One of my only regrets from my decade spent living in a Shaw rowhouse was that I never did anything with the backyard. Once in awhile, if I left some leftovers out too long, I would open the kitchen window and fling them out into the yard, but that’s about it. (No wonder my downstairs neighbor always complained about a possum infestation.) But all those summers I spent sweltering in front of a fan, I could’ve had my very own pool in the backyard! Don’t make the same mistake I made: here are four options to build your own backyard pool, ranked from easiest to hardest, that cost between nothing and a few thousand dollars – much less than the ten or twenty thousand a “legit” pool would cost.
I see wooden pallets around town all the time, and I always think, “if only those were useful somehow, I could steal those pallets!” Little did I know, you can make a pool out of them for under a hundred dollars. As you can see from the pictures, all you have to do is interlock ten pallets into a circle, nail them together, line this frame with waterproof tarps, and fill it water. There you go, there’s your pool. You could literally do this in one hour. If you have a backyard and you don’t do this, you basically hate pools, fun, summertime, life, and America.
THE CARDBOARD (YES, CARDBOARD) POOL
Yes, you can build a pool out of cardboard. Check out the above video for details; basically, it involves waterproofing sheets of cardboard, affixing them to a wooden frame with adhesives (no nails to potentially create leaks), and filling it with water. The creator of the video built the whole pool for only $300, which is less than what I spent procrastination-shopping on Ebay during the writing of this article. Another upside of this method is that the cardboard panels are essentially modular; in another video, the guy disassembles his pool and uses the panels to create a smaller soaking tub in his house. That’s how you know it must work – no one fills a cardboard tub with water, inside their actual house, unless they know it isn’t going to leak.
This is the advanced version of the wooden pallet pool. A shipping container only costs a few thousand dollars, is already watertight, and made of solid steel. All you have to do is get the container delivered and maybe dig a hole in your yard (if you want it to be an in-ground as opposed to an above-ground type pool), and that’s pretty much it. Shipping containers are usually lined with plywood, so you either take that out and swim in a steel pool, or put in some kind of pool liner. Then you just fill it with water and start enjoying yourself, i.e. posting photos of yourself in the pool on social media while making facial expressions simulating enjoyment. Depending on how permanent and “high quality” you want this shipping container pool to be, you could add wooden decking, or an entire pump and filtration system, though I personally feel like pool filtration and chlorination is a big old waste of time, as you surely will too, after reading the next section.
This is the platinum tier of homemade pools; the natural pool. If you just leaned closer to your computer screen, squinted, and said out loud, “isn’t that just a pond?”, I would have to say that, yes, it’s pretty much a pond. And what’s wrong with that? You know, in Europe, they don’t have chlorinated blue-water pools; they have natural green pools. (They’re also common in places like Nantucket Island, where traditional pools are outlawed for environmental reasons.) It turns out that natural wetlands plants are just as effective at filtering out toxins and microorganisms as a pool filter. And doing a little research, it turns out the vast majority of pool contamination in America comes from people going to the bathroom in the damn pool. Who lets it rip in a swimming pool? Are we not civilized? Have we really been forced to swim in a heavily chlorinated chemical bath because your friend Chad is too lazy to go to the cabana to pee?
A natural pool is built differently than a traditional pool; because it has no walls, it has sloping, not vertical, sides. The bottom isn’t lined with plastic, either – usually the soil is compacted, and then a layer of gravel or dense bentonite clay is applied. Basically it’s a shallow hole in the ground with rocks in it. Then you fill it with water, and plant some filtering plants like water lilies or rushes to keep bacteria and algae down. Some people even go so far as to add frogs, but I don’t know, if I’m swimming and a frog touches my foot, I’m screaming and running into the house. Oh, and tell your friends not to go to the bathroom in the pool.