The main challenges with any swimming pool area are:
- keeping it user friendly
- keeping it clean
- maintaining access to equipment
These are the same for a more costly in-ground pool or a lower budget above ground pool. When we were deciding which kind of swimming pool to get, we decided on an above ground pool for the following reasons:
- lower initial cost
- easier to proceed in steps
- lower maintenance cost
- easier and less expensive repair processes
- fewer regulatory hoops and costs
Having an above ground pool can be more aesthetically difficult for landscaping, though. And safety issues can be slightly different. Above ground pools don’t tend to have gradual access or permanent steps. Also, the height of the sides can make it more difficult to keep an eye on what is going on inside of them. For these reasons, we decided to partially “bury” our above ground pool by having a two foot deep hole dug, then getting a cement box poured to contain the pool.
You might wonder why not just have an in-ground pool if we were going to have cement poured anyway. The answer is that it was still quite a bit less expensive and less complicated. The way an in-ground cement pool is made is much more expensive, it takes more chemicals and maintenance time than a vinyl pool, and if we need to replace the vinyl pool at some point, we just have to lift it out. Not nearly as big of a deal.
Having the cement box also has made it simple to use cement as a deck or sidewalk around the pool. Part of the reason we did this was to keep down dirt tracked into the pool. Anther reason was to support the frame for the portable garage that we use as a shelter during the winter, turning it into an indoor swimming pool so I can swim year round, but still enjoy the open sunshine in the summer.
After one year with the initial sidewalk, we decided to extend it around the 3/4ths of the perimeter that are not against the house, and put in a retaining wall to deal with the slope of the yard at one end of the pool area. The first cement area was not quite wide enough to make the temporary winter tent work quite as well as we liked. Naturally, we called Mr. Mudd again. Their representative came out promptly to discuss the project.
As we reviewed our options, more just plain cement seemed too stark. Fortunately, my husband knows about things like cement stamping and staining, so asked about those options. We decided to use a stamp called “continuous rough.” It looks like real rock to me, even though we got to choose what color we wanted it. The stain compliments the brick on our house.
We had talked about wood options for the walkway and the bench that he plans to make to cover the opening between the pool edge and the cement box edge. He has easily talked me into cement because wood splinters and does not last as long. He used redwood for my garden raised beds, and it lasted quite a few years, but it is disintegrating now. Wood next to a pool would get just as wet and weathered.
The process for the sidewalk, or deck, extension, only took a few days once they got started. The section was dug out, forms put in place, sand and gravel added and compacted, then cement poured. While it was still damp, a fellow walked around with two large kitchen rug sized rubber “stamps” to imprint the top of the cement. He would flop one down, then walk on it some, then move the one behind him forward and repeat. Next, two different dyes were put on top and left there for a couple days. The two dyes give the cement features depth and shadow that make it look more like real rock. Don’t know how long they “have” to be left and how much was due to scheduling. The powdery substance was a bit messy, since some of it blew into my regular pathway out of the garage, but I haven’t seen any permanent stains in places I don’t want them. (click on any photo to enlarge)
The cement and faux rock cement may seem a bit expensive at first, but they will be require less upkeep than extensive plantings. The design is such that getting access to all the equipment is still pretty straightforward. For issues directly connected to the pool, it is easy to remove some of the insulation.
He is considering applying a rock facade on the outsides of the pool cement box and the retaining wall, like he did on his brick oven. If he decides that is not how he wants to spend his time, he will possibly stucco them. He thinks he could even teach me to stucco, so it has to be fairly simple.
I may put a couple of largish, but light weight flower pots at one end of the pool. There is a sandbox for the grandkids being planned for one side in the shade. What could like nicer by the pool than my grandkids playing?
With grass already bordering one edge of the cement, that now is basically a poolside patio, the swimming pool landscaping is looking very hopeful. It is simple, easy to keep clean, and easy to access the swimming pool.