Friday, January 25, 2008

Recession Proof Pool Deck

We had our good friends from Roto Rooter over early this morning to inspect a clogged drain underneath our deck and running down the side of the house. Somehow a baby palm tree - yes, a palm tree - starting growing in one of the drains on the side of the house... where there is nothing but hardscape.

How it got there I don't know. But its roots are already spreading out all over the pipes that runoff to the street gutter. In order to fix it they'll have to rip up all of the concrete on the side of the house, and then replace 70' of pipe. The estimated cost? $4000.

I have to thank the little palm tree for its impeccable timing... volatile stock market, weak US dollar, credit crisis, sub-prime mortgage crisis, economic "experts" talking about recession... and I'm looking at making a decision between the drain - not something I want but something I'll eventually need to do - and a kitchen home improvement project (something I do want).

So the title of this blog post "Recession Proof Pool Deck" is written with a little bit of irony. Of course I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a recession proof deck. But I think one can't hurt and has the potential to certainly help right now.

The latest financial news and our friends from Roto Rooter got me thinking about pool decks or any other home improvement project. How practical would it be to build a pool deck in this economic climate?

Well, I suppose that depends on you and what you want versus what you need.

People spend more money on what they want and on what will make their lives perceptively better. In my situation, an improved kitchen will make me a lot happier than spending $4000 on a clogged drain.

Plus, the new kitchen will increase the value of the home... as would your new above ground pool deck... both appreciative home improvements that anyone who has the means should always consider doing.

So I'll use a submersible pump I can buy at any home and garden store as a stop gap for the drain, remodel the kitchen which makes the home a little more valuable, and then the drain fix basically pays for it self when the time comes to fix it.

I've just balanced what I want with what I need.

How does this apply to your above ground pool deck project?

If my situation with the drain were yours - and we're all living with the same global economic concerns unless you're doing quite well for yourself - then you should consider giving yourself what you want first... especially if if were to noticeably appreciate the value of a major asset like your home. In this case I'm thinking that thing you want would be your pool deck.

The exception to that being if your need - in this example the drain - became too much of a nuisance to avoid for long.

You might think it difficult to justify paying for a new above ground pool deck in a recession. I'm thinking how can you not?

  • Staying home and splashing around in your pool is a big money saver as time moves forward versus traveling the globe or buying the a big flat panel HDTV, neither adding any appreciative value to your assets.
Of course many people love to travel and watch TV! I'm just using those in contrast to another want of yours - a pool deck - that would actually add real financial value as well as pleasure.
  • Remember that according to the National Association of Homebuilders you can recover up to 75% of the cost of your deck construction when you sell your home.
So despite the recession, it's always a good time to build your dream above ground pool deck. A new toy that will increase your home enjoyment and your homes value.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Know-How: Pool Chemical Balance

Each time I go to a pool service store I'm impressed by the broad explanations store representatives use to explain the proper pool water balance in an attempt to save a pool owner from algae or other problems.

Also, when reading many online swimming pool forums I notice that many people - with good intentions - claim to be water industry experts and will attempt to dazzle you with complex water chemistry ideas.

Nothing against online forums and good people talking about their swimming pools! But you know what? It's actually very easy to figure out what the pool chemical balance should be.

Chlorine residual: 1.0 - 3.0 ppm
Alkalinity: 80 - 150 ppm
pH: 7.4 - 7.6
Hardness: 200 - 400 ppm
Cyanuric acid: 30 - 80 ppm
Dissolved solids: less than 2000 ppm

Here is the reason why you need to know and apply this to your swimming pool...

If you add too much or too little chemical to your pool then your chemicals will be out of balance and this could cause problems, including the risk of algae growth.

You don't have to be perfect here. But, if you're in then general ballpark of the above numbers you're probably doing better than most people who never pay attention to their swimming pool. And you're going a long way to ensuring that your pool remains clean and free from algae.

A word of caution: each chemical will work with the other so achieving a good balance should never be overlooked. With that all said, be careful when you pour chemicals and be aware of what could happen to your pool water if you forget to pour anything at all.

Always think and ask yourself how much really needs to be added at any given time so you can maintain ideal water chemistry. Most importantly, always follow all applicable safety procedures when handling pool chemicals.

Know you pool, enjoy your pool!


Paul Ottaviano
Construction of a Pool Deck & bonus:
How to Get Rid of Visible Algae in Pool

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Basics of Above Ground Pool Deck Blueprints

When it comes time to put your pool deck plans on paper you should not skip over this step or take it lightly. You'll need to clarify your plan and choose where the final elements of your new pool deck will go.

I've seen too many instances where people disregard this step in the process and then make impulsive decisions during construction that get them way off schedule because they build something that doesn't make code, make a costly mistake, or buy the wrong materials.

Don't be this person. Take your planning seriously. And go one step at a time...

  • Create a Base Map
This is where you'll measure and sketch the outline of your structures, plantings, and other features such as fences or patios.

  • Do a Site Analysis
This step you'll figure out from a birds-eye-view if what you're planning looks good and is practical with the natural layout of your backyard. Plus you'll learn things like how light will affect your deck or what views need to be a focal point or blocked entirely.

  • Bubble Plan
A bubble plan will give you an idea of how things could be on your above ground pool deck. It's basically a brainstorm using both your site analysis and base map as primers. Do at least several bubble plans so you get different ideas going.

  • Master Plan
This is the where you'll combine everything... each feature of your yard, fences, and home... plants and trees... privacy features. Here you'll label each element and add color to the plan if you want to. It's a good idea to go back outside and double check to make sure you haven't missed anything.

Your local building inspector might also require a plan view or elevation. These will include - to scale - joists, beams, posts, and other key elements of the pool deck. It's the drawing the will most closely resemble above ground pool deck blueprints.

Remember to go one step at a time. And have a good time with it!

All the best,

Paul Ottaviano
More on Blueprints

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pool Deck Plans in Winter

A friend of mine recently asked, "Is there anybody really building or thinking about building an above ground pool deck now?"

In other words, is an above ground pool deck even on any persons radar in the middle of winter?

That's a good question, given that in the place where above ground pools are very common... the northeast United States for instance... experiences lousy weather this time of year or they're too busy shoveling snow out of their driveway.

And I can empathize. I was born in Rochester NY and spent my early childhood years in upstate NY. I'll admit that I do not remember a lot about the place. But I do remember a lot of white and cold during the winters.

So the answer to my friend was, "Well, they're probably not building a pool deck now but they will once it warms up again and so it's possible some people are at least thinking about it."

So even though it's cold outside it's not too cold to be inside and get informed on how to build a pool deck. Let's start with planning.

You'll need a good above ground pool deck plan before you even make the first purchase of materials. Otherwise, you run the risk of building a pool deck that doesn't fit with your personal style...

Maybe it won't be compatible with your intended use or natural layout of your backyard... or maybe it won't be up to code creating all sorts of havoc with your local building inspector who could have you do everything over again, costing you a bundle.

So start learning the basics of above ground pool deck planning now. Start making some plans that don't require the conveniences of good weather and you'll be ahead in the game when peak DIY season rolls around again.

Here is one thing you can do now...

Start thinking about your pool decks primary intended use. Of course it will be used to sit on before or after a swim. But think more broadly than that. Ask yourself questions like this...

1. Will it be a private retreat where you can get away from the every day?

If this is the case you'll want to add to your plans privacy fences and trees to give you the sense of privacy.

2. Is the pool deck to be a safe zone for your kids and their friends when they have swim time?

In this case you'll want to make sure you can easily view the pool deck from either your living room, kitchen, or back porch... whichever is applicable. Make sure there is no obstruction of your view. So in this instance a privacy screen or tall trees would not make sense.

3. Will the deck primarily be used to host swim parties and friendly get-togethers?

If so, planning for tall trees or privacy screens and fences wouldn't make sense either because you'll want to create the feeling of openness for guests rather than enclosure.

When you know the answers to questions such as these your pool deck plans take on another dynamic. That extra dynamic being your personalization.

It's important that you create a deck that not only is compatible with your local codes but also a natural fit with your backyard, intended use, and personal style. Otherwise, you might not use it very much and it's value will be diminished.

Know your pool, enjoy your pool!

Best regards,

Paul Ottaviano

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Underwater Swimming Workout Tip

I know it's that time of year where many of you are thinking about anything else but swimming, especially if you live in a cold weather climate and have your own above ground pool. But you might have an indoor community pool or one at your local gym. Besides, it will get warm again before you know it...

So I want to share with you some swimming workout
techniques I've used in my pool to help enhance my personal fitness.

Before you say, "Hey wait a minute! I thought this was
an above ground pool deck blog!", consider the following...

Swimming is a great non-impact total body workout
that can sculpt your body with lean muscle and help improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Swimming is great for your bones and joints because
unlike other impact sports or exercises you're not jerking your body around or being slammed into.

3. And since this is a deck and pool newsletter I'm going to go ahead and assume you have a swimming pool already and you're going to swim in it from time to time.

So, since I want you to "know your pool" and have an enjoyable
overall experience with your swimming pool and above ground pool deck, I think you will find good value for the occasional swim safety or workout tip.

Now before I share the following workout tip with you I need
to remind you that you must be a confident swimmer before trying any of this.

And please observe all safety precautions.

For example, if you have kids and they want to try these workout
tips please make sure they're supervised during their time in the water.


It may seem crazy but underwater swimming is a great cross-
training exercise if you're interested in improving your cardio.

Not only do you get the total body workout of regular lap swimming
but you also train the lungs to have greater capacity. For example, I surf a lot here in California and it's important for me to condition my lungs and mind not to panic if I'm underwater.

This exercise is not limited to surfers. If you do any sort
of endurance sport or any other water sport it's a good idea to train your lungs and mind to handle the shock of less oxygen.

Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering what a surfer in California is doing talking about above ground pool decks please note that 15% of above ground pools are sold in the west now! And more above ground pools are sold in the US than any other swimming pool.

Anyway, that side note aside, here are some ideas on how to get the most out of your underwater swim:
  • For safety, start with a swimming pool of normal length like the one in your backyard. You can also try a local community pool or one at a gym. Watch your times if it's a longer pool.
  • Do ten reps (laps) at 30 seconds each.
  • If 30 seconds is too long, start with 15 second intervals and gradually add time from there.
  • Do this at twice per week to start with and then gradually increase frequency from there.
  • Wear a watch so you can track your times.
  • Don't push yourself too hard.
  • Know your limits and ability.
  • For safety, make sure you're already a good swimmer and have someone watch you.
  • Children should be supervised.
As always, enjoy your time in the pool and be safe.


Paul Ottaviano
How to Build Pool Deck

Monday, January 7, 2008

How to Build Pool Deck Stairs

All steps in an above ground pool deck stairway must be the same height and depth. Otherwise, it will make your guests feel clumsy as they try to navigate an unbalanced stairway.

And it could be a safety issue. It could give you problems with the local building inspector if not done correctly.

Here are some initial basics regarding deck stairs to help you get started in the right direction...

Rise and Run refer to the actual physical attributes of the stairs.

RISE: the height from one tread, or step, to the next.

RUN: the depth of each tread, or step, from front to back.

Other terms you might use are "unit rise" and "unit run" referring to the measurements of one step. "Total rise" and "total run" refers to the total vertical and horizontal distance of the stairway.


A typical pool deck stairway should have a rise of 6" - 8" and a run of 10" - 12".

Know your pool, enjoy your pool!

Best regards,

Paul Ottaviano