After a year with my first pool I thought it may be useful to others to share my experiences and thoughts, and hopefully give anyone that is still thinking about an above ground pool or any pool for that matter a little inspiration.
As a kid, like all kids I guess, we dreamt of having our own swimming pool in the garden, sadly due to access problems for plant and machinery the only option would have been to dig out by hand and so the cost made it prohibitive and it never happened.
Roll on some 30 years and the dream was still there as was fatherhood, my own home, and an eight year old that enjoys water, add them together and you have the basic ingredients for a pool purchase.
I started looking at the end of last year and it soon became obvious that the only option open to me cost wise was going to be an above ground set up, apologies to anyone offended but the thought of what is effectively a giant paddling pool didn’t really excite me much, during my hours of searching on ebay I noticed some pools that were encased in timber panelling or logs, again cost was prohibiting this purchase but the idea to do something similar myself was in my head.
I eventually decided on the Intex easy set as it seemed sensibly priced and included everything you needed. Size was the next thing to decide, some friends have a 12ft pool due to space restrictions so obviously it had to be bigger and better than that !.
We decided that a round 16ft x 4ft would suit our needs and could be had for around the £300 / $450 level.
A bit difficult to explain but my property is on a hill and by luck it happened that we had an existing terrace albeit very small out the back of the house, whilst the digger was there doing other small works I got him to level out the ground exactly 4ft below the terrace in a 20ft square in order to sit the pool on, by this time we were down to chalk level and I decided that a solid concrete base would not be needed.
First job was to site the pool in the middle of the terrace and then I decided to build decking off of my existing terrace and around the pool and create in essence a real pool look.
Firstly we needed to sit the pool on the ground on some kind of something that would stop anything sharp from damaging the liner, I decided on a large piece of old carpet and under that the large groundsheet that was part of the Intex set, in hindsight this was mistake number 1 as several sheets of 1” polystyrene would have been a lot better for the job and provided insulation and something nicer to walk on but I was trying to keep costs down.
Anyway we laid out the pool and put up the frame and set it all in place ready for me to start building around, this was around October time or the start of winter for us in the UK. Mistake number 2 was in thinking that I didn’t need to get out every single fold in the bottom of the liner as the pressure of the water would surely pull it all nice and tight when we come to fill it in the springtime ? No it does not work like that and I still don’t know why!.
So the pool was sited and ready for me to start the interesting stuff and construct some decking around the whole area. I covered the pool with the cover provided by Intex but found every time it rained the pool filled with a little more water and the cover fell in, desperate to keep as much of the water out as possible I made a spiders web of rope criss crossing the pool to sit the cover on, looked good but started to form pockets that eventually dragged the cover in again, mistake number 3 in so much as these covers are designed to work laying on top of the water, despite adding additional holes in the cover it still fell in on a regular basis.
I continued over the winter with the timber construction as and when I could and used the evenings for a bit of research normally via ebay, I decided a salt water chlorinator was what I needed so when I found one at the right price I snapped it up. Talking with friends I would need a heater so was on the look out for one again at the right price as I was told the 3kw Intex job would be nowhere near big enough for a pool my size, A 9kw heater or bigger was what I needed but these were more than the pool so again ebay to the rescue and I found an Elecro 9kw for around £70, it was still December only so the above additions would have to wait a while for testing.
Over the winter I worked outside when I could and luckily had a mild winter mostly, and only had the rare weekend when I couldn’t work outside, all of the decking was down but I couldn’t cut the overhang until I filled the pool as I figured it would more than likely move a little and not match the hole cut in the timber.
March couldn’t come soon enough and the finished decking, power supply, pump housing and pipework kind of coincided with spring and the big day of filling the pool was finally here, we took off the cover and found about 2 foot of water and a ton of leaves from the trees that had made its way into the pool, I called into my local pool shop with the question should I dump the water or leave it and just add chemicals etc, to my surprise the advice was to get out as much as I could with the net shock it and just let the pump and filter do its job. Arguably this was mistake number 4 and I should have just dumped the rainwater as the standard Intex pump wouldn’t suck the froth off your coffee in my opinion, to be fair to Intex it probably works fine with clean water to start whereby it wont have to do much work, I found after taking out as much as we could with a net and borrowing a friends pool vac thingy the filter just got blocked every few minutes and most of the weekend was spent hoovering for 5 mins and cleaning the filter out for 15 mins, really frustrating and time consuming to the end result of deciding I needed a proper sand filter and pump when funds became available.
Pool was now full with clearish water and the panic started with chemicals, testing kits, and what to do next, my local pool shop had advised once full to shock so that was the first job, I contacted another good friend that had a tablet testing kit as I had nothing as yet other than the test strips and was undecided what to go for, we added a little PH+ and some chlorine tablets and let it do its stuff, next day PH still a little low but to be honest the water and pool were looking good and the sun was out, roll on Summer!.
I had to fiddle (like you do with a new toy) so added a drop more PH+ nothing seemed to happen on the test strips so I added another dose to my horror the pool turned a milky white colour, calls to different pool shops gave different answers and in a mad panic I just had to have the TF100 test kit ordered on here from the states, this is a top bit of kit but I fear could well be mistake 5 as by the time it arrived I had taken other action like going to the pool shop with a test sample, I mean you cant wait 48 hours for a test kit when you have a new pool can you? So in all its glory it’s still in it’s box.
The moral of the above is to add a little chemical and wait a few days not minutes, a little PH- a time eventually sorted the job out.
Again thanks to ebay I located locally a used sand filter and ¾ hp pump for the sum of £70, total overkill on the pump side but I figured if the worst came to the worst I could always stick back on ebay for sale again and just keep the sand filter. It all seems to be working fine and in normal use I am able to run the pump for 6 hours a day, next year I will cut back to around 3 or 4 and see what happens. Also it sucks like a demon and cleans the pool with the vac a treat.
So finally my water at this stage was nice and clear, I never got round to using the salt water chlorinator as I was talked out of it by the chlorine gang, so this and the original pump were sold to fund the new pump. On the subject of chemicals I have been led to believe over the years that a pool is hard work and you have to constantly keep testing the water in case you kill the kids etc etc, and generally unless you live in a hot climate just not worth the hassle for the amount of use you will get. I have to say after my first year once the water is correct I just add a tablet in the skimmer basket which seems to last about 4 days, leave for a couple of days, and simply replace normally one a week. I have to say after the initial silly mistakes it really has been very simple. I initially used the test strips as all the UK pool shops swear by them, I find them difficult to use and not accurate enough, secondly I used a friends tablets which seemed ok but again not that easy to use, thirdly I did buy the TF100 test kit on here which as yet I have not used, reason I have not used it is because I sourced from Europe from a friend a droplet kit (which I note forms part of the TF kit) for PH and Chlorine testing and this has been fine and the water perfect all year. Being a newby I have gone from testing PH and CL twice a day to around once a week but always the night before or the day I know the kids will get in the pool. Only other thing I added on occasion was some anti algee additive, which is now in my new stock of tablets anyway so not done for a while.
One of my friends in the UK swears by shocking the pool every time he uses it and has no problems, my other friend in France tells me stop keep adding chemicals like shock it is not needed, both have had a real brick built pool for around 20 years so I respect there opinions greatly.
For me however, I have found with my kind of pool get the PH correct, and then keep the chlorine level correct via the tablets and it has been fine. I do clean out the pool on a regular basis and try to keep it in good condition at all times and the best tester I have found is the 2 tubes that you fill with water and then add 6 drops of chemical, works really well for me and you can take your time to make an accurate reading unlike the test strips.
Ok so it was now time to think about our first swim as the outside temperature was around 20 and the pool around 16 or so, Time then to turn on the heater, in theory yes except I have calculated that a 9kw heater would cost around £25 a day to run so no way could it be left on full time, before I even thought about turning it on I had to think about some kind of heat retention so in the end opted to “wrap” the pool in 4” polystyrene sheet, and to buy a 400 micron solar cover, we were now ready for action.
A 9kw heater may not sound much to some of the guys on here but believe me when you switch it on the electric meter spins like a flying saucer ! mistake number 6 was looking at the meter and calculating the cost in the first place. Depending on outside temperature it takes around 24 hours to raise the pool 6 or 7 degrees i.e 16 cold to 22 ish, we started swimming in around 25 degrees and have found subsequently that we will not get in unless its 27 or so. I normally use the pool weekends so will put the heater on early Friday morning blast it for 24 hours and use over the weekend, again dependant on the outside temperature and amount of sun the pool will cool down to the tune of around 2 degrees a day, the electric bills a shocker (pun intended) when it comes but not many other options open. I am looking at maybe a home made solar panel for next year but sighting could be a problem, and I will need something like that pump I sold on ebay to push it around, something to think about over the winter.
I am about close for the winter, I am not going to drain the pool but will disconnect all pumps, filters, and pipework and drain those, will thoroughly clean the pool and shock, then double cover to keep as much out as possible until spring.
If anyone is thinking of a pool purchase and reading this my advice would be to just do it, the cost and work I put into this project all became worthwhile the minute I saw my sons face on his first dip, Priceless. We have had great fun this year as a family, as a couple with the wife and a cold glass of wine, it enhances the property and adds value, and just looks great.
Research what you need thoroughly, the pool is the cheap bit, in the UK you will need a heater (can be the same cost as the pool) and remember the bigger the pool the more it will cost to heat, the bigger the heater needed, and longer it will take to warm up. In the USA it looks to me like it depends where you live. Think about your base and remember to get all the creases out, something to remember and I still cant believe it 22,000 litres is 22 tonnes or eleven Range Rovers, get a good powerful pump and filter, whilst the standard item may pump water round it will almost certainly not be able to clean the pool and will become blocked in minutes, wait a day before testing your pool after adding any chemicals, these things take time to work but don’t be talked into being frightened of the pool it’s really not rocket science.
To finish, it’s one of the best things I have done for the family and cant wait for next summer.
I have a full set of photos of the construction if someone would kindly like to post on here for me as I cant get my head round the minimising and zipping thing, I am happy to send real photos to someone to post or look at.