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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pool Be Sorry

I could go into a lengthy dissertation, babbling about how I am a water person, but I won’t…for the most part. However, I will preface this post by saying that I have been a lover of the water all my life. There was a time I could spend all day in the pool or the ocean. I would become so water logged that when I went to bed at night I could still feel my body sloshing around like I was still in the water. So, it should come as no surprise that I would have a pool when I finally became a homeowner, right? Well…

As a kid, I didn’t have a pool. I either went to a friend’s house or a public pool to swim. When we did go on a vacation in the summer, I would always lobby for the beach, but sometimes I would be forced to accept swimming in the lake at Prince Gallitzin. It just wasn’t the same. First of all, there was a rope outlining where the swimming area was, and within that perimeter it felt like there was a concrete slab underneath the sand. Still, I enjoyed it as a chance to be in the water. Maybe it has something to do with being a Pisces.

When I got older and went on vacations with my wife while we were dating, we always made sure the hotel we stayed at had a pool. After we got married and sort of graduated to renting a beach house, we only looked at houses that had a pool and being private made it more enjoyable.

One day, I vowed to have a pool of my own. To that end, I figured that if I was going to actually take the plunge and install one, I want to wait until I can afford an in ground pool. Unfortunately, that day may never come, at least where I am living now. My yard is not very conducive to sustaining a pool without massive landscaping. The yard starts at the back of my house and slopes gradually, and then sharply, and the not as sharp, sharp, and then gradual. It kind of looks like a graph of the economy over the last two years. That’s just going in one direction. From side to side, it’s also not level. I also have two huge maple trees in the back yard that have taken over underneath the yard with a root system that has found its way into the terracotta pipes underneath my garage and driveway. Not to mention, the canopy pretty much keeps the sun off the yard for the most part. Realistically, for me to put a pool in, I would spend more on landscaping than actual installation.

However, my wife is convinced that we could put up a pool with no problems and be floating around on our rafts. With our daughter’s second birthday this past July, my wife was hell bent on getting a pool. Now, I’d love to have one, but I know what has to happen. I once told my wife that three things had to be replaced before I could even think about a pool. The hot water tank, the furnace, and the air conditioner have to go belly up before I can devote time and money to a pool. The hot water tank went first. The A/C and furnace are kind of iffy at this point with the furnace really iffy because it’s original to the house from the 60s. And now, I think I’m going to have to add the roof to that equation, because I’m noticing some water marks on my ceiling.

That veiled threat was made before the knowledge of INTEX pools. These are the Wal-Mart special pools that are in the neighborhood of $300.00 and consist of a liner, pipes that stand on the ground connected to tee pieces that are connected to a ring of pipes slid into sleeves around the liner. A small pump and some hoses connect the filter into the liner and you have yourself a pool erected in a half an hour’s time. We nearly bought one. Well, she nearly bought one while I protested, shaking the George Cukor finger of shame, at her.

So, I did what any wary consumer in the world would do. I called my family. They have the wisdom and experience of being through this before. My brother, in particular, had recently built a house and had one of these pools in his back yard before getting a more permanent one installed. I called him from the store to ask his opinion on owning one. Is it worth it? Is it costly to maintain? Would he recommend buying one?

His response was simple. Don’t buy one. I thought I would be vindicated in this matter. He went on to explain that they still had theirs and it was sitting in a box, in their basement. He wanted to get rid of it but didn’t want to go through the hassle of selling it to someone who would be going through his house to see it or have to figure out how to ship for an online purchase. I had thought my sister would have had it but she doesn’t have the yard for it. Frankly, neither did I.

Unwilling to look a gift horse in the mouth and also incur the wrath of my wife, I agreed to take it off his hands and he brought it to the house. The thing came in a sizable box along with a ground cloth and liner. It sat in my garage from July 5th until August 1st. Why? Because the yard needed to be worked on before I could set it up.

My wife was hoping we could just put it up the day it was delivered. I told her she was nuts, honestly. Looking at our yard, it slopes about a foot or more from the back of the house to about 20 feet out. We needed at least 17 feet for the 16 foot pool, although looking back, 18 feet would have been better, but I was pressed for time. I needed to do one of two things, dig or dump. If I dumped dirt on my yard to level out the area, I would have spent money and time on material and delivery…not to mention destroying my yard in the process. If I dig, I need something other than a shovel. I was doing the work myself and just digging up a five foot by two foot section proved to be a hassle with all the roots twisting and turning underneath the soil.

We decided to go with a hybrid approach. Dig down in the portion against the house and move that ground to the lower portion to build it up. Not such a great idea as I will explain later. We had a few false starts and down time during the week, waiting for things to happen. We were supposed to get use of a tractor with a blade on it but that didn’t happen. We also had to contend with all the rain we’ve been getting in this unusual summer. More ire from my wife who kept saying she would just go out and dig it herself forced me onto a guilt trip and I finally went out and dug up half the sod. I managed to break a shovel in the process.

By the time I got around to getting down to business, I was informed that all I needed was a rototiller. Well, now, why wasn’t that on the table from day one? I secured my Father-in-Law’s rototiller and began digging a hole. Unfortunately, the damn thing needed to have gas poured into the hole for the spark plug to start. Each time we had to quit and start up we had to repeat the process. I finished the first attempt around the 25th of July. I’d till and then hack away at a huge root. I’d till, then hack again, or toss rocks out of the way. By the time I was done, I had a more level piece of land but still way off. Not to mention, I was coming up short on the required 17 feet from front to back.

This past Saturday, my wife went shopping with our daughter, giving me the opportunity to get the job done. I attempted to till again and managed to break the ceramic spark plug in half trying to put in gas. Bleeding and furious, I began to just dig and rake the yard, building up the ground at the bottom of the circle…which looked more like an oval. I ended up having to dig more off the back of the yard to get more dirt and area for the pool. I was running into obstacles because the ground was more mud than dirt or more accurately, clay. I decided to take a break before I broke something else and went to the store for a new shovel, a garden rake so I didn’t break my F-I-L’s and sand. If I couldn’t get any more depth, at least I could get more girth.

Stupidly, I bought six fifty pound bags of sand. I should have bought at least ten. I returned to the house as it was nearing 4:00pm and decided to get back out there and finish this thing. Spreading the sand around I laughed as I realized how bad of a job I was doing. My thoughts went towards the sight of this pool snapping its posts and exploding, the water rushing down my yard and into the homes of the street below mine. After I finished, I said, “Eff it!” and went for the ground cloth. I had the cloth down and the liner spread out as my wife returned, putting the baby down for a nap. I made mistake number two when I decided to put the hose outlets on the house side of the pool. I was afraid of not having enough electrical cord and didn’t think about the fact that I was still uneven at this point. The water level would be off about six inches to a foot on either side.

Mistake number three came when I got the pool filled and noticed that there was a leak in the liner. I couldn’t tell where because of the ground cloth providing a surface for the water to seep along as it headed towards the outside. I should have filled it enough to cover the entire bottom and then inspected for leaks. But, I didn’t care. I was tired of this business and wanted the voices in my ear to stop. So, I filled it up. On Sunday, August 1st, I had the pool filled. The difference in depth on one side versus the other was laughable. My wife joked that I always wanted a deep end, and now I had it.

Mistake number four came when I added chlorine. Here’s a little tip for you… when you get those tablets…don’t sniff them. They smell like chlorine. Don’t look at the number of tablets inside the container either. There’s as many as stated on the outside. I managed to burn the hell out of my nose and lungs when I attempted to look into the container and inhale, slightly. After a few hours of dissolving one of the tablets in the floater, I opened it to see if it was all gone. I was at an arm’s length and it still got me. Don’t inhale. Your lungs will thank you. I went to bed Saturday night with a bead of sweat perched on my brow.

It used to be that I would go to bed at night, worried that the alarm wouldn’t go off in the morning or that the baby would have something wrong and I wasn’t there to keep an eye out. Those things were far gone from my need to worry as I kept a light sleep pattern, listening for the sound of snapping vinyl and metal pipes, followed by the sound of rushing water. The pool has managed to stay in one piece, but the damage is done. The front side is sinking into the shelf I built up and who knows how much more it will sink.

Now, I could take it down and fix it in a weekend but I would have to drain thousands of gallons of water, tear it down and try and fix it. The next month’s worth of weekends doesn’t allow for that kind of screwing around. So, we’ve decided to just swim in it as much as we can, close it for the winter and then see about fixing it in the Spring, if it’s still standing.

By the way, you may have noticed I started my list of mistakes at number two. The first mistake was telling my wife that my brother was willing to give me his. I should have just said he hated it and went from there. Of course, that would have come back to bite me in the ass later. Still, I don’t doubt that I went about this whole matter with poor execution and planning. It was just a case of letting someone else make the decisions and live with the consequences of that failure. That’s a 5000 gallon ‘I told you so,’ waiting to happen. Anyone want to take bets?

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