The Hole in the Ground


I confess to being ambivalent – in the true sense of the word; I feel strongly two ways – about swimming pools.

On the one hand, nothing enhances a back yard space more elegantly than a well-appointed pool. Add a water feature – a fountain or a waterfall, for instance – and you can have your own small slice of paradise. Here is a pool that we put in the back yard of a house that we built (as opposed to remodeled):

pool w flowers1smaller
(The rose mallow hibiscus blooms were as big as your face.)

On the other hand, pools literally are holes in the ground that you throw money in. Even if you hire a service to keep the chemicals in balance and perform periodic maintenance, they are a pain. They immediately add 20% to your electric bill and they are magnets for leaves, twigs, strange-looking bugs, and heaven forbid that you have crepe myrtles anywhere on your block.

But pools in Texas help houses sell. It’s not as if you recoup your investment on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but folks like the idea of escaping the heat by immersing themselves in cool water.

More importantly, however, the kids and the grandkids love them. So in 3 of our last 4 houses, if there wasn’t one there already, we dug a hole and put one in.

The back yard of the ranch that we’re working on in these posts had just the right amount of space for a small pool, but the ground wasn’t level.

back deck beforeStanding on the deck and looking toward the rear of the yard, the ground sloped a bit downward and slightly away to the right. The next picture is looking in the direction of the slope.

6844 Brants 005 (3)Ordinarily, we would need some excavation and fill to level the yard for a pool. Debra’s idea for this space, however, was a bit different. She figured that leveling wouldn’t be a problem if we simply didn’t insist that the top of the pool walls be even with grade. So, we opted to pop them up out of the ground about 6 inches on the high grade end. Doing so made them about a foot high on the low grade end.

High-grade end
High-grade end
Low-grade end
Low-grade end

Since the area wasn’t huge to begin with, we didn’t want to take up a lot of grass area with concrete. Raising the pool slightly above grade had the added benefit of eliminating the need for concrete decking around the pool, the purpose of which usually is to keep yard debris – grass clippings, etc. – out of the water.

The pipes that you see sticking up along the sides of the gunite walls are the plumbing for the fountain jets – three on each side – designed to arc streams toward the opposite sides of the pool.

Surface-plaster, grey flagstone cladding, and block stone coping all worked together to form a refreshing little oasis.

Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze
Photo by Trey Freeze

I am not ambivalent about decks. Wooden ones. I love them. Raised or flat or multi-tiered, in the back yard or front, covered or open to the sky – all depending upon the dictates of the space. And, once built, they don’t increase (and might even decrease) your utility bills.

Next post – Deck transformation.

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