Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Repurposing Swimming Pools

In a trend that seems to becoming more and more popular with Tucsonans(including El Presidio), swimming pools across the city are being put into "retirement".  I wanted to know more about this topic for not only our HOA information but hear what the experts had to say on the matter.  Let's look into this really interesting idea of what people are doing with swimming pools that are no longer wanted......

First off, why?  Many people from the Midwest would think us desert rats crazy, but we're not.  Most people like the idea of a swimming pool but rarely ever use it.  When it comes to the financially strapped homeowner justifying this very expensive cost every month, it becomes a no brainer....the pool must go!  At El Presidio, we save around 500-600 dollars a month!  Add that up and you've got money for other things that need repair and upgrades.  Why does it cost so much?  Well, most people have a pool person come out once a week and that is usually around 100 or 200 bucks a month.  In the city of Tucson, there is a cost of over 100 bucks a year to have a pool.  The water pumps use electricity. And let's not forget the evaporation of water that happens from our pools!!  During the hot summer months, a pool can lose around 1-3 inches of water a day.  Normally, it's an inch, but in our situation, we had a leak and so we lost around 4 inches a day.  When hardly anyone used the pool, it became difficult to justify having around our property.  On top of that, we were financially strapped with several homeowners not paying their HOA fees.  I'd like to call that a dark time in our history at El Presidio.  Today, while the HOA fees are still important, we are not strapped like before waiting on the homeowners to pay the bills.

Alright, but you're saying to yourself, "It costs money to replace a pool." It sure can cost A LOT of money!  My recommendation is to shut your pool down and save the money not being spent on it and apply it towards this project.  The company REALM that spoke about this kind of project quoted a price of around 7-9 thousand dollars to "retire" the pool and another 10-12 thousand for designing something new.  I'll get into the specifics later, but to answer the financial question...yes, it can cost a chunk of change.  We were lucky to have our homeowners do all the labor and bring in the shipment of dirt!  Then several months later, with all our savings, we got together as a team and developed our plan.  You'll see what we will be doing stay tuned.  I love when a plan comes together!  But for most homeowners, this project is too large and therefore you need to call in the professionals.  There are some amazing possibilities out there and you need to think of this project as no different than redoing a bathroom or the long run, you'll be saving thousands of dollars.  Wait until you hear what people can do with a dead pool!!!

At El Presidio, we are thinking about building a gazebo structure which will include beautiful flowering annuals for our residents.  That was a huge request that I have not been able to fulfill as I am redoing the planters around our complex!!  So we will have our pretty flowers and that makes me happy:)  I won't get into the specifics, but let me just say that if you dream it or want can happen.  Jason Isenberg(owner/landscape designer) and Tary Campbell(construction project manager) did an interesting presentation together.  Jason, who has the eye for design, and Tary, who has the water management background, showed us ways that we can take our pools and use them for water harvesting and even create our own outdoor Arizona rooms! One of the quotes they used in their presentation was "sustainability is not a style".  If we are going to preserve our limited water resources in the ever expanding population of the Southwest, we need to start thinking on how to be resourceful with our water.  Think about this.....on average, a person uses 100 gallons of water a day.  70 percent of that water is used outdoors....especially during the summer months. Make your pool space work for you....collect rain water or grey water!  Think of the area as a hidden rain barrel:)

Their attitudes towards reclaiming a pool area state that it shouldn't look like it used to be a pool and that the space needs to make sense.....and it should be useable for the homeowner's needs. We saw several pics of their work and it looked amazing!  One thing that I am going to emphasize here and I apologize now for sounding preachy. Homeowners, as much as you would love to use it, please don't.  Save yourself the headache down the road.  We should not use wood in our landscape design (or at least very little of it).  I have found a material that is called TREX which looks and acts like a wood product but it is made out of 100 percent recycled material.  Wood over time rots, encourages termites, and has lots of splinters.  Basically you'll have to replace it every 20 years or so.  Our sun and heat quickly destroy wood so rethink about using it.  Here's a link to look at....

A special thank you to the Tucson Botanical Gardens for hosting this presentation. If you're interested in contacting Realm Environments for the "retirement" of your pool or for other landscape solutions, I encourage you to call their local number at 520-791-9131.  Or click on the link provided....
A new space to explore/remember "It'll be ugly before it gets better."
The word of the day for the audience was "gunite".  Gunite is a mixture of cement, sand, and water applied through a pressure hose, producing a dense hard layer of concrete used in building for lining tunnels, swimming pools and structural repairs. Until tomorrow friends....


  1. A great presentation here with concrete ideas!

  2. I know someone who repurposed his pool into more garden. Your area looks really nice with the pavers or tile around it like that. A gazebo there would look great.

  3. We couldn't live without our pool in our complex, but you do have some valid points for one that is not being used. Another huge expense we have here in Australia is that all pools have to have fences and yearly safety inspections, just goes on and on. I am glad you have kept that very interesting shape as a feature, and a gazebo sounds great.

  4. Thanks for the Trex link! Our thinking caps/design caps are on now...
    Gunite - love the word/the sound of the word!

  5. Wow! Pool repurposing is so cool! I love your idea about the gazebo about planting some plants that attract butterflies and humming birds?

    You are so brave! That is a huge project! With the return on investment being around two years, I think I would call the professionals at Realm!


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