Our Flip: Taking The Pool From Gross To Grand

As you all know, the pool at our flip was the area of the house that made us the most nervous when we bought it back in June:

Our Flip: Backyard Oasis

It was filled with algae from years of neglect, the tile was dingy and dated, the entire backyard was taken up with cracked concrete decking, and the landscaping was a total joke.  It was a total nail-biter – could we pull this off?  Could we really turn it into a backyard that a family would love?

Well, you all know now that we not only managed to get the pool situation under control, but we turned it into a highlight of the house:

Our Flip: They Can Take the Heat

Here’s a behind the scenes look at how we did it, from the funky beginning to the awesome end.  Here we go!!

We knew that this pool was going to need a serious makeover if it was going to live up to the rest of the house.  I’m talking new plaster, tile, coping – the works!  But before we could get started on all the fun stuff, the pool had to be completely drained.  Here’s what it looked like:

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

Ew, right?  And let me tell you, all that nasty algae was stinky.  Super stinky.  I don’t know why I didn’t expect that, but I was totally surprised.  Luckily, the stinkiness didn’t last too long.  Once the pool was totally drained and cleaned, a new surface of fancy 3M quartz plaster was applied.  We were going for a tropical feel, so we opted for a colored plaster rather than the traditional white plaster – the plaster is slightly tinted blue, so the water looks all ocean-y and gorgeous.

Once the new plaster went up, it was time for the tile!!!  A crew of guys stood on these funky little metal risers all day and applied sheet after sheet of earthy-toned mosaic tiles:

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

The people at the tile place kept trying to convince us to choose those tiles that you always see in pools – 6 x 6 tiles in bright blue.  Those are really pretty, but we wanted something different, something a little fun.  I drove around for about a week with a box full of tile samples in my car, asking everyone that rode in my car which tiles they liked best – kind of like a fashion show for tile.  In the end, we decided on these and I am beyond thrilled with how they came out!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

While all the plastering and tiling was going on, the huge expanse of concrete decking was also being broken up with a jackhammer and removed.  We agonized forever over what to do with the decking – it took up almost the entire yard so there was virtually no grass or anywhere for kids or pets to play.  It was also cracked and pretty unsightly.  We ultimately decided to just get rid of it and put in a lawn – that way the new homeowners would have a true yard in addition to a pool, and we imaged that the pool would look really cool surrounded by grass, almost like a pond.

I do not envy the people that got the job of jackhammering up the decking.  The concrete was about 6 inches thick, and reinforced with steel rebar – it was a huge job!!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

After all the decking was hauled away, it was time for the new flagstone coping.  Since we had removed the decking, we went for coping that is wider than standard so that the edge of the pool would look more substantial.  We also asked for the flagstone to be chiseled in an irregular pattern so that the edges would look more natural.  We love the way it turned out!!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

The new cedar pergola went up in a flash while another crew was working on the pool – it’s a huge improvement over the old plastic sheeting that used to shade the patio.  Even though we hated to cut down a tree, we ultimately had no choice but to remove the sculpted tree and bushes right by the pergola – they were totally blocking access to the stairs in the pool!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

Now that all the decking was gone, we needed to spread oodles of dirt across the entire backyard to raise the ground level to match up with the edge of the pool.  It was a huge endeavor undertaken by Landscaper Jared, and you can get the full scoop about that fun project right here.

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

After the dirt was added and about a zillion pieces of sod were laid, it was time for the fun part – landscaping!!!

Our Flip: Backyard Oasis

I dished the dirt (literally) about how we turned the landscaping into a tropical paradise here, and you can get the 411 about all the plants we chose right here.

One of the last touches that we added to the landscaping was about 20 bags of black mulch – I think the people at Lowe’s thought we were crazy when we were loading up the truck:

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

We added mulch to the planting beds for a few reasons: (1) mulch would help reduce the number of weeds that grew in the beds (thereby reducing the amount of weeding that we would have to do), (2) mulch helps the plants’ roots retain water to get through the Texas heat, and (3) mulch makes the beds look awesome!!!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

While any old mulch will help out your plants, black mulch is totally my favorite color of mulch because the vibrant colors of the plants really pop against the black background.  However, you will be covered from head to toe in black mulch dirt, and your fingernails definitely will not thank you.

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

One of the final things that was completed in the backyard was the tiling of the patio – I told you all about the transformation here.  I am head over heels for the result!!

Our Flip: Raise the Flag

Our finishing touch was to add flagstone stepping stones from the patio to the pool.  Not only does it look pretty, but it prevents people from tracking grass into the pool – gotta love form and function!!

Our Flip: Taking the Pool from Gross to Grand

So there you have it – the entire tale of how the pool at the flip went from an eyesore that no one would dare to swim in to an inviting tropical paradise that just begs for you to jump right in.

Our Flip: They Can Take the Heat

We love to spend a hot afternoon floating around in this pool – there’s no better way to beat the heat!  How about you guys?  Now that summer is drawing to an end, what will you miss most about those lazy days of summer?  Or are you ready to bid the heat adieu and bring on the fall?

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  1. Tonya says:

    I love it!!! Thanks for the how-to Liz! It looks like a lot of work, but it was so worth it in the end!!

  2. Erin says:

    What an incredible transformation! I love the end result – it barely looks like the same area!

  3. christy says:

    I’ll bet you do love floating around in that pool – I certainly would! I will miss going to our community pool – Fiona and I go there several times a week in the late afternoons – it’s so fun. But, I must say I’m totally ready for fall. I LOVE fall clothes.

    Fabulous re-do Liz – and I don’t envy those guys who had to rip up the old patio either. Yikes – hard work. And I love that you carried around the tile in your car for a week – I totally would have done something like too! hehe! Great post!

  4. Stunning ! I wish I could jump in right now. So much work, and such an amazing result !


  5. Averill says:

    I think the tinted plaster was a brilliant move — my folks use to have a really dark blue plaster in their pool and it looked like a gorgeous lagoon. They just moved back in May and I really miss the pool this summer!

  6. What a huge transformation! I can’t believe you were able to save that pool! Your yard looks amazing!