“We’re not really pool people”… is what we said when we were house hunting. It’s also what we said when we viewed our house, when we purchased our house, and up until about 9 months after becoming homeowners. The climate in Rochester isn’t exactly screaming for pools. We basically have about 3 months of summer warm enough for swimming without a wet suit or a heater. The upkeep and the money spent in chemicals is just not worth it to us.
Nonetheless, after draining the black water that had been stagnant for years in preparation to get rid of the pool, we uncovered what it actually looked like. A fiberglass pool that just needed a little bit of love. After a bit of convincing Kyle, we decided to be pool people. Here are the details:
- Installation date: mid 1980s
- Width: 12 feet
- Length: 32 feet
- Shallow End Depth: 2’6″
- Deep End Depth: 6′
- Material: Fiberglass
- Patio area: ~720 square feet
The railing which had plexiglass panels was rotted and falling apart. Much of the floor boards were also rotted and we had a family of foxes living beneath the deck. The vegetation was overgrown and even though I only saw one snake, I’m sure there were more. This place desperately needed a complete overhaul to make it into the oasis we hoped for.
Our original plan in April, hammers and saws in hand, a (much too small for what was about to come) dumpster in the driveway, was to do some repairs that would give the deck a new life. We’d replace the fence/ railing/ gates, patch any damaged floor boards, sand and stain the entire thing. Easy fix, and we’d be enjoying the pool by Memorial Day.
reconsidering the decking
After demolishing the fence, we made the decision to replace the decking as well. The boards were not in great shape and patching them would be difficult and time consuming. Not really a long term fix either. We considered building a new deck over top of the existing joists with either composite decking or pressure treated wood.
go big or go home
As we pulled the last few floor boards…everything changed. Why not start from scratch? We didn’t want to put a band aid on the problem, only to have to keep making repairs to this disastrous pool deck. With minimal budget and hopes to complete the project before the winter, we started from scratch and began planning. We went from not really being pool people to redoing an entire pool deck and fence in a matter of weeks.
These were the options we looked at for decking materials, in the order we considered them:
- Pressure-treated | $2 psf +/- | by far the most economical option. We seriously considered this for a while. Eventually, the maintenance associated with weather exposed wood turned us away. Even pressure treated needs to be protected or it will weather very poorly and turn grey. The existing rotting wood we tore up was pressure-treated, and although 30+ years old, proves that without maintenance it will still rot eventually. Potential splinters around a pool (bare feet) was also a bit worrying. In the end, we mainly wanted something a little different than a standard pressure treated deck that is extremely common.
- Cedar | $4 psf +/- | cedar decking looks great, but is not maintenance free unless you like grey wood. To keep the natural, orange wood-tone of cedar, it needs to protected from the elements in some form. A lot of cedar was also cut from trees to young to have the natural insect/weather resistant properties that the old growth cedar does. Old growth cedar is expensive.
- Composite and PVC | $10 psf +/- | we’ll lump composite and pvc decking together since they in the same price range. I think composite has come a long way in the past 10 years, but pvc would be my preference. Though it looks nice and is a fantastic decking material, we ruled out due to cost. At around $10 or more per square foot, we were looking at $7,500 just for the floor boards. Not happening.
- Poured concrete | $5-10 psf +/- | yes, this is what we wanted. Nice clean look, low maintenance, long lasting. We knew hiring a professional would cost upwards of $20,000. We’re talking 30+ cubic yards of concrete which we could try and pour ourselves, but we couldn’t get a concrete truck in the back yard because of the septic system and sloping grade along the only side of the house with adequate room for the truck. And I’m not shuttling 30 yards of concrete 250 feet from the driveway to the pool. Then we thought why not just do the coping in concrete, then we can lay pavers for the remainder of the deck. That would be about 6 cubic yards which seemed manageable. We didn’t really feel prepared to pour the coping ourselves especially since we wanted it to overhang the pool edge which required some specialty tools. So we got a quote….$5,000 just for the coping. That is $5,000 for a 1 foot thick x 3′ wide border around the perimeter of the pool. Also, not happening.
- Concrete Pavers | $2-15 psf +/- | Which lead us to our last option; concrete pavers. There is a huge range in size, shape, color and most importantly price. Most modern plank-type pavers are upwards of $10-$15 psf which we could not afford. Luckily, we found some nice modern pavers (we’ll elaborate below) for around $4-$5 per square foot, we could deal with that. Of course we’d have to lay all 1,000 of them ourselves but we were up for the challenge and had all summer to get it done.
After a lot of research and shopping around (and ordering a few samples) we decided on Nicolock Plank Pavers supplied by a local brick and stone company that Kyle was familiar with through work. These come in 6” wide planks, 2 ¾” thick and 3 different lengths; 9”, 13”, and 17”. There were more 13” than 9” and 17” at a ratio of about 2:1. The pavers are delivered in pallets of 105 square feet and we ordered 7 pallets (735 square feet). We selected 3 different shades of grey; 3 pallets of Marble Blend which is the lightest color, 3 pallets of Granite City which is the medium color and 1 pallet Charcoal which is the darkest color.
Most pavers used for pool coping are 6 to 12 inch wide bull nose pavers (image below). We didn’t love this look, and wanted a more modern look with longer pavers and a more square edge.
We found that there is not a lot of affordable options to get the look we wanted, especially in the US. We ended up choosing a precast concrete stair tread with the hopes that it would work and it could not have worked better. We selected Nicolock Thermal Treads in Bluestone which are 48” x 12” x 2”.
Of course we also needed a new fence which we were pretty well set on from the beginning. We’d use aluminum fence panels for the long sides and horizontal stained 2×4 and 2×6 lumber on the short sides, which faced the neighbors, for privacy. We’d also build 2 gates out of the same lumber with self-closing hinges.
budget and timeline
Our estimate on total cost was about $8,000 in materials and with the only labor force being the two of us and maybe some help from family. We had some room in the budget, but wanted to keep costs low since this was kind of an impromptu project and we have some other large projects in que.
As for the timeline, we started demo in April, did the coping early July, laid the pavers at the end of July, and finished the fence early September. We spent almost every single weekend of the summer slowly chipping away at this project, but it was worth it. There is one gate we didn’t get to yet. And of course there is some landscaping to take care of next season. We had a little bit of help from family and friends (more like they would stop over to see the progress, tell us we’re out of our minds, and leave) but it was mostly the two of us chipping away at this huge project as the neighbors watched from their yard thinking we were crazy.
So, I guess we’re pool people. More to follow on the details of the construction process, the cost of the project, the final product, and what’s next for the pool patio.