I’m in the hole… and it’s wet in here…

20 Nov

NOTE: Apparently there are those among us that mistook this abbreviated response to a question for a COMPLETE BLUEPRINT on how to build a swimming pool out of a shipping container.

This is a Brief OVERVIEW to demonstrate that it can indeed be accomplished. There are several steps that are inferred or not described here that must be taken in order to make this work.

Anyone expecting a “one page do-it-yourself to completion” novel is naive and shouldn’t be around tools with an edge. Capish?

Now… back to our regularly scheduled program;

Daddy, I WANNA POOL! I want it NOW! Daddy? Are you listening, Daddy? Daaaaaaady!

Yes, young Jedi… It’s easy to build a lap pool from a 40′ High Cube ISBU shipping container… IF you start planning now.

Recently, I was lurking a friend’s blog, where there is a rampant discussion going on about using ISBUs (Shipping Containers) as housing.

And, one of the readers asked about whether or not you could actually use one of these big steel boxes, as a Swimming Pool.

The answer is: YES.

Note: Don’t do this if it’s already snowing outside. Playing in the snow is for kids and idiots. Remember, H1N1 is not your friend. Just tell your kids;

“Hey you should’a spoke up sooner. Maybe next year!” ;)

Where was I? Oh yeah…

We’ve used ISBU’s as the “mold” for lap pools a few times. I personally plan to do it again. It “mystifies” the neighbors.

Hurricane Katrina knocked the heck out of my photo collection, so you’re going to have to visualize this. You can do it… I’ll type slow. ;)

Now, before you think I’m completely nuts, here’s a guy who’s doing the same thing… albeit above ground, with trash dumpsters.

Yeah, I know “New Yorker’s” are crazy!  Have you seen what they pay for apartments in the city? Oy freakin’ Vey! I’d have a heart attack once a month, when the rent came due!  But… this guy… he gets paparazzi and media hype, and everything! :)

So… First thing you do, is grab a shovel.

Not that namby-pamby “use your hands and get some blisters” kinda shovel… THIS kind of shovel;

Once you get that… find a sunny spot, dig your hole, and then shore up the insides, to prevent a cave-in, later.

Dig your hole several feet longer than the container, on the “door” end. You’ll see why later.

Remember, the skin on a container is just that. SKIN. It’s not designed to take a load – soil OR water. If you don’t believe me, read THIS.

Now, to build a retaining wall to PROTECT the ISBU that will be the pool…

You can use cinder blocks, a thin steel-reinforced (rebar) concrete wall, even railroad ties… But use SOMETHING, or you’ll be either sorry, or a guest star on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

(BTW: If you win the $10 grand, remember your ‘friends,’ huh?) ;)

First, lay the ISBU on it’s SIDE.

Now, cut out the NEW top. Grind the “cut” lip smooth. Guess what? Wider pool.

And that pool’s gonna hold about 11,000 – 12,000 gallons of water.

Added for clarification: (Dec 2010)

NOTE: OBVIOUSLY that means reinforcing the ISBU.

Hint: 2″x2″ steel tubing. LOTS of it.

Cut out your drains in the bottom. Install your water returns in the sides. Do your plumbing.

Remember, don’t sniff the glue, and rightie tightie… LOL!

Now, install your drain lines in your hole, and then build a one course outline of your container bottom so that the container will sit above your plumbing. Now fill in ‘that’ inside hole until it’s level… with gravel.

Now, drag the ISBU into your hole.

Okay… don’t drag it, drop it in there carefully, after lining everything up. Be careful of the returns if you’ve placed them outside the container, in the gap between the retaining wall system.

Some people actually prefer the “outside plumbing” method. I’m not one of them.

But if YOU are… Now, you can backfill into the gap between the container and the retaining wall, if you want. Some people use gravel, some use dirt.

Hey, use old socks if you want to, but just make sure that you fill up the gaps. You don’t want the container to “bow out” after you’ve filled it with water.

I prefer gravel. It’s easy to place, strong, and easy to get back out if I have to… Click heels three times… I hope I don’t. I hope I don’t…

On the inside, most people line the container to get smooth sides. It’s easier to clean. Plus, it gives you a place to run your water return lines INSIDE the container.

Just some inspiration!

This is the best way. It’s the “Ronin Way.” Several sheets of plywood. Sand it smooth, or get the good stuff.

If your kid keeps missing his curfew, it’s a weekend of “Wax on, Wax off” with an orbital sander…

Who says you have to beat them? ;)

Now, here’s where it gets tricky…

You need a place to put the pump and filters, right? Well, that container has doors on it.

Remember?

At the door end… (remember the container is on it’s side now, so the doors will be hinged at the top and bottom) build a wall out of concrete, masonry, or whatever you can handle about 4 feet or so into the box. Make it “strong and thick” and insure that it’s firmly attached to the container because it’s going to have water pressing against it. Use tapcons or something similar to attach your new wall to the container sides.

This is going to form the ROOM for your pool apparatus, and supply storage.

Now, it’s below grade, so you’ll have to build steps down to it. But that will be cool, literally. Use cinder blocks to build retaining walls on either side, to keep the dirt from falling in Again with the cinder clocks… I know, I know… But, you’ll look like you did in high school, when you’re finished!

Think of this as Corten Calisthenics.

Build some cool steps down into the hole. Don’t bump your head on the “door/cover.”

Now, go get some sand. A LOT of sand… A truckload of sand. Builders sand.

Don’t steal it from the beach! The Green-Peacer’s will beat you to death with a biodegradable bucket and shovel!

Relax, I know what you’re thinking… All that sand… Oy Vey! Use a backhoe or a Bobcat, or a bunch of unruly kids that you are currently punishing for setting the house on fire or wrecking the car.

Even MORE inspiration!

Dump it into the big empty end of the container, and then sculpt it to form your slope for the bottom. Nobody wants a pool without a shallow end. Not all of us are Michael Phelps!

Build some steps down into the shallow end. You can use lumber, if you’re careful. Otherwise, consider forming and using concrete.

Okay, if you did it right, you now have a pool that’s about 34+’ long, and over 7 feet deep now, at the deepest point. You also have a built in pool room that is almost 8′ high, about 4 ‘ deep, and almost 9′ wide.

Now… Open that top door UP, and put a post under each end. Now, you have a covered porch on your pool room.  Open the bottom one, and either remove it, or even use it as a deck.

You can easily enclose this space using a small insulated wall and a door, to cut down on pump noise.

That done, get some liner track from the pool supply store, and install it around the top edge of the container. Once you’ve finished doing that, install the plastic pool liner that you can buy from any pool supply company or store. It will fit into the liner track.

WHAT? A Vinyl pool? Ronin… Are you freakin’ nuts?

Nope. You wanna do this “yourself” or not?

The idea here is to take an ISBU container and turn it into an affordable pool, for less than half the cost of going to a turnkey pool company.

You can go fiberglass… But not in a ISBU shell. It’s a shame too, because frankly, fiberglass is the way to go. Easy maintenance, lower chemical usage, and long life that is relatively hassle-free.

But you had to go and use an ISBU… ;)

I’ve never seen a fiberglass shell that would drop into an ISBU cavity.

You can go “Gunite,” but you better have an extra $10,000 – $15,000 laying around, because you’re going to need it. Oh yeah, you’ll need a couple of contractors too. And laborers. Lot’s of laborers…

And Gunite (or concrete) pools require more chemicals, have a rougher surface (thus they are harder to clean) and they usually need replastering at about year 8-10.

Now… IF you go VINYL, you’ll be able to install most everything all by your “onesies.” As in, you and the family. And they’re easy to maintain, and fairly easy on chemicals.

There are drawbacks. People will tell you that the liner will wear out in 3-5 years. Bull. Liners last 10 years, easy. Some last longer. And, the current crop are starting to approach that 25 year “degrade and decay” mark, IF the pool is properly maintained and taken care of.

Realtors will tell you that a homebuyer won’t like your “plastic pool.” So what? You’ll have gotten years of pleasure out of it.

And you didn’t have to drive all the way to the beach, lake, or river…   waste relaxation time stuck in traffic, fight for a parking space, fight for some sand to stake out, buy “overpriced and under-quality” concession stuff that they try to pass of as “food and drinks,” or dirty up your car with sand and debris on the way back.  You’ll have saved enough to pay for this pool, and then some.

Just look at the Realtor and laugh. Screw them. They don’t like it, THEY can haul it out to the curb!

Yes, you’ll probably have to buy the pool liner material (which isn’t exactly cheap), and you might even have to make your own, depending on the length you go with. Or you might find a custom house that will do all the work for you. If you do this in the off-season (when work is slow), you’ll get a terrific bargain. You’ll figure this out with a few phone calls.  And, if you’re really worried about that alleged pool liner “imminent failure”… this is a perfect opportunity to DOUBLE the thickness of that lining, to help prevent any tears or leaks. This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Ask your local pool guy.

We did. Our last lap pool liner was a  “thick” vinyl custom, and it cost $2800, straight from the liner company. (It cost more than a normal “custom” liner because we used a much heavier vinyl that was harder to work with. If we’d used regular pool liner, it would’ve come in about $1500 or so.) We sent them detailed dimensions, they did all the work, and we got a really high quality product. If we’d “done it ourselves,” or waited until Spring…  it would’ve cost about $4000.00 or more. Your mileage may vary.

Put it in the hole. Make sure the shallow end of the liner is in the shallow end of the pool. You’d be surprised how many people make this mistake and waste time and effort. Install your drains.

Here’s a good “blow by blow” of installing a pool liner.

It includes how you attach the liner to each pool step. It’s not as colorful as it would have been if I’d written it, but hey… that just guarantees that you’ll understand it! :)

Now you have a plastic lined rectangular custom pool in a steel reinforced shell.

After you’ve installed your pool liner you can secure it using decking, tiles, or whatever suits your fancy, No one is going to know that you used a shipping container.

Now, install your pool water returns, traps, etc… and the pool pump/filtration system.

Now’s also a perfect time to add that solar pool water heating panel into the loop…

And maybe a few photovoltaic panels to run the pump and filter…

Can’t you just picture yourself lounging out here?

Now… about the top of that “pool room…”

Frame in a wood deck the same size as your “pool room” roof. Make sure that there are spaces between the wood decking slats. Now your pool room is basically weathered in, and it can breathe. If you’re a pool pump or filtration system, you need to breathe, trust me.

Add water, jello, or even chocolate milk. I don’t care.

Well… I do care. Chocolate milk is gonna get pretty stinky in about six hours… If you plan on doing this, make sure that you’re downwind of me, huh?

Here’s a tip for you;

SALT Chlorination.  It’s much cheaper, and a lot safer.

Did you know that seawater is used to make laundry bleach? Yep. That’s right. And if it works in the laundry, it’ll work in the pool.

All you have to do is use a Salt Chlorine Generator. But why would you do this?

Ever get out of a pool with red, burning eyes? Well, it was a chemical burn from the chlorine.

Using SALT is WAY better than using chlorine chemicals. Initially, a certain amount of salt is added to the water. As water passes over the chlorinator’s specially coated plates, an electric current breaks down the salt and water into their basic elements to form sodium hypochlorite, which is the active sanitizer in all forms of chlorine. The chlorine kills algae and bacteria in the water and oxidizes the waste. Thereafter, the chlorine regenerates itself back to salt and begins the process over again in a virtually unending cycle. Since salt does not evaporate, an occasional addition of salt is needed only to replace what is lost due to the splash out, pumping out, draining or backwashing.

The obvious advantage is the cost effectiveness of the salt-water chlorination system. Imagine you spend $15 per day currently on chlorine, over a period of five years you will spend in excess of $25000. An equivalent salt water chlorination system will cost around 1/10th of that amount, with running costs being equal to 1/5th. The system would pay for itself in less than one year.

Plus, SALT IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

(Sorry, didn’t mean to yell…)

Stay tuned…

And send me a picture. All I have left now are these “inspirations.”

Stinkin’ Hurricanes, anyway… mumble, grumble, snort!

And since you’re still here;

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to… You can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right.

Paypal is the VERY BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours.

This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

About these ads

9 Responses to “I’m in the hole… and it’s wet in here…”

  1. Wolfsbane December 31, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    Back when I was a kid, we used to swim in my best friend’s grandparent’s home made pool.

    It was made from a poured concrete slab and cinder blocks, oh and an old Vermonter’s ingenuity. It was lined with a clear plastic tarp. I think the system was built from replacement parts.

    • renaissanceronin December 31, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Wolfsbane,

      Ain’t it amazing what you can do, if you just put your mind to it?

      I’ve even built small pools out of those big cattle watering tanks. Luckily, it was found in a barn (where somebody had drug it, I guess) , and hadn’t been “turned horribly gross” by all that cow spittle! :)

      We lined it with plastic, and it worked like a champ for about five years!

    • Chelsea June 8, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

      Hello, Oh okay wow thats pretty good price. It turned up really well. So did that price include laborers? Did it take very long to build like till it was fully completed? Was it very hard to make?
      Thanks Chelsea

  2. Chelsea June 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Hello, I was wondering how long it took for you to make your pool and How much did it cost to make?
    Thanks Chelsea

    • renaissanceronin June 8, 2010 at 1:34 am #

      Hi Chelsea,

      The last time we did this, we used a 40′ High Cube, on it’s side…

      The goal was to do it for under “$20 a square foot…”

      With the tractor rental and a few laborers to help fill the holes… we spent $5,900.00 (USD), not counting the tile we used to actually build the pool deck. (Which I might add, we got for free…)

      That DID include the basic materials, sand, liner, the pump and solar heating system, the Photovoltaic Panels and inverter to run the lights and pool systems, and the salt chlorine generator system. Oh yeah, and a new hand grinder to replace the one we killed…

      • Chelsea June 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

        Did that include the price of the container

        • renaissanceronin June 9, 2010 at 12:08 am #

          Hi Chelsea,

          Yes the price included the 40′ ISBU container, however we did get a break on the container price (thank you Craigslist!), and we “fetched” it ourselves. The build time was less than a week altogether. We took three weekends. And we did hire day laborers for three days, to help with the heavy work. It wasn’t hard at all. All we needed to do was think it through.

          • Chelsea June 9, 2010 at 12:10 am #

            WOW thats not long at all, did you come up with this idea or did you see it somewhere, that is alot cheaper than a regular pool!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Shipping Container 101… or 102… « The Life and Times of a "Renaissance Ronin" - April 6, 2010

    [...] Er… I’ve written about THAT too. I’ve built lap pools that you wouldn’t beli… [...]

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,148 other followers