the solar panels.
    Neat trick #2: T joints used on the way up and down to roof are only 2’ above and 18” away from the pool and have threaded plugs to easily add fountains, water hose guns to splash kids, or anything else I can cook up!
    Neat trick #3: Parallel panel configuration heats water with least resistance and slope toward feeder pipe (plus vacuum release valve at top) allows water to automatically drain back down when pump isn’t operating (instead of being cooled at night).
    Highlights of the project: Turning it on and finding the only plumbing leaks were easily fixed by tightening threaded components (no slip joint leaks!). Even better is feeling slight but noticeably warmer water at the pool return jet even with full pump speed. Confirming my design worked as initially conceived with only minor tweaks to accommodate construction reality... priceless.

    Here’s some more photos of the custom pipe manifolds I made, one leak in a solar panel. (Note the algae bloom has finally been conquered but photos here are still a bit green.)


    T-joint half way up to inflow manifold right below railing of deck. Threaded plug installed for now, but easy to convert to a fountain or water gun. This is located about 4' above and 16"; away from the pool.


    Inflow manifold from pump and filter in SE corner of heater array. Union joint allows entire array to be disconnected and serviced if needed in the future. (White section of piping has already been painted matching hunter green.) Also notice z-channel metal used on roof to support entire width of solar panel. It's a lighter gauge galvanized steel (+painted) than I'd like to have used but hopefully it will stand the test of time.


    Outflow manifold of solar hot water array exceeded width of roof without having some curve added. Curve also assists drainback as a minor benefit.


    Outflow manifold connects to return pipe with custom vacuum release valve at top. Photo facing North. Vacuum release is a 3/4"; one way valve pointing against the water flow - blocks water when pressurized, allows air in to expidite draining whenever pump is turned off.


    Outflow manifold perspective photo. Small pipe off top of manifold is a custom vacuum release valve. I've had this leak significantly once on startup, but since has behaved very well. One downside is I get air due to return pipe 20' drop causing enough suction to draw in air. I choose to view this as free airation and slight jacuzzi bubble effect at the return jet for now. I could probably eliminate by restricting flow through ball valve in the return pipe if air is a problem. Any known problems with semi-intentional air in the line?


    What’s next?

    Of course this project hasn’t been my only activity this summer, but it was definitely a big project. Next will be a massive clean-up. The back yard has looked like a construction zone for over two years. While not my top priority, I intend to reclaim some lawn from the large pool toys, drain pipes, and construction debris that have grown like noxious weeds near the pool. Perhaps the chlorine water naturally causes these things to overtake the surrounding area. Other neglected projects will take priority for a while (garage, master bath, etc.) as does my career work.

    Oh yeah, and there's improving the electrical service to the pump and future gadgets such as SWG I purchased with pool 3 years ago (and still don't have installed due to electrical needs). I think I'll pay a professional to make the electrical service improvements to ensure everything is up to code (though I'll have some knowledge from reading related posts in TFP forums).

    Eventually (2010?) the final phase of the pool will be designed and executed. Phase 3 is extending the deck about 18” to the pool on one side plus wrapping the deck around one end. One ambitious variation includes designing enough room for an 8’ tall pool slide I bought for $50 this spring (score!) and possibly even a rope swing from the deck roof overhang (after a few more structural reinforcements)! WOOHOOOOoo !

    Want a closer look? Give me a call or e-mail and I’ll schedule a time for a personal tour . Don’t forget your bathing suit! (Don’t worry, I still have the wet suits as a backup plan if there are no sunny days.)

    Feel free to comment on the design, implementation, suggestions for additions, or anything else.
    Thanks! ZephanS
    AG 12'x24'x54" "Diamond Star" (wilbar) bought 2007 from http://www.sunenterprise.com as kit with waterco 2hp (max) pump (too big+noisy) & WaterCo T450 150lb sand filter (filled w/ 75lbs zeobrite). Pool installed 2007. 160 sq ft solar array installed (2009) on custom metal deck roof (2008). Purchase, Site prep, & installation 100% DYI thanks to PF and TFP. Wrap-around deck, small swg, electrical upgrade, and 8' water slide still pending install.

  2. Back To Top    #2

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    I forgot one important detail (which I'll add to my sig shortly): I live in Seattle, WA near a convergence zone. It rarely breaks 80 degrees and rarely goes below 25 degrees... but I've been told there is enough sunlight to be worth trying to harvest.
    Thanks! ZephanS
    AG 12'x24'x54" "Diamond Star" (wilbar) bought 2007 from http://www.sunenterprise.com as kit with waterco 2hp (max) pump (too big+noisy) & WaterCo T450 150lb sand filter (filled w/ 75lbs zeobrite). Pool installed 2007. 160 sq ft solar array installed (2009) on custom metal deck roof (2008). Purchase, Site prep, & installation 100% DYI thanks to PF and TFP. Wrap-around deck, small swg, electrical upgrade, and 8' water slide still pending install.

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    polyvue's Avatar
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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Thanks for a fascinating and highly detailed account.

    The slide you envision may require more support than an elevated wood deck may provide. I think you are wise to rely upon an electrician to help with power -- I was surprised at the number of hours my pool builder's electrician spent reconfiguring my main breaker panel, routing electrical to a special subpanel supporting my electric heater and tweaking the connections to my Aqualogic controller.

    Good luck with the rest of your project. You seem to have had the luck of the Irish with you so far.
    14,555 gal in-ground 16'x29' white plaster Pool w/spa (2007); Goldline Aqua Logic AQL-PS-8 control w/Aqua Cell 15 Salt Water Chlorination (SWCG); Hayward TriStar 1HP (1.85 SF) main / 1.5HP (1.60 SF) spa pumps; Hayward Swimclear cart filter C4025, ColorLogic LED lights; Tankless SP-18-4 electric heater; Polaris 280 cleaner.
    __
    View of spiral galaxy in Ursa Major NGC6217 - Hubble Telescope 2009

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    It's been a few weeks and I'm happy to say the solar hot water roof is still working with no problems!

    Thanks for the comments Polyvue. My "luck of the Irish" may explain why my pool was so green for several weeks this year :P. (I'll post a separate thread on that topic.)

    Slide thoughts: I recently came up with a great idea to mount the 8' right-curve water slide to the deck pergola under the deck roof. I've already been toying with the idea of building an observation platform up there, so making a slide entrance would be very little additional work. The deck is very solid and this location would really hide the slide between the deck and our blossoming cherry tree (see second photo). I like the deck-attached idea much better than freestanding 8' slide mounted on a 4' high deck (12' tall structure for kids to jump/fall off ). I also hate the idea of building a deck half way around the pool (due to space limitations) then taking up some of that precious area with a slide. I already have a T-joint plumbed above the deck as part of the solar panel return so providing water will be easy. Still it's a pretty wild idea and I'll have to make sure the kids don't have too much air before hitting the pool (49" to 52" deep depending on fill level). There's also serious safety planning required so kids don't jump or fall over 12' from pergola area to the ground next to the pool or between deck and tree. Safety first!!! I also have to get clearance from my DW. The other option is to change the angle so ladder is on ground but slide only goes down 4' to the AG pool (which is 1' buried at far corner). I haven't confirmed if the curve angles will work at 1/2 designed slope or if they will cause kids to fall off at the corner . If I go with deck option the project definitely won't be happening until next year .
    Thanks! ZephanS
    AG 12'x24'x54" "Diamond Star" (wilbar) bought 2007 from http://www.sunenterprise.com as kit with waterco 2hp (max) pump (too big+noisy) & WaterCo T450 150lb sand filter (filled w/ 75lbs zeobrite). Pool installed 2007. 160 sq ft solar array installed (2009) on custom metal deck roof (2008). Purchase, Site prep, & installation 100% DYI thanks to PF and TFP. Wrap-around deck, small swg, electrical upgrade, and 8' water slide still pending install.

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Great Job.

    Boy, your posting has given me a great idea. In 1988 we lost a 150 yr old oak tree that totally shaded the west side of our house. It was about 8 ft from the shallow end of pool. I needed shade fast so I planted an Aristocrat Bradford Pear (spreading shade tree) in it's place. It is now 30 ft tall with a 30 ft spread and appears to be very healthy for and "old" Bradford. BAD BAD BAD

    The shade is great (BIG) BUT ..... It throws off small "fake" pears three months out of the year that instantly stain the pool AND even bigger .... my 8 mo old Mastiff puppy ate a bunch of the "fake" pears and got pretty serious cyanide poisoning. He survived the initial poisoning but it took him two weeks to fully recover with much gastric pain first week.

    The tree HAS to come down. AND we need the shade AND extending the human swimming season some would be wonderful.

    I'm going to seriously study your setup. I have a contractor friend who owes me 20 hours of labor too.

    Thanks so much for sharing. geekgranny
    1981, 25K, IG, Blue Plaster 1996, somewhat oval, widens a bit at shallow end, 1.5" pipes, 2" at Pad, 1 separate main drain, 1 skimmer, 4 returns + dedicated cleaner return, 10 ft deep end with very fast decline from shallow, Pentair Quad 80 DE, Pentair Intelliflo VF, 3/4 HP Booster Pump (equipment pad about 8 ft below top of pool), Challanger 3/4 Trash/Emergency Pump 120v, Polaris 280 (pressure), iRobot Verro cleaner (robotic), Aquabot Turbo (robotic), Jacuzzi Tracker 4X (vacuum) Pool Blaster (Buster), Two (2) PoolSkims, Solar Breeze (solar powered top skimmer) (beta to ver. 2, release date 2010), ColorSplash LED replacement bulb. Aries 550 gal separate spa, 2002 (our 3rd and BEST spa) , BBB-Bromine

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Hi Geekgranny. I'm glad my solar panel deck description is giving you some ideas to use. You should definitely post a new thread (in the "under construction" section?) with your problem description, requirements and desired bonuses, and a couple pictures (or description with measurements) of the area you are looking to solve your shade + solar heater problem. Make sure to describe where North is on the photos or descriptions. Describe other areas that might be able to hold solar panels. Also include any constraints (years expected to be used, willingness to put solar panels on roof, building restrictions, etc.) and a budget range so people (like me) don't think too small or too large for your situation. I'm sure the folks here on TFP will chime in with many ideas to help design exactly what you need for your price range. Getting broad ideas before you commit to a solution will really help you get something that works well for a long time... without dropping fruit into your pool .

    From your initial description I envision a ~11' wide x ~24' long covered patio/grilling/seating area with roof starting at 8' tall with 12' wide sloped roof pointing south. You'll want much less slope than my deck roof because Texas has sun much higher in the sky . The roof will be subject to high winds so don't skimp on designing something solid. That's why it cost me ~$1,000 to build mine (with $0 for my labor)... and I never have hurricane concerns :P . If cost is a limiting factor or you need to have something 15' or higher to provide effective shade then I'd talk to your local nursury about selecting a good tree that won't kill your dog or damage your pool. For a blended structure + natural shade you could build a pergola and plant grapes or fast growing broad leaf vine. This is cheaper and more wind resistant shade but doesn't heat the pool. Of course with any tree or vine leaf raking is no fun, but nature builds the best shade for the money. I've just scratched the surface so please create a separate topic if you want detailed descussion. I'm sure others are dying to add their thoughts and ideas for your situation.
    Thanks! ZephanS
    AG 12'x24'x54" "Diamond Star" (wilbar) bought 2007 from http://www.sunenterprise.com as kit with waterco 2hp (max) pump (too big+noisy) & WaterCo T450 150lb sand filter (filled w/ 75lbs zeobrite). Pool installed 2007. 160 sq ft solar array installed (2009) on custom metal deck roof (2008). Purchase, Site prep, & installation 100% DYI thanks to PF and TFP. Wrap-around deck, small swg, electrical upgrade, and 8' water slide still pending install.

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Quote Originally Posted by zephans
    For a blended structure + natural shade you could build a pergola and plant grapes or fast growing broad leaf vine. This is cheaper and more wind resistant shade but doesn't heat the pool. Of course with any tree or vine leaf raking is no fun, but nature builds the best shade for the money. I've just scratched the surface so please create a separate topic if you want detailed discussion. I'm sure others are dying to add their thoughts and ideas for your situation.
    Thanks so much for your wonderful reply. I will take all into consideration and do as advised starting a new thread when time comes.

    I've reconsidered about a structure, for now, on that end of the pool. I do have, not even set up, a 9 ft commercial, off-set umbrella, purchased this summer, that I was going to use in another location. I even have and extra weighted base to put on top of the first base, that requires 4-18" concrete pavers, that I already have. So close to 500 lbs of base weight should at least keep the umbrella from tipping over in our "normal" breezes, 20-30 mph.

    Commenting on your suggestion of "nature"..... I do have Virginia Creeper covering the whole west facing side of the house. It grows like a vengeance out here and these vines actually wrapped around the SW side of the house to fully cover the wall, two stories, in a matter of 3-4 years. It sheds its leaves in late Oct, after turning bright red, which is nice in many ways. One being that the pool is about 8 ft max from the wall, and of course all the leaves end up in pool (I now have two PoolSkims that help tremendously), but the VK's leaves are all shed by the time the other trees really start to shed their leaves. Makes management much easier. The vines don't appear to affect the integrity of the brick at all. Keeping them trimmed from the wood, soffit, etc. is important, I've been told, though I haven't trimmed that in recent few years though.

    I've been seriously thinking of putting similar to your setup as shade for the NE facing deck. But it would be much different in that it would meet with the roof that faces the NE and ends just 8 ft up from the deck. The structure would, in effect form a V where it nears the roof line, with panels facing SW. So the high side of the structure would be out towards the deck, with low side, closer to roof line. I was sitting out there imagining the other day (actually sit out there a lot) and was trying to imagine what I could do to make the panels adjustable like one does with Solar PV panels. In the winter (keep pool open year round) I would need an angle of greater than 45 degrees (from level or ground) but in summer much, much less than that. In mid summer, around these parts, many solar pool collectors are actually used for night time cooling. But taken into consideration our extreme sun intensity, and the large number of days of sun we have year round, even with the 45 (or greater) angle for winter, there would be a considerable amount of collection during a spring, summer, fall day. I'm still in the very early planning stage AND might not even have the money next spring to do any of the project.

    My closest neighbor is an architect. I'm going to see what kind of bartering I can do with him for planning and design. My deck it 30' X 30', is shaded by morning sun until about noon from trees, and gets an amazing amount of sun most of the day, but they would not shade the structure. The deck is Trex, so forget about anchoring anything into it. BUT the supporting structure is all steel. But I'm thinking we would run, at least the outside supports, all the way to the ground under the deck, anchored to concrete. If I used "tin" roofing, as you did, the weight would be reduced considerably. I have painted "tin" or sheet metal, on my small goat/pony barn, down the hill, that is still in great shape after 21 years. It is the "corrugated" or what ever you call it, similar to yours.

    Summer collection is the least needed so I might just compromise angles for most collection spring/fall and forget about deep winter and mid summer. My first degree was in Physics, in another life , many moons ago, so I have some perspectives and natural abilities on spacial, directional aspects. That's the easy part.

    Well, this post was intended mainly as a thank you to you. I won't tell my husband but you are responsible for planting these ideas in my head.

    Right now I'm working out the plumbing on my new Quad filter and a little re-pluming at the pumping station; one that has been "redone", added to, etc., over 28 years. It is in need of lots of tinkering but I'm mainly, immediately, moving just the filter about 5-8 ft from pumping station so I can get the top off without removing the filter from the station and dragging it out from under the deck when ever I need to open it. And taking out about 4 90's that aren't needed at all coming from filter to main return.

    I'll start another post when I begin seriously to plan the structure.

    Many thanks, gg=alice
    1981, 25K, IG, Blue Plaster 1996, somewhat oval, widens a bit at shallow end, 1.5" pipes, 2" at Pad, 1 separate main drain, 1 skimmer, 4 returns + dedicated cleaner return, 10 ft deep end with very fast decline from shallow, Pentair Quad 80 DE, Pentair Intelliflo VF, 3/4 HP Booster Pump (equipment pad about 8 ft below top of pool), Challanger 3/4 Trash/Emergency Pump 120v, Polaris 280 (pressure), iRobot Verro cleaner (robotic), Aquabot Turbo (robotic), Jacuzzi Tracker 4X (vacuum) Pool Blaster (Buster), Two (2) PoolSkims, Solar Breeze (solar powered top skimmer) (beta to ver. 2, release date 2010), ColorSplash LED replacement bulb. Aries 550 gal separate spa, 2002 (our 3rd and BEST spa) , BBB-Bromine

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    Brentr's Avatar
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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Zephans, I too am considering solar, however did I miss this but can you tell me again how many degrees you increased your pool? I know that you have about 160sq ft of solar which is about 55% of your pool surface area. How many gals and how deep is your pool???
    5,775 gal, IG free form, Beach Series Antigua by Marbletite Pebble finish, 2 swim out benches, Sheer Descent, IG Fountain, Dolphin / Mermaid Statues, StaRite Dura- Glas 1.5hp pump, Hayward Pro Series Sand Filter replaced with Hayward Pro-grid DE4820, Aqua Rite SWG with T-Cell 15, Polaris 360, Pentair 300w Light upgraded to Pentair IntelliBrite (OMG what a huge difference) , Heat Siphon Heat Pump DX 5.0 109,000 btu, Pool Cage, 1800sq ft Tremron Estate Pavers, solar cover, TF-100 test kit, Pentair Deck Jet, Apollo Magnetic Stirrer (Makes testing a breeze), Aquatherm Ecosun Solar Panels 192 sq ft with GL-235 Controller,Margarita Concoction Machine,
    Pics of our Spool ( Social Pool) being built Solar install Outdoor kitchen upgrade

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    Re: Solar heater finished on custom built deck roof!

    Quote Originally Posted by Brentr
    Zephans, I too am considering solar, however did I miss this but can you tell me again how many degrees you increased your pool? I know that you have about 160sq ft of solar which is about 55% of your pool surface area. How many gals and how deep is your pool???
    Remember in Florida you'll get tons more sunshine than I do in Seattle, WA. I'd say it increased the pool ~7 or maybe 10 degrees warmer after using it on a couple consecutive sunny days (compared to bypassing the solar heater). Even with ~19 gallons per minute flow the water is noticeably warmer at the return jet on a sunny day.

    I've considered making a fabric or fine mesh separator to keep heated water circulating in only 1/4 of the pool - recycling and further heating a much smaller water volume (free "warm tub" effect). I've seen the "Hot Pod" floating hot tub at www.poolsupplies.com, but I decided it would be better to build my own mesh-with-floats-and-weights barrier than buying a custom square that has to be hauled out and stored somewhere.

    Our pool holds 7,700 gallons at 52" deep. However for solar heating (and heat loss) depth and volume don't matter as much as surface area. At least that's what I've read. Volume does matter for time to heat (or cool) the pool. I'm sure depth affects how cold the pool feels in the deep end (if you have one ), especially if you only measure surface temperature like I do.
    -------

    FYI: Neat trick #1 putting the supply pipe through the gutter was a bad idea. It still looks clean and spiffy. However I now need to figure out how to keep it unclogged . I would have been much better off running the pipe adjacent to the gutter downspout.
    Thanks! ZephanS
    AG 12'x24'x54" "Diamond Star" (wilbar) bought 2007 from http://www.sunenterprise.com as kit with waterco 2hp (max) pump (too big+noisy) & WaterCo T450 150lb sand filter (filled w/ 75lbs zeobrite). Pool installed 2007. 160 sq ft solar array installed (2009) on custom metal deck roof (2008). Purchase, Site prep, & installation 100% DYI thanks to PF and TFP. Wrap-around deck, small swg, electrical upgrade, and 8' water slide still pending install.

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