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My Dream Pool - Sort of

My Dream Pool


If I could have my pool done any way I wanted to, how would I do it?

Well OK - not really.  We couldn’t go hog wild dreaming up everything we wanted in a pool.  If we did, there would be multi-levels with negative edges, fountains, grottos, running streams, gas-powered fire accents, fogging systems, vortex areas, swim jet streams, river/current lanes, beach entries, underwater glass atriums, breakfast bars, tables, stools, ... You name it.

CONTINUED BELOW


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First off, the cost obviously would be prohibitive.  But secondly, it wouldn't fit.  Notice the size of the back yard in the picture above.  The distance between the back of the house and the back wall is roughly about 20 feet.  A 20 ft backyard depth.  Yeah, really.  Pretty small and tight space. One thing that my wife insisted on when we were looking for a house closer to my new employer, was a single-story five-bedroom home.  As we went in search of this elusive beast, it was difficult to even find builders that did that kind of layout anymore.  When we finally found a builder that had a layout we liked and in a neighborhood that we liked, they were in the tail-end of  building out that neighborhood.  As a result, there were only standard lots left.  I think our lot turned out to be about 8500 square feet.  Even our first home up in Mesa, AZ, which was smaller (1800 square feet vs. 3000 square feet), had a lot that was much bigger (about 10K square feet).  Anyways, the footprint of a single-story five-bedroom home is humongous.  There’s very little backyard space to squeeze a pool in.  We had to do our best.

Fortunately for us, the city of Chandler, AZ has relatively liberal restrictions on building pools.  The main restrictions are:

1.      The water’s edge shall be a minimum of five (5) feet away from the property line.

2.      The water’s edge shall be a minimum of five (5) feet away from any window on the house.  If the pool encroaches within this area, then special tempered glass must be used for the windows.  This is to protect people if they should accidentally slip on a wet deck and fall into the window.

3.      A 6’ wood, masonry, or wrought iron perimeter fence should enclose the pool area (fortunately, we have a masonry wall around our entire house which qualifies).

4.      All entry ways into the pool area needs to be protected by a self-close door or gate with a spring-loaded self-latching device.  The doors need to open outwardly.

5.      All windows accessing the pool area must also be latched with a minimum height of 54” to prevent small children from reaching it.  The locks should be keyed.

6.   While there are no restrictions where pool equipment 

I drew in some blue dotted lines in the picture above to show you where the 5 foot setbacks are from the property lines and the house edge lines.  If you look closely at those lines, there is not a whole lot of freedom in coming up with the shape of the pool.  The setback restrictions pretty much dictated how it was going to be laid out.  Actually, I feel pretty fortunate.  I hear that in other city in the US, you have to setback 10 feet from the property lines and your pool cannot take up more than 10% of your total backyard space.  I would have had a nice green lawn right now had that been the case in Chandler.

As I contemplated the pool design, there were a myriad of different options and decision points that needed to be evaluated.    Should I go with a pebble interior or plaster?  What kind of filtration system should I go with?  What about the chlorination system?  The cleaning system?  One other note - when I first started browsing through poolforum.com, I was surprised at how many people were talking about vinyl and fiberglass shell pools and trying to trade-off the pros/cons of each (along with gunite as well) when deciding to build a pool.  I had never encountered vinyl or fiberglass pools in AZ.  I don't know anyone who has anything BUT Gunite pools.  I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing it has to do with the climate and conditions in AZ.  Anyways, I'm glad I had one less decision to make in building this pool.

So ..... with all that out of the way, what else did I want?

·        Play Pool – first off, this pool is for the kids.  Secondly, its for relaxation.  I anticipate spending a lot of time in the backyard once its done: relaxation, entertaining, playing with the kids, working on my laptop, playing some volleyball or basketball.  Nothing serious – just serious fun!!  Because the kids are smaller, I didn’t want to go too deep.  I decided on a 3.5’ – 5’ – 4’ depth range to provide just enough mixtures of depths to keep it interesting without messing up a good game of volleyball.

·        Waterfall - in Hawaii where I grew up, no one had water features on their pools.  I don’t know why.  I just never saw any.  When I saw one for the first time here in Arizona, I thought it was one of the most amazing things – in your own backyard??  I knew that was the first thing that was going to be on my list.  If you look at the bottom center of the plan above, you will notice four large windows that line the area near the patio.  These 4 windows provide a spectacular view into the backyard from just about anywhere in the living room in the house.  I purposely chose to have a larger waterfall (about 5 x 17 area) as the centerpiece for the pool.

·        Pebble-Tec - also, being from the Hawaiian Islands, I really miss the lush tropical look that the Islands present.  To bring a taste of that back to the desert, I decided to go with a lagoon-style pool with a pebble-tec interior with a Tahoe Blue color.  I hear Tahoe Blue brings out the deep tropical blue sea color that I’m after.  I'm also installing some blue tints on the pool lights to further accentuate the blue color of the pool.

·        Spa – what can I say?  If the backyard is for relaxation, how can it not include a spa?  I want the setup to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.  I decided on a raised spa so that the waterfall can flow into both into the pool and into the spa.  The water from the spa would then overflow through the spa damwall back into the pool, giving it a nice cascading look and feel.

·        Large First Step – my employer is one of the top high-tech firms in AZ.  As a result, they pretty much keep on the bleeding edge as far as technology is concerned.  I have broadband access into my company’s intranet via VPN (Virtual Private Network).  My home is wired for CAT5 throughout the house.  Once I setup my 802.11a Access Point, I can go “work from home” sitting in my Chase Lounger on the first step (notice I drew in the lounge chair into the picture) having a wireless connection from my pool into my companies intranet.  Pretty sweet.  Who says work isn’t fun?  I also have an Accent Boulder halfway submerged on that first step.  I hope I can get someone to drill out an area so that I can stick a tall glass into it.  That would make it complete.

·        Accent Boulders – I think accent boulders are the thing that separates good landscapes and great ones.  They make things look so much more rugged and natural.  It takes away that artificial look.  I purchased about 8 large accent boulders for my front yard and I still get compliments about it to this day.  They talk about my plant arrangement, but I really think the thing that makes it look good are the accent boulders.  The best compliment I got was from the owner of a landscape company who lives in the neighborhood who was responsible for doing about 40% of the landscapes in my sub-division.  His right-hand man also gave me a great compliment on a separate occasion.  That was so cool.  Anyways, that's why I want them in the back as well.  They add so much to the natural beauty of the pool.  They're especially great in make the waterfall look bigger.  By placing an accent boulder on either side of the waterfall, it gives the illusion of extending the waterfall width by about 4-6 additional feet.  They're also great at transition points of the pool, like where the end of raised bond beams or near planters, etc.

·        Large bench near waterfall – for the kids.  For fun.

·        Lots of decking – I want the backyard to be functional for entertaining.  On the left side of the pool is a large deck area where I’d like to build a raised area for a BBQ and a Wok.  Also to the top of that is a Beehive fireplace.  All 3 items will be driven by natural gas.  I like to cook Chinese food.  If there’s one thing that you need for good Chinese cooking, it’s a lot of heat.  A high flame.  Unfortunately, using high heat produces a lot of smoke.  So unless you’ve got an indoor hood that has the potential of sucking your pets out of the house, I figured it would be best to cook outdoors.  That way I can get the flame as high as I want without worrying about burning down the house.  The wok should be rated for about 20,000 BTUs so that should be plenty.

·        Lush Tropical Landscape – I’ll cover that in a later article.

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