We will Rock you

Today we went to Frank Brother’s in Lodi to pick out rocks for our new fire pit.
The easy way to do this would be to buy a kit and call it good. There are plenty on the market, and some even in the size we’re looking for, but concrete retaining wall blocks look like concrete, and you basically pay a premium for the convenience of having something that looks like concrete.
Hand chiseling stone takes more skill than we possess right now, but stacking stone and using mortar doesn’t.
We will leave a 44″ diameter circular hole in the concrete underlayment for the lower patio. This is so that the fire will not rest on top of the concrete, exploding concrete is bad. The concrete will ¬†however provide a solid foundation for the fire pit walls and the stone of the walls will be lined with firebrick, to protect them from excess heat, and hopefully keep any rocks from exploding. Less explosions is good.
So, we needed pretty rocks!

The idea was to rent a trailer and go get a full pallet of wall stone, in a variety called ‘gray chocolate’. But alas the ball on our truck hitch is too beefy for rental trailers. We decided to go anyway and instead pick out a variety of stones and load the truck bed by hand with as many as we could comfortably and safely fit.


That turns out to look like this, 1250 lbs of rock.



Here they are unloaded on the sandstone steps that lead from the driveway down to the back yard.

We won’t know how much more we need until we get started ūüėČ


Wet sand – Backyard mirage

We went over to American Natural Stone for our 3rd visit this week, and ordered the patio pavers and polymeric sand today!
Decision phase over, and now that it’s settled I can drop fretting about whether or not it’s the best option. It will be OK.swhpss_saharachestnutlite_lgChestnut/Sahara Lite it is, a desert themed patio, with an Onyx soldier course. Cambridge Ledgestone XL and we’re getting 3 different sizes:¬†15 3/4 x 23 5/8
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 and 7 7/8 x 15 3/4, 10 pallets in total to cover approximately 1200 square feet. The Onyx accent pavers will be a regular 4.5×9 sized with the same texture as the bigger pavers. I will run them about 16 inches in from the edges of the patio, with gaps in the dark line where we have stairs leading to and from the patio.


For the main patio areas we’re leaning towards pattern 3, simply because it has the shortest runs of non overlapping joints. I do like the more random feel of number 1 too though.
patterns Or maybe the Random pattern that Cambridge suggests.



That’s it for updates tonight.
The kids have been in the pool 3 times a day for the past three days, summer is great!

Don’t go chasing waterfalls – aka Pool please


A year and a half has passed. We must be missing having building dust everywhere, because after much discussion over the past year we’ve decided that we want a pool.

Our development has a clause that forbids above ground pools, which would have been the easy way out. Both being less permanent and easier to make child and dog safe (and a lot cheaper…). But no, which left us with three options, a vinyl liner, fiberglass or gunite.
Gunite being the classic base behemoth, more labor intensive to install but totally customizable. Fiberglass being more cost for the pool itself,  but a much quicker install. Negatives being that they only come in a set number of shapes and sizes. The fiberglass is coated in an inert gel coat that will not affect water chemistry, unlike gunte.
And a vinyl liner pool, either with metal walls or block/concrete walls. Generally a cheaper construction, less customization than gunite, more than fiberglass.

In the fall of 2016 we had a vinyl pool company come out and give us a quote. It didn’t feel right, and taking into consideration that we have 4 dogs, 3 of whom like water, a liner simply didn’t feel like a good option.
We decided to not go forward with it., however the idea of a pool didn’t go away, despite cold winter months and come March we were talking pools again. In April we contacted about 5 different pool companies, had several come out and in the end settled for one that specialized in fiberglass pools.

An auto cover was something I really felt was a necessity to be able to let the dogs out in the backyard without fearing one of them would launch onto solar film, get entangled and drown. Or what if one of the neighbourhood kids ever feels unhealthily adventurous  enough to brave the fence and enter the well patrolled back yard.

Whenever the pool is not in use we will keep it closed and secured. Less of a death traps.
With 2 acres and an already installed fence we had no restrictions when it came to size and style of pool. We thought we wanted a free form sport pool, with a swim jet system. Turns out if you want an auto cover on a free form pool you will have to install tracks in the decking that look like crap, alternatively do a deck-in-deck solution that also looks like crap.
A rectangular pool can have the track under the coping, less crap to look at, and we found a pool that had the entry point at the right place, with a safety ledge along the perimeter for our not-so-strong swimmer, and plenty of seating for people who not necessarily want to swim. but hang out and cool off.
Trilogy’s Gravity.



We geeked out delving into the well of information that can be found over at the Troublefree pool forum. Lots of real people sharing their knowledge about everything from pool chemistry to pump size and flow rates to filters, salt water generators and automation.

We will have mainly Pentair equipment, a variable speed pump, salt water generator, gas heater, cartridge filter and an automation system for controlling it all remotely. There will be two lighted bubblers on the tanning ledge (aka toddler area, baby cousin splash zone), one skimmer and 3 or 4 returns.

Enough words, photos already.

This is a rough draft of the deck, patio and pool area. There will be a 16 foot diameter fire pit area to the east of the pool, and big sandstone boulders acting as low retaining wall between the deck stairs and the pool wrap.

pool final


Before. With plant pots marking the corners of the pool, and the garden hose showing where the pool wrap and lower patio will be. This is the north side of the house.


Dig Day, June 8th

This is how it looked when I came home after class that Thursday.
Limestone aggregate, will be spread and leveled in the bottom of the hole, making a well compacted and even base for the pool to sit on.
The dump trucks tailgated the gravel and aggregate up by the road, and the pool crew used their little zippy bobcat to move the pile back to the hole. The orange lines on the wall of the pit marks 4 foot intervals where they check the depth of the hole with the laser level that could be seen in the first dig photo. Once the depth was correct they crossed over the marks on the wall.


The pool arrived in the afternoon!


This was the evening on Dig day, the pool was parked in the front yard overnight.




Day 2 was pool placement day.

Panorama of the finished hole.
Crushed limestone aggregate being spread and leveled.
Time to pick up the pool and move it from the front yard.
This part was truly nerve wrecking, but it worked!
Setting the pool
There were some serious measuring going on before they were happy with how the pool was squared up with the existing patio slab. Here the crew is unhooking the lifting straps.
The pool was jacked up under the otherwise unsupported ledge and some cinder block was also put in place for support. One of the workers crawled into the den like area and started packing in crushed limestone under the ledge and bottom stairs.
Digging the trench between the equipment pad and the pool. The equipment will live outside the fence, so another section of the split rail was removed.
While waiting for the late water truck, they started lifting the big sandstone blocks in place. Impressive dexterity with huge backhoe flipping and turning the blocks. The big gap in the fence can be seen here, right next to the fence gate, which was too small to be used.
The water truck arrived… and was shot on hose. Fortunately the dig crew had spare pipe to cover the 30 or so feet needed. The retaining wall rocks can also be seen here on the left side of the photo. The crew back filled outside the pool with limestone gravel keeping the fill consistent with the rising ¬†water level inside the pool


Over the weekend we did the inaugural premiere splashings, and the boys were playing in the half filled pool the evening before Day 3. The water was a pleasant temperature by then, it was really cold coming out of the tank truck.

Day 3, backfill and more water.

A second load of water and more backfill. Here you can see the skimmer  held by Mike. Yes, we have another Mike to add to the list. This one is a virtuoso with bob cats and back hoe =)
The water return nozzles and pool LEDs got mounted and pipes attached, gray conduit for electric and white PVC for water returns from the pump.
Exciting moment when the water level reached the ledge.  The tank truck emptied a couple of minutes after this, so we still need a couple of more inches of water in there, but it should be doable with the garden hose.

And now we wait. The equipment, as in pump, heater, filter and salt water generator should be delivered next Friday. 8 more days with gaps in the fence is doable if not awesome.
The Electrician is scheduled for Monday the 26th, and we will hopefully have the plumber in around then as well.

After that they prep to pour concrete. We will have a 3 foot wrap around the pool itself, and it will be stamped. A second concrete pour will happen after that, sunk down 2 and 3/8 inches from the pool wrap making a concrete base for the pavers that will cover the lower patio. We will finish the upper patio at the same time as the lower one. We have found pavers we really like, it’s just a matter of picking the right colour(S) and blends.

Lampus Grandview in Allegheny (or slate) is Eric’s favourite. I think they’re both too dark for a deck on the north side of the house, partly under a deck. And dark pavers tend to get hotter as well.
I am leaning towards Cambridge Armortec, Sherwood Collection Ledgestone XL, very similar paver to the Grandview, but with more colour blend options.
Maybe Sahara/Chestnut Lite, the border would have to be darker, more like the stone wrap on the house.

Or perhaps Sandstone with a Riverbed blend border.traditional-patio

Cambridge has a ¬†lighter version of the Allegheny, it’s called Toffe/Onyx Lite, but some pictures of it look a lot more saturated than this, so I am not sold on it.


That’s it for now!