Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cork Floor

Since it's the off-season for building above ground pool decks it's safe to change to a relevant off-topic.

The latest project around the home is a kitchen refacing. You've been there or someday will be. Whether you've got a galley or "a kitchen" there comes a morning when you walk in to make your breakfast and you realize the kitchen is gone. The laminate or linoleum is old and worn, it's not on the comeback trail. Mopping does little good and the runner can't cover up the reality that your floor is simply gross. The splash tile has endured way too much splash over the years and whoever installed the cabinets back in the 1970's or 80's clearly phoned it in.

To top it off, you've yet to consider the style of the place which may or may not have much style at all. You've always known this but it never really hit you before. Why is not important. You were likely busy working or doing fun stuff. Maybe you were on a roll socially or you're a star on Twitter. Either way it was denial, because in one moment you realize the kitchen has stunk for a long time.

Welcome to my kitchen. If this describes yours, I sympathize.

Refacing is the simple and less expensive way to give your kitchen new life. My ragged cabinet frames will have to stay but refacing will make the place look new. Eventually the floor will have to get a face lift too. Currently I'm leaning towards a cork floor.

Here are some features of a cork floor, courtesy of Kraus promotional material:

- Mold, mildew, and odor inhibiting
- Scratch, scuff, and stain resistant
- Factory applied joint moisture protection
- 32 year residential wear warranty
- Indoor air quality certified

Cork looks good. In person and from a slight distance it looks similar to a hardwood floor. Only at closer inspection will you notice the subtle differences. One thing you'll also notice is that it's a bit softer than hardwood. If you've ever injured your foot or knees like I have this is much appreciated.

The nice thing about any home improvement project is that you get to see relatively new stuff or something you've just never considered before, like how I saw cork floors and thought "oh, well of course". This can turn what is sometimes a nerve wracking, mind numbing, or exhaustive process into something creative and fun.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Could your pool deck ever tweet you?

Lately I've been reading a lot about the "Internet of Things". This is a colloquialism used to describe the linking of multiple devices and other elements of nature on the Internet. They can speak to one another and to us through social media.

I'll leave the tech speak and possible benefits from this to people at places like Arduino and Pachube, where they're far more knowledgeable on the subject than me.

But there are examples that a layman can understand. For example, the garden sensor Botanicalls can be placed in a plant and it will tweet you when it needs watering. A quick look at their Twitter stream shows "Water me please", "Urgent! Water me!", and "Urgent! Water me! You didn't water me enough" tweets from one of their plants.

In the DIY universe there is the Garden Bot. According to its website, the Garden Bot is a open source garden monitoring system and provides tutorials on how to build a soil moisture sensor, among other things. The goal is a complete garden monitoring and automation system.

There is technology similar to this already and other garden automation projects in the works, but the allure here is the DIY spirit as it applies to electronics and home use. Combine that with the ability to share ideas and discoveries quickly on social media and you have the makings of serious DIY fun.

How does this relate to pool decking and swimming pools? I don't know for sure. But that's the point. This is about innovation and sharing ideas. And it's perfect for DIY enthusiasts.

It wouldn't surprise me to one day see people using a sensor in their swimming pools that tweet you and your pool service company when chlorine levels are low or if algae is emerging. You can also imagine sensors on above ground pool decks or other decks that alert you when there is stress or mold that may require your attention. Not only will it alert you, but the data can automatically be shared with other deck or pool owners giving us aggregate real-time data that could be very useful.

Some of these products will be available to buy like anything else. But the open source and DIY spirit of some will mean faster and efficient innovation that benefits everyone. It's also a tremendous opportunity for serious DIY makers or part-time hobbyists. In other words, the smart garden sensors and other home improvement "Internet of Things" will be made smarter by people like you.

Meanwhile, my small contribution to
the open source network - an eBook on above ground pool deck plans and how to build a pool deck - is still available to you for free.

Enjoy your pool!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mobile apps for building a pool deck?

Well, I haven't found anything specific in the Apple store yet. But there are some apps that you might find useful.

1. DIY Chat Room -- a social networking app that lets you chat and ask questions with other DIY builders.

2. DIY Tool Box

3. Ugly Pools -- an iPhone app that offers tips on how to care for your swimming pool.

I haven't used these apps yet and I make no claims on their function or reliability. These are apps I stumbled across while browsing Apple's app store today. If you've gone mobile it's probably a good idea to see what other decking or DIY apps are out there.

Speaking of mobile, the free eBook
"How to Build a Pool Deck" looks great in iBooks!

Enjoy your pool!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pool Deck Stairs

This was the fifth email of the newsletter covering the basic difference between your pool deck stairs rise and run and what their typical measurements are. For some of you this information might be redundant, while others might be looking for basics.

All steps in a 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 as well.

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

This will be the same formula regardless if you build a standard stairway or one with different dimensions for large group parties on your pool deck.



P.S. - In the free "How to Build a Pool Deck" eBook there are step-by-step construction basics of a whole pool deck, including stairs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Building around a pool deck safely

This was the fourth part of the email series. You'll learn the standard personal safety precautions you must take in order to prevent an accident or injury while building your above ground pool deck.

Before starting your project and during the construction of your pool deck you should always have a "safety first" mentality.

Building an above ground pool deck should be something you really enjoy, but a preventable injury can turn into a bad time quickly.

Here are some standard personal safety precautions to remember:

1. If you don't know how or you're not sure how to do certain tasks or handle certain tools, ask someone who knows.

2. If you need to rent any tools, or buy any power tools, ask a staff member at your local home improvement center for instructions and a demonstration.

3. Wear safety glasses. Especially when using a saw or hammer.

4. Always pay attention to your work. Pay special attention when using a power tool.

5. Wear knee pads when working on one or both knees.

6. Do not leave tools of any sort on top of a ladder.

7. Wear a dust mask when doing any task that raises dust, like sawing.

8. Wear tighter fitting clothes because loose clothes are at risk of tripping you or being caught in machinery.

9. Wear hard-soled work boots, preferably steel toed.

10. Know your ability and your physical limitations. Take breaks.

These are generally accepted personal safety procedures. You might discover more good safety procedures through your own pool deck building experience and research.

Most importantly, by following these general safety rules you will reduce your chances of an accident or injury and go a long way to ensuring that your deck construction remains safe and fun.

There is more on above ground pool deck plans in the free open license ebook "How to Build a Pool Deck".

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pool Deck Building Codes

This was the third sending of the newsletter.

Before and during the construction of your pool deck you'll have to get to know and comply with your local building codes. Do the research before you plan, double check as you plan, and check again before you start building.

Also, expect your local building inspector to visit your site during construction.

Checking codes two, three, or even four times might sound like overdoing it. But I've learned that you can never be too prepared and never too informed, especially when investing your time and money into something like the construction of an above ground pool deck.

I can't stress this enough. Don't defy the codes (1) (2) (3) or your local building inspector! While some of it may be a hassle and seem unreasonable, most building codes are there for the safety of you and your family.


Most cities will have building codes to make sure your new pool deck is safe, secure, and of good quality. Some cities will consider your pool deck a permanent addition and will require specific materials, heights, depths, etc.

Visit your local building department before you start planning.


Right-of-way rules ensure that your local utility companies have access to their lines.

This could prevent you from building a deck where you initially wanted. Some communities have strict easement laws so knowing where you can legally build your above ground pool deck before construction is an obvious time and money saver.


This regulates the use of your property and the addition of new structures
to it. Generally, this includes minimum distances from property lines and the size of your deck.


Some cities have restrictions on architectural styles so they can maintain property values.

This doesn't mean that you can't build a good pool deck that suits your needs. It just means that there may be a few checks and balances for some design aesthetics.

Please remember to do some research regarding building codes and visit your local building department before planning and constructing your deck because codes vary by city.


Paul Ottaviano -- How to Build an Above Ground Pool Deck